Peter Anderson (Queen’s University)

Combining Research Toolboxes in Active Historical Geographies

As historians our research is often comfortably in the past. Sometimes everyone who would remember the events and places we study is dead and we piece together stories from archival slivers. In this context it’s easy to think of historical research as apolitical. But history is always political, and no more so than when a prominent politician uses (or purposefully forgets) the past to make a point. On November 3rd, 2014, John Baird announced the alienation of 60 acres of the Central Experimental Farm from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to the Ottawa Hospital (by way of the National Capital Commission) for the site of a hypothetical mega-hospital campus. The Farm is a National Historic Site of Canada, a popular park in central Ottawa, and a working scientific station. It is also my research site. Baird’s announcement and much of the immediate reaction in the press played the alienation as a good news story: a historic hospital gets the chance to expand through the generosity of the federal government. This discourse ignored the ongoing history of the Farm as well as the repercussions of opening a historic site for development. As a historian of the Farm and inspired by the active history movement, I publicly entered the debate about the future of the Farm by turning to its past.  In this presentation I turn to the people and resources that assisted me in stepping forward to apply historical research to present day policy debates.

 Meghan Cameron (Brantford Collegiate Institute)

As part of its mandate, the GWCA is committed to educating members of the community about the contributions of the citizens of Brantford, Brant County and the Six Nations. Specifically, one of the goals of the organization is to provide quality research tools for students and teachers in the schools. The database is designed to be used as such a resource to encourage the teaching of history to be relevant to our students by making it local. The GWCA is also facilitating this by creating teacher guides and resources to be used in the classroom in conjunction with the database. By engaging both teachers and students in local history, the GWCA seeks to increase the awareness and relevance of their local communities’ contributions to the Great War.

Sean Carleton and Julia Smith (Graphic History Collective & Trent University)

Comics as Active History: The Graphic History Collective

History is a weapon. How we choose to see the past shapes our understanding of ourselves and the power we possess to change the present and the future. Recounting the events of the past, then, is not a neutral endeavour. It is profoundly political. While some people use history to justify the status quo and rationalize inequality as normal and inevitable, writers such as Howard Zinn, bell hooks, and Antonio Gramsci and others choose to see the potential of the past in more hopeful terms. Taking inspiration from such thinkers, the Graphic History Collective tries to blend the tradition of “people’s history” with the medium of comics to produce hopeful histories. Our aim is to inspire people to use the past as a resource to inform their efforts to try to change the present and future for the better.

This paper will explore the work of the Graphic History Collective generally and focus specifically on its most recent endeavour, the Graphic History Project and the forthcoming collection from the project Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-class Struggle (Between the Lines 2016). The paper will outline how the comics contributions to the project/collection actively engage with the past to remind people that radical social change is always possible.


Jay Cassel (Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs)

What Government Can Learn from Historians

This presentation will discuss the important role that historians play in government, specifically how historical research and analysis can assist with policy development, strategic planning, and First Nation land claim negotiations. We will touch on how some of the professional standards and skills of historians, including critical reading and thinking, analytical principles and concepts, writing, research, and knowledge of Indigenous cultures and history, are applicable in a government setting. This presentation will also discuss attempts to incorporate academic historical research into the work of the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs (MAA). MAA has attempted to establish connections with various academic institutions to promote the transfer of knowledge and ensure that government policy is based on sound academic research. Academics have expressed some concerns with the mobilization of historical knowledge for government purposes but these same skills can be put to constructive use to achieve justice and reconciliation.


Jennifer Chutter (Simon Fraser University)

Preservation of Heritage Homes: Keeping the past or stifling the present?

Urban populations, across Canada, have increased dramatically in the last thirty years – sparking debates about gentrification, densification and heritage preservation – as people create new forms of housing by demolishing or significantly altering existing structures. Houses play an important role in the cultural identity of cities and give form and pattern to people’s daily lives in their neighbourhoods. The organization, structure and aesthetics of neighbourhoods today are a reflection of past municipal decisions. However, frequently these past municipal decisions and styles of architecture were based on ideas of power, class and race that are no longer acceptable to current citizens. However, despite these embedded cultural values domestic architecture plays a unique role in shaping the urban dweller’s sense of home and place in the city. Without an understanding of how urban dwellers actively create a sense of home in the present and how it is connected to older domestic architectural styles and designs, we are left with an inadequate analysis that creates ill-formed urban planning decisions that reduce changes in domestic architecture to simplistic binary disputes of progress versus heritage preservation and developer’s rights versus neighbour’s rights.

Josh Cole (Queen’s University)

‘Watchdog[s] of the Mind’: Education, New Media, and the Rise of Public Scholarship

In spite of the endless stream of clichés about life in the “ivory tower,” where academics supposedly remain disconnected from reality, scholars are, in fact, engaging with public ‘realities’ in ever greater numbers. This phenomenon of “traditional intellectuals” going “organic” (as Antonio Gramsci would put it) bears exploration, particularly at a conference such as this one. In this paper, I will put the emergence of “public scholarship” into historical perspective, and explore its democratic possibilities as well.

