Toronto: A Proud Union City

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The 19th Century Toronto Walking Tour (from the map)

Take a walk from The Don Drewery, learning about the United Brewery Workers and their victory for a city-wide union label, down to the Distillery District and learn about William Gooderham’s paternalistic relationship with his employees. Maybe you’ll then pass through the St. Lawrence Market, stopping for a tasty snack while contemplating the history of workers’ rallies on the site, before finishing up at a plaque at Yonge and King commemorating the failed 1872 Printers’ Strike, the Nine Hours Movement, and the subsequent Trade Unions Act – part of the story of Labour Day! These would be just a few stops on the recently unveiled 19th Century Toronto Labour History Walking Tour. On Wednesday, September 1st, “Mapping Our Work: Toronto Labour History Walking Tours” launched. Continue reading

Active History Announcements: Sept 5 – 11

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After a month long vacation, AH Announcements is back!  The following upcoming events may be of interest to our readers (click on ‘continue reading’ below for full descriptions):

1)  Thought Exchange (History Matters) – Sept 14, 2 p.m.

2) The Toronto Beer Quest – Sept. 26, 11 a.m.

3)  Approaching the Past: The Past through Place – Sept 30, 7 p.m.

4) This week in the Active History blogosphere!

If you have an announcement that you would like included in this weekly dispatch, please e-mail Continue reading

Exploring Toronto’s Rich Beer History

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By Mirella Amato

Toronto has a rich brewing history. This is a fact. I got my first glimpse into this history in 2007 in my early days working with beer. At that time, I did some work for Oliver Dawson on the Old Toronto Beer Tour. This daylong tour explores Toronto’s current breweries as well as the remnants of older breweries and various locations that were significant in Toronto’s brewing past. In preparing to guide the tour, I was delighted to learn about Toronto’s history and to explore Toronto in a new light. I was even happier to have the opportunity to share these discoveries with the various people who signed up for the tour. Continue reading

The Reenactment of Wartime Pasts in Yasukuni

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In Japan, August is the month of the dead.  It is the time of the year when spirits of the dead are believed to return home and when millions of people return “home” to greet them.   This past week, my family in Japan and I busied ourselves by cleaning the family tomb, sprucing up the household altar, and suffering half a day of bumper-to-bumper traffic to visit my mother-in-law’s hometown to pay our respects to both the living and the dead.

The month of the dead is also defined by the anniversary of the end of the war, which falls coincidently in the middle of the Bon (ancestor) Festival.     For the most part, the welcoming and sending off of the spirits of the war dead happens in the private spaces of the home and the family tomb, where the families welcome the dead, spend the week eating and drinking with them, and then send them off with some drink, fire, and food.

On 15 August, the spirits of some 3 million Japanese soldiers and civilians who were killed in World War II come home.  Most of the remembrance ceremonies for the war dead are private.  However, there are much more public ways of remember people who not only died for their families but also as a sacrifice for the welling being of the nation.  On 15 August, the spirits of the dead are coaxed to join people in more complex, raucous spaces of memorialization.  On this day, the Yasukuni Shrine complex serves as an important space for this kind of memorialization.  Built in 1869, the shrine lists the names of some 2.5 million Japanese war dead from 1869 to 1945, including 14 Class-A war criminals who were enshrined in 1978. Continue reading

Time Machine Being Built South of the Border

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The first steps towards building a historical time machine are underway south of the border. A group of American history educators have founded an ambitious plan to create the “Civil War Augmented Reality Project.”

This first time machine will be a literal window into the past. By taking advantage of smart phone and tablet computer technology, as well as their beautiful screens, the project team hopes to let visitors of Civil War sites see aspects of the past by holding up their computers and looking at them as though they were a window.

Virtual bridgeAt one river crossing in Pennsylvania, visitors will be able to look through their virtual window at a bridge that was burned down during the Civil War to prevent enemy troops from making the crossing. As the visitor drives along the present bridge, their view will pan to reflect their moving position and a seamless image will augment their view outside the car.

