The Last Day and still lots to see!

The last day of a conference always seems a little sad to me since it’s a day to say last good-byes while still catching all the panels and activities possible.

My first panel was The Stories Staples Tell; Resource Economies in Canada with Colin Coates (York University), Jim Clifford (University of Saskatchewan), Andrew Watson (University of Saskatchewan), and Anne Dance (Memorial University).  The panel began with a discussion of how the staples thesis has been set out and what new digital history techniques can add to this area.  Coates showed how text mining can help to show previously overlooked staple products or unnoticed distribution trends. The use of digital history techniques  enables large numbers of documents to be examined and analyzed in different ways.  Coates gave an  example of a Wordle analysis of Innis’ classic work which showed an emphasis on fish, fur, and wheat.  He also explained the Trading Consequences site and closed the presentation with the suggestion that this type of research can propose new stories of economic activity.  Since the staples thesis has become so widely known – a classic – I was excited by the idea of re-examining it in this way and the idea that a more micro-level approach might yield new insights.

Up next were Jim Clifford and Andrew Watson who used the Trading Consequences site in their own work on London’s Ghost Acres which uses a MediaWiki and examines how commodities production in other places supported and fed the city of London.  Canadian cheese, for example, dominated the overall cheese imports to Britain.  As it’s a big project with lots of potential commodities to examine Watson suggested that they would be interested in collaborative work.  A blog on the NiCHE site about this will be coming soon!

Anne Dance brought the panel into more contemporary times with a look at the last three decades of dealing with contaminated sites in Canada. She suggest looking at the Federal Contaminated Sites Inventory to get an idea of the scale of the issue but also provided a map of the sites – there were a lot of points on it!  Her work uses a lot of grey literature and government reports.  Since my own project also uses a lot of similar literature it was great to hear it discussed within another context and to get another perspective on its uses and limitations.  Dance noted that the next part of the project will be to look at the same topic with a “bottom up” approach.   The reclamation approaches initially took a southern approach to northern sites which meant that solutions, such as the importation of fresh topsoil, were impractical.  The shift to more northern-focused solutions has created jobs in reclamation and a new spin on the idea of contaminated sites; remediation is now portrayed less as fixing failure and more as economic development and investment in the future. With the rise in the remediation industry could this, Dance mused, become a new part of the staples story?

After this panel I decided to  go to the poster exhibit.  It was great to see the posters from many different historians show-casing such a wide range of topics from emotional labour in community engaged research to representations of Western Canadian identity on menus (aptly put behind the coffee the CHA office was offering).  The posters for me were a way to get a quick snapshot of research.  Sadly I didn’t come across many of the poster presenters to ask questions but next year I’ll make sure to attend the presentation session so I can do just that.  I’ve tweeted photos of all the posters if you’re curious about them. Next up I headed to the Expo where I spent an enjoyable time browsing through the books on offer.  I always have trouble deciding on which books to buy when I have only a little room in my suitcase for them.  Fortunately I was able to get books shipped to my home which made the decisions easier especially when some of the books I wanted were available only for pre-order.

I presented in the afternoon.  Shout out to the audience members for showing up at the last panel of a very busy day!  My panel was Sustaining a Fragile West: Environmental Myths and Realities will Claire Campbell (Bucknell University) and Frances Reilly (University of Saskatchewan).  I enjoyed having a chance to share my own research with an audience and to see the presentations from my fellow panel members.  Reilly presented on the Alberta Rat Patrol and how its early messaging echoed messaging around the fear of communist encroachment.  Campbell looked at the Bar U Ranch and how its history is celebrated without putting ranching into its context as an extractive industry.  My own presentation focused on the changes in the nitrogen balance and soil fertility of the Saskatchewan RM of Wise Creek which was part of the international Sustainable Farm Systems Project.

With the panels done and the CHA officially finished it was time to take the evening to enjoy Calgary.  A friend took me to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary where I was delighted to see geese, deer, and swallows.  As we walked across a bridge we came face to nose with a porcupine!  After mutual and careful observation we both decided to return the way we’d come.  The porcupine sighting was a delightful end to my Calgary Congress and CHA experience.   I want to thank the CHA Graduate Students’ Committee for giving me this chance to share my experiences at the CHA with all of you.  I hope you enjoyed Congress as much as I did.

Goodbye Calgary!