But where to begin? In order to come to grips with public scholarship’s emergence, I will draw on a model of cultural change developed by the Welsh thinker Raymond Williams in his The Long Revolution (1961). In this seminal work (largely ignored by historians), Williams argued that the modern world emerged on three fronts simultaneously – as result of economic change (the emergence of capitalism), political change (the emergence of democracy), and cultural change (the emergence of mass education and mass media). No one factor could be isolated, as change in any one led to changes in the others. Williams’ ‘revolution’ ran from the Enlightenment to the 1960s, but his model of economic/political/cultural transformation holds great explanatory potential for our own decidedly “postmodern” moment.

It can certainly be applied to the phenomenon of public scholarship, circa-2015. There is no denying that key characteristics of the “post-Fordist” economy have been replicated in the twenty-first century university. The ‘Golden Era’ of the 1960s – when money flowed freely, and when academic jobs were plentiful – is decidedly over, and a “lean,” austere institution has taken its place – characterized by contingent labour relations (contract instructors or “adjuncts”) and even automation (Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs). I will consider whether or not many young (and not-so young), academics are drawn to new audiences because the university’s position as the centre of serious intellectual work has been shaken. Further, I will explore what (if any) role new forms of (social) media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and so on – are playing in the development of public scholarship – are the recession of the university, the rise of new media, and the emergence of public scholarship linked? If so, how? I will draw on literature in both educational and communications history to address these questions. Finally, I will explore whether or not public scholarship represents a new intellectual politics with democratic import, or whether it is something decidedly less than that – just another example of postmodern vacuity — simply (paraphrasing Jean Baudrillard) “more information, and less meaning”?

Laurie Dalton (Acadia University)

Material Culture, Museums & Engaging Publics with the Past

This paper is a case study and offers strategies to how scholars and museums can collaborate to promote engagement with history and dialogues with the public. The paper explores an exhibition, Consuming Conflict, that I curated in the Fall of 2014, which stemmed from my thinking about commemorative events around the 100th anniversary of the First World War. I was interested in curating an exhibition, not of the rote dates/moments of the War but looking at it through the lens of popular culture. The exhibition examined how conflict as concept, and war as a historical moment, was (and is) internalized into the daily experience of citizens. The exhibition began with objects from the First World War, but finished with a contemporary reflection. Conflict was explored through the lens of tourism, through media propaganda, and through contemporary gaming culture. Works were drawn from the permanent collection, university archives, private donors and contemporary artists. As part of the exhibition a speakers series, class visits, and projects were presented. I will discuss the research and scope of the exhibit as a case study to demonstrate how material culture is necessary for activating history, and the role that exhibitions can play in public dialogue of the past.


 David Dean (Carleton University) et al.

Performing the Past

The Saturday evening keynote features a a series of performances on historical themes, with ample time for discussion between participants and audience.

David Dean, Narrator

Arpita Bajpeyi, The Rani of Sirmur: An Encounter with the Colonial Archive

Kayla Carter, For Fried Plantains

Sinead Cox, The Farm Show Show

Ruthanne Edward, The More Things Change: Fighting for Equal Pay

Allison Smith, Mary Anne Shadd, Revisited: Echoes from an Old House

Stephen Dutcher and Lisa Perley-Dutcher (University of New Brunswick)

Education for Historical and Cultural Competence: Developing and Delivering Teacher Education in New Brunswick on Aboriginal-Canadian Relations, 2013-2014

This paper examines our efforts during the 2013-2014 academic year to develop and present a ten-part workshop series on Aboriginal-Canadian relations for interested teachers from the Anglophone West School District in New Brunswick. The series focused on supplying elementary, middle school, and high school teachers with information as well as being a forum to discuss both the historical nature of Aboriginal-Canadian relations and some of the key issues pertaining to the formal education of Aboriginal children. The topics included the myths and realities currently facing Aboriginal people, the nature of early contact, the various types of treaties, the policy of assimilation (with a focus on the residential and day schools), culturally competent approaches in teaching Aboriginal children, and Indigenous and Western worldviews and knowledges.

The paper will focus on providing an overview of the content of the sessions, the challenges encountered in developing and delivering the sessions (i.e. their voluntary nature and the timing of the sessions), and the lessons learned about how best to share historical knowledge so as to help encourage the development of cultural competency among those who are outside of a university setting. There will also be some reflection on moving forward with this project, as it will be forming the basis for the development of a new compulsory online module for all school teachers in New Brunswick.


Jason Ellis (University of British Colombia)

The Curious Case of a Popular History of Education

In 2012, Canadian writer Zander Sherman published The Curiosity of School: Education and the Dark Side of Enlightenment. The book is a history of education. Sherman, however, is not a trained historian. Canada’s history of education journal, Historical Studies in Education, did not commission a review of the book. The journal’s English language book review editor (the author of this proposed paper presentation) was not even aware that the book existed until very recently. Yet arguably Sherman’s book – a Penguin Canada imprint trade paperback that was briefly on a Canadian best-seller list– has found a far greater readership than most academic books in the field could ever hope for.

Active History’s mostly professional historian base usually ignores authors such as Zander Sherman. My paper will ask two questions about them: How do popular authors such as Sherman write the history of education? Just how influential — beyond the academy — are the histories they produce, on the public and policymakers’ perceptions of education and public schooling in anada?

