The Future of Public History Programs in Canada

Active History is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

Continuing the conversation on the future of Public History programs in Canada is Dr. John Walsh, co-ordinator of the Master’s of Public History program at Carleton University. Walsh discusses the tension often present in Public History programs between theory and practice. He advocates for programs to offer a combination of reading and hands-on projects. Walsh points out that students in the program come from all over Canada and from diverse academic backgrounds. He stresses the range of projects that students can undertake apart from a traditional thesis, including documentary film making, dance and theatre, etc. He adds that graduates from the program have gone on to work in a multitude of fields including academia, government agencies and in the private sector. Lastly, Walsh raises the point that the Public History program is at an “interesting moment” as many MA graduates are choosing to complete a PhD on a Public History topic. He questions what this would mean for the structure of a PhD program in Public History versus a traditional PhD of History.

Setting an agenda for new directions in Active History

ActiveHistory.ca Editor Krista McCracken introduces the concluding roundtable at New Directions in Active History

ActiveHistory.ca Editor Krista McCracken introduces the concluding roundtable at New Directions in Active History

It has been four months since New Directions in Active History: Institutions, Communication, and Technologies concluded. The event left many of us rejuvenated and excited for the future possibilities for this project and related projects shared during the conference. In fact, both the new exhibits and features sections were developed out of ideas initially addressed at the event. We’ve also heard from many of our readers regretting their inability to attend and present their research and projects.

Over the coming months, we are planning to create a dedicated section of the site where visitors will find short blog posts of ideas presented at the conference, videos recorded during the event (which we are posting every Saturday until April), and other ideas that might not have been presented in October but fit well with the conference themes. With this announcement we’d like to put out a call for short 800-1200 word blog posts that either reflect on the conference, propose new directions for ActiveHistory.ca, or challenge our readers to critically engage with the broader ideas of active history. Submissions or inquiries can be sent to activehistory2015@gmail.com.

Christopher Moore delivering the keynote address during the pre-conference for high school and undergraduate students

Christopher Moore delivering the keynote address during the pre-conference for high school and undergraduate students

If you presented a paper or poster at the conference, we have already been in touch (or will be shortly), but we’d also like this resource to expand on these discussions by including perspectives that might not have been present in October. To get a better sense of what took place at the conference, take a look at the following blog posts:

Community Engaged History

Active history is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

Completing the opening presentations is Keith Carlson, professor of History and Research Chair in Aboriginal Community- engaged History at the University of Saskatchewan. In this video, Carlson explores the meaning of “community engaged history” by carefully probing each term. He begins by expanding upon Peter Sexias’ ten principals or benchmarks of history. Carlson stresses the negative impact that “bad history” has on people’s lives and asserts that historians have the power to give voice to the oppressed through community engaged scholarship and projects. He explains that successful community projects occur when the activity, community needs and involvement, and benefits all inform one and other. Lastly, he confronts critics who argue that community engagement of any kind is inherently colonial in nature because it is predicated on the process of “othering” a peoples. Carlson argues that humility and knowing that histories are always incomplete and can always be made better in the future is what allows for the historian and a community to build trust.

 

 

Bridging the Gap Between Historians and the Public

Active history is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

This week, Christopher Moore, a member of our opening plenary round table at the New Directions in Active History Conference, discusses what he feels active history means, and how it is applicable to bridge gaps within the profession of history as well as historians and the public. Moore lays out his perspective on how this can be accomplished through historical blogs and social media that engage with Public Policy.

Engaging the Public at Living History Sites

Active history is proud to present a video each week from New Directions in Active History. The conference took place at Huron University College on October 2-4, 2015 and brought together scholars, students, professionals and community members to discuss a wide range of topics pertaining to active history.

This week, Wendy Rowney, Assistant General Manager at Black Creek Pioneer Village and a member of our opening plenary roundtable, suggests ways to make the learning of history engaging for the public. Rowney shares insight from 2014 research in which she and a colleague investigated what attracted visitors to museums and what encouraged them to return. Rowney offers six suggestions to meaningfully engage the public at living history sites.

New Directions in Public History

By Kaleigh Bradley

What is public history? I remember being asked this question on my first day in the “Intro to Public History” M.A. seminar at Carleton University. I knew why I wanted to study Public History (please give me a job in history?), but I found myself struggling to define it on the spot. I quickly learned that public history is not just doing history for the public outside of academia, although this is part of what it is.