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Un autre Congrès prend fin

Une journée plus tard et de retour chez moi, voici ma dernière contribution à ce blog concernant le Congrès et SHC.  L’aventure a certes été au rendez-vous.

Ma dernière journée au Congrès et à la réunion du SHC a été plus courte que les autres journées.  J’ai dû prendre l’avion tôt dans l’après-midi afin de pouvoir prendre le transit de l’aéroport jusque chez moi.  Cela dit, j’ai manqué la première session à 8h30 car mon alarme n’a pas sonné (à moins que je ne l’ai pas entendue).  J’ai donc seulement réussi à me rendre à un panel qui me semblait très intéressant.  Le panel «La narration du passé visuel » ne toucha pas nécessairement à mon projet de recherche mais présentait un concept et des idées concernant la façon dont les historiens et les historiens d’art utilise leurs sources comme évidence.  Erin Morton nous a présenter le cas d’un artiste dit folk et de l’utilisation, et la façon dont les pièces de cet artiste ont été placé dans un musée afin de créer une sorte d’histoire du Canada et un récit qui raconte l’histoire des pionniers au Canada.  Susan Cahill présenta son projet d’art visuel en ligne ou elle espère pouvoir obtenir, éventuellement, la participation du public qui créerait des récits et la narration de ces pièces d’arts visuels après les évènements du 11 Septembre 2001.  La surveillance, dans ce contexte, est un modèle heuristique qui peut être utilisé pour encadrer le projet.  Continuant dans le monde virtuel, John Bonnett présenta les applications possibles du monde des jeux vidéos et de la cartographie GIS afin de créer un récit plus complexe avec une narration alternative.  La convergence de plusieurs catégories analytiques peut être utilisé pour présenter la narration de façon cohésive tout en maintenant l’hétérogénéité de la population en question.  Par exemple, Bonnett démontre que nous pouvons inscrire à chaque édifice sur une carte en trois dimension, l’ethnicité de tous les résidents et ensuite, nous pouvons y inscrire, par une autre couleur, la class socio-économique des résidents.  Ce processus pourrait continuer avec plusieurs autres catégories.  L’ajout de chaque catégorie change et présente la variabilité dans le récit.  Le panel termina avec une longue période de questions ouvertes, ce qui m’a permis de voir et d’écouter les questions de l’audience surtout en ce qui concerne la façon dont nous utilisons les textes comme source primordial d’évidence en histoire et qu’en histoire de l’art, le visuel est présenté comme source d’évidence plus légitime que le texte.  La discussion passa donc plusieurs minutes sur le sujet afin de conclure que les deux sont utiles et doivent être utilisés en conjonction l’un avec l’autre.

Après la session, ce fût un trajet rapide à l’aéroport pour mon retour à Waterloo.  Heureusement, j’ai pu suivre les présentations suivantes, surtout celles concernant l’enseignement de l’histoire après le rapport du CVR, sur Twitter #CHASHC2016.  Une réflexion sur mon temps au Congrès et au SHC en particulier m’a aidé à voir que ce que je pensais ressortir le plus du Congrès, soit les présentations, n’était qu’une petite partie de mon aventure.  Les discussions après les présentations, des fois au restaurant ou au pub, et les rencontres que j’ai pu faire avec d’autres personnes qui sont sincèrement merveilleux et intéressés dans les mêmes projets que moi m’ont donné plus que des connections, mais des amis.  J’ai fait le parcours du Congrès et j’ai eu des moments que je n’oublierai jamais.  Une amie et moi sommes partis à la recherche de la statue d’Hippocrate dans la faculté de médecine afin d’y prendre une photo pour une amie et nous avions eu toute une aventure qui inclus une course frénétique dans la pluie que je dirais presque torrentielle et une série de photos à un village historique.

Tout considéré, malgré le fait que certains panels ont été réorganisés, la réunion de la SHC et de la SCHM furent décidemment de grands succès et j’ai hâte à l’année prochaine lorsque le Congrès sera à Toronto à Ryerson.

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A Tour and a Party

Today I was feeling comfortable on the U of C campus – the signs were familiar and I could landmark from the statues that are scattered around the campus. The first panel I chose was one of which looked interesting but wasn’t related to my area. Canadian Children’s Television History: Nationalism, Regulation, and the Formation of Canadian Identities made me curious because I had enjoyed a presentation at another conference on the NFB film Ti-Jean Goes West and how it represented region and children in Canada so I wanted to see more work about Canadian media.  I also admit to being hopeful that as a media history panel there would be some clips for childhood cartoons.

