History Variations

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by Lani Russwurm

The internet has the potential to enrich and increase our interactions with the past simply through making historical sources widely available and by making the tools to produce and disseminate history accessible to anyone. This means the historian’s role is becoming less that of a gatekeeper of the past as traditional print-based published histories increasingly co-exist with historical interpretations, narratives, memories, and source material posted by the likes of bloggers and artists.

Screen capture of Roy Arden's blog

Screen capture of Roy Arden's blog

One example is artist Roy Arden’s blog, Under the Sun, a seemingly random collection of images and YouTube videos. I discovered Arden’s blog after he linked images I used in posts on my own history blog about a 1972 riot at a Rolling Stones concert and from the Battle of Ballantyne Pier, a riot during the 1935 waterfront strike in Vancouver. For me, providing context for the images is what drives many of my blog posts, so I was struck by Arden’s use of the same images with a complete absence of context, giving the viewer a relatively unmediated view of the same history. Scrolling through the rest of his blog, I found a lot of provocative historical photographs and ephemera that make it easier to appreciate just how potent such images can be on their own terms. Continue reading

A Class Project for the People

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Atlas it's time for your bathAs an undergraduate history student, I wrote a lot of essays and exams meant only for my professor’s eyes. Despite the tremendous effort that went into crafting these works, they now exist only as PDFs on my personal computer where I secretly hope some future historian will find them and be fascinated by my analysis of the Chanak Affair or Red Clydeside. The whole concept of creating something useful was foreign to me.

While working with NiCHE this past year, I was fortunate enough to be involved with a group of students working towards a useful endeavour in the name of history. The group project involved the students of the UWO M.A. Public History program, who created three environmental history lesson plans based on the Ontario curriculum for grades 3, 4 and 6. Unlike my undergraduate essays, these students had to come up with innovative ways to engage elementary school students with history while also making sure the package was attractive for teachers. Continue reading

Walking History: Jane’s Walk in Toronto and Vancouver

68 cities recently took part in Jane’s Walk, an annual weekend of free walking tours honouring the vision of urbanist Jane Jacobs.  Ordinary people, Jacobs argued, can learn about and improve their surroundings by observing their daily environments at street level.  These walks also bring out the histories of place through members of the local community – walk leaders and participants.  Two members of ActiveHistory.ca partook in walks in different Canadian locales and have reflected on their experiences.  Jay Young followed a buried creek in one of Toronto’s vibrant neighbourhoods, while Ian Milligan walked through Vancouver’s Lower East Side.

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Active History Announcements: May 9-15

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The following upcoming events may be of interest to our readers (click on ‘continue reading’ below for full descriptions):

1)  Approaching the Past: A series connecting people teaching history – Ruth Sandwell keynote speaker

2) Active History lunch at the annual meeting of the Canadian Historical Association – Montreal, May 30

3) Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre (CIHC): Afternoon of History and Heritage in Brantford – June 12th

4) Digest of this week’s blog posts

If you have something to announce to the Active History community please contact info (at) activehistory.ca.

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A Glance at Cuba, April 2010

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Just back from Cuba where the sun was shining and temperatures ranged from 25-30 degrees. Very nice, thanks.

More than two years following the retirement of Fidel Castro, some change is apparent in Cuba.

To begin with, Fidel’s successor, his brother Raoul Castro, has overseen a mild lessening of consumer constraints in the Cuban socialist system. Mobile phones are ubiquitous. Markets for crafts and garden produce are increasingly evident in the cities.

Darker aspects of Cuban life also appear more transparent than in earlier visits. Prostitution is much more visible.  Based on my non-scientific observation, it would seem that a certain class of European, often German, tourist now freely considers Communist Cuba a sex destination. This must gall survivors of Fidel Castro’s revolutionary generation which took aim at the infamous flesh trade of the 1950s as a primary target for social reform. Continue reading

How far have we come? From Yellow Peril to the “Colour of Canada”

by Laura Madokoro

CBC radio recently announced that “the face of Canada is changing colour.” With all the news about global warming and melting ice cap, such a headline might make you think that something horrific had happened to the Canadian environment. You would be mistaken. Au contraire, the news was about the latest Canadian census results that reveal a greater number of “inter-racial’ marriages in Canada than ever before; up by 33.1% since the 2001 census.

As a product of an inter-racial relationship (what a clinical term!) myself, I was disturbed that colour was the manner in which Canada’s national news network chose to describe the latest census results. I remember far too easily the painful playground taunts of “banana, banana” because I was “yellow” on the outside and “white” on the outside. Continue reading

Should We Embrace the Short URL?

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The increasing number of primary and secondary sources made available by various online archives and databases continue to aid researchers and enrich the historical community as a whole.

But they have also created challenges for more conventional forms of resource sharing in a community where print arguably remains the standard.

While websites have generally made a more concerted effort to reduce the length of their root URL (uniform resource locator) in recent years, things like course materials, references, and finding aides have all become bloated with long strings of seemingly random, run-on characters. Continue reading

Preserving Health and Maintaining Illness: Petition to Save the Wellcome Trust Center for the History of Medicine

By Jaipreet Virdi, IHPST University of Toronto

Wellcome Trust

Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine

On March 21, 2010, the United States Health Care Reform Bill passed in Capitol Hill, voting to provide medical coverage to millions of uninsured Americans. The New York Times article emphasized how Democrats hailed the votes as

“a historic advance in social justice, comparable to the establishment of Medicare and Social Security. They said the bill would also put pressure on rising health care costs and rein in federal budget deficits.”

The New York Times also captured various quotes from various Democrat Representatives, signifying the historical milestone of the bill:

“This is the Civil Rights Act of the 21st Century” (Representative James E. Clybum of South Carolina)
“This isn’t radical reform, but it is major reform” (President Barack Obama)
The bill heralded “a new day in America” (Representative Marcy Kaptur of Ohio)

And so forth. The bottom line is this: it is clear that the Health Reform Bill was not only an important milestone in the history of the United States, but also raises significant political, social, economic, and cultural issues, and thus embodying these issues within the fabric of the nation. Continue reading

May Day in Hamilton, Ontario

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march 1The first of May, celebrated in many nations across the world as Labour Day or International Workers Day, has a long tradition of worker’s activism and protest.  This year was no different, as protestors around the world rallied to send various messages to governments.

May Day is not officially recognized as Labour Day in northern North America, despite its North American roots, which stretch back to the 1886 Haymarket affair, and the struggle for the eight-hour workday.  In 1958, to separate workers’ celebrations between the US and USSR, Congress officially designated May 1 as Loyalty Day in the US, while Labor Day was moved to the first Monday in September.  This also marks official Labour Day celebrations in Canada. Continue reading

Active History Announcements – May 2 to 8

The following upcoming events may be of interest to our readers (click here or ‘continue reading’ below for full descriptions):

1) Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre (CIHC): Afternoon of History and Heritage in Brantford – June 12th

2) Approaching the Past: A series connecting people teaching history – Ruth Sandwell keynote speaker

Continue reading