CFP Reminder – “Knowing your Public(s)—The Significance of Audiences in Public History” (Proposals due 15 July)

“Knowing your Public(s)—The Significance of Audiences in Public History”
2013 Annual Meeting, National Council on Public History
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, April 17-20, 2013

In 2013 the National Council on Public History will meet at the Delta Ottawa City Centre, in the heart of downtown Ottawa, Canada, with Canada’s Parliament buildings, historic ByWard market, national museums and historic sites, river trails, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Rideau Canal, and numerous cafes and restaurants within easy walking distance. The program committee invites panel, roundtable, workshop, working group, and individual paper proposals for the conference. The Call for Poster sessions will be issued in fall 2012.

As Canada’s capital, Ottawa is the national centre of the museum, archival and heritage community, and its historical and cultural attractions draw 5 million national and international tourists annually. Ottawa’s two universities have strong connections to public and applied history. The federal government employs many history practitioners and creates a market for private consultants. With so many diverse fields of Public History theory and practice represented, Ottawa is an ideal place to consider issues and ideas associated with the theme of “Knowing your Public(s)—The Significance of Audiences in Public History.” Continue reading

Tecumseh Lies Here

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This is the first in a weekly series of posts leading up to the mini-conference The War of 1812: Whose War was it Anyway? being held at the University of Waterloo on May 30th.

By Adriana Ayers, MA Candidate, University of Western Ontario

Augmented reality games (ARGs) are immersive and interactive plot-based games, which break down the barriers between the gaming world and reality. They are not played in any one place or through any one medium, but sprawlsprawled across multiple media elements, such as email, Twitter, YouTube, Wiki pages, text messages, blogs, etc.etc.. No form of communication or digital interaction is off limits. Indeed, the point of an ARG is to pull game play out of the computer and into the real world, blurring the lines of simulation and experience. Unlike a regular computer game, which is controlled by artificial intelligence, ARG players interact directly with the human beings who design and control the game, appropriately named the PuppetMasters.

Tecumseh Lies Here is an augmented reality game developed by faculty and students at the University of Western Ontario, designed to expose players to the history of the War of 1812, while teaching them traditional research techniques and skills necessary for practicing historians. Continue reading

Celebrating Three Years

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By Jim Clifford

Three  years ago, in the lead up to the Canadian Historical Association meeting, Christine McLaughlin, Ian Milligan, Thomas Peace, Jay Young and I founded  At the time we were all graduate students in the history department at York University. The website emerged out of the Active History symposium held in September 2008. Having budgeted to disseminate the conference proceedings, we considered publishing an academic book or a special issue of a journal. But these options, we thought, seemed counter to the public outreach goals of the symposium. Instead we decided to launch a website that embodied the Active History mission, instead of simply publishing some of the essays presented at the workshop (though, Ian Milligan also worked with Left History to publish a special issue). Continue reading

A spectre is haunting Europe…

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Marine Le Pen. Creative Commons photo by NdFrayssinet

By Dr Valerie Deacon

No, this isn’t the beginning of Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, though that spectre (of Communism) has played just as important a role as this one in twentieth century European history. Today’s spectre is the spectre of fascism and it is not only haunting Europe, but has also infected North America. The problem with this spectre, though, is that like many ghostly things, it lacks a clear definition.

The April 25th edition of the Toronto Star features an article with which many liberal North Americans might be inclined to agree. Thomas Walkom’s article “Europe’s restraint agenda rekindling fascism” argues that recent austerity measures in Europe are pushing people too far and he writes that European rulers have “forgotten their own history. People will put up with only so much before they embrace extreme measures”. He cites as evidence of this the recent success of political parties of the far right in Europe, including the stunning electoral success of France’s Front national, led by Marine Le Pen. Walkom concludes his article by noting that only neo-Nazis are offering alternatives to the voting public in Europe and that this is not only obscene, but dangerous. Continue reading

The War of 1812: Whose War was it Anyway?