It did not disappoint!  Prior to the panel beginning they played the theme from The Racoons to get the audience in the proper mood.  Katherine Rollwagen (Vancouver Island) looked at how Canadians thought of television when it was first being introduced into Canada by looking at the Fowler Commission.  There was a concern making sure Canadian content would be played and that it would be educational for young viewers.  Matthew Hayday (University of Guelph) looked at the battle to keep Sesame Street as part of regular television programming when the CRTC ruled that it did not count toward Canadian content.  He showed a letter from one mother to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau that appealed to him as a fellow parent.

Letter to Prime Minister

A letter to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

After this panel I hoped the C-Train to downtown Calgary – a quick and easy 15 minute ride.  At Centre Street I saw the Calgary Tower and found my way to the Glenbow.  Prior to getting to the CHA I had signed up for the CHA Aboriginal Studies Group organized tour of the Glenwbow museum.    When I first saw the email I was immediately enthusiastic about doing the tour because it promised a tour of the backrooms and, as a friend of mine who works in museums told me, the backrooms always have the best things.   The first part of the tour was led by Sheldon First Rider, a Blackfoot educator, who took us through the Niitsitapiisini: Our Way of Life exhibit and told us his personal journey as a member of the Blood Tribe.  It was an honour to hear his story.   It seemed to me that many people were thinking about what we had just seen and heard as we headed to lunch.  The spicy butternut squash soup and complimentary buffet provided the tour with an opportunity to reflect and to take time to chat informally with each other.

The first stop after lunch was the Archives and Library at the Glenbow where we saw the shelves holding thousands of photo negatives in the archives collection, and learned about the collection’s focus on the area directly around Calgary.  The oldest book in the library is a manual on treating horses, reflecting the interests of the Glenbow’s founder Eric Harvie whose collecting started the library and museum collections.  Afterward we rode the elevator to the archives floor where we were met by the curator who had pulled several artifacts from the Glenbow’s collection of Indigenous artifacts.  One of them was a carved stone bison which was shortly to be going on tour.  We were lucky to see it since it is a piece that tours often.

The bison carving

We were also shown masks, treaty medals, and a coat made from seal intestine, to name just a few.  As part of our viewing of the collection items we also heard about the Glenbow’s protocols for working with Indigenous peoples to repatriate artifacts and collaborate with them in terms how items are collected, stored, and displayed. The tour ran long but it was one of those tours that you don’t want to end since amazing pieces continued to be revealed. The last was a car hidden by a piece of sheeting. It turned out to be the car from Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas’ Pedal to the Meddle art piece.  But all good things must end and we emerged into the lobby of the Glenbow as the afternoon was waning.

With only a couple hours before Cliopalooza began I decided to enjoy what downtown Calgary offered.  In my wandering I found a lovely walking path by the river and managed to spy not just the usual ducks enjoying the water but a beaver as well.  The statues that dot the downtown made useful landmarks and after investigation one of those statues turned out to be pictured on the front of the front cover of my CHA program guide.

Cliopalooza was held in the Legion 1 building where the CCF was first founded in 1932. Naturally as somebody with an interest in both grain and agrarian politics this was my first stop on arriving at Cliopalooza. The evening was a great way to run into old friends who I’d missed seeing at the day’s events and the dance floor was full of historians.

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2e journée: la nostalgie au rendez-vous

Ma deuxième journée au SHC a été très intéressante.  Par chance, j’ai rencontré plusieurs de mes collègues et professeurs.  J’ai rencontré ma superviseure et des collègues de Winnipeg que je n’avais pas vu depuis le mois d’août et même des collègues datant de mes années à UNB.  Après une réunion assez rapide, je suis allée à ma première session du matin.  Je vais vous fournir un petit indice concernant le sujet de la session.  J’espère bien que la nostalgie était au rendez-vous pour vous autant que pour moi en écoutant le petit clip.

Le panel («L’histoire des émissions de télévision canadiennes pour enfants : le nationalisme, la réglementation et la formation des identités canadiennes ») présenta, en examinant des sources peu utilisées, des questions concernant l’éducation des enfants, la télévision et des questions de nationalisme à travers l’histoire de programmation télévisés pour enfants.  Malheureusement, Daniel Macfarlane, qui allait présenter sa recherche concernant l’émission de télévision, The Raccoons, n’a pu être présent.  Par contre, la chanson thème de l’émission fut joué en début de session.  La session consista donc de deux merveilleuses présentations.  En première place, Katharine Rollwagen présenta l’histoire des émissions pour enfants et surtout des débats concernant la qualité du contenu.  En 1961, d’après le recensement canadien, il y avait plus de maisons avec des télévisions qu’avec des toilettes ! Selon sa recherche, la télévision et la programmation pour enfants était en fait encouragé par les parents.

