Sunday, 17 November 2019

Return to Normalcy

This past week we observed another Remembrance Day, and with each passing year I grow more appreciative of this day and what it means to me and to all people affected by war either directly or indirectly. When studying history I was never particularly drawn to the study of war, and especially not the battles or commanding officers. The only piece of history that surrounded wars that interests me is the people, the stories behind those who went to fight in a war, or those who went as medical support during the fighting. Their stories, and how the war affected them is what would interest me if war was something I would ever like to research, that would be the area I focus on. But, as I was saying I truly never felt that pull towards military history like many others have, and oftentimes I feel in the dark when people are discussing The Napoleonic Wars, The First World War or Second World War, or some other great wars throughout history.

 I think if I had met my family members who had fought in major conflicts, then maybe I would have more of a connection to the study of wars. My Great Grand Father Jimmy Dawson fought in the First and Second World War. In World War One he was living in Scotland and joined the fight as a young man, and for the Second World War he was a coal miner in Cape Breton and went to fight as a member of the Cape Breton Highlanders and as a high ranking officer. And his son (my great uncle) William Dawson fought in the Korean War, following in his father's footsteps in fighting for Canada. He unfortunately was killed on his third day in Korea. I never met these men, and my grandfather never told me stories about them before he had passed away. When I began this blog entry I said that I gain a better appreciation for Remembrance Day each year. I wish I had the opportunity to get to know them and hear how the war had affected my great grand father, and to have spoken to my great uncle before he had enlisted on why he wanted to go fight in the Korean War.

While Remembrance Day was sitting heavily on my mind the past week, I was also focusing on some of my projects and assignments as well. I was able to get to the London Room and find some great information on my heritage designation project, and it gave me an inkling of hope that my property may be able to be designated after all. In Understanding Archives I have prepared for my presentation on a Web Based Research Tool, and I chose www.cbgen.org which I am familiar with and have used it in the past and continue to as well with my current research.

One of the most interesting classes that we had last week was in Digital Public History as we discussed the uses of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality for History. The readings we had discussed some of the current practical AR representations in museums and institutions, but as many of us in the class agreed upon, AR seems to be a little behind on its deliverables. The technology is wonderful and amazing, but for practicalities sake sometimes it seems that it is only being used as a gimmick. I think Brendan said it in class, if there is a way to show or represent history without AR then you shouldn't have to use AR as the primary source of edutainment. 

As a week of reflection and project progress comes to an end, I can't help but think of how the next few weeks will go. This upcoming week if I am not on campus I'll be at Banting, or London Life, or the London Room, and I'm willing to bet that is going to become a trend.

This is Daniel bidding you adieu,

Adieu ya'll
City Daniel bids you adieu

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Post Prairies Thoughts


Reading week has always been somewhat of a wasted week for me in the past. During my undergrad I would take advantage of the days off by sleeping in and then just doing nothing all day, or at least nothing school related. But, for 3 years of my undergrad I would usually be working during reading week and assisting other students that would be coming into the archive to work on assignments for their classes. However, as I mentioned in my last blog post I went into this reading week with a plan, or a schedule or list of things that I wanted to either finish or make a dent in. And fortunately I did just that, I finished some of the items that were on my list and for others I put large dents in them. And that is in spite of me getting off of my plane to and seeing this.



There wasn't a lot of snow but it was -25 which I was not a fan of.
















For my heritage designation assignment I was able to compile all of the data I have collected so far into one excel file; it is 3 sheets in total but it gives me a focused look at my research so far and is incredibly helpful. I also organized the folder that I made for the project, All of the aerial photos that I had gathered are labeled and accounted for, and I was able to grab good screenshots of the digitized fire insurance plans that were online. When first working with the fire insurance plans I was discouraged because I couldn't find the address that I have chosen for the assignment, so I chose not to take photos of them in the archive. It was an annoyance that I kept finding when looking through many of the different resources at Weldon and in ARCC; my address just was not in the city limits for London and when it was listed there was little information on it. However, I got over the annoyance and have a digitized tiff file of the area of the fire insurance plans where my address should be.

