Category Archives: Public History

100 Years of Loss- The Residential School System in Canada Exhibit Recap

 

Recently a colleague of mine asked if I would be willing to take a look at the 100 Years of Loss exhibit currently on display at the Canadian Museum of History and let her know my impressions. Of course I agreed, I had a bit of time in between volunteering for festivals and attending other museums in Ottawa and it gave me a chance to use my brand new membership card.

For those of you that do not know, the 100 Years of Loss- The Residential School System in Canada Exhibit is an exhibition developed in conjunction with the Legacy of Hope Foundation, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and Library and Archives Canada. The exhibition “uses reproductions of photographs, artwork and primary documents to tell the story of thousands of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children who were removed from their families and institutionalized in residential schools. It emphasizes the present-day effects of the system, focusing on healing and reconciliation.”[1]

If you are unaware of the Residential School System that existed in Canada between 1831 and 1996, you can familiarize yourself here.

At first glance the exhibit seemed out of place stuck in a corner of the museum, however, as I sat and watched other people interact with the exhibit, it was clear that it was in the right place. Every person that walked by either made a comment about the exhibit or they would mention something they already knew about Residential schools and some even stopped to read some or all of the panels. The exhibit is situated at a crossroads of sorts where people have to pass by. The history therefore cannot be ignored.

The design and colour scheme are fitting for the topic at hand. The exhibit consists of 4 pillars approximately 2.5ft in diameter which serve as text panels and a wavy wall that presents a timeline of the Residential School System. The use of various grey tones and a vibrant orange allow the important information to stand out without seeming offensive. The exhibit includes lots of grey and white space with intentional pops of orange to focus the reader’s attention on the text. The text on the pillar panels was slightly difficult to read, but it may have had to do with the placement of the exhibit under an overhang on the first floor or the font size. I am rather tall and sometimes I would have to crouch down to read the text on the lower half of the pillars, but some short people may not be able to read the text higher up, so that is really a flaw of the human race’s height diversity.

The exhibit is offered in both French and English. Four pillars in English and four in French with the wavy wall having French on one side and English on the other. Even though I cannot read any Aboriginal languages, it would have been nice to see that as an option. I am aware there are hundreds of different groups of Aboriginal people with variations in their languages and it would have been incredibly difficult to choose one or two languages to use. However, if possible it would have been nice to cater to those that may have had a firsthand experience in the Residential School System.

I sat and watched others visit the exhibit for some time to see how they reacted. I heard various responses such as “Oh, that’s the residential school exhibit!” and “is this it?”. I felt compelled to mention that it is a travelling exhibit, so it would be quite difficult to create an extravagant exhibit that would also be sturdy enough for transport. Other visitors were silent as they passed through the exhibit, some came alone. I noticed that because there wasn’t much signage, people began reading in various places, not moving in a chronological timeline. Being a good Western historian I appreciate chronologies, so I wonder if that caused any difficulties for those that didn’t start from the beginning.

I was intrigued to see that the exhibit has an app that you can download for free and use in conjunction with the physical exhibit. I quickly downloaded it and opened it up. From what I can tell it includes all of the text and photographs that the exhibit does but you can just read it from your phone. I think it would have been nice to see some supplemental information and photographs that were not featured in the exhibit itself. There is another feature that I couldn’t get to work. The app tells you to scan a barcode, but does not tell you where they are located or what will happen when you end up scanning them. I tried multiple times to scan various barcodes but to no avail unfortunately.

The content of the exhibit was thorough and intelligently organized into sections. The timeline portion included photographs as well as text to help lead you through the long history of the Residential School System in Canada. The text recognizes Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples’ points of view. The text also describes those people that had positive experiences and benefitted from their time in Residential Schools.

Even though as a Public Historian interested in Aboriginal history I am versed in the history of the Residential School System to some degree, I think that this exhibit gives a fabulous overarching explanation that goes deeper than a general introduction to the subject. I believe that the exhibit achieves the goal of educating the public about what happened here in our own country not so long ago. Thinking abstractly for a moment, as I was walking through the exhibit I was wondering why they chose to use the format they did (round pillars and a wavy wall). I came to a conclusion that possibly they were trying to represent the cyclical nature of abuse, and poor living conditions that occurred in the Residential Schools and consequently continues to this day in some Aboriginal communities. The circles of the pillars representing the cycle and maybe the wavy wall representing the ups and downs of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relationships throughout history. But I digress.

Overall, I enjoyed the exhibit immensely. The final pillar was rather inspiring and empowered me to want to learn more about Aboriginal Peoples’ experience in Canada. I encourage anyone that has the opportunity to see this exhibit to do so!

 

[1] http://www.historymuseum.ca/event/100-years-of-loss-the-residential-school-system-in-canada/

Nailed it!: Reflecting on Interactive Exhibit Design and Nail Polish History

Finishing touches:

As I had hoped, without tweaking, the patch and the Makey Makey worked perfectly! So I moved on to create a stand that would make the project look a little more professional. I used cardboard and tape to make a stand and then painted it. I also built a little stand with the title “Nail Polish History” painted on it. After I let the paint dry, I conducted a few tests to ensure I didn’t undo a connection and took it upstairs to present at the interactive exhibit showcase. I reconnected everything and tested it again, just to be sure.

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What I wanted to do:

My original plan was to construct a controller using a webcam and the Max 6 program to recognize the colour of the user’s nail polish. This would allow the user to learn about nail polish history by matching their nail polish with the colour of a section in the nail polish patch in Max 6 that would teach you an interesting fact about nail polish.