Matthew Hayday, nous présenta un regard à la programmation pour enfants à travers l’évolution et la « Canadianisation » d’une émission spécifique, Sesame Street.  Les parents Canadiens insistèrent pour la continuation du programme, malgré un contenu majoritairement américain.  Certaines des meilleures anecdotes de la présentation inclurent un petit vidéoclip du contenu canadien inclus dans la programmation américaine, une promotion par la Compagnie de la Baie d’Hudson qui encourageait les clients de donner leur opinion concernant Sesame Street et une lettre adressée au premier ministre Pierre Trudeau. Heureusement, pour la francophone en moi, il y a eu une petite discussion de cette merveille de ma jeunesse.

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Parents et enfants qui protestent l’annulation de Sesame Street. Le lendemain, le programme a fait son retour à la television à Kingston.

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Lettre d’un parent concernant l’importance de Sesame Street comme programme éducatif.

Après la session, je suis allée écouter plusieurs historiennes renommées – Sarah Carter, Lara Campbell, Tarah Brookfield, Heidi MacDonald, Denyse Baillargeon, Lianne Leddy, Joan Sangster et Darcy Cullen – présenter leur recherche concernant une collaboration pour une série de livres qui réexaminent le suffrage des femmes au Canada dans un contexte impérial, colonial, Britannique, et régional.  La session (« Les femmes canadiennes, le suffrage et les droits de la personne ») a certainement piqué mon intérêt et j’attends avec impatience la publication de la série.  Heidi MacDonald, qui étudie la question du suffrage dans les provinces de l’Atlantique oppose l’historiographie passé et propose que le suffrage des femmes a été un processus, long, ardu, et difficile.

Après cette session, durant l’heure du midi, j’ai eu la chance de rencontré Tarah Brookfield, qui avait présenté son projet dans la session précédente.  Tarah avait enseigné un de mes cours d’histoire de l’enfance cette année.  Elle m’a indiqué qu’il y avait une réunion pour le groupe d’histoire de l’enfance et de la jeunesse.  Étant donné mes intérêts, j’ai décidé d’y participer et eu le plaisir de rencontrer plusieurs autres académiques étudiant la jeunesse.

L’après-midi m’a vu considérer la place du corps et des politiques du corps dans l’histoire à la session «Nationalités incarnées : la race, le genre et l’appartenance dans une perspective historique.»  Pour Donica Belisle et Amy Shaw, les politiques du corps, que ce soit à travers la mode (Belisle) ou la description de l’armée Canadienne lors de la guerre Boer (Shaw), sont liés à la représentation du Canada idéal.  Dans le contexte Américain, Sharon Romeo, présenta un cas intéressant pour les femmes esclaves Africaines américaines recherchant asile à St. Louis, Missouri lors de la guerre civile aux Etats-Unis.

Terminant une longue journée, j’ai décidé d’assister à la réunion annuelle des membres de la société.  La rencontre fût un peu longue, naturellement, mais m’a certainement donné une bonne idée du travail que la société fait pour encourager la recherche dans le domaine des humanités.

La fin de la réunion, pour moi, marqua la fin de ma journée.  Je suis retourné à l’hôtel afin de me reposer un peu, donc j’ai manqué Cliopalooza.  En tout, ce fût une journée remplie d’aventures, de nostalgie et belles rencontres.

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Première journée – SHC à Calgary

Bonjour à tous !  Je suis Vanessa Quiring et pendant les prochains jours, je vais vous présenter mon expérience au Congrès et surtout en ce qui concerne la conférence annuelle du SHC !

Laissez-moi vous dire quelques mots à propos de moi et de mes intérêts, ce qui vous aideras certainement à comprendre les choix de sessions auxquels je vais assister. Je viens tout juste de terminer ma première année en tant qu’étudiante au doctorat en histoire à l’Université de Waterloo intéresser par l’histoire de la médecine et de la jeunesse au Canada.  Le programme de cette année est plein de sessions concernant la santé et la jeunesse, qui fera de moi une étudiante bien contentée !

