Reconsidering the Digital Historian Project

In 2014, the Digital Historian Project began as a partnership in Experiential Learning between 3 secondary schools in Dufferin County (the Upper Grand DSB) and the Duffern County Museum and Archives (DCMA). The goal was to offer a 4-Credit semester-long intensive program taught in situ at the Museum to senior students, in which curriculum would be delivered by a History & Math ‘team-teaching’ model. The lessons would integrate numeracy and historical thinking skills, and focus on rich archival research using a digital platform. Students were recruited from Grade 10, and take the DHP in their Grade 11 Year. In 2015, the DHP was awarded the Government of Canada History Award, and also received an  ‘exemplary program’ designation from the Ontario Ministry of Education. The DHP was cancelled by the UGDSB for 2018-2019. Today ActiveHistory.ca runs two letters from program graduates about the project’s influence.

By Avery Bettonvil

When I was a grade 11 student at Westside Secondary School, I was given the opportunity of being a part of the Digital Historian Project. It provided me with so many opportunities to develop as an individual. Collaborating with two other high schools, learning about our rich Canadian history and travelling to Europe to honour our veterans are just some examples of the amazing aspects this program had to offer.

Students in the Inaugural DHP

I was heartbroken when I heard this program was being cancelled. It played a critical role in my high school career and I feel that it has such potential to do so for future students.

I am now entering my third year in kineseology at Sir Wilfrid Laurier University and am thankful for the skills this program helped me develop. The DHP taught me many lessons through a combination of math and history that help me in my current studies, such as advanced research skills, group collaboration and critical thinking. Continue reading

Reconsidering the Digital Historian Project

In 2014, the Digital Historian Project began as a partnership in Experiential Learning between 3 secondary schools in Dufferin County (the Upper Grand DSB) and the Duffern County Museum and Archives (DCMA). The goal was to offer a 4-Credit semester-long intensive program taught in situ at the Museum to senior students, in which curriculum would be delivered by a History & Math ‘team-teaching’ model. The lessons would integrate numeracy and historical thinking skills, and focus on rich archival research using a digital platform. Students were recruited from Grade 10, and take the DHP in their Grade 11 Year. In 2015, the DHP was awarded the Government of Canada History Award, and also received an  ‘exemplary program’ designation from the Ontario Ministry of Education. The DHP was cancelled by the UGDSB for 2018-2019. Today ActiveHistory.ca runs two letters from program graduates about the project’s influence.

By Riley Tilson

I was finishing my second year as a double major in History and Politics at Queen’s University, when one of my profs said: “History is all about perspective. You have to change how you look at the world to understand it.” I found familiarity in this statement, because it was an idea that had been sparked inside me not too long ago, when I participated in the Digital Historian Project in its pilot year in 2015.

In the program, I found myself with sixteen other students from three local high schools in Dufferin County. We were a ragtag bunch who had been selected to participate in a four credit program that was designed to mesh Canadian History, Indigenous Studies, Data Management, and independent projects powered by research at our local museum, the Dufferin County Museum and Archives. You’d think that seventeen kids in Grade 11 wouldn’t be very interested in taking an in depth look at Canadian History, especially with the fact that this innovative program had the possibility of many hiccups in its first year. But it surprised us all and, instead, left us with a better understanding of our country, and the county we call home.

The DHP was the first time I was encouraged to look at our history critically. Unlike previous history classes, history was no longer a list of dates and facts. The DHP transformed it into so much more. In the DHP we were encouraged to look at how history was a set of contingent events, where the past repeats itself daily. We examined the “big” and “little” picture (as we called it), examining how national events affected local histories in Dufferin County. Continue reading

“History Teaching at its Best:” Some Thoughts on History Teaching, Passion, and the University Classroom

Adam Chapnick

When I read Andrew Nurse’s first post for the Beyond the Lecture series, I was both delighted and frustrated.  Delighted because I continue to believe that, as academic historians, we have an obligation to think more seriously about the craft of teaching; frustrated because how far behind we Canadians are in this reflective process.  This is one reason why the series is so welcome.

Four years ago, Alan Booth, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Nottingham and co-founder of the web resource, www.historiansonteaching.tv, published History Teaching at its Best: Historians talk about what matters, what works, what makes a difference.  It used survey data from questionnaires completed by nearly 10% of all history professors employed as academics in the UK, along with semi-structured interviews with historians with a keen interest in teaching from Britain, Australia, the US, and mainland Europe, to launch a broader conversation about teaching within our discipline.

Cover of History Teaching at its Best: Historians talk about what matters, what works, what makes a difference.

Cover of Booth’s History Teaching At Its Best.

The key point is this: Booth laments what he sees as historians’ collective ambivalence with regard to the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning but also feels that historians are open to internal discussion and debate within the discipline.

His book  traces the unwillingness of historians to think about learning as a science to the professionalization of academic history after the Second World War.  As published research became the key to professional success, a belief appears to have developed among historians that linked active research to effective teaching.  This belief – based, paradoxically, entirely on anecdotal evidence, something historians would never allow to go unquestioned in their own scholarship – spread rapidly.  “Even the notion of a need for training in teaching,” writes Booth, “was often contested as an attack on craft-based expertise, on academic freedom, and on the intensely personal and private nature of classroom teaching” (28).  

