Announcements: Parler Fort Speaker Series and Sunnybrook Hospital Book Launch

This week we have two exciting events to announce: the Parler Fort Speaker Series at Fort York and a book launch for Sunnybrook Hospital: Our Veterans’ Legacy of Care, a Photographic Journey Through the Decades.

Fort York National Historic Site is hosting the talk “Dying to Vote in Canada in the Middle East” by award-winning essayist and novelist John Ralston Saul and Professor Thabit Abdullah (Professor of History, York University).  They will they engage each other and the audience in a discussion of the current state of democracy in Canada, and our nation’s role in encouraging democratic movements in other countries.  The talk will be held on Monday May 30th, 2011 at 7:00 pm.  Admission Price: $10 ($8.85 + HST).  Please R.S.V.P. to 416-392-6907 x 221 or for more information.

Also at Fort York on Monday June 20th is the launch of the new book Reshaping Toronto’s Waterfront (UTP Press, June 2011.) will have more details about this event closer to the date. is also pleased to announce the launch of the new book Sunnybrook Hospital: Our Veterans’ Legacy of Care, a Photographic Journey Through the Decades.  The book published by Dundurn Group Press captures the history of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Edited by a team led by Dr. Peeter Poldre, the book, Sunnybrook Hospital Our Veteran’s Legacy of Care, a Photographic Journey Through the Decades, chronicles the contributions of the dedicated health care professionals, staff, volunteers and veterans whose tireless efforts have made the hospital what it has become today. Together they have established internationally recognized standards of excellence in patient care, teaching and research. This legacy honours in perpetuity those service men and women, past and present, who put heir lives on the line to protect our freedom.

Sunnybrook: Our Veteran’s Legacy of Care is available for purchase in the gift shops at Sunnybrook, Chapters/Indigo book stores, and online through Dundurn Press.  For more information Please contact: Phil Gold, Archivist Sunnybrook Archives, Room KB117 Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, 2075 Bayview Avenue Toronto, Ontario M4N 3M5, 416-480-6100 ext 2571 or

“You’re gonna be glorified, unified and filled-with-pride”: Movie Review of Five on the Black Hand Side

In the 1970s a new genre of film featuring all black casts raged through urban American movie theaters. It was named “Blaxploitation,” combining “exploitation,” which were films that presented overtly violent and sexual narratives, and “black” to denote not only the racial make-up of the cast, but the centrality of “blackness” to the story lines. Melvyn Van Peebles’s 1971 Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song is often considered the first of this genre, but later crowd-pleasers such as Shaft (1971), Superfly (1972) and Cleopatra Jones (1973) more overtly capture the essence of Blaxploitation. They tell the story of African American men and women living in urban settings celebrating their blackness in defiance of a white supremacist America. While fighting crime or running drug enterprises, the main protagonists use the language most recognized in black urban environments and dress in the soul/funk style popularized in the 1970s. Filling a need for films that celebrate the black experience, as well as filling the seats in the urban movie theaters that were rapidly beginning to pale in the boom of suburban multiplexes, Blaxploitation quickly became lucrative for several major studios and iconographic for young black men and women. While they may appear frivolous to viewers in the 21st century, they astutely combined fun narrative with the growing Black Power politics of the 1970s. To their target audience, they were anything but frivolous. Continue reading

The Rise and Fall of Ideas: Having fun with Google N-Grams

Unigram comparisons for 'nationalize' and 'privatize'

Tracking the rise and fall of ideas throughout fifteen million books would have been impossible. Until now, thanks to the Google Books Ngram Viewer. Much like my previous post on Wordle tried to illustrate, we need to make sense of large quantities of information in order to do ‘big history’ and provide a context into which we can write our smaller studies. They’re also awesome for teaching or just playing around with and having (shock) fun with history.

On the chart at above right, we see a Google Ngram for two phrases: ‘nationalize’ in blue, ‘privatize’ in red. Does it surprise you? The idea of “privatize”ing is almost unheard of until the 1970s, and really picks up stream by the late 1980s and peaks in the 1990s. Conversely, nationalize slowly trends upwards until the 1970s, and then declines. This might not be surprising, but it’s an example. In this post, I’ll tell you what an ngram is, show some cool pictures, and hopefully drive you to have some fun with this. Continue reading

Technology and the Post-War Presidency

      5 Comments on Technology and the Post-War Presidency

Picture by White House Photographer Pete Souza, White House Flickr Collection, 2 May 2011.

You likely saw this photograph sometime over the last few weeks.