These are significant questions, for Sherman’s book is but one recent example in a plentiful, popular, polemical and frequently presentist, sub-genre of the history of education. These works share a number of commonalities that my paper will examine. They are frequently written by avowed or libertarians, or, like Sherman’s book, have libertarian or anarchistic overtones. They argue against the existing public school system by referring back to an apocryphal past when educational bureaucracies did not exist and education was organic and democratic. Finally, these histories share a common point of influence: they appear to hold tangible sway in the home schooling and school choice movements.

Peter Farrugia (Wilfrid Laurier University)

We do not yet seem to have stopped…: Historical Remembrance and the Great War

The process of building a website honouring the men and women drawn from Brantford, Brant Co. and Six Nations who served in the Great War has underlined the ways in which history and memory are connected. Who and what gets remembered? Who and what is forgotten? How do family stories compare with the historical record? And do our commemorative ceremonies more accurately reflect contemporary concerns than the past they claim to celebrate? At a moment when it appears that Canadian remembrance will be narrowly focused on one year (and perhaps even one battle), it is all the more important that attempts at collective remembrance consider the positives and negatives of the experience of the First World War: self-sacrifice and compulsion, humanitarian impulse and xenophobia, triumph and loss. It is only in facing squarely the good and the bad that historians can help unearth the full complexity of the war experience.

 Jodi Giesbrecht (Canadian Museum for Human Rights)

Memory, Museums, and the Politics of the Past: A Manifesto for Public History

As mediators between communities, institutions, publics, and academics, museums have long been sites within which knowledge is mobilized and contested. Engagement in the negotiation of history has also grown in recent years, facilitated by a digital culture based on user-generated platforms and social media applications that encourage participation and dialogue in critical subject matter. My paper analyzes the recently opened Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) to theorize the opportunities and challenges of public history practice that is engaged, participatory, and inclusive.

Specifically, I examine the ways in which challenging issues in Canada’s human rights history – such as Indian Residential Schools, wartime internment, and women’s rights – are represented in the CMHR’s exhibitions, considering how curators negotiate the contested terrain of history and memory. These exhibits, grappling with difficult subject matter regarding historical injustice, agency and resistance, and social and political change, remind us of the ways in which representations of history shape contemporary debates and, conversely, of how present-day debates frame our myriad understandings of the past.

The cultural and political importance of these kinds of museological representations of Canada’s past also allows us to consider the profound significance of the field of public history more broadly. My paper concludes by articulating a kind of manifesto for public history, suggesting that greater collaboration between university-based and public history-based scholars, as well as a deeper understanding of curatorial and museological practices, is necessary in considering new directions in active history.


Evan J. Habkirk (University of Western Ontario)

Community Partnerships and War-Time Narratives: Six Nations and the GWCA

With its establishment in November 2012, the Great War Centenary Association Brantford–Brant County–Six Nations set its primary goal to educate the public about the role the three communities played during the First World War. One of the group’s largest projects is the creation of multi-level website outlining the history of the First World War in these three communities. In order to accurately tell the Six Nations’ First World War experience, the GWCA created partnerships with Six Nations groups, like the Six Nations Legacy Consortium, the Woodland Cultural Centre, and the Six Nations Public Library, giving the Six Nations community final say in how their history is publically presented. Through this approach, the GWCA hopes to engage the Six Nations community, encouraging community academics, researchers, and university, high school, and elementary school students to contribute their original research and content to an ever-changing and dynamic website. This way, the Six Nations community can aid in creation of a large digital memorial about the First World War and tell their own history the First World War at Six Nations, and its place within the histories of Brantford and Brant County.

Annemarie Hagan (Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives) and Sandra Lucs (Vilnis Cultural Design Works)

Community Engagement at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives

When the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives reopened its doors in 2013 after a major renovation, the institution had done more than just transform itself physically by expanding into an adjacent 1950s municipal building, or by rebranding from the former “Peel Heritage Complex” into PAMA.  The organization had committed itself to true transformation and inclusion, to working with community in innovative ways, and to sharing curatorial authority to allow for multiple voices.

The innovative We Are Here: The Story of Aboriginal People in Peel Region gallery opened to critical — and community — acclaim in February 2013.  The community acclaim came from Aboriginal individuals and organizations involved in every stage of the planning process, and whose voices are heard very strongly throughout the gallery.  Building on this, PAMA has continued to be innovative in both collaboration and stories told. In April 2015, PAMA embarked upon a month-long partnership with the Sikh community, presenting more than five exhibits and 25 events to celebrate Sikh Heritage Month at PAMA, resulting in PAMA becoming a vibrant cultural hub for the Punjabi community. Finally, PAMA is currently collaborating with the Region of Peel’s Human Services staff and SharEd, a partnership of the lead Peel organizations working with homeless and at risk individuals to present Homelessness in Peel, opening in the fall of 2015.  Annemarie Hagan, PAMA’s Museum Curator and Sandra Lucs of Vilnis Cultural Design Works will discuss the collaborative process at PAMA, lessons learned, opportunities created, and the rich possibilities of truly collaborating with the community to ensure that different voices are honoured.