C’est la première fois que je participe au Congrès en tant qu’étudiante.  Il y a quelques années, je travaillais à la bibliothèque de l’université du Nouveau-Brunswick lorsque le Congrès était tenu à l’université.  Disons que j’ai certainement eu de l’expérience du côté de l’organisation et de la préparation pour un événement de cette taille et que l’organisation par le SHC et le Congrès jusqu’à date est à point jusqu’à date.

Cela fait déjà deux jours que je suis à Calgary car j’ai participé aux sessions de la Société Canadienne pour l’histoire de la médecine.  C’est donc avec plaisir que j’ai pu lire sur le programme que la SCHM et la SHC ont collaborés pour nous apporter deux sessions sur la médecine !  Cela ne fut pas trop compliqué à choisir les sessions auxquelles j’allais participer.

J’ai donc passé la première partie de mon avant-midi dans une session – Histoires personnelles et récits institutionnels racontés par des médecins, des scientifiques et des universitaires germanophones éxilés 1930 – 1960 –  avec un thème qui abordait la question de psychiatres et autres pratiqueurs de médecine dites, psychologique ou neurologique, qui furent obligés ou décidèrent de quitter le pays et leurs emplois pour travailler ailleurs essayer de reconstituer leurs vies.  Les présentateurs – Aleksandra Loewenau (Université de Calgary), Paul Stortz (Université de Calgary) et Guell Russell – ont réussi à mettre en contexte l’expérience de neuroscientifiques quittant l’Allemagne pour d’autres pays, souvent sous une initiative afin d’éviter d’être obligé de travailler avec le régime Nazi pendant les années 1930 et 1940.  Une deuxième présentation observa la position de réfugiés juifs pendant et après la deuxième guerre mondiale à l’université de Toronto tandis que la troisième présenta le parcours d’un médecin dans trois pays.

Étant donné que la SCHM était encore en cours, j’ai participé à une autre session le matin qui discutait et analysait l’histoire de l’hémophilie et des traitements pour l’hémophilie avec l’histoire du VIH/SIDA intitulé Reflection.  Le panel fût principalement organisé par des médecins – Robert Card, Man-Chiu Poon, et Nicole Shedden – ce qui nous rappelle l’importance d’étudier l’histoire de la médecine non seulement afin d’étudier l’histoire mais afin de comprendre le contexte qui encadre les discussions des méthodes utilisés pour traiter l’hémophilie.  Carol Nash à même offert une idée de l’importance de participé à un projet de réflexion de soi en tant qu’historiens.

Nous avons pris une pause pendant l’après-midi.  J’ai fait mon chemin à l’expo de livres et pris le temps de parcourir tous les rayons pour observer les livres en histoire et santé publiés récemment.  Un retour à l’hôtel après une longue journée et fin de semaine m’a permis de me reposer et on recommence le trajet aujourd’hui.  Jusqu’à date, j’ai rencontré ce que je qualifierais de mes héros en histoire, ceux qui m’ont influencé à poursuivre mes études.

Je vous laisse avec ça pour l’instant car je vais être en retard pour une autre session ce matin si je continue.

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Day 1 – CHA in Calgary

Good evening from the first full day of this year’s Canadian Historical Association (CHA) Conference at Congress 2016. This year we’re on the University of Calgary (U of C) campus and I’ll be your Graduate Student Anglophone blogger for this year.

First, a bit about me. I’m a PhD candidate at the University of Saskatchewan focusing on trains and grains or to be more formal grain transportation history during the Pierre Trudeau-era and the associated environmental and human implications. As you might have guessed my interests lie primarily in Canadian, Environmental and Transportation history. Looking through this year’s program I saw a diverse array of panels that are of obvious interest to me and others that sound like they would provide me with a glimpse into a new area of scholarship. When I attend any conference I always try to find a balance between seeing panels that are within my areas of interest and trying those that might point me in new directions.

I arrived at Congress after having the opportunity to participate in NiCHE’s  CHESS program which was an intensive weekend of learning about bison around Banff National Park and the Bar U Ranch National Historic Site. After registration with Congress, a process that included a tantalizing peak at the offerings from various publishers, I picked up my CHA program. Fortunately the CHESS group I was with included some U of C alumni who acted as tour guides for those of us who were new to campus.