It depicts U.S. President Barack Obama and his national security team — including, among others: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, National Security Advisor, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State, and Vice President — in the White House Situation Room, Sunday 1 May 2011.

The subject of their fascination, as the president would go on to reveal in a televised national address only a few hours later, is “Operation Neptune Spear” — otherwise known as the covert assassination of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs.

Let’s come back to this photograph shortly. Continue reading

Fun Camp for Adult Researchers: Reading Artifacts at the Canada Science and Technology Museum

By Ioana Teodorescu

You may have heard of it. Or not. Its official title is Reading Artifacts Summer Institute at Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa and this is the third year when it happens. Jaipreet Virdi gave it a serious review in June last year on this very blog and I totally agree with that. I won’t repeat what Jai said, but rather take a more personal approach.

Set: the conservation division of the museum.
Time: 5 days
Basic work: figure out an object with very little external information, if any.
Process: whatever you can think of – beside actual artefact research.
(Never done artefact research before? All the better. They’re quite good at explaining it.)
Frame: the organizers carefully select some really cool things in the collection that don’t look like anything you’ve ever seen before (and believe me, Sci & Tech is just the place) – they lay them on a few tables or, if they’re way too big (which happens with technology), they place them casually round the corner of your chair. They don’t look very intimidating because the actual collections are just a few meters away anyway. Continue reading

Active History on the Grand: Chiefswood, a Bridge Between Two Worlds

Chiefswood from the Grand River

August is laughing across the sky,
Laughing while paddle, canoe and I,
Drift, drift,
Where the hills uplift
On either side of the current swift.

– “The Song my Paddle Sings,” E. Pauline Johnson

From Brantford’s downtown the Grand River meanders lazily, coming back on itself through a large ox-box, before reaching the tiny community of Newport.  Just past Newport the south shore of the Grand River forms the boundary of the Six Nations reserve.  From Newport the Grand River next flows through the town of Onondaga, and just a few kilometers past that, the river flows past a large white house on a hill.  This is Chiefswood. Continue reading

Announcement: Congress Social Media Meet-up

May 29, 2011 5 to 7 pm
Harriet Irving Library, room 111
University of New Brunswick

Recognizing the importance of user-generated content to the Congress experience, Congress is hosting its first ever social media networking cocktail. This event is an opportunity for delegates who would normally engage only online to meet in real life. Join us for a short presentation and a chance to share your experiences and thoughts on blogging with researchers and community-members. Drinks and snacks will be provided.

To RSVP or if you have any questions, Please email me at or call me at (613) 238 6112 ext. 356.

Visible Minority, Invisible History? An Educational Forum about Teaching and Learning Asian Heritage

For our educational readers in the Greater Toronto Area, is proud to pass along this initiation from the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter.

  • Are you a teacher or youth worker?
  • Do you work with a lot of Asian Students?
  • Do your students question their Asian Canadian identity?
  • Do you wish you had more resources to discuss Asian Canadian heritage?
  • Have you been successful in organizing events and lessons regarding Asian Heritage?

If you answered “yes” to at least one of these questions, come and join an educational forum about teaching and learning Asian Heritage on Thursday May 26th, 2011. Continue reading

Alberta’s Oil Spill History

      4 Comments on Alberta’s Oil Spill History

By Sean Kheraj

On Friday, 29 April 2011, Plains Midstream Canada quietly issued a press release, informing the public of a crude oil spill from the Rainbow Pipeline east of the Peace River in northern Alberta near Little Buffalo, AB. Four days later, following the Canadian federal election, Alberta’s Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) announced that 28,000 barrels of crude oil had been released from the pipeline rupture, making this the largest pipeline oil spill in Alberta in over 35 years. Commenting on Alberta’s history of oil spills, Environment Minister Rob Renner said “sure there are incidents from time to time, but I would put our record up against any other.” Just what is that record? Continue reading

Can Ontario Overcome Bob Rae’s Legacy?

      7 Comments on Can Ontario Overcome Bob Rae’s Legacy?

Can one leader single-handedly sink an entire political party? Having recently spent time discussing election issues while knocking on doors in my riding, I was surprised to learn that some Ontarians would answer this in the affirmative, pointing specifically to Bob Rae. Time and again I witnessed a similar reaction during this campaign: “Oh, I’ll never vote NDP!” Oh, why not? “Bob Rae!” (Insert door slamming here.)

I would like to suggest that this sort of reaction is misinformed. My purpose here is not to offer a defence of Bob Rae; on the contrary, I am highly critical of his leadership record. Rather, I would like to address the faulty logic that Bob Rae can be conflated with the current New Democratic Party. Continue reading