What I ended up doing:

However, this idea proved too difficult in a short amount of time. The nail polish colour matching was far too complicated and therefore I ‘spectacularly failed’ that portion of the project. I did succeed in what I ended up creating. I decided to use the Makey Makey and connect with Max 6. Using the Makey Makey allowed me to still use the nail polish theme, but in a different yet fun way! I used brass fasteners as my conductive element. I strategically placed them where you would press if you were pressing a button on a controller that looked like a hand and placed another fastener at the base of the hand where your palm would normally sit. The fastener at the base acted as the ground for the Makey Makey. Using a patch my professor provided me, I added my content and added one more option in the patch for users to choose on the hand. It wasn’t as tricky as I had once assumed, thank goodness. I then used the help functions within Max 6 to figure out how to effectively use presentation mode. I succeeded and was able to present my project without any hitches to the class and the various guests.

Interactive Exhibit Showcase:

My project was well received by the class and guests. It was nice to see that even people who have much more experience in the field than I do, were impressed and interested in what I had achieved. I made sure to explain what I wanted to do originally and why I had to change it to the patrons. Below are some photos from the event:

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What I would have liked to have done differently:

I would have preferred that each video and photo show up on the screen by themselves. In the few minutes before our digital project showcase I didn’t have the time to fiddle with the patch in order to make this happen. But with some time and additions to the code, I probably could have made that happen.

I also would have preferred that my videos were a larger size and that they stopped playing when another part of the patch was triggered. The video size could have been remedied by changing the quality of the original saved video. The reason I chose mobile versions of the videos to begin with, was to ensure that I would not overload my computer and the software. I wanted to keep everything as simple as possible.

I would have liked to do more in-depth research into the history of nail polish and nail art. There is so much more to the art than what people think, so I believe it could be expanded on quite nicely. In particular I would have liked to delve into the history behind nail art as a business. I think it is fascinating that the nail art business is thriving and I want to know when it started and why. I would also like to know more about how the esthetician serves as a therapist in some cases.  Patrons tell them things they would not share with those close to them and I would like to know how that role is mentioned or not mentioned in school before the esthetician goes out into the workplace.

What I learned:

I now know that I CAN complete a digital exhibit and not completely fail! I also learned there is always so much more you can be doing and always someone that is going to be capable of so much more than you. You have to keep this in perspective because you know what you are capable of, and know that you are not as technically capable as other people may be. I really enjoyed taking on a project like this, even if I didn’t seem like I was enjoying it at the time. I am glad I had the opportunity to, in Ms. Frizzle’s famous words: “take chances, make mistakes and get messy!”

Ms Frizzle

“21 Brothers” Screening

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Interested in film? Interested in the First World War? Interested in historical films? Saturday April 12th at 7pm is a must attend event sponsored by the HGSA – Western University and Western – Department of History!

21 Brothers is the “Longest One-Shot Film in History”

Come out for a free screening of the movie followed by discussion and refreshments with the director Mike McGuire.

Check out the poster for more details.

A snag…

Since my last post, I have come to find out that my idea was far too lofty. That being said, my professor suggested I try using a MakeyMakey and a cardboard hand with painted nails as the controller for my Nail Polish History exhibit. I took his idea and ran with it!

I chose to use brass fasteners as the conductive part of the hand. They will allow me to connect with the MakeyMakey alligator clips and trigger a command on my Max 6 patch. This will show a video, text, and/or a photo related to nail polish history.

Check out my cardboard hand controller progress below:

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I thought that the hand looked rather boring so I decided to add something into my project that I love.. HENNA! I looked up some designs online and freehand drew them on the hand.

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TA DA! The almost finished product! Tomorrow I will meet with my professor and work on connecting the MakeyMakey and plugging in the content to the Max 6 patch.

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Interactive Exhibit Design: The History of Nail Polish and Nail Art

Aha! An idea has formed and I have an understanding of what I need to do to bring it to fruition!

My project will be an interactive history of nail polish! Who knew you could find information out there on nail polish history?! I hope to include sections on: Early Nail Art, North American Nail Art, The Business Side of Nail Polish and Nail Artistry, different Techniques, Types of Polish, and links to neat Nail Art Tutorials that people can do at home.

Using the program Max 6 and an external webcam, I will turn your fingernails into controllers for the interactive exhibit on the various aspects of nail polish history. The first step will be for you to paint your nails predetermined colours (5 or 6 depending on the number of headings I decide to go with). This will allow the webcam and Max 6 to recognize when you select different headings within the onscreen interactive display. You will have to match your fingernail to the colour of the heading you wish to open. When you are finished reading or watching video about the topic, you can use one of your nails to go back (colour to be determined).

As I work through the Max 6 Jitter tutorials I will update you on my progress. But for now, here is a rough drawing of what I want the presentation mode of my interactive nail polish history exhibit to look like.

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As I was performing a scavenger hunt for the origin of the popular phrase “Oh the Humanity” in audio form, I came across this very interesting digital archive website with a plethora of photos, recordings and other interesting things about historical moments in American history.

Just by reading the Introduction page, you understand exactly what the site is attempting to do. Eyewitness is connecting with a wider audience than would ever have the opportunity to go digging around in the archive. The site provides personal accounts of pertinent historical events in American history, specifically those that would be most popular.  After you find the Hindenburg Disaster Broadcast, be sure to poke around under the other headings to see what else you can find!

Follow the instructions below to reach the online location of the Hindenburg Disaster Radio broadcast:

Click the tab displaying Contents.

AONA 1

Click Scenes from Hell. Click Herb Morrison- 1937 Hindenburg Disaster.

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Click 2nd tab displaying the picture of the microphone.

AONA 2

Click play on the audio player.

AONA 3