CHESS participants arrive at Congress. From @anneriitta

CHESS participants arrive at Congress. Courtesy of @anneriitta

Sunday evening I looked at Andrea Eidinger’s great Beginner’s Guide to the CHA (if this is your first CHA definitely take a sec to check it out!) which also came with her recommendations for panels to see.

I like to tweet the panels I’m at so you can always scroll through my twitter feed (@triticum_red) but here’s a quick overview of the panels I saw today.

Monday morning I had an early start with a panel that started at 8:30 am. Thanks to the help of the Congress volunteers it was easy to find my way to Science A-13 and the morning’s first panel Limited Identities, Limited Loyalties: Western Canadian Agriculture, Exhibition, and Empire in the First World War. Will Pratt (University of Lethbridge) opened the panel discussing agricultural production on the Treaty 7 Reserves that included communal equipment and successful harvests. Shannon Murray (Calgary Stampede) followed with an examination of how the messaging of the Calgary Exhibition (yes, the famous Stampede wasn’t in Calgary for a time!) during the war years and Andrew McEwen (University of Calgary) closed the panel by showing the issues, including prices and transportation distances, surrounding the purchases of remounts in Canada. To me this was a great example of a panel were the presentations had obvious ties to each other so that the information from one presentation complimented other presentations.

I had wanted to also see Canadian History Blogging: A Conversation Between Editors and was lucky to find that attendees to that panel were live-tweeting it. Following the #CHASHC2016 hashtag was the closest I could get to being in two panels at once. For me, following #CHASHC2016 is a great way to find out about other sessions where there may be ideas or people who I want to try to follow up with.

Next up was the keynote address Memory and Mobility: Grandma’s Mahnomen, White Earth with Jean O’Brien (University of Minnesota). I think the sign of great talk is when the floor is opened for questions the audience needs a second to gather their courage to ask and then the questions come quickly. Judging by that metric this was definitely an excellent key note! O’Brien deftly intertwined her family’s personal history – as recorded by her Grandmother – with the larger narratives in USA history about Indigenous labour, dispossession, and mobility.  It was a reminder that family histories can be just as important as the “big” histories and that those family histories can speak to them.

Lunch was spent in the Congress social area with friends. As one would expect at lunch time the social areas was bustling with activity and I caught bits of a lot of conservations that were commenting on the morning’s presentations from many different associations. This was our lunch time conversation too along with a hearty dose of agonizing over what panels to see in the afternoon. We all wanted to make the 1:00 pm start so lunch was done quickly as we hurried back across to the Science A building. Having gone the same way in the morning the route was starting to feel a little familiar!

Having my own experience trying to request access to documents I really wanted to see Information Commissioner of Canada Suzanne Legault’s presentation. It did not disappoint! We got a clear overview of the recommended changes her office is suggesting to the Access Act. The Canadian Access to Information Act is considered the grandfather/mother of Access Acts. Greg Kealey (University of New Brunswick) and Bill Waiser (University of Saskatchewan) provided commentary on Legault’s talk and they both emphasized that access to information is critical not just for historians but for Canadians as a whole. Legault noted that there are public consultations on access to information happening now that need input. Bill Waiser reminded the audience that the CHA has been advocating on our behalf about access but it’s important that CHA members also raise their own voices to show support for better access. As Kealey pointed out access to information is important to democracy.

After that it was obvious that the best follow up would be Hot Docs: The Politics of Archives, Ethics, and Protocols with Steve Hewitt (University of Birmingham), Patrizia Gentile (Carleton University), Isabelle Perreault (Université d’Ottawa), Christabelle Sethna (University of Ottawa) and Marie-Claude Thifault (Université d’Ottawa) discussed archival documents they’ve worked with that have sensitive information or potentially upsetting revelations in them. It was a provocative panel and Sethna suggested that perhaps a best practices guide needs to be developed for how to work with declassified or sensitive documents.

Science A building at U of C where I spent a lot of the day.

Science A building at U of C where I spent a lot of the day.

I’m grateful to all the other CHA attendees who were tweeting from panels because the afternoon was filled with panels that I was curious about. Through twitter I got to see snippets of panels on Dominion Experimental Farms, Acadian Soldiers, Energy use in Canada, and Indigenous land use to name just a few examples.

If you want to see where I’m at during the day without waiting for the blog follow me @triticum_red. Cliopalooza is tomorrow evening and I hear it’s always fun. Until then I’m spending the last of the evening trying to pick tomorrow’s panels.