The major dent that I was able to make in my list of assignments and projects was in the final project for Digital Public History. I think I have settled on creating a story map of the major mining strikes of the early 20th century in Cape Breton, and focusing on 2 of the biggest players in the strikes - J.B. McLachlan, a major labour leader in Cape Breton's history, and William Davis, a miner who died during the 1925 strike and the reason why Cape Breton has a holiday named Davis Day or Miners Memorial Day. Those days are to honour Davis and all others who have died in the mines or fighting for the rights of miners. The stories of the strikes have the Canadian military on church steps pointing machine guns at the miners if they cross the town line into Dominion, and mining company police officers being tarred and feathered. Two particular strikes cover a large area of Industrial Cape Breton, or well large in the scale that men were walking for hours to strike and to fight for the rights of the working class. Also, I plan on adding points on the map of all of the former mine sites across Cape Breton, but once again this is difficult because I have yet to find 1 map with all of the locations. Sometimes it will show the seam that they are mining into, or the area in which an air shaft was located to pump air into the mine when the men were traveling kilometers out under the ocean. Locating all of the mines is going to be difficult, but fun because I'll be providing a key resource that will be incredibly useful for my further research one day, as well as other industrial or labour researchers in the future. Another major difficulty that I have run into is that (as mentioned a number of times) technology and I don't get along. So using arcgis is going to be a bit of a learning curve for me, but I'm excited to use it more. From my time using it in class I can tell it will take me a little more time than others to get used to. But, I've begun using Google Earth and started mapping out all of  my points and collecting their coordinates, so hopefully the arcgis component will only take me a few hours to truly get the hang of it.


However, my time away was not all spent working on assignments, projects, or very very basic early cognate research, I was fortunate enough to spend time with my family and recharge my batteries.







Obligatory grain elevator photo from Saskatchewan. I always try and get a photo of a different town each time I'm driving to or from Regina.


Had to go to the lake so I could be around water again, it wasn't the Atlantic Ocean but it sure made me feel back in tune with nature. Also, it was frozen enough for ski-doos to ride on it which shows just how unimaginably cold it is there already. 








Well, that is it from Prairie Daniel back to City Daniel for another 26 days of extreme crunch time. City Daniel is more equipped to deal with crunch time, the prairie life really just makes you want to nap a lot.

I need to find a great way to end these things that nobody else is doing, something outside of the box. Maybe I'll try this.

Onward and Upward Ya'll

Yep, it is a new thing nobody else is doin', nobody at all.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

The One From The Prairies

Reading week has just begun, and I could not be happier. I hopped on a flight on Sunday morning and headed out West to visit family. Did not really prepare for snow, but I'm here now and that's great.

I have a plan that I'm sticking to while I'm here which is tackle at least 1 assignment/project a day. I spend a few hours on each on their given day, and I do some general research as well. So far I've gotten the chance to work on the Public History final project for this semester. I've put all of the materials I have for my heritage address together, and have found a couple good online resources. Today, I am going to be preparing for my Understanding Archives presentation that I will have on November 18th.

To my happy surprise I was able to find a map on the resource I will be using to present on, that completely fits with one of the ideas that I want to use for my final project in Digital Public History. It is a map of Glace Bay featuring the various mine locations around the community. Like I had previously mentioned there are little solid resources that I have come across that showcase all of the mines and an approximate location. The greatest resource that I have used a bit in the past is the Louis Frost Notes - https://www.mininghistory.ns.ca/lfrost/lfindex.htm. This website has an "interactive map" that was last updated in 1999, but it is relied upon by many people when researching the mines of Cape Breton. It will be a website that I will be using if I chose to make a map using GIS. Alternatively, I have also been considering creating a story map featuring one or maybe 2 of the major strikes that the coal miners had during the early 20th century. The strikes often began in Glace Bay, and sometimes made their way to two or three communities away gathering more and more miners. But, that is a reading week decision that I will have to decide on.

Last week in Digital Public History we were discussing dark tourism, and there was a dark tourist attraction in Nova Scotia that I had forgotten about until the class was almost over. Nova Scotia, and more importantly Halifax has a major dark tourist attraction that people all over the world travel to N.S. to see. This is especially true since 1997. In Halifax, there are 3 graveyards that have the remains of 150 individuals who died during the sinking of the Titanic. Locally there are tours and attractions that tourists flock to because of Halifax's connection to the famous ship. One of the tours, labeled as "Halifax Titanic Historical Tours", is centralized around the relationship between the Titanic and Halifax. Also ,it provides tourists a look at another dark touristy aspect of Halifax and that is the Halifax Explosion, which was the worst human made explosion before the creation of the atomic bombs. These don't really seem to pair well together, it almost seems like drinking a really great bottle of wine with a plate full of skittles, but to each their own. I think its marketing is more appealing to those seeking a 1 stop shop for Halifax's dark tourist related ship history.

