Tag Archives: history

T2P Germany & Poland: Update 1

Wow. What a busy first few days in Germany for my Transition to Professional Practice Global Service-Learning trip with Amizade and Western University.

Day 1- arrival and first look at Berlin:
We arrived safely in Berlin and were met by our guide Mattias Hass at the airport. From there we took the bus to our really neat hostel, “Generator”. It had fun bunkbeds, a ping pong table that was never freee (too many people loved it), WiFi, and an in house bar. Even though most of us had not slept in over 24 hours once arriving in Berlin, Mattias was sure to keep us moving and give us our first glimpse of the city. Mattias is of German desent and has incredible knowledge and insight into the history of Germany in regards to the Second World War. He has his PhD, has worked in Germany as well as Philadelphia, and completed a Postdoc at UofT. Mattias began his tour by sharing with the group that Germany does not have a central national narrative to share her history. It is made up of different pieces including historic sites, events, and monuments. Mattias provided this question to us: How do Germans come to terms with the Nazi party? I think this question is an important one, and currently do not have an answer. From listening to Mattias and discussions with my colleagues, and through my own experience in the Public History field, I think that through commemorative activities such as memorials, people can begin to come to terms with difficult historical narratives. Through memorial work, people that have a lot or very little knowledge can learn and begin to change their understanding and point of view about a certain subject. I will hopefully return to this question throughout my trip.

On the first day we visited: Oranienburger Strasse (central street of old Berlin), 1860s synagoge built on the aforementioned street, stumbling stones in various locations, Alex Beer commemorative plaque, Catholic hospital, Potestant church, the art installation “Missing House”, first home of the elderly Jewish community plaque and monument, Jewish cemetary, the Berliner mischung, and the Museum Blindenwerkstatt Otto Weidt.

Mattias provided us with some background information about the thriving Jewish community that lived in Berlin prior to the Second  World War. The synagoge on Oranienburger Strasse opened in 1866 and was used regularly by the growing Jewish population in the area. The Jewish community saw great success during this time up until 1933, including acceptance of their vibrant society.
Two types of decentralized  commemoration work bring done  in Berlin: stumbling stones and plaques. Both types need active citizenship to complete the projects and maintain them. Other commemoration work is being completed in conjunction with the government.  Stumbling stones are small metal plaques fitted to the cobble stones on the ground all over Berlin to commemorate those that fell victim to the Nazis. The plaques include the name, occupation, and where and how they died. The stones are usualy placed in front of their old place of residence. There are over 5000 stumbling stones and are all provided through sponsorship and volunteer researchers.

We had our first meal in Beriln at an Italian restaurant, which was a funny thing to do, but it certainly was tasty. Later on that day we had dinner at another restaurant near our hostel, I had some yummy sausage, potatoes, and salad.

Overall, day 1 was great, even though the jetlag and exhaustion had overcome us. We had an early  night and got up early to explore  more of what Berlin had to offer concerning the Holocaust.

Watch for my next post about day 2 in Berlin!

Helpful Links:

http://www.orte-der-erinnerung.de

http://m.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/a-828763.html#spRedirectedFrom=www&referrrer=http://www.google.pl/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=alex%20bier%20berlin%20commemorative%20plaque%20jewish&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CB4QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.spiegel.de%2Finternational%2Fzeitgeist%2Fold-jewish-girls-school-converted-into-berlin-gallery-and-restaurant-a-828763.html&ei=QA5RVcmANIv8ygPu4IC4Aw&usg=AFQjCNEfMlOPHzk8w1QLUPmNwYTutKm42g&bvm=bv.92885102,d.bGQ

http://www.stolpersteine-gelsenkirchen.de/stumbling_stones_demnig.htm

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/

Two Conferences and an Internship

In the last month I have been privileged to attend the Fort Garry Lectures in Winnipeg and the Canadian Historical Association’s (CHA) Annual Meeting at Brock University in St. Catharines. I also started my summer internship in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) in Gatineau.

The Fort Garry Lectures hosted by the University of Winnipeg and the University of Manitoba took place May 1-3. It was the first time I presented a paper at a conference and was both exciting and terrifying at the same time. My paper was the final one before the Keynote speaker on the last day which meant I was stressing the entire time I was there. However, the presentation went off without a hitch and people even had questions for which I had answers! I was fortunate to have a lovely roomie that loved museums as much as me! We got lost on the transit system, were accosted by homeless people with $3000 in their pocket (allegedly), and took #itweetmuseums selfies. My seasoned professional conference goer roommate did a fantastic job presenting her paper and was helpful in calming me down before my presentation. One suggestion for those that haven’t presented at a conference before: like I have, choose good travel buddies (your best friend may not be the best choice!)

