Monthly Archives: June 2016

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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