Productivity is what I'm aiming for this week, and I feel like I have plenty of time to take in the awe that is being in the prairies and experiencing the big sky and endless roads and fields. I have a checklist of items that I will be getting to, but that also includes having a bonfire in the backyard so you can't say I'm going to only be working while I'm on my break.

Prairie Daniel signing off

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Getting the GIS-t of It All

The past two weeks have certainly gotten the best of my time. The Digital Public History group project had given me more opportunities to re-familiarize myself with my love-hate relationship with microfilm. The recording process for the group project also gave me the chance to step back into the wonderful world of audio recording. My RA work placement had me more anxious and nervous than my first day on Western's campus, but in an extremely good way. Finally, I was officially introduced to GIS mapping, and the vast number of uses for it.

The process of Historical GIS mapping is incredibly appealing to me. Firstly when looking at the previous projects of past students I had some initial ideas of what I may want to work on for my final project, or simply a project for the future. I had the idea of tracking the growth and change of the downtown core of my hometown of Glace Bay since its creation in 1901. Gathering maps and photos of the growth of the town during the rise of coal, and pairing it with stories from the town and its people. The downtown of Glace Bay is primarily situated on Commercial Street, and that street is filled with historical businesses and stories. Teenagers shooting the drag, Toby's and Ein's clothing store, and even the jello tree (a folklore filled tree which was cut down a few years ago). The other project that came to mind was providing a map of the coal mines across Cape Breton, a concise map with photos and stories about the towns that existed because of them. I personally have been able to find a great workable map with all of the locations for the coal mines, which luckily are all numbered. The Dominion Coal Company gave their collieries a number and that is how they were identified, and communities around Glace Bay are still referred to as being No. 2, or No. 11 for example. I think GIS and what we had been shown with ArcGIS is exciting, and maybe one of these ideas will be something I attempt for my final project.



Another major part of my past two weeks was researching for and gathering information on my stop for the walking tour we are doing for our group project in Digital Public History. The stop I was initially given seemed to overlap with other stops along the tour, so it had to be changed. Luckily I had not gotten too far down the rabbit hole in research for my stop when I was asked if I'd be comfortable changing it, which I was. The new stop actually seemed more in my wheel house anyway, and I'm more than willing to do what it takes when working on a group project, but I had plenty of time to research and refocus my stop for the project. In researching my stop, like many in the class, I was spending a fair amount of time in the downtown central library in the London Room. It is a great space that is welcoming and quiet, but not in a weird unsettling way, if that makes any sense at all. Also, their microfilm room is perfect. They have multiple microfilm readers and such vast collections on microfilm. However, as I mentioned, I have a love-hate relationship with microfilm. It is an incredible piece of technology that lasts vastly longer than many other forms of media, and the resources that can be stored upon it are legible and can be accessed through other digital means. But, with all that being said, my eyes do not like microfilmed newspaper; starring at a white background with small black text for hours on end gives me not so great migraines. I even have blue-light filter type lens things build into my glasses and they don't really help. Knowing all this, discovering a useful resource in a microfilmed newspaper is exciting; it is something that others have most likely glanced over and never thought to write down. My initial research idea for the stop changed as I was finding great articles, headlines, and photos that fit an idea that I didn't consider before beginning my research.