Lindsay Kernohan- University of Western Ontario
Lindsay Kernohan- University of Western Ontario
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Me! Presenting for the first time at a conference!
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Teaching some ‘regular’ history people a bit about Public History

The Canadian Historical Association’s Annual Meeting takes place every year as part of the Congress of Arts and Humanities. This year it was held in St. Catharines at Brock University. The main reason I attended is because I was chosen as the CHA Graduate Student Committee’s (GSC) English language blogger for the event. The GSC began this initiative last year in order to share with those graduate students who could not attend as well as those unsure why it would be beneficial to them and provide some graduate student insight. I posted 5 blogs on the GSC blog, if you want to see what I thought about the conference click here! I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference as well as do what I love- blog!

A summer internship is a requirement of my MA in Public History program. I very gladly and quickly accepted the offer to intern at AANDC under Jean-Pierre Morin, historian, in the Treaties and Governance section of the AANDC. My main task is to work on commemorative activities and initiatives that will raise awareness of Aboriginal Peoples’ involvement in the World Wars. Internship updates coming soon, in the meantime these photos should give you a taste of my internship so far.

 

“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.

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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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

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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.

CASS’ 50th Celebration!

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During the Thanksgiving weekend I had the privilege to volunteer at my old high school to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the school opening in 1963. It was an exciting day, I was able to talk to old classmates, classmate’s parents, and teachers. I even got some hugs from those teachers that truly made a difference in my life while attending CASS, I was surprised and quite flattered to say the least.

I sold merchandise celebrating the 50th and loved hearing all the stories, especially from those that went to school at CASS in the 1960’s. One lady’s story stuck with me: she told me that she was never a very good student and failed grade 10 at a different high school. Due to her sister being incredibly smart, the two of them would have been in the same class if she had gone back to the same school. The lady couldn’t handle it and said she was quitting school, however CASS was opening and it gave her the opportunity to continue with her education without having to be compared to her sister. She THRIVED at CASS and she told me that the teachers really cared about if she succeeded. She was able to maintain mid-seventies to low-eighties in her studies and even gained enough to start the Christian Fellowship club at CASS. Her story was a testament to just how dedicated CASS has always been to teaching and it’s students and I am incredibly proud to be an alumna!

Below are some photos from the day including pictures of the decade rooms, and the opening of the time capsule buried 25 years ago by Students’ Council. 

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MapTiler Adventures

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www.geoplanit.co.uk

 

As a person that does not like being forced to get the new-fangled item on the market, I decided to download the old version of MapTiler from their website because I didn’t believe their warning: “the old deprecated and unsupported version”. This backfired as when I attempted to follow the steps in the program, Google Chrome wouldn’t allow it. Here are some screen shots of my multiple failed attempts:

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Finally I gave up and downloaded the new version. Everything worked first try which I was surprised about. Pleasantly surprised of course. Here are the final products:

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I think I may be able to use this software to layer blueprints and architectural drawings of the County of Oxford Jail that I am focusing on for my Digital History project. I may just need to watch some YouTube videos and/or ask someone for help before I fully understand what this software can do to help me.

So Much to Learn

Finally, something related to technology that excites me! After I watched this video, I felt like I should be innovating and creating like the people at Google have over the last 12-ish years. Of course I will never be a tech analyst or a computer programmer, but the idea that you can keep building on what you already have and keep making it better and better struck a chord with me. I think being part of the Public History program at Western is allowing me to build on my limited skill set and give me the confidence with various different mediums that I did not possess before. Only being a month into classes, I feel like I have learned more than I ever could have expected to learn in such a short period of time. Being able to try new things and experiment without a penalty has allowed me to feel more comfortable trying different computer programs and apps. We are asked to ‘play’ with different computer programs, sites, and applications for our Digital History class each week, most of the things we have tried so far like Google Ngram, Serendip-o-matic, the Wayback Machine and even RSS feeds I had never dabbled with before. It is difficult to describe in words the feeling of being so excited to just experience more all the time but also scared that you won’t remember everything you are having the opportunity learn. For some strange reason, maybe it was the background music of the video or the fact that I was so happy for the people in the video that got to be a part of the innovations that Google Maps has produced, I want to do more. I want to get better at the things I can already do and master those things that I was far too nervous to try in the past. There is so much more for me to discover!