 Lindsay Hall (Clarke Road Secondary School)

Developing Historical Detectives

When engaging students as historical detectives, they are encouraged to delve into the learning process and practice the skills of a historian, rather than simply have information given to them. Essentially, using a variety of “alternative” sources, beyond the traditional textbook (e.g. primary sources, comics, video games, etc.), students are asked to develop and then answer questions to help them more deeply understand a particular time period, event, individual or concept. This philosophy embraces the inquiry model; however, it also recognizes the diverse skill sets within a particular classroom, and thus provides the necessary supports (e.g. guidance developing questions, access to useful sources, explicit teaching of source evaluation, etc.) some students require to fully engage in inquiry. Acting as historical detectives, students dig into the past, by scouring sources and seeking out evidence to answer their questions. The teacher acts as a facilitator and guide in this type of learning environment, supporting students through their journey. From evaluating the usefulness and validity of video games as historical sources to creating evidence boards of primary sources to display their findings, students become deeply engaged in the practice of doing history, and thus become historical detectives.


Claire L. Halstead (University of Western Ontario)

Pieces of the Jig-saw Puzzle: Databasing the Evacuation of British Children to Canada in the Second World War

To escape the dangers of the Second World War, Canadians opened their “hearts and homes” to almost 4,000 British children. The experiences of children evacuated internally within Britain however, dominate scholarly literature and popular culture. My research on evacuees in Canada redresses this imbalance. This paper will illustrate the need and benefits of adding an innovative digital approach to the history of childhood. To trace evacuees and formulate much needed statistics for this transnational temporary migration, I created the first comprehensive evacuee database, which includes 3,189 children. Even as one aspect of the project, this digital approach has produced valuable statistics on themes, such as provincial distribution and medical issues, which illuminate the evacuee experience. Initially an academic pursuit, the database has recently received media coverage, producing at least fifty enquiries from evacuees’ foster families, childhood friends, family members, and former evacuees themselves. Rooted in archival sources largely unseen by these individuals, the database is not only a scholarly resource but is also a space for public engagement. Although the database is not yet available online, historians and the public alike can affirmatively research individual evacuees and can even add their own personal narratives. Some families and evacuees know very little about the evacuation scheme despite it shaping their childhood, adulthood, and identity. Ultimately, this is an active history that engages a broad Canadian and British audience. Using digital history has revolutionised the study of evacuation. This database therefore ensures that the experience of each evacuee “matters” in the historical narrative.

Matthew Hayes (Trent University)

Lies, Damn Lies, and Peterborough

My paper will explore the nature of historical knowledge as it is mobilized and contested in wider society by drawing on three projects I worked on/am working on. The first was a series of posters I placed around Peterborough, hand writing on each an anecdote from the city’s history. This turned into a historical walking tour during the city’s “arts week”, and finally I will in the near future be producing a podcast in which the stories will be orally performed. For all three projects I employed a different way of doing history by exaggerating and/or manipulating historical fact in certain ways, so as to bring out what I considered a more accurate truth about the city. That is, some of the stories are not 100% factually accurate (by academic standards), but neither are they outright lies. The stops on the walking tour contained a number of handmade artifacts attempting to pass as museum pieces, and the podcast will creatively present these stories as impossible truths. The stories fall somewhere in between fact and fiction, occupying a space of doubt I constructed so as to question historical objectivity and the authority certain people claim when telling historical narratives. These history/art projects explore issues concerning the fact/fiction divide, public reception of history and the value of entertainment, how historical narratives are spread among publics, and the relationship between art and history. This paper will explore the ways in which these projects are an attempt to do history in a way that reaches beyond the academy, and right to the street – a necessary endeavor in today’s climate – as well as raise questions about the continuing role of academic expertise and historical conventions.


  Amanda Hill (Hillbraith Ltd.)

The Past on Tap: Deseronto Archives and Open Access Methodologies

The vision in Deseronto, Ontario, is that its archives service should be like the town’s water tower: a conspicuous part of the community, delivering its contents whenever they are needed with the minimum of effort on the part of the end user. Since 2007 the Deseronto Archives has embraced Open Access methodologies and the opportunities offered by freely-available online social media services to share the town’s historical collections and promote them to people in Deseronto and around the world. Services like Facebook and Twitter allow for new conversations and new chances to engage with people who would not necessarily think of visiting the Archives in person. With a part-time archivist working only one day a week, the experience in Deseronto has shown that even the smallest heritage institutions can build an appreciative online audience, establishing new relationships which can be called upon in times of need. The town is currently affected by an unresolved land claim and the Deseronto Archives Board has been active in sharing information about the historical background to the claim, both online and off. In 2013 the Board organized a well-attended symposium called ‘The Land that Supports our Feet’ to explain the claim’s historical context and to bring members of the Native and non-Native communities together. This paper explains how Deseronto Archives has successfully connected Deserontonians with their past and each other through a combination of online and offline activities.

Anne Janhunen (University of Saskatchewan)

Negotiating Relationships: Reflections on Community-Engaged Historical Research

What does it mean to do community-engaged research with Indigenous communities? Each at different stages of experience in community-engaged research, panelists will discuss different approaches and positionalities in conducting active history and the ethical and practical issues, responsibilities and challenges they have faced in working with Indigenous communities. Jesse Thistle examines his own family and community research with Batoche Metis and the negotiation of academic and community responsibilities in conducting research that both tells the stories the community wants shared while guarding and protecting the narratives they believe to be the exclusive property of kin not meant for western academics or the larger Canadian populace. Cheryl Troupe explores the ways in which she has balanced community ethics, protocols and responsibilities with institutional and academic ethics and practicalities in working with Saskatchewan Metis communities in historical research, community development, public policy, advocacy and curriculum development activities. In particular, she examines the ways in which community-engaged historical scholarship can be used to advance and support contemporary Metis issues. Drawing on her ongoing dissertation research, Anne Janhunen’s paper contributes to
discussions regarding the ethical responsibilities of outside researchers involved in research with Indigenous communities. She considers ways in which non-Indigenous scholars can avoid ‘pan-Aboriginal’ approaches to community-engaged historical research, including following community-defined, place-based protocols and embracing a space of ‘not knowing.’ Together these papers demonstrate the challenges and opportunities for graduate students embarking on careers in meaningful community-engaged active history, for and with Indigenous communities.