 After I believe 3 or 4 days of after class, and after work research at the library I needed to get away from technology for a while. I enjoy writing and my research is always typed out in the end, but I am very much an pencil and paper kind of person, and I was sitting at my computer or on my laptop trying to type up my research for a few days and it just wasn't coming to me. I also had an assignment for Understanding Archives that I knew what I wanted to do and say, but for whatever reason it just wasn't happening. Also, I believe that's why I ended up having to write about 2 weeks of classes in this 1 blog post. I needed a chance to reconnect with my writing, for whatever reason I had lost it. So after the library one day, I decided to go to Victoria Park. Since arriving in London I interact with nature less than I usually would (obviously), and I knew that was going to be the case when I was coming here. Before I left Cape Breton I was taking evening runs along the cliff at the end of my road, there are four wheeler paths along it, and I would be running right alongside the ocean. It was my way of unwinding at the end of the day, and I think I just needed to reconnect with nature here in London and get back to the pencil and paper way of writing that fits my brain the best sometimes. I spent an hour and a half in the park on a bench writing, and it was just what I had needed. I was able to write down everything I needed for my assignment for Understanding Archives, like I had said, I knew what I wanted to do for it, but simply didn't have the precise drive I wanted at the time to do it. Also, I was able to go through my handwritten research notes and form a structure to my stop for the walking tour. It gave me a baseline of where I wanted the research to go, and I wrote a few paragraphs sitting on a bench on a great evening in Victoria Park. I later went home that night and typed up the assignment, and typed up my research. So, if I ever hit another brick wall with my writing, I'm just going to go to a park and sit, and relax, and it will eventually come to me.


 Here was my view while I worked


My second contribution for the walking tour group project was with the narration. Myself and Kat both volunteered to provide our voices to the walking tour, and just the other day we did just that. After handing in our research to our project leader Jess, all of our research for each of the 8 stops was sent off to the next level of preparation, and that was creating a concise voice and final script for the narrators to read. Sitting and recording the stops that I had chosen to read for was as usual more difficult than I expected. Back home I'm involved in theatre, and this is something I always do before I begin a new show. I read the script to myself and it seems fine and none of the words stump me, but eventually when it comes time to project my voice louder, or record myself, not only do I stumble over words but they often make me have to sit for a moment and understand why so many people have issues learning English as a second language. However, it is a fun process, and I have never not had a good time providing my voice to something I am invested in. 

My RA placement each week has gotten more and more exciting, to the point where the past week I was more anxious than I have been so far in London. I was going solely providing tours and leading some of the programs that we have set for visiting schools on field trips, and not only that, but the students would be trying out some of the items I had researched and compiled for new programs at the museum. I had 2 groups of kids during the day and each group had 26 kids in them, and they were surprisingly good. The teachers were also very supportive of me being in charge, and would only step in to discipline or to help me organize them into groups. I was able to present history to elementary school students, and to try out different techniques rather than just speaking at or to them. I was also encouraging them asking me as many questions as they had, because if they feel like they can ask questions then maybe they will, and they won't be too shy to ask about something that draws their attention. Having this opportunity to see how different age groups interact with history is important, and I feel like my work at the museum is going to show me a different side of Public History than I had previously known. As a plus, I had the opportunity to spend some brief time in woods surrounding my work and that was another patch on the nature filled hole in my being.



All in all, it was a fairly busy and interesting couple of weeks.

Also, here is a photo I took on one of my runs when I was closer to the harbour when I was back home.
  

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Stories, Memory, And The Collapse Of Industry


While reading Recording oral history : a guide for the humanities and social sciences by Yow, Valerie Raleig. I found a beautiful quote that truly describes how I feel, and why I gravitated towards history and more importantly oral history. "From childhood, I realized that I learned from others' stories and that I liked to tell my own." This quote sums me up to T. The culture of my family and friends is very much entrenched in the idea of storytelling. Creating an image of the past with one's words, and allowing for others to experience what has past is a skill many wish they had. The best storytellers and auditory illustrators can make their memories seem like your own, or they can make you long for the memory they are graciously sharing with you. In Cape Breton, there was a common practice that many teenagers were fortunate to experience in the 1970's and 1980's; and that was "Shooting the Drag". It was the activity of driving around the downtown area of either Sydney, Glace Bay, and I think maybe New Waterford as well? (Don't quote me on the New Waterford bit), and there would be hundreds of teenagers hanging downtown all night, most walking and some driving. Hearing stories while growing up, and even in undergrad about shooting the drag really made me wish we had something like this when I was growing up. There were even divisions in the downtown areas where people from certain schools would gather. People would also come from the nearest towns and visit; the experience that people had while shooting the drag is something I can perfectly picture in my head, the imagery was painted so well by those telling me their stories that I can see how amazing of an experience it would have been. My goal is to one day be able to tell my stories, and to create such vivid projections of memories to others. Whether that be jumping on ice clampers in the dead of night, or searching for fossils along the cliff, or simply playing "the step game" (basically spotlight but othe person who is it can't leave the front step) with my brother and our two friends in my neighbourhood.