Because of this, it is difficult to imagine historians seeing a significant role in their lives for a Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE).  I would explain it like this: most academic historians still see themselves as teachers of history. In STLHE, most of us see ourselves as teachers of students.   Continue reading

Podcast: Putting Flesh on the Bones: The Meaning of the BNA Act in Confederation Era Canada

On April 22, 2017, Penny Bryden delivered her talk “Putting Flesh on the Bones: The Meaning of the BNA Act in Confederation Era Canada.” The talk was part of “The Other 60s: A Decade that Shaped Canada and the World,” a symposium hosted by the Department of History at the University of Toronto as part of its Canada 150 events.

This talk is part of our History Chats podcast series. You can subscribe to the History Chats feed wherever you get your podcasts.

Teaching Sexual Violence in History

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Left, Artemisia Gentileschi, Susanna and the Elders, 1610. Right, Kathleen Gilje, Susanna and the Elders, Restored, 1998.

Left, Artemisia Gentileschi, Susanna and the Elders, 1610. Right, Kathleen Gilje, Susanna and the Elders, Restored, 1998.

Sanchia deSouza, Joel Dickau, Edward Dunsworth, William Fysh, Benjamin Lukas, Kari North, Maris Rowe-Mcculloch, Lindsay C. Sidders, Hana Suckstorff, Nathaniel Thomas, Erica Toffoli, and Spirit-Rose Waite

As movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp direct renewed and broadened attention to sexual violence and harassment, many sectors of society (especially workplaces) are being forced to reckon with and critically assess these forms of violence. This cultural shift has been most visible in the entertainment industry, politics, and the service sector, and has manifested in moments of both cacophony (the Women’s March) and whisper (“Sexual Harassment in the Academy” list). It has also illuminated the unequal ways that attention is paid to survivors (and alleged perpetrators) of different economic circumstances, racialized statuses, genders and sexualities, and abilities.

For a new generation of historians, this moment has prompted critical reflection beyond our contemporary workplaces to the object of our studies: the past. How should we, as historians and teachers, grapple with sexual violence in the past – in both our classrooms and our research projects – and how should we assess the intersection between historical inequities and sexual violence in the present?

To this end, a group of graduate students at the University of Toronto recently organized a five-day workshop entitled Teaching Sexual Violence in History. Over more than ten hours of discussion, debate, critique, and negotiation, grounded in secondary and primary historical sources, the group agreed that a radical transformation of how sexual violence is approached in the classroom is essential.[1]

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History on Appeal: Originalism and Evidence in the Comeau Case

This essay is being jointly posted today with Acadiensis and Borealia.

By Bradley Miller

The Supreme Court declined this month to radically change the way that Canada works. In R v Comeau, lawyers for a New Brunswick man ticketed for bringing too many bottles of beer into the province from Quebec urged the justices to use the history of the Canadian federation to improve its future, at least as they saw it. They asked the court to find in section 121 of the Constitution Act 1867– a long-ignored little provision that says that the products of each province shall be “admitted free” into each of the others – a right to largely-unfettered free trade between provinces, a move that would put at risk a vast array of regulatory schemes that in one way or another end up limiting or burdening the flow of goods across Canada, such as the beer that the RCMP hauled out of Gerald Comeau’s car after he was pulled over in October 2012.

Many people loathe the kinds of restrictions and regulations that might have been killed by Comeau, and there’s lots of evidence that they massively hike costs on consumers and badly damage Canadian productivity. So the notion that the constitution could bridge the boundaries that are too often created by provincial laws and that the justices could find a right to economic liberty in the way that they’ve laudably found rights to so many other pieces of modern Canada was dazzlingly tempting to many of our brightest commentators and public policy thinkers.

The case drew even more attention because of the role of history and historians in the litigation: elements of the pro-free trade argument entailed an originalist analysis, a technique which is often a tool of social conservatives seeking to squash rights for women, LGBT people, and others, and very uncommon in Canadian constitutional cases. In the telling of Comeau’s lawyers, free trade wasn’t a new right at all, but rather the recognition of one that had been there since the Fathers of Confederation and Britain’s legislative draftsman finalized the British North America Actin 1867. They backed this point up in the New Brunswick trial and the Supreme Court appeal using the Confederation debates of the 1860’s, the expert testimony of a Canadian historian on nineteenth-century trade and the intentions of the BNA Act’s framers, as well a secret 1924 letter describing a clandestine meeting between judges and politicians that purportedly delegitimized a foundational precedent on section 121. Their case, in other words, was that the court should restore a key plank of the original Confederation deal. Continue reading

Love and Sadness for the Post-Secondary Educational System

Mary-Ann Shantz

A recent episode of CBC radio’s Sunday Edition highlighted the exodus of PhD graduates from academia and enumerated some of the many reasons for this phenomenon. The story prompted a flood of responses from other former graduate students and junior academics (“Life After Academia: Your Stories”). Recent blogposts such as, “Why So Many Academics Quit and Tell,” are increasingly common and widely circulated among my peers on social media. On many levels I relate to the sentiments shared in these posts. I particularly related to PhD graduate Elise Thorburn’s response to the Sunday Edition documentary: “As an academic, a lot of your identity is wrapped up in your work and the successes you obtain. Realizing that despite a lengthy CV of academic success there just might not be a place for you, can really shatter your whole sense of who you are and your self-worth.”

