Does anything about this photo seem unusual? It looks like a typical family photo from the Victorian era. What if I told you the woman in the middle was dead when the photo was taken? Did that change your reaction to the photo? I came across post-mortem photography a few years ago and became fascinated with it. As I began searching for images and histories of these photos, I was led to several websites and digital collections dedicated to the display of these photographs. It was during my research that I noticed a pattern; many of the same photos were being used on different websites.
I remember my first reaction to these photographs. Such images made me very uncomfortable. Yet, how we view and deal with death and deceased bodies today is much different from the Victorian era. Today, death for the most part is a private affair and is not something we are exposed to on a regular basis. Post-mortem photography was common in the Victorian era after the invention of the daguerreotype in 1839. It was an affordable and suitable method for middle-class families to commemorate a loved one. Bodies were usually staged as though the deceased were still alive or in a deep sleep and it is rare to see the deceased displayed in a coffin or funerary setting. Continue reading →
This is part of a new series, ‘Step-by-Step,’ which aims to guide users through on-line research tools. If you want to suggest further guides, please contact us or put it in the comments section.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been so surprised that an off-the-cuff reference to looking up an ancestor’s military record spurred such a gaggle after my undergraduate tutorial last week. I’d repeated an observation that I’d read on H-Canada a few years ago about being prepared to learn about an ancestor’s sexual misadventures (our class was on sex education). The reaction was astounding – they wanted to learn about their family history, or that of a partner, or friend, or expressed general genealogical interest.
Simply pointing them to Library and Archives Canada website might not be enough, however. A few students had already been to the website, actually, but didn’t find it terribly intuitive or straight forward. This year, I’ve been captivated with helping students navigate the technological options available to them (Zotero, DeeperWeb, WorldCat, Google Scholar/Books, etc.), and have realized that we need to think more about how we teach this. In one of my classes, I adapted Bill Turkel’s work in quickly going digital into a screen-by-screen discussion. This post provides a screen-by-screen dissection of how you can find military records from the First World War at Library and Archives Canada. Continue reading →
When someone says folk music what comes to mind? Gordon Lightfoot? Mariposa? Natalie McMaster? A sense of confusion as to what is actually classified as folk? Traditional folk music has existed in Canada since the 16th century. Canadian folk music is rooted in oral tradition, Canadian heritage, and the struggles of the common people. Today, Canadian folk music is still strongly linked to a uniquely Canadian past. Anglo-Canadian folk songs often relate stories about the sea, fishing, lumbering, mining, and other activities which Canada was built upon. Additionally, folk music often reflects the diversity of the original settlers of Canada. The various sub genres of folk are frequently linked to a particular culture such as Franco-Canadian, Gaelic, Ukrainian, and many others. Folk music often acts as a form of oral tradition and is directly linked to Canada’s past. Continue reading →
This blog post began with cinnamon toast. This week, at home on a cool autumn night, I fixed myself a snack of cinnamon toast. I haven’t had it in years, but this particular night I craved it. When I bit into it, a flood of memories and associations long stored away rushed back to me. When I was a child, each time I was home sick from school, my mom would never fail to fix me hot tea with milk and cinnamon toast. She ‘d take care of me all day, pamper me, and typically buy me new a new colouring book or book of paper dolls to help me pass the afternoon at home. That ‘sick day’ ritual was familiar and comforting, and although I’ve never expressed this to my mom, those days at home are a nice memory from my childhood. Continue reading →
Demolition of forty buildings in Brantford's downtown - courtesy of Kalvin Clark
If you’ve read my previous blogs, you’ll notice that I talk a lot about Brantford, Ontario. Since completing my PhD in History from McMaster University I’ve been working as the Executive Director of the Canadian Industrial Heritage Centre (CIHC), a not-for-profit organization in Brantford dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Canadian industrial history and the establishment of a museum site in Brantford to do just that. This experience has expanded my understanding of how local communities understand and experience history, and the challenges of being an active historian. Continue reading →
On 23 November 2010, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., the Toronto Historical Society will be meeting at the Riverdale Library, where Jane Fairburn will deliver a talk on her recently completed manuscript which explores the history, landscape and people of Toronto’s waterfront.