Geoff Keelan (University of Western Ontario)

The Digital Dilemma: Historians and the Digital Revolution

As the generation that was “born-digital” enters maturity, historians will confront and adapt to new ways that the public encounters history online. This paper studies a select number of websites where the public encounters history. It explores the transformation of historical knowledge online and its impact on content, style, audience, and purpose. The majority of the public encounter history online through a non-academic medium. This paper presents three websites as case studies and examine how each communicates history in different ways. Buzzfeed is a low-content internet news site, Reddit is a link amalgamator site, and YouTube is a video hosting site. The history these sites offer is often short and abbreviated (or devoid of text entirely), but represents a new way to encounter historical knowledge that is unique to the digital medium. The difference between popular and academic history is an old debate, but with the advent of the internet and its ubiquitous presence in the lives of those “born-digital,” websites are becoming as important as books and articles for transmitting information about the past. How can historians adapt to the disparity between popular and academic history as well as these new ways of encountering the past? Can historians find a middle ground online and offer contextualized, accurate, and authoritative history, while still appealing to a wider audience that seemingly demands less and less information? This paper examines the advantages and limitations of these websites and their lessons for the broader diffusion of historical knowledge online.

 Zehra Mawani (Library and Archives Canada)

Diasporic Citizens: Ugandans Asians and Identity Formation: Facebook Photographs as a Method of Creating and Sharing Identity

This paper investigates the Facebook group, “Ugandan Asians who were expelled and their descendants” as a platform on which individual memories are shaped into a collective identity. 40 years after the expulsion, Ugandan Asians insert their own memories onto autobiographical images by finding themes within the images that broaden the historical narrative of the photograph. The images become a foci for discussion about diaspora and identity. By focusing their discussions on themes like groups of people (teachers), space and former relationships, these photographs come to serve as more than a simple recounting of Ugandan Asian life pre-diaspora. Facebook democratizes personal photographs through its social nature. As such, the photographs of this group allow for a more collective reading of photographs that highlights the collective identity of what it meant and still means to be a Ugandan Asian who experienced the 1972 expulsion, living in the diaspora. These photographs become more than the image uploaded to Facebook. They serve as a digital object that functions as a catalyst and gathering point for discussion about a collective diasporic Ugandan Asian identity. The experience of ‘reading’ these images contorts the traditional activity of reading the family album. An image of the annual Ugandan car rally becomes about the space behind the image, the owners of the shops and the memories associated with those spaces. The images reveals a desire to remember the past by re-connecting with the meaningful spaces of their pre-diasporic lives.


Peter S. McInnis (St. Francis Xavier University)

A Remembrance of Things Past: The Commemoration of Industrialization/Deindustrialization at the the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry

Scholars have ably demonstrated that despite a popular reputation for a land of sylvan forests and sparkling beaches, self-branded as “Canada’s Ocean Playground,” Nova Scotia has long experienced successive waves of industrialization and deindustrialization. One such locus of intensive industrialization has been Pictou Country with it coalmining and heavy industry. With the eclipse of coal, steel, and most heavy manufacturing the provincial government has both looked to tourism to augment an eroding economic base and to commemorate the working lives of Nova Scotians. This new venture would join in as one of the province’s impressive system of 27 museums. An extensive research program for the Museum of Industry commissioned of over 70 reports on wide-ranging aspects of Nova Scotia’s industrial and commercial history.

The Museum opened in 1995 and has since amassed a diverse collection of 30,000 artifacts. The fate of the museum, however, was immediately fraught with much uncertainly to the point that the provincial government declared it financially unviable and initiated plans to mothball the operation and disperse the collection. The urgent intervention of a community-corporate partnership entity, “Friends of the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry,’ was established to operate the facility.

This project proposes analysis of the decision to construct and maintain the Nova Scotia Museum of Industry in a region of the province subjected to protracted phases of deindustrialization. The support of Donald Sobey, Sobey’s Stores (Empire Company Ltd.) was crucial to the project at all stages and reflected the corporation’s ties to its home base in Stellarton, NS. Issues of historical memory and the delicate balance achieved between fostering civic pride and providing an authentic appraisal the historical experience will be addressed. Tensions of what is often an intense local history intersects with the broader narrative of the Canadian Maritimes as a peripheral economy long subject to national and global market forces. The Museum of Industry is considered in the context of interdisciplinary academic literature on deindustrialization, public history, and civic commemoration.

