History Slam 219: Canadiana & Historical Storytelling on the Web

By Sean Graham

Back in the summer of 2017, a new web series was released on YouTube. Telling viewers that they were on the hunt for the “most incredible stories in Canadian history,” Canadiana was a new type of Youtube channel. A documentary-style series, Canadiana combines archival and secondary research with outstanding visual elements to provide audiences with wonderful storytelling. And while the first season was bootstrapped by its creators, through its success in finding a big audience they have been able to secure additional funding and partnerships to expand and improve what was already a quality show. This season, for instance, the series is partnering with Parks Canada to tell some little-known stories at various national parks and historic sites.

As I look forward to the premiere of Season 3, coming on Tuesday (June 28), its success is a reminder that there is an interest in history. Despite the regular claims of Canadian history being boring and the stark reality of declining enrolments in history departments across the country, when history is done well, people want to engage. Over the past five years, the word unprecedented has been used with alarming regularity in the press (seriously, Google ‘unprecedented’ and click news and you will inundated with stories), which is fair only if you ignore the precedents. The past isn’t always prologue and certainly the very idea of history is under attack in some places, but in this environment of uncertainty, there is an appetite to look to our past and it’s critical that quality historical content be there for people to consume.

In this episode of the History Slam, I talk with Adam Bunch and Kyle Cucco of Canadiana. We talk about the delays to season 3 caused by Covid (3:27), how they pick topics for the show (12:07), and the benefits of filming on location (17:40). We also chat about their partnership with Parks Canada (24:09), the two-part season premiere on piracy in Canada (30:40), and the audience for Canadian history online (39:08).

Sean Graham is a historian of Canadian broadcasting, an Adjunct Professor at Carleton University, and a contributing editor with Activehistory.ca

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