The inaugural lecture of HertoriesCafeToronto will take place on 23 November 2010, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Centre for Social Innovation, 215 Spadina Ave., Toronto. Nina Bascia will speak on “Women and Unions: History Matters.” Continue reading →
Talking about race in Canada is a lot like talking about sex in the old days. There is so much imposed silence on the subject. We skip around it, pretend that it is not there, and pray that it will go away.
Those who break the silence are often chastised, labelled as “racist” (“pervert”!), or hastily dismissed. Others who tout half-truths indulge in self-congratulatory glory. Because heaven forbid, we insist, only Americans do “it.”
None of this has ever prevented people from being cognizant of the centrality of race and ethnicity to Canadian life, given the history of immigration and indigenous peoples in this country. From time to time, we rehash age-old biases and re-ignite familiar debates about the dilemmas of diversity and integration. Nevertheless, the cycle of silence, missteps, and occasional foreshortened discussion has done little justice to a complex and longstanding issue in multicultural Canada. Continue reading →
Megan Davies and David Reville recently presented an engaging talk on the ways in which mental health deinstitutionalization impacted psychiatric survivors and the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto. In front of a packed audience at the Parkdale library, “Locating Parkdale’s Mad History: Back Wards to Back Streets, 1980-2010” examined the motivations behind deinstitutionalization and showed how community members are remembering the important event in Canada’s madness history.
Davies, a professor at York University, is also part of The History of Madness in Canada website. Launched in 2009, the site includes a number of resources on madness history. It hosts a digital archive and research hub of historical materials going back to the 19th century, along with multi-media teaching material for educators at the secondary and post-secondary level.
Reville is a former city councillor, Ontario MPP, and chair of the Ontario Advocacy Commission. A psychiatric survivor, he currently teaches the course “Mad People’s History” at Ryerson University.
The lecture was the last talk from the Toronto Public Library’s History Matters series, which showcased historical research on Toronto.
Ian McKay and Robin Bates, In the Province of History: The Making of the Public Past in Twentieth Century Nova Scotia, (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2010), Soft Cover, 481 pp.
Nova Scotia is known far and wide as “Canada’s Ocean Playground.” It’s emblazoned on the province’s licence plates, evoked in dreamy television commercials and trumpeted in colourful tourist guides. That popular image also comes packaged with an accessible, entertaining history for the consumption of tourists.
Scottish regalia, sourdough fishermen, sou’wester hats, rugged seascapes, Cape Breton fiddlers and the odd Acadian pastoral scene still populate the public, tourist-oriented version of Nova Scotia’s past. And these very images and symbols can be traced back to the 1930s when the province began developing its tourist promotion business.
Taking their cue from a rather hokey 1936 composite photograph, entitled Native Types, and intended to promote Nova Scotia tourism, Ian McKay and Robin Bates’s controversial new book, In the Province of History, contends that this iconology rests on an invented, largely fictional, historical tradition developed for the purpose of selling Nova Scotia to visitors. In the book, the authors demonstrate how the province’s public past was reconstructed and then turned into a marketable commodity.
Many of us have had at least one – a boss that evokes dread at the start of each workday, makes each passing minute on the job more painful than the last, and who intrudes even in our free time by haunting our nightmares. This is certainly not a new phenomenon: escaping the unlimited control of the foreman was at the heart of the industrial unionism movement of the 1930s and 1940s in Canada. Demands for job security and seniority protection resonated with working people not only as a means of protecting older workers, but as a way of escaping a system of favouritism where the best jobs were doled out to those most skilled in brown-nosing. In the decades following the early victories of industrial unions, many of their gains became entrenched in Canadian labour law. Continue reading →