This past weekend I had the opportunity to travel to Detroit and watch a Red Wings game. I am not a huge hockey fan but it was an opportunity that I knew I couldn't pass up on. In traveling to Detroit I was also able to experience something I had only seen the research on, and that was the impact of deindustrialization. Cape Breton was fortunate enough to have their two main industries (coal and steel) slowly wind down to a close over the span of 50 years. Our economy had the chance to change and to grow, instead of being stopped on the spot. The impact that deindustrialization had on Cape Breton is everlasting and can be seen across the Island. Having the opportunity to drive around Detroit and see the city and the ruins of what was once a prosperous place, was eye opening. It was the future that awaited Cape Breton, a future that we luckily avoided. If the coal mines and steel plant were to have closed on the spot, the island would have looked drastically different than it does today. Detroit has beautiful architecture and it is disheartening to see it in it's current state. But, I don't think I could truly understand and appreciate the impact of deindustrialization if I hadn't been there. If I hadn't seen what had happened to the city. But, it wasnt all in ruin. The downtown area was thriving, it had communal seating areas and spaces for community to thrive. It also seemed like something out of silicon valley with their endless amounts of ride sharing scooters and artsy decor. The city is coming back, maybe a lot slower, and climbing up a more difficult hill than anybody ever wanted, but you can see that people are trying. Which is the only way to combat the effects of deindustrialization.

I leave you all with a photo of the Detroit train station. A testimant to industry and its collapse.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

Me, Myself, and A Boatload of City Directories

City directories have always been something I for some reason or other, find joy in. Often when doing research in an archive I feel like a detective in a very strange and non-crime solving way. With the city directories you get to learn so much information on something extremely specific; be that a name, or address, and that information can then branch out in so many wonderful ways. I wanted to start this blog with speaking to my experience at ARCC. Friday was my first experience with the archive on campus, and it was great.  Obviously some procedures are a little different than what I'm used to, but it's pretty well the same. That is.. except for the microfilm reader. I have grown to know the microfilm reader and program that I've used for the past 4ish years, and it may take me some time to get used to a whole new setup. Technology and I get along when we need to, but not all the time, I'll speak more to that once I get to talking about finalizing my podcast. 

The house that I am researching for our heritage project was extremely simple in relation to the city directories, and even the tax assessments. Only 8 people were listed as owning the property between 1916 -2013. That can either work well in my favour by giving as shorter list of potential historically significant people, or it can mean that no person of significance lived at my address (which is fine, not everybody needs to be historically significant). While the city directories were great, the fire insurance plans were not uh the kindest of resource to my project. My property is basically just off the radar for the city limits and even at some points it seems purposeful that it isn't there. But, that wont really stop me from finding the fire insurance plan that it is on. 

Visiting ARCC was great, and as Jack Sheppard from Lost famously once said "We have to go back...", and I will be back again!


Our podcasts were due on Wednesday, October 2nd. My experience with Audacity and editing my podcast was probably very similar to other's. The hours I put in trying to make sure my different sound clips were not going all over the map with their sound levels, and finding them was also an issue that I cannot wait to explain. Okay, I'll wait for you to be seated. Are you seated? Okay, so, I am a man who is very set in his ways when it comes to technology (see above mention of microfilm readers for reference). It isn't that I don't know how to use new technology, or that I don't want to try new technologies. I just simply find what works for me and then do not, for any reason, wish to change. I was trying to find some short sounds to rip from YouTube and use in my podcast. Perfectly simple, I just find the mp3 converter that I used to use in Jr. High. Simple enough, except that every Tom, Dick, and Harry now have their own website that'll do this for you and the program no longer exists (to my knowledge). I, being the technologically sedentary man that I am, refused to give the websites any satisfaction from me downloading something off of their website. So, I went to plan C, skipped B because that was just me making any extra sounds with my voice and anything in my apartment. Plan C was to use OBS ( a recording software) to record the audio from any clip that I wanted to use. I would launch OBS, click record, and once it was finished I would convert the clip to mp3, and edit it before placing it into my final Podcast file. The thing is, it took some extra time downloading and updating OBS and figuring out the process of getting it to Audacity, but it worked.