Andrew J. McLaughlin

Footprints of Community: The Dreamcatcher Spatial Heritage Database and the Mississaugas of the New Credit

The Dreamcatcher Project’s “Spatial Heritage Database” integrates digital history and the humanities to create an interactive and accessible experience that helps users explore topics relevant to a First Nation community’s cultural, social, and political identity. Serving to disseminate this intricate story, a balanced and inclusive collection of sources and narratives are provided on a mobile and web-based application that helps illustrate a clearer image of the mosaic history of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. The Database aids in retracing the long path to the community’s current disposition in Ontario, while providing information that outlines their past, present and future territorial footprints. The Project also highlights the relevance and impact of traditional and “non-traditional”sources –and explores the distinction between them –forming critical intersections of place, space, and memory while reinforcing and sometimes challenging contemporary historiography.

 Jean-Pierre Morin (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada)

Public History, Public Policy: The Role of History in the Development of Government Policy

Public policy is not crafted in a vacuum. It is pushed, pulled and informed by research crafted specifically to help in the analysis of public policy issues. Policy research comes in many different forms, from statistical data to scientific reports, and is a fundamental part of the policy development process. Evidence based policy development is becoming a growing field both within the Public Service and with consulting firms and academics. Only recently, however, has historical research been included in this category. Nearly all public policy initiatives require some level of historical research. Historical research can play an important role in the development of public policy, especially in helping understand context and demonstrating long term trends. This is especially true with the policies relating to Aboriginal people in Canada as policies are often addressing historic and long-standing issues. Despite this recognised need, few have the training and experience to develop the historical research tools and products to best assist public policy development. This paper will explore the potential roles of historians and the difficulties facing historical research in that process, as well as outline the current uses of historical research in government business.

 Brandon Morris and Jay Cassel (Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs)

Active History Beyond the Academy: Historical Research and Debates at the Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs

This presentation will examine the ways in which historical research is used in a government setting at the Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs (MAA). Historical research is essential for the review of First Nation land claim submissions, the review of historical ‘facts’ as part of the litigation process, research support for active land claim negotiations, and addressing matters of treaty interpretation. Each party – First Nations, Ontario, and Canada – present research completed by historians and reviewed by lawyers. There is a close exchange between three sets of experts, all of whom must adhere to the standards of the historical profession.

Government historical research differs from academic research in a number of ways, including: a greater focus on the details of very particular locations or events, the lawyers’ desire for certainty in research, less emphasis on theory, and producing research and analysis that is accessible to a largely non-academic audience. The process of historical debate is also greatly accelerated in a government context – an issue that may be debated for years without a resolution in academia may have to be addressed in a matter of months in government. At the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs these debates are more likely to have practical implications, especially when they concern matters of justice or economic development.

Despite the differences between academic and government historical research, there are a number of ways in which historians active in these two arenas could benefit from one another. The Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs has attempted to form partnerships with a number of Ontario universities to promote knowledge exchange and ensure that government policy is informed by innovative academic research. This initiative will include work placements at MAA to give graduate students experience practicing history outside of academia. Finally, academic history could benefit from integrating electronic document collections and using GIS mapping for historical analysis, both of which are standard in government research. We suggest that these practices, if applied to the academy on a larger scale, could help make history a more ‘active’ and publicly-engaged discipline.

Sara Nixon (Carleton University)

Digital Platforms as Active Spaces of History: The Grimsby Timescapes App and Digital Encounters with the Past on Main Street

The Grimsby Timescapes mobile media application (or, app) is a digital, interactive historic walking tour of downtown Grimsby, a small-town located in southern Ontario. I compiled and curated the content of the app (the technology of which developed by the Carleton School for Information Technology) as part of my graduate studies in Public History at Carleton University. As such, Grimsby Timescapes is an interdisciplinary public history project. Using GPS technology, the app guides users along the town’s Main Street as they interact with digitized historic photographs and stories that tell the history of Grimsby’s downtown. The app offers a digital space for users to interact and engage with local history while also encouraging the community to go downtown. For this reason, digital projects like Grimsby Timescapes can be part of larger downtown heritage revitalization efforts.

Using Grimsby Timescapes as a case study, I propose to present a paper demonstrating the capabilities of digital mobile media to expand the public spaces of encounter with the past and to enact more engaging, embodied experiences with history. I ground this investigation in my research conducted with fourteen Grimsby residents, based on interviews of their experiences using the app. This presentation provides a critical lens on how digital media platforms like Grimsby Timescapes can offer embodied, interactive understandings of the past. I assess these intangible, digital platforms as active spaces for story-telling, memory-sharing and conversation. I further frame how such digital technologies enable heritage professionals to bring the past into the public spaces of our everyday lives, including our Main Streets.

Neil Orford (Upper Grand District School Board)

The Digital Historian Project (DHP) – an Innovative Pathway Program for Senior History & Math in Ontario Schools

The DHP is a comprehensive 4-Credit Semester-long program that marries Senior History with Data Management Math. Using the D2L Platform to create a blended on-line learning model, students enroll in the DHP to complete three Senior History-based Credits  + one Math Credit. Taught in situ at the Dufferin County Museum & Archives (DCMA), the DHP withdraws students from their schools to engage in an ‘experiential learning’ semester, where deep archival research is conducted using Canadian Veteran Databases to fulfill requirements of the Senior History and Math curriculum. With a Grade 11 target group, the DHP offers students the added incentive of completing Grade 12 “U” level credits one year early, opening up their Grade 12 timetable for greater flexibility. Streaming students for the DHP demands development of a ‘pathways’ approach in History starting in Grade 10, emphasizing proficiency in Inquiry Skills and the Historical Thinking Concepts…the results have been promising!