Public history is about the ways in which history is created, contested, disseminated, and presented to us all. It’s a way of practicing history, but it’s also a field of study in itself. Public history forces us to think about notions of authority and power, identity, collective memory, audience(s), and narrative. Usually, public history is practiced in traditional sites like museums, archives, and memorials, but it can also be found in more subtle places in every day life; it’s the narrative in your grandmother’s carefully crafted photo album, the oral histories that we hear from elders, the nationalistic tone in a political ad, the historical video game we play, and the erasure and absence of histories in a quickly-gentrifying neighbourhood.

At last month’s Active History Conference, I attended a panel on the Future of Public History programs in Canada. In this panel were representatives from Public History (PH) programs and employers from government institutions. It was interesting to have employers, students, and representatives from programs all in the same room. What emerged was an interesting discussion about what students are being taught, what employers want, and what employers think about PH programs and their graduates.

Why do students need to specialize in public history? This post will explore this question and will discuss what history departments across Canada are up to, what employers want, and what public history programs offer. This might be helpful for undergraduate students thinking of specializing in public history, or for high school students who are thinking about post-secondary education in history.

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New Directions in Active History: A Retrospective

By Beth A. Robertson, Ph.D 

Created by Shawn Graham, Carleton University, through Voyant using #ActiveHist2015 twitter feed

Created by Shawn Graham, Carleton University, through Voyant using #ActiveHist2015 twitter feed

New Directions in Active History was not your ordinary academic conference. This weekend scholars, students, private and public sector workers, local community members, archivists and more conceived of new ways to communicate the complex issues of the past to larger audiences. Discussions weaved between public policy and public history programs, to the meaning of community-engaged research and the role of technology. We watched the pilot of Ronald Rudin’s Lost Stories that sought to uncover the forgotten legacy of Thomas Widd and how artist Lalie Douglas made his story come alive. Poster sessions featured the work of the Graphic History Collective and the web-based documentary project on the London Dominion Public Building. Moving performances by indigenous activist and radio-show host Mary Lou Smoke[1], as well as Staging Our Histories made the past few days at Huron University College truly unforgettable. The New Directions conference was a regenerative moment for not only the website ActiveHistory.ca, but for all those invested in active history as a practice. Indeed, the conference was a rich opportunity to gather, share, and make connections in order to re-envision the place of history within Canada and our broader world. Continue reading

Terry Fox Was an Activist

This month, Active History is pleased to present a series of posts by Jenny Ellison marking the 35th anniversary of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope.

By Jenny Ellison

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Winnipeg Free Press

A few years ago, I made a visit to Library and Archives Canada to pull files about Terry Fox. In a folder labeled “Terry Fox Marathon of Hope Day” I found forty letters to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Governor General Edward Schreyer and Minister of Sport Gerald Regan about the runner. Written during his lifetime and just after his death in June 1981, the letters were earnest, handwritten documentation of what most of us already know: many Canadians feel an emotional connection to Terry Fox.

I am a Terry Fox runner and have been, on and off, since I was a kid. Is there anything more Canadian than the annual fundraising runs for cancer research? Named one of the “greatest Canadians” in CBC’s 2004 TV show of the same name, and again in 2014, Fox is a go-to symbol in conversations about national heroes. But what else is there to say about him? What does studying his life add to our understanding of Canada today and in the past?
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New Directions in Active History: Institutions, Communication, and Technologies

Members of the editorial team are excited to announce that we’re organizing a conference. This three day conference will create a forum similar to our 2008 founding symposium “Active History: A History for the Future,” where historians interested in the practice of Active History can share their research, methods, and projects with each other. Second, as a primarily web-based and volunteer-run project, we also intend to use this conference to explore new directions for ActiveHistory.ca. With 20,000 unique visitors a month, ActiveHistory.ca is one of the best known history-related websites in Canada. Over the past five years, we’ve published nearly 1,000 blog posts, peer reviewed papers, book reviews, and podcasts. It is time to revisit the project’s goals and look towards what the next five years will bring.

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Podcast – Robert Rutherdale on the Local Responses of WWI

 

ActiveHistory.ca is happy to feature the inaugural talk of the Fall 2014 History Matters lecture series: historian Robert Rutherdale’s “Hometown Horizons: Local Responses to Canada’s Great War.”

Rutherdale delivered the talk at the Toronto Public Library’s North York Central Branch. He explores issues such as the demonization of enemy aliens, wartime philanthropy, and state authority and citizenship – all while asking what the study of the “local” can add to our understanding of the First World War and historical research in general.


ActiveHistory.ca is featuring this podcast as part of  “Canada’s First World War: A Centennial Series on ActiveHistory.ca”, a multi-year series of regular posts about the history and centennial of the First World War.