Through and through my experiences with class/class work, are great. They are challenging me and making me think of different ways of doing things. Editing audio may not be my bread and butter, but it may be some really funky food find that you stumble upon and throw it in your cart. You may not enjoy it as much as bread and butter, but if you see it 3 months later you may pick it up again and go "yeah, sure this is pretty good" .


p.s. Here is the mess of files that I created and neatly placed for the purpose of this screenshot. This does not include the sticky notes sprawled across my desk or the page covered front to back in ideas and the breakdown of the Gaelic words that I had to say.  


Sunday, 29 September 2019

Site Visits, Walking Tours, and Podcasts

The past week was Banting filled, with some mild walking around the city, with just a hint of structuring and editing a podcast.

On Tuesday we as a class visited Banting House, and were given a tour by the museum curator Grant Maltman. Much like I had assumed I knew very little about Banting, or his life, and the vast amount of experiences and contributions he had in his lifetime. The tour made it clear that the project that we are working on with Banting House is going to be beneficial in so many ways. Having a solid collection of research regarding Banting will allow for his story, and his life to be experienced fully and by all of those who seek to learn more about the man who gave the world so much, and is not just simply the "Insulin Man".

Wednesday was another off-campus opportunity for our class. We had the opportunity to go on a historic walking tour called "The Curse of Peg-Leg", and get an understanding of what challenges await us in creating our own. I consider myself a hands on learner and I greatly benefited from actually having, for lack of a better phrase, boots on the ground. Instead of just sitting at home, the office, or in class and listening to the tour, we walked it. We got to see first hand the difficulties that surround navigating a city with seemingly endless construction, and trying to find a small nook so we could stop and actually try and listen to the tour in the designated areas. The tour itself was entertaining and left me wanting to know more. Which to me is what Public History and more specifically short forms of Public History are intended to do. The audience is able to experience a "highlight reel" of some of the key points of the history being presented, and then hopefully left with the notion that there is more to be learned. Deciding on the topic we will be doing for our tour is also something I'll be excited about finalizing (hopefully) soon.


Podcasts are really enjoyable to listen to, especially if you have a long commute like myself, but boy are they difficult to get right. My only experience with audio recordings of history was my contribution to a Virtual Museum of Canada project I worked on in my 4th year of my undergrad. I was tasked with reading WW1 letters written by a Cape Breton soldier, and transcribing them and ultimately helping to layout the narrative that we wanted to share from his letters sent back home. After that was completed, I was asked to lend my voice to this man, this person who was my age a century ago. It was an incredible experience, and I got to know him, in a way. He was actually pretty funny, or unintentionally funny, whether that was a way to cope with what he experienced or just who he was as person we'll never know. But, I went in the sound-booth for 2 or 3 days and recorded takes on takes on takes of this the man's words. They were foreign coming from my voice, but after recording half of what we had selected, I found him. I found this man, who was soft spoken, but knew when he had to show his authority, and who was inherently funny. My only experience was the research leading up to the recording, and the creation of a quasi-script made up of his letters. I never had to do any of the editing and of boy, let me just tell yah that uh yeah I definitely have the utmost respect for audio-engineers, podcast creators, and anyone who finds pleasure in creating audio recordings of any kind.

In my podcast I chose to read a poem, and that poem happened to have some Gaelic in it. As a Cape Bretoner you may assume I know how to speak Gaelic, and to that I say, nope. Big nope. However, it was really fun having to learn how to pronounce even 3 words in a completely different language with Fh's being silent and so on. There are only 3 words in the poem that are in Gaelic, but I actually wanted it to be spoken correctly so I did the research, or to the best that someone can while researching a dead (but being revived) language. I have known a few Gaelic speakers while working at The Beaton Institute, and sat in on Gaelic academics speaking about the language and its revival. If they were to ever hear my attempt I hope they would be proud and even just for fact that I could have just said the words in English, but chose not to.

Keep an eye and ear out for all of the Digital Public History students podcast's that will be getting posted between now and October 2nd.

Daniel