Brent Pavey (Waterloo Collegiate Institute)

Simulating History: The Use of Historical and Political Simulations in the History Classroom – Rewards and Some Cautions

Brent Pavey will be sharing his experiences with the use of historical and political simulations in the History classroom. He will discusses strategies for designing such simulations, the rewards of engaging students in this manner, as well as the role of primary document research in enhancing the simulation experience. He will highlight two examples of simulations used in the past as well as plans for a new simulation based on the 1981 First Ministers’ Conference that led to the patriation of the Canadian constitution.


Stephanie Pettigrew (University of New Brunswick)

Seduction of IT Innovations and the Challenge of Long-Term Database Viability

The modern age of digitization has led to more and more access to documents online. Sources which once could be access only in person, after having been granted large sums of money by either the government or your university, are now often easily accessible at one’s fingertips. Early Canadia.org is a good example of a wealth of Canadian documents now fairly easy to access. National Archives such as those of Québec are much more publicly accessible, and are an outstanding source of primary documents dating back to the seventeenth century. However, quantity is not always accompanied by quality. As we go forward with our own digitization project, the British North America Database, which seeks to digitize the legislative acts of British North America, we have been trying to thoughtfully approach some of the problems we have encountered in other open source databases. How do assure that it is easily maintained and functional? Easily used by researchers? How will this source be used in the diffusion of historical knowledge, and how do we, as the administrators of that knowledge, make that diffusion as easy as possible while not affecting the integrity of the source? These are questions which will be asked with increasing frequency as more and more documents are digitized for easier access, and it is with these questions in mind that we seek not only to present our project, but collaborate with others in the field.

 Nina Reid-Maroney, Megan Hertner and Amy Bell (Huron University College)

Community-Based Research and Student Learning

For this paper, we will reflect on our experiences as faculty and student in the past year working with Community-based Learning (CBL) projects at Huron University College. Through CBL, we have the opportunity to connect the rigours of the classroom and independent study with engaged forms of active learning and research. CBL as a pedagogy enables students to overcome the real and imagined boundaries that conventionally appear to divide the academy from the community. We will use the examples of a CBL project in HIST 2301E on the history of anti-slavery movements in 19th-century London, and a project in HIST 3801E which focused on the transcription of archived nineteenth-century letters from members of the family who lived in local London museum Eldon House.

Learning in and through CBL involves critical reflection and critical thinking that generates and deepens learning. The intellectual growth achieved by this process can be assessed with the same rigour as traditional learning through texts and lectures. In this process students will need to focus less on facts and figures and more on connections among ideas, theories, contexts, and applications. CBL is also a powerful research methodology, in which students are expected to be co-producers of knowledge. Our discussion of both projects will address the conference theme of exploring the “nature of historical knowledge as it is mobilized and contested in the wider society.”

Ronald Rudin (Concordia University)

Public Art and Film: The Lost Stories Project

The Lost Stories Project seeks out little known stories about the Canadian past, transforms them into inexpensive works of public art installed on appropriate sites, and documents the process by way of a series of short films. Along the way, forgotten moments from Canadian history are brought to light, and viewers have an opportunity to see the choices that have to be made when a story is turned into a work of art. This presentation will reflect on the challenges encountered in creating the project’s pilot, which tells the story of Thomas Widd, founder of Montreal’s Mackay Centre for the Deaf, exploring what happens when a story from the public becomes first a piece of public art, and subsequently the subject for a documentary film.

Ronald Rudin (Concordia University) and the Lost Stories Project Team

Thomas Widd’s Lost Story (Film presentation)

Thomas Widd’s Lost Story is the pilot episode for the Lost Stories Project which seeks out little known stories about the Canadian past, transforms them into inexpensive works of public art installed on appropriate sites, and documents the process by way of short films. Following a call to Montrealers, Janet McConnell — a retired teacher at the Mackay School for the Deaf — brought us the story of Thomas Widd, the school’s founder. When Montreal businessman, Joseph Mackay, provided the land and the money for the school, Widd’s name — and his story — were literally lost. But they have now been found, thanks to the mural created by the artist Lalie Douglas, installed on the site of the school in September 2013. Lalie’s creative process is documented in this film produced by Ronald Rudin and directed by Bernar Hébert, which tells Widd’s story and documents how Janet and Lalie negotiated the translation of his story into art. The fim was selected for and screened at Montreal’s Festival International du Film sur l’Art in March 2015.

Sarah Story (Manitoba Research Alliance/U of Winnipeg/U of Manitoba)

Building trust and strengthening relations to ensure a future archive of Aboriginal activism and institutional development in Winnipeg

In 2015, a unique and significant archival collection will become available to the public through the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections. This collection is comprised of numerous boxes of archival records and over forty oral history interviews highlighting the voices of Aboriginal activists and the histories of institutional initiatives of urban Aboriginal groups in Winnipeg, an overlooked and underdocumented part of our history. This valuable archival collection was created by the Manitoba Research Alliance’s community-university based archival initiative “Preserving the History of Aboriginal Institutional Development in Winnipeg.” Driven primarily by an Aboriginal advisory of experiences activists, the project was accepted into Winnipeg’s inner city and Indigenous community as it acknowledges and celebrates Aboriginal achievement, and ensures that future generations will know the beginning stories of the institutions and individuals who have contributed to policy change and the formation of local Indigenous development practices, which inspired similar developments all over Canada. Among the many organizations represented in the collection are the Children of the Earth High School (that provides a First-Nations-focused education on Selkirk Avenue), Canada’s very first Indian and Metis Friendship Centre, and Manitoba’s first community mandated and Aboriginal directed human service organization – Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata.

