Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thoughts on Public History from October

I began writing this blog post in October when the readings were assigned and just found it in my files waiting to be sent to my blog. Read away!



Tom Henke and I on induction Day 2013 at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame! I sold him a polo and a Fergie Jenkins signed ball.


For my Public History class we were required to take a look at the following blog post for class discussion:

I decided that I would blog some responses to the questions posed in the article since the article poses questions I have often wondered myself and think need to be explored.

Public History and education go hand in hand. I am a huge proponent of historians becoming close with the public as they can provide a greater understanding than a high school teacher with uninterested students could. Last summer I worked at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as Museum Host and for Museum London as a Museum Docent. Both of these jobs required me to teach the visitors something. Being recognized by your boss is great, but I think that when you were able to teach or help someone understand something they weren’t clear on before, it is incredibly rewarding. For me, being a part of P.H. is allowing my inner teacher and innate need to help people really shine. Not only can you brighten someone’s day be telling them a funny story about how we acquired an item or provide historiography for a place they have driven by everyday of their lives, you help create lifelong learners that WANT to become engaged in history.

Receiving money isn’t always something that comes from success, a lot of the times if you have enough backing from friends and colleagues and know how to use social media, it is quite straightforward to get recognized. If you know how to network and get your ideas out there, you will be able to reach so many more prospective funders than those who choose to go the old fashioned route and only apply to posted funding opportunities.

Finding new ways to do things seems to be at the forefront of how humans grow. It is no different in the P.H. field. Public Historians, are attempting to present topics in different ways that will grab the attention of not only the historically minded but especially those that normally avoid the field altogether. It is our job to keep coming up with different ways to truly engage with everyone, not just a select few. So how we come up with an interactive exhibit that draws far more viewers than an article in the archives of an online database, is very important to the field now, but also how we will continue to create in the future.

To be fair, I am still a student and I therefore do not fully understand the constant battle for money and not giving topics, ideas, information away for free, but I can see why getting recognition in the private historical sphere as well as the public one is truly important.

In the case of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, I was able to be a part of the everyday workings of the museum as well as the Hall of Fame Induction. During the summer leading up to and after the Induction, for the most part there was a steady flow of people to the museum, some days higher than others. Induction day though was insane. There were over 1000 people there all over-the-moon about meeting past players, seeing old friends, and just experiencing the incredible atmosphere. That day showed me the immense draw that large historical events with an interactive portion can be for the public. Induction day is held to honour those that made a contribution to Canadian Baseball history and this day is important to players and spectators alike. Making money is not the point of a museum, the point is to engage the public in what you are presenting and maybe spark an interest in history for them in the future. Even though the Induction is only one day a year, that day provides enough excitement to last all summer, if not all year long. Patrons would come into the museum and share past stories of Induction ceremonies they had attended, I could tell just how amazing the event is every year and how important it is to the history of baseball.

There are many more items I could have touched on, but that will be for another day!


In digital history this week, we were fortunate enough to learn from David Brown about an interesting Graph Database Management System called Sylva.

Even though I felt like this:

It was a very interesting system to test out. My only experience with entering data into a database for other people to use is at the Oxford Historical Society in Woodstock where I entered Probates of Will into an Excel spreadsheet. Excel isn’t the easiest to work with, sometimes your work disappears and you have to start again. During the brief, yet thorough, tutorial we were provided, David showed us how entering data into the system is rather straight forward and that it is laid out nicely in a visualization. Sylva uses points and edges to draw connections between the data which Carla Watson pointed out, was very similar to my favourite non-digital learning tool: mind-maps. They help you visually represent the content and use short phrases or words to help you remember what it is you are studying. Mind-maps link the information that is related and can easily be expanded to fit more. The Sylva database works a lot like that, by having never ending space for you to add more and more edges and individual points. It also allows you to link ideas in more than one direction if another link is necessary to make the connection. I’m glad that even my old high school study ideas of making mind-maps to connect pertinent information can still relate to the hi-tech big data world of Sylva.

I enjoyed the tutorial, even though it went a little over my head. I can’t wait until I become an expert at inputting data into Sylva and can show everyone my awesome visualizations!

Canada’s History Forum 2013


For my Digital History class this week we were asked to watch all or part of the Canada’s History Forum 2013. For a list of the speakers and the program you can click here.

The forum this year spends a lot of time surrounding the topic of Aboriginal History as is seen in the presentation of Young Citizen Video Project Awards and keynote Kate Hennessy of the School of Interactive Arts and Technology. The reason for this is the celebration of the Centennial of the Arctic Exhibition

The Forum itself was broadcast online using the program livestream and had little to no hiccups while I watched. I could understand everything, except of course the French. I’m glad Canada’s History chose to stream the Forum so that it could reach so people that would love to attend but cannot because of other commitments or long distances. 

The opening segment that recognized the grade 6 students for their winning contributions to the Young Citizens Video Project was inspiring. I think that it is important to realize just because these kids are young, doesn’t mean they don’t have something important to say about our nation’s history. I love it when children are given the opportunity to produce works that maybe an adult wouldn’t have thought to look into. The videos were enjoyable and used digital history methods with oral histories to create their final products. These kids are certainly on the cutting edge of historical research and crossing into the new ways of presenting their findings. 

Key note speaker Kate Hennessy discussed a project she is partnered with “New Technologies and Access to Cultural Heritage in Museums from the MacFarlane Collection to ‘Inuivaluit Living History’” You can explore the website here.

A closer look at some of the videos on the website, it is clear that the web designers made sure that everything on the site was interconnected so that someone learning about the topic for the first time or an expert could easily make their way from one item to another. While watching the video “A Case of Access” the image along the right hand side changed to match what was occurring in the video. This image then linked me to the artifact being discussed, including photos, a description and the cataloguing information. The videos also include Inuvailuit people’s responses to seeing, touching and working with their peoples artefacts.

Hennessy discussed how the digital exhibit is more than just a copy of what is in the Smithsonian. I think that this is exactly what digital exhibits need to be in order to draw in a wider audience for the topic. There are people that have no interest in looking at objects in a museum setting but would rather be able to search through online exhibits and have the internet at their fingertips to search for information they see as relevant in relation to the exhibit. This type of online exhibit also allows for people that do not have the means to visit the museum, a way to interact fully (aside from handling the objects) with the artefacts.   

Hennessy went on to talk about how they worked with teachers to create lesson plans that were curriculum centred for the Northwest Territories aboriginal curriculum. Even though they have not been in contact with those implementing the curriculum for a year, I believe that thinking about how historical information will fit into what our children are being taught is important from the inception of a project. Education of young people is important and if something like this is merely an online exhibit it wouldn’t be reaching its full potential and audience.

Overall, Hennessy’s talk was engaging and I look forward to hearing about projects like this in the future.

Today I remember…

Today I took a moment not only to remember all the men and women who have served for our country, but more specifically my grandmother’s brother: John Garfield Speir. He was a Flying Officer in the RCAF and was only 21 when he past away. My grandmother still remembers the day that they came to tell her family that he wasn’t coming home.


Lest we forget.