NiCHE looking for an Active Historian

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Canada Geese, by KeithIt’s not every day you see a job posting for an Active Historian, but that’s just what the Network in Canadian History & Environment (NiCHE) is looking for.

NiCHE is an international network of people interested in the study of Canada’s environmental history / historical geography. They are currently looking to fill a 2 year position: “Project Coordinator” to help manage the day-to-day operation of the network and to facilitate projects that engage a wide audience with Canadian environmental history.

The full job description can be found on the University of Western Ontario human resources page. Questions about the position can be sent to the NiCHE director, Dr. Alan MacEachern (

Like I said, it’s not every day you see a job posting for an Active Historian. Today is a special day.

Deadline to apply is June 24, 2010.

How Useful is the Library of Congress’ Twitter Archive?

Library of Congress' Twitter Archive

On Wednesday 14 April, the United States of America’s Library of Congress (LOC) announced a deal with the popular social networking service, Twitter, to archive all public messages on the site right down to the first “tweet” from @jack (Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder) on 21 March 2006, at 3:50 PM.

Response to the news can generally be described as positive and set “Library of Congress” as a top trend for the remainder of the week. Considering that the site has evolved into one of the most efficient means of spreading information (even by Internet standards) such enthusiasm is understandable. Continue reading

Tormorden Fantasy

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Toronto, known to some as The Big Smoke, has world class horrible traffic and at least a fair smattering of all your basic urban ills. The city that knows no hockey also has some unexpected lesser-known natural and historic charms. To begin with, the Toronto Islands get less attention than they deserve. Enough said. Stay away. Continue reading

Congo: The Most Dangerous Place in the World for Women

On 21 May 2010 Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported on a new round of mass killings and gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR). This is the latest in a string of now familiar reports that are attempting to shed light on a part of the world that has been seemingly left to smolder in the dark.

What has characterized this particular war has been its brutalization of civilians, including, women and children. Women and girls are routinely subjected to mutilation and repeated gang rapes. In fact, no other feature has characterized this war more than the prevalence of rape. It is estimated that throughout the Congo, approximately half a million women have been subjected to sexual violence of the most brutal sort during an over decade long war. The DCR has been called the most dangerous place in the world for women.

Martial rape is, of course, not without precedence. Historically there are many recorded incidences of the use of rape in war. The twentieth century alone has numerous examples that include the rape of women in Nanking, China by Japanese troops in 1937-38 and the rape of German women by advancing Red Army soldiers at the end of the Second World War, to the mid 1990s, which saw the use of rape as a weapon against the women of both Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Rape is more than a by-product of war, it used to further the destruction and disgrace of an enemy.   Within the Congo itself, its use was common during the Belgian colonial period where women were used to reward soldiers. But this history does not excuse its present day use, or explain its particular brand of viciousness in today’s Congo. Continue reading

Heli-skiing and cultural heritage in contested landscapes

by Jeff Slack

A recent BBC news report highlights some of the key issues in a decades-long debate over heli-skiing in the European Alps. First experimented with in British Columbia’s interior mountain ranges in the 1960s, heli-skiing entails using helicopters in lieu of chairlifts to shuttle small, guided groups of skiers to the top of otherwise difficult-to-access, and thus untracked mountain slopes.

Although this lucrative industry flourished in western North America’s wide open spaces, it also faces growing opposition, primarily over environmental concerns such as air pollution and other threats to fragile alpine ecosystems. In one recent controversy, however, opponents of a contentious heli-ski proposal voiced their concerns over potential conflicts between mechanized recreation and cultural heritage values in the region surrounding British Columbia’s highest mountain, Mount Waddington. As human demands on Canada’s natural spaces increase, such convergences of ecological and heritage concerns are likely to become a more common, and perhaps more effective, environmental strategy. Continue reading

2010 G8/G20 Summit: Upcoming Actions and Events

This photo was taken during the 2007 G8 Summit in Rostock, Germany.

This photo was taken during the 2007 G8 Summit in Rostock, Germany.

The G8 and G20 Summits are fast approaching.  G8 leaders will be meeting in Huntsville, Ontario at Deerhurst Resort on June 25, 2010; the G20 will be meeting in Toronto at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on June 26 and 27.

At a cursory glance, the G8, or Group of Eight, extends back to the 1973 oil crisis; originally called the G6, leaders from among the most powerful nations in the world met to discuss solutions to the global economic recession.  Nations included at the first meeting in 1975 were France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States.  Canada was invited to join the following year, causing the group to be renamed the G7.  Russia was brought into the fold in 1997, thus creating the G8.  Continue reading

Historical Perspectives on Oil Gushers

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By Dana Johnson

At the end of April, I began a four-month internship at the Oil Museum of Canada. One of my major research projects involves examining primary source documents to gain a better understanding about the events of 1862, when Canada’s first oil gushers erupted from over thirty wells in Oil Springs, Ontario. I have discovered some interesting comparisons between accounts of those first oil gushers and the recent oil spill disaster (a British Petroleum rig exploded on April 20th, killing eleven men and causing an enormous leak into the Gulf of Mexico; thousands of barrels a day continue to spew into open waters, as containment efforts have proven inadequate to respond to the crisis.) Continue reading

Collection Access: the Toronto District School Board Artifact Loan Program

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) recently announced plans to increase access to the private art and artifact collection held by the School Board.  The collection is estimated to be worth millions of dollars, has been unavailable to the general public for years, and includes items from numerous noteworthy Canadians.

The School Board plans on increasing access to their collection through an educational loan program.  The proposed program aims to expose school children to the artwork and artifacts in an educational setting.  The program would allow school children to both learn and engage with material culture and would see items from the collection being temporarily loaned to Toronto schools.   The School Board has acknowledged the fact that in some cases preservation and security measures will have to be put in place prior to certain items being loaned to schools.  Additional information on the loan program can be found here and here. Continue reading

Campaigning with History: Wildlands and Woodlands

Last week we have two great posts by Tom and Alix on historians engaging with current issues and the value of “thinking with history” for policy development.  Both these post brought to mind a project in New England that I learned about at an environmental history conference a few  years ago.  The Wildland and Woodlands campaign is to protect 70% of New England’s land for forests:

New England forests are at a turning point. Following a 200-year resurgence, forest cover has begun to decline in every New England state. What will we do with this challenge and opportunity?

The Wildlands and Woodlands vision calls for a 50-year conservation effort to retain at least 70 percent of New England in forestland, permanently free from development.

    -90% of forests would be “Woodlands,” conserved by willing landowners and sustainably managed for multiple uses, from recreation to wood products.
    -10% of forests would be “Wildland” reserves, identified by local communities and shaped only by the natural environment. Continue reading

Active History Announcements: May 23-29

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


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

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

4) Sean Mills, Karen Dubinsky, and David Austin book launch – Montreal, May 31

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

6) Digest of this week’s blog posts

7) Write for us! We are currently looking for more people interested in writing blog posts on Active History

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

There will be no announcements next week. Continue reading