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One week later: a retrospective

Hello once again and welcome to the last instalment of my blog!

Firstly I would like to apologize for the tardiness of this final post. My trip to Winnipeg that came right off the heels of my participation at Congress was a hectic combination of air travel, archival adventures & mishaps, and long awaited family reunions. Writing this now, having been back in Ottawa for less than 24 hours, I am finally taking a moment to be retrospective about my experiences at Congress.

Thinking back to Day 3, my final round of panels seems to fall under the broad category of history education; another near & dear interest of mine. Why do and should we teach and learn history? How do and should we teach and learn it? These are the (relatively vague) questions that keep me up at night. And it is my interest in finding answers to these questions that stop me from ditching the historical discipline for greener, more lucrative pastures.

The eclectic group of panelists presenting at the panel Practicing the Discipline of History had some interesting responses to these questions. Though less concerned with history education per se, they had much to say in relation to how they personally practice “history” and how they believe others should or should not practice it themselves.

For example, Carleton University archivist Patti Harper encouraged a rapprochement between archivists and historians. Not only that, but she called for a renewed effort to once again problematize and historicize the role of the archive as a filter and gatekeeper of documents and materials and its role in the creation of historical narratives. Already somewhat familiar with the issues that she brought up, I could not have agreed more with Harper. That being said, I would go a step further and say that everyone, not just historians and archivists, should be concerned with understanding the archive as a political institution that has immense power over what sources are available for us to use. Going forward from this understanding, we are better placed to hold those who collect and guard these sources to account and to question their practices.

Self-described “Jill of all trades” Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, while not as analytical as Harper, pushes us towards involving the public in our discipline’s endeavour to think critically about our work and practice. Though a good portion of her work as Edmonton’s third Historian Laureate involves using history as a form of light-hearted entertainment for residents of the city, she has attempted to incorporate a certain level of critical reflection into her many different community driven projects. In this way and in others she strives to create as many bridges as she can between residents and academia.

Why should history education research matter to historians?, which was put on by students involved with the History Education Network known as Then/Hier, looked directly at the field of history education. Though they study a varied set of topics and contexts, the panelists seem to agree that whether it’s at elementary or secondary school, Cégep or university, a heritage site or museum, history education in Canada could stand to be improved. What would this improvement look like?: A combination of creative teaching styles (by way of new media, stronger student participation and collaboration, etc.) and an emphasis on critical thinking (having both instructors and students actually think about how/why historical narratives are constructed and why they are teaching/learning about history in the first place). Cynthia Wallace-Casey for example encourages her students to deconstruct museums’ narratives and hold them to account not only for how they choose the stories that they tell or not, but also how they tell them. Using popular myths about feminism as a case study, Marie-Hélène Brunet pushes her students to challenge received knowledge about the past (from the media, family members, figures of authority) and think about history as a holistic and interconnected process as opposed to a set of separate and individual anecdotal facts. Another one of the main points running through all of the presentations was that that history education needs to be more than content; more than the date of confederation, the name of the first Prime Minister, and the one-sided story of Canadian state-building. This education instead needs to be about critical and lateral thinking, challenging authority and received knowledge, and actually practicing history for oneself.

Upon my return from lunch and before running back off to work I attended my last panel, History in the Classroom. Once again, teaching students critical thinking was an important focus of the discussion. Caroline-Isabelle Caron’s presentation was particularly poignant in this regard. Discussing a fourth-year seminar course that she taught in 2014 called “History Vs. Pseudo-History,” Caron underlined just how much work is left to be done by educators prior to (and especially during) students’ university careers. Through the experience of teaching this course Caron discovered that her students, mostly in the fourth and final year of their history degrees, could still not properly differentiate between the pseudo-history expounded in popular literature & television programs and the factual history created through a combination of holistic research, deliberation, and rigorous attention to the sources. Caron went on to discuss a host of reasons why this is horribly problematic and listed an array of skills that students should be acquiring to remedy this, yet ended on a somewhat bleak note by stating that she doesn’t really know how to fix the problem.

Of course there’s no easy solution, though the insights provided by the many panellists that I had the pleasure of listening to will be a start. Looking back at Day 3 and the rest of Congress, I know that the many lessons I have taken away will be directly applicable to my future work, both academic and professional.

Should you be reading this and have not had the chance to attend Congress, I highly recommend you do so the next chance you get. I promise you won’t regret it.

This is Brad signing off!

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