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This summer marks the two hundredth anniversary of the United States’ declaration of war on Great Britain and her colonies (including what eventually became Canada). The bicentennial of the War of 1812 this summer will be the starting point for a number of commemorations, restorations, re-enactments and monument building. The Government of Canada, under current Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, reiterated its commitment to supporting commemorations across Canada in its most recent Speech from the Throne. Numerous events planned across the country will serve to “perpetuate the identities of War of 1812 militia units,” as well as to demonstrate, in the words of Heritage Minister James Moore, that “This was the fight for Canada.” A public study conducted recently by the Department of Canadian Heritage, however, points out that many Canadians cannot name the three combatants in the war, and argues that it “may not be something that a lot of Canadians recognize or understand. Continue reading

Sludge, Bugs, and Sturgeon Fry: Corporate Growth, Environmental Health and Sturgeon Populations on the Winnipeg River

By Brittany Luby, PhD Candidate, York University

While I was growing up near the Winnipeg River, sturgeon was not part of our local diet. Given the high levels of mercury – the result of industrial dumping practices and the release of organic mercury from rotting flooded vegetation – Dad limited the size of our locally caught filets to less than two pounds. A 100 – 150 pound Grandfather Fish was far beyond our family-set “safety standards.” Of course, sturgeon filets also existed outside of the realm of possibility; according to some reports, the Winnipeg River had been barren for approximately one hundred years.  It wasn’t always this way. Continue reading

Real Time Climate Change: Farm Diaries and Phenology in Prince Edward Island

By Joshua MacFadyen

It is 24 April, and although some Canadians have been mowing grass for weeks the spring plants on Prince Edward Island are only beginning to overcome the cold nights and occasional flurries that visit this island in April. Still, this is an early spring by historical accounts. On this day in 1879, John MacEachern recorded the following diary entry in Rice Point:

“Ice drifting out of Harbour and Nine Mile Creek, boats can get to Town now, a Ltr [boat] from East Point [arrived] back at Governors Island Tuesday.”

The day before he had recorded a similar view from the farm:

“pulverizing lea land today & yesterday, ice still unbroken outside harbour & inside St Peters Island.”

Thirteen years earlier the ice was more fluid, moving along the South Shore of the Island on 18-19 April until there was finally “no ice in sight” on the 23rd.  This did not mean winter had passed; MacEachern noted “frosty ground, hard all day,” on 24 April, and frost deep enough to prevent stumping and ploughing all that week.  Usually we think of historical weather reports and almanacs as about as exciting as reading the phone book, but diary entries like these reveal dramatic changes in our environment and our climate when we read them in real time. Continue reading

Solidarity Revisited: Resisting Cuts in Ontario

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By Christine McLaughlin

This past weekend I gathered with thousands of protestors at Queen’s Park who were demonstrating against pending public service cuts and wage freezes in Ontario. Spun in some quarters as a protest by organized labour, the crowd contained a multitude of groups. Many in the crowd wore “We Are Ontario” stickers, a coalition of ninety groups aiming to present a “common front” against austerity measures in the province. This is not the first attempt in Canada to unify workers and public service advocates under a unified banner. Past attempts offer important lessons for current efforts to build similar movements. Continue reading

Is our conception of history education “evolving” or is today’s focus simply a historical trend once again in vogue?

By Katherine Ireland

This is the first of four blog posts originally posted on THEN/HiER’s Teaching the Past blog reviewing the edited collection New Possibilities for the Past: Shaping History Education in Canada (UBC Press) and responding to the question: “Is our conception of history education “evolving” or is today’s focus simply a historical trend once again in vogue?” 

In “What It Means to Think Historically,” chapter 5 of New Possibilities for the Past, Stéphane Lévesque suggests that although historical thinking is not a recent idea, it has, until recently, been marginalized in favour of a more dominant, content-driven approach to history education. What makes it new now, is the shift on students learning to do history like historians rather than simply absorbing content by memorizing facts. But this still raises the question: Is this current focus on historical thinking in history education a trend, or an example of history education becoming qualitatively more sophisticated? Continue reading

Cheering for Global Warming: What Europe’s Climatic Past can tell us About our Attitudes Today

By Dagomar Degroot

Last March, 15,000 heat records were shattered across all American states. While monthly temperatures soared over 15 degrees Celsius above twentieth century American averages, unseasonal warmth also affected much of Canada. In Toronto, hushed, apologetic admissions that there might be something to climate change after all quickly yielded to unabashed celebration of global warming as spring sprung a month early. Of course, if a similar heat wave settled over the city in July or August a very different – if equally shrill – chorus might have drowned my Twitter or Facebook feeds. Still, much of the Northern Hemisphere is uncomfortably cold more often than it’s uncomfortably warm. A month ago I couldn’t help but think that individual, corporate and state responses to climate change in the west might be more serious if the world was cooling. Continue reading