Central to the success of the project was the building of trust and respectful relationships between team members, the archivists, and the community. This paper will speak to this process and tell the ‘behind-the-scenes’ story of the development of this collection. It will focus primarily on the circumstances, process, and values that led to the creation of a new archival donor agreement, entitled the “Letter of Understanding”, that reflects Indigenous values and emphasizes stewardship over ownership of materials. It will also discuss the importance of increasing support for the integration of Indigenous principles into archival practices and the development of further respectful partnerships with Indigenous activists to strengthen the historical record of urban Aboriginal experiences and histories, and lend support to decolonization efforts in Winnipeg and other urban centers in Canada.


Andrea Terry (Lakehead University)

House Museums: Progenies of Artefactual Accuracy and Subjects of Institutional Critique

If home is where the heart is, as the ancient philosopher Pliny the Elder first suggested in 79 A.D., what happens when that heart fossilizes? What happens when the home outlives its original utilitarian purpose? What happens when it becomes a museum?Drawing on the tenets of disciplinary art history and Canadian case studies, this paper suggests that house museums’ credibility depends upon what I call “artefactual accuracy,” a construction that contemporary installation artists often seek to probe and challenge. House museums offering guided tours encourage visitors to experience “what it felt like to live back then” and thus function as representational signs – artefactual objects furnished with other artefacts that cumulatively and by virtue of their provenance, conservation and subsequent institutionalization – to validate the institutionalized interpretation. Over the past thirty years, however, heritage practitioners, curators and artists have come together to install contemporary art exhibitions within these sites, transforming the museum from a “container of cultural artifacts to a medium of contemporary work” (Drobnick and Fisher, 2002, 15). Take, for instance, Iris Häussler’s 2008 intervention – a staged archeological excavation at the Grange, the 19th century house attached to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, Canada. Volunteer guides led visitors throughout the house, identifying various “findings” planted by the artist. Upon the tour’s completion, interpreters reveal the tour to be an artwork, one intended to provoke a meaningful experience that, upon revelation, encourages reflection. In showcasing the artistry of heritage, artist interventions in historic sites, I suggest, promote social engagement and critical reflection, thereby activating history in unique, exciting and dynamic ways.

Jane Thomas (Ontario Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs)

What Historians Can Learn from Government

Academic writing is often very critical of government policy, especially in the field of Indigenous history. While academics are quick to critique government, they do not always fully understand the institution. This presentation will discuss how working in government has caused me to re-evaluate aspects of my own ideas and research. In particular I will discuss how an improved understanding of government structures and processes could have benefited my work, and how the way in which I communicate findings (oral and written) has changed for the better.


 John C. Walsh (Carleton University)

Affective Learning and Effective Histories: The Ottawa Childhoods Project

In 2013-2014, a group of undergraduate students undertook the first phase of the Ottawa Childhoods Project, a multi-year exploration of place memories of growing up in specific neighbourhoods in Ottawa. This phase consisted of conducting one-on-one oral history interviews with a wide range of now adult women and men who were children and youths between the 1940s and 1980s, and then preparing digital exhibits based on those interviews. Rather than talk about what we learned about these place memories, in this presentation I wish to share what I as an instructor and some selected students learned about learning through the doing of this work.

I will do so by presenting the results of interviews that I have conducted with both student researchers and interviewees about the experiences they had in the context of the course project. These interviews offer important evidence about how the doing of this kind of public history work affects both researchers and collaborators, about both the short-term and long-term benefits from community-based student research, and about the possibilities that pedagogical experimentation offers for active history on (and off) the university campus. As the conference explores some possible routes ahead for “engaged/public/applied/active history,” I want to suggest that the university classroom can and ought to be part of this future.

 Jonathan Weier (Western University)

Complicating Canada’s First World War: Active History and the First World Centenary

The meaning and impact of the First World War are still being contested in the media, at academic conferences, by official commemorative projects, and in many other sites. In Canada, we have seen the war presented as a foundational narrative of a nation in its infancy maturing and persevering through hardship, but nation-building is only one way to interpret the war’s meaning and impact.

Canada’s First World War Project at activehistory.ca has sought to encourage different conclusions about the war’s social and political effects on Canadian society, its legacy in culture, and how these mixed with the problems of demobilization and reconstruction after the war.

As part of this panel I will be discussing the Canada’s First World War Project, how Canadian commemoration of the First World War is playing out over the first year of this commemorative period, and how this project is seeking to influence and impact larger discussions around Canada’s history of war and conflict.

Creative Commons Licence
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Blog posts published before October  28, 2018 are licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License.

Please note: ActiveHistory.ca encourages comment and constructive discussion of our articles. We reserve the right to delete comments submitted under aliases, or that contain spam, harassment, or attacks on an individual.