The academic life is psychologically demanding. I think this is why I feel a strong affinity to both writers and Olympic athletes, who spend so much of their time toiling day in and day out with little recognition or tangible reward. Life as a precarious academic takes this to another level (“The Neurotic Academic: How Anxiety Fuels Casualized Academic Work”). I understand and respect scholars who decide that this life is not for them.

And yet, I do not want to give up on academia. Continue reading

History Slam Episode 115: The Oslo Diaries

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By Sean Graham

The Oslo Diaries has is Canadian Premiere during Hot Docs in Toronto. The first screening will be Tuesday May 1 at 9pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, with a second on Wednesday May 2 at 12:30pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre.

In the early 1990s, increasing violence and bloodshed continued to deteriorate the already tense relations between the Israelis and Palestinians. Officially, neither side recognized the other’s leadership as legitimate – the Israeli government classified the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as a terrorist organization while the PLO did not recognize the State of Israel. In that environment, each side demonized the other, creating an atmosphere where distrust and suspicion compromised any efforts towards peace.

In 1992, however, negotiators from each side secretly met in Oslo, Norway. These meetings, which had to be secret as it was illegal to be speaking to each other, changed the Middle East. Chronicled only by the negotiators’ diaries, they opened the process that ultimately led to Oslo Accords, a series of agreements between the two sides.

These meetings and the efforts to implement the Oslo Accords are the subject of the new documentary The Oslo Diaries. The film combines the written record from negotiators on both side with re-creations of the meetings to take the viewer behind-the-scenes of an incredibly  contentious, yet hopeful, moment in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

The film also uses interviews with key players in the story, including the last on camera conversation with former Israel president Shimon Peres. Moving seamlessly between archival footage, re-creations, and contemporary interviews, the film immerses the viewer in a story that is simultaneously about the past and the future.

With the relationship between the two sides continuing to deteriorate, the film speaks to modern concerns just as much as it does about the 1990s. In documenting the highs and lows of the negotiations, The Oslo Diaries poignantly demonstrates the fragility of peace and the high cost of failing to preserve that peace.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Daniel Sivan, one of the film’s directors. We talk about the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the motivation to make the film, and the use of re-creations. We also talk about the Oslo accords, de-humanization in conflict, and the region’s future prospects for peace.

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Podcast: Irish Nationalisms and Canadian Confederation

On April 22, 2017, David Wilson delivered his talk “Irish Nationalisms and Canadian Confederation.” The talk was part of “The Other 60s: A Decade that Shaped Canada and the World,” a symposium hosted by the Department of History at the University of Toronto as part of its Canada 150 events.

This talk is part of our History Chats podcast series. You can subscribe to the History Chats feed wherever you get your podcasts.

A Triptych of Thoughts on the Knowledge of Land/T’sing ninaagaadek ezhi naanaagdoowendming wih kendmauzihwin zhi weh ‘kiing

Nunda ezhibiigaadegin d’goh biigaadehknown ezhi debaahdedek nungwa manda neebing Mnidoo Mnising Neebing gah Bizh’ezhiwaybuck zhaazhi  gonda behbaandih kenjih’gehjik.

This essay is part of an ongoing series reflecting on this summer’s Manitoulin Island Summer Historical Institute (MISHI).

By Benjamin J. Kapron

In her book, Pathways for Remembering and Recognizing Indigenous Thought in Education, Sandra Styres writes about how conceptualizations of ‘space’ differ from conceptualizations of ‘place.’

[S]pace is a continuous area or expanse which is free, available, or unoccupied… [whereas place is] a particular position, point, or area in space?a linear and general perspective, particularly as it relates to time… Space, then, is an empty generality; however, place is particular, it is storied, it is experienced (Styres 45-47).

Such a distinction draws attention to the significance of particularity in the 2017 Manitoulin Island Summer Historical Institute’s (MISHI) guiding question: “does wisdom sit in places?” Instead of an abstract inquiry into relations between location and knowledge, this question called me, and all of MISHI’s participants, to engage with the wisdom that sits in Manitoulin in particular.

Moreover, according to Styres, Indigenous understandings of Land, or Iethi’nihsténha Ohwentsia’kékha[1] in Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk), go even deeper than understandings of place:

Iethi’nihsténha Ohwentsia’kékha embodies principles, philosophies, and ontologies that transcend the material construct of place. With this understanding in mind, Land is spiritual, emotional, and relational; Land is experiential; Land is conscious?Land is a fundamental living being (47; Styres’ italics).

Such understandings of Land call for more deeply developed relations with Manitoulin, likely deeper than would be possible over the one week of MISHI, though perhaps MISHI might serve as a starting place for prefiguring processes for engaging with Land, building relations with Land, and learning with Land. Continue reading