Reports from New Directions in Active History: Community-based Research and Student Learning

By Megan Hertner, Amy Bell and Nina Reid-Maroney

An interview the London Fugitive Slave Chapel Project.

An interview the London Fugitive Slave Chapel Project.

Our presentation at the 2015 Active History Conference was a co-written paper reflecting on our experiences as faculty and student in two community-based learning (CBL) projects in undergraduate History courses at Huron University College. As the student who participated in both projects, Megan presented the paper at the conference. To have a student writing and presenting on her own experiences of class projects, unlike other presentations in which student projects were mediated through presentation by the professor, reinforced the democratic and transformative learning process that characterized CBL projects at Huron. Continue reading

On Wreaths and Graffiti: Reading Defacement and Nostalgia at Ottawa Monuments

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’s video marks the last video post from the 2015 Active History Conference. Tonya Davidson, a sociologist of public memory at Ryerson Univeristy, researches the ambivalent feelings Canadians have towards monuments. She explains that although monuments are often dismissed as being “ideological tools of the state”, when something happens at the monument, or to the monument, public attention tends to be “aroused”.  She explains that part of the reason for the public outcry is that we view monuments on the one hand as, “dynamic, live witnesses…to the past”, but we also see monuments as “very active” in the present as well. Davidson goes on to speak about the defacement done to two sculptures on the Parliament buildings by peace protesters in 1985 and explains how the restoration of the vandalism can make us think about the ways in which we can grapple with monuments and multiple histories. Davidson then analyzes two other monuments in Ottawa, the Samuel De Champlain statue at Nepean Point and the Human Rights Monument located at the corner of Lisgar and Elgin. Using these two examples, Davidson explains how monuments can serve as problematic representations of nostalgia and also how they can be political statements with contemporary resonance.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Peterborough

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’s video is a part of the Storytelling through Film, Graphic Art & Performance panel. Matthew Hayes, a PhD candidate at Trent University, explains two art projects that he undertook in the summer of 2014 in Peterborough, Ontario.  Through these projects he sought to explore the persistence of the myth of objectivity. Along with another artist, Hayes displayed a series of 8 posters around Peterborough during an arts festival. The posters, drawn in black sharpie, were based on historical fact, but not entirely true. Hayes explains how his project met with some resistance by critics who felt that it was dishonest or misleading. 

Although many of the posters were either taken down or destroyed by the elements, others remained and citizens posted photos of the installations on social media sites. Hayes explains that while he set out to explore the effects of the project, due to the ephemeral nature of the art, it was difficult to draw conclusions. However, he was able to speak with some members of the public. Through these conversations, he discovered that some knew the information was not entirely true, whereas others took the information as literal truth and even passed on the stories. This left Hayes asking the question of what made the posters believable and how their belief relates to the larger question of the myth of objectivity.

Simulating History: The Use of Historical and Political Simulations in the History Classroom

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.

In this week’s video, we continue the discussion on active and engaged learning in public school classrooms. Brent Pavey, Head of History at Waterloo Collegiate Institute, shares his vision of how to engage students in political and historical debates. He explains numerous simulations which he has implemented in the classroom from mock UN Security Council meetings to Confederation debates. Pavey explains that the goal of these projects is to “engage students so they can imagine fulfilling the shoes of political and historical figures.” He hopes that these types of projects not only allow students to learn the material in an interesting way, but also introduce students to historical debates with which Canada continues to grapple. Pavey also offers advice to educators about outcomes that are either unrealistic or historically inaccurate. He urges educators that debriefing with students is important because during reflection, learning will often occur.

Developing Historical Detectives

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 the practice of active history.

In this week’s video, Lindsay Hall, Head of History at Clark Road Secondary in the Thames Valley District School Board, discusses the challenges facing teachers of history in the public school system. Hall explains that since students are required to only take one Canadain history class throughout high school, teachers must strive to instill curiosity in their grade 9 students. Hall provides examples of innovative activities and projects designed to build student confidence and subsequently, encourage students to take an interest in studying the past. Hall goes on to say that before students can “think like historians”, skills like close reading need to be developed. In her own experience, many grade 9 students lack reading skills, requiring her to become a “teacher of reading” before a “teacher of history.” Hall also encourages educators to be cognisant of the way student’s encounter the past in their everyday lives through tv shows, video games, novels, and the internet, among other topics. She ends by arguing  that skills taught inside the history classroom can extend beyond the its walls and can encourage students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers.

 

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.