This project is still in the planning – and fundraising – stages, but the organizers have big dreams for a complex network of activities aimed at teachers and Civil War tourists. In a few years, we might be seeing a lot more of these windows into the past.

You can keep tabs on this project at their website:

Place and Time: Old Photographs and New Technology

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This week I was made aware of a great new website that I think not only has broad interest and appeal, but also a high level of cool. Historypin is a collaborative website where google maps and google street view is combined with user contributed photographs in order to provide the viewer with a doorway to the past. Users on the website can scan and upload their own photographs and place them onto a google map so that any visitor to Historypin can access the photograph in order to get a peek into a particular area during a certain time period. The website works by simply browsing on the map or by searching for specific places, time periods or events. In addition to their photographs, contributors can also add stories about the image, helping to give the photographs further context and meaning. Users can also expand on the content by contributing comments, or by adding on to a particular photo’s story. This is a cool tool that would of interest not only to historians and genealogists, but to anyone curious about their surroundings. Continue reading

Integrating History and Fashion: an interview with Dorothy Grant

By Brittany Luby, Graduate Student at the University of British Columbia/First Nations House of Learning

Dorothy Grant

I first met Dorothy Grant in Vancouver’s Pan Pacific Hotel.  I was so nervous – hardly 20 years of age and working the front desk for a high profile business event.  I watched Dorothy – then unknown – walk towards me, her coat tails swaying side-to-side with each step.  She seemed to dance across the corridor, her coat an able partner.  When she reached the desk, I smiled and greeted the raven embroidered onto her collar. Continue reading

Lessons of the Past: Equity, Equality and Education

"'Fancy step' around the classroom," ca. 1899. From the Frances Benjamin Johnson Collection, Library of Congress; this photo is licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.

As a new school year fast approaches, I’ve been reflecting on this past year of teaching and thinking ahead to a new one.  My teaching philosophy has been inspired by my past experiences as both student and teaching assistant, my interests and studies, and some good (and not-so-good) models I’ve encountered along the way. 

Seminars and tutorials vary across time and space.  Within my cultural context, tutorials often involve teaching assistants leading small group discussions on assigned readings, held in conjunction with weekly lectures.  Tutorials also differ significantly depending on who is doing the teaching.  Some tutorial leaders will assign mandatory presentations to each student, while others might prefer a more informal discussion sparked by question and answer sessions.  Others still deploy a wide variety of creative strategies in the classroom, a few of which have been discussed in some outstanding contributions to this site on teaching historyContinue reading

Memories of L’Anse aux Meadows

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Benedicte Ingstad at the 50th Anniversary Ceremony (Photo by Author)

By Megan Arnott

The main story of L’Anse aux Meadows occurred 1000 years ago, when Leifr Eiriksson (or some other intrepid Norse explorer) and his crew journeyed across the North Atlantic and landed on the shores of North America. It is this story that continues to bring in national and international visitors by the thousand, and it is this story that Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism continues to present to a watching world.

But there is another prominent story at L’Anse aux Meadows, one that is tied to the 1000 year old tale, but which happened in living memory and which continues to shape the lives of the people of the Northern Peninsula. On Wednesday July the 21st, 2010 L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site celebrated the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the Norse archaeological site. Continue reading

Can We Redeem File-Sharing After the Download Decade?

The term “download decade” is an effective description of the first ten years of this infant century and the first rising chapter of the so-called Information Age.

It accurately distills the blind conspiracy between the exponential availability of high-speed Internet, the gradual decrease in the cost of personal computers, the rise of peer-to-peer file-sharing networks and websites like Napster and its clones (built largely on BitTorrent protocols) and, of course, the generation of youth at the centre of it all.

This evolution in communications has changed consumer habits, challenged traditional media, and kindled still-raging debates about ethical use and legislative reform. Continue reading