Tuesday, June 4, 2013

NCPH 2013 Recap, Part 1

This April I decided to attend the National Council on Public History's 2013 Annual Meeting in Ottawa, Ontario. I almost didn't get there, thanks to the black hole that is Chicago. Still, after a couple of drinks with one of my professors we managed to get out as standby passengers on the last flight of the night. Thus, I spent most of Wednesday wandering around Chicago O'Hare searching for a power outlet and feeling immensely grateful that I had not checked a bag. The real fun began on Thursday. Here's a rundown of the different panels I attended with some of my notes and thoughts.

Thursday -
I've used WordPress a couple of times in the past, but obviously I don't use that platform for this blog. This session went over many different ways to use WordPress and some of the various plug-ins the presenters have found useful. Connecticut History is an ongoing publishing effort that serves as a gateway to museums and other repositories within Connecticut. The interface allows users to explore the connected stories of Connecticut's past and directs them to further discovery around the internet and the state. The Zotero plug-in maintains a database of sources organized by category tags, which update automatically on linked Connecticut History pages. The site also uses the Edit Flow plugin to contain and organize the editorial process. On the educational side of things, Jeff McClurken talked some about how he uses WordPress in the classroom to publish creative and public digital history projects. He does not assume that all his students are "digital natives," but emphasizes how even a WordPress newbie can create a polished website. Another idea for the classroom? Use more experienced, tech-savvy students as "Tech Mentors," who can handle basic questions from their peers. Two other platforms also came up. Omeka works best for creating online exhibitions or digital repositories. Drupal offers similar options to WordPress, but requires more programming knowledge. Another aspect the presenters emphasized was the need to think about advertising from the very beginning of a project, often incorporating social media. After all, what's the point of doing all that work if no one ever sees it? I asked the presenters about copyright issues - both how they handle the use of copyrighted material and how they protect their own work on the web. They weren't very concerned about the second part, but the first generated generated further discussion. They emphasized reliance on Creative Commons licensing and Educational Fair Use, combined with the use of clear citations. One audience member pointed out these don't exactly offer ironclad protection. Linking to external content is definitely OK, but embedding content hosted elsewhere has yet to be tested in court. For an exploration of student privacy issues and some WordPress tutorials, check out http://commons.trincoll.edu/cssp/seminar. I got to talk with Jeff McClurken briefly after the break about ways of incorporating Pinterest into digital history projects. Especially in the costuming world, it has emerged as a brilliant way of organizing visual research. Here is Ava Trimble's article on Using Pinterest for Historical Costume Research and another one from Lauren Reeser of American Duchess on How to Find Original Image Sources on Google.
  • Connecting Communities: Social Media and Public History Practice
    • Hey Girl: Popular Culture, Digital Media and the Practice of Public History, Rachel Boyle and Anne Cullen, Loyola University Chicago
Ok, there was no way I was going to miss this talk. I discovered Public History Ryan Gosling during Fall 2011 exams and he made me laugh rather a lot. Rachel and Anne dissected the creation of a meme, but I most enjoyed their discussion about community and social media. They asked whether memes create new communities or reinforce existing ones and also suggested tumblr as a form of shared authority. I'm definitely still thinking about their talk every time Grumpy Cat shows up on my newsfeed.
  • How to Celebrate and Remember WWI
I got to this panel a little late because of Public History Ryan Gosling. I managed to grab the last open seat, but missed out on the headphones for simultaneous translation.
    • Remembering the First World War in Britain in the 21st Century, Dan Todman, Queen Mary University of London
I came in a few minutes late into this talk, but I really wish I'd gotten to hear the entire thing. Todman talked about the fundamental problem of combining commemoration and public history. In regards to WWI, this leads to a struggle between the traditional narrative of sacrifice and any historical questioning. He also touched on the connection between remembrance and national identity (you can bet that set off my Falklands alarm!), the politicization of the past, the roles played by mythical narratives, identifying key stakeholders, and difficulties concerning Irish and Scottish narratives. I actually ran into Dan Todman on Friday outside the Canadian War Museum, so we got to chat for a few minutes.
    • Commemorating a Foreign War in a Neutral Country. Recent WWI Interest in the Netherlands, Kees Ribbens, NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies
Did you know the Dutch commemorated World War I? I sure didn't. Apparantly integrating it into Dutch history is a fairly recent project connected to ideas of modernity.
    • Battlefield Tourism as a Memorial Practice. Centenary of the Great War, Commemorations and Changing Actors in the Ypres Salient, 1914-2014, Delphine Lauwers, European University Institute of Florence
Battlefield tourism started in Ypres as early as 1919. World War I completely destroyed the city, but British families still came to see where their men had fallen. Veterans oftened guided these groups, lending authority to the expeditions. Questions arose regarding the site: should the ruins be preserved or the town rebuilt? Belgian and British interests clashed on the future of Ypres, but centennial commemorations have settled on a theme of peace.
    • The Great War: An Economic Asset for French Local Institutions, Joelle Beurier, Rheims University
This talk was in French and I was trapped in the back corner with no translation headphones. Sad Annie was sad...and confused.
  • Public History in Postcolonial Spaces
    • Telling New Stories: Public History and Collective Identity in Post-Conflict Belfast, Julie Davis, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University
I love Belfast. I haven't been since I was 14, but my family has a pretty strong connection to the place. We were Usltermen centuries ago and my dad served at the US Consulate in the early 1980s. Julie observed that  Belfast is a city made of stories, all dying to be told while the city struggles to reinvent itself. The 30 years of the Troubles remain one of its most defining features, sustaining a culture of sectarian conflict and entrenched narrative oppositions. While Northern Ireland is often excluded from postcolonial societies, Julie uses the ideological framework of settler colonialism to help understand her subject. She also draws on cultural geography to rethink ideas of place - for example, placing Northern Ireland in the context of the pre-1690 North Sea world. During Julie's visits to Belfast, she made a number of observations about stories currently being told for tourists and residents. She attended a theatrical performance which has used individual stories to construct a a raw narrative that confronts the Troubles. Efforts to commemorate the Ulster Covernant raised a question of whether such activities promote reconciliation or continue sectarianism. The Titanic has emerged as the primary tourist attraction in recent years, but the the exclusion of Catholics during construction makes that narrative inherently sectarian. A rise of interest in industrial history has also accompanied the Titanic vogue. Julie experienced another Belfast narrative which crosses the Protestant/Catholic boundary. Punk music thrived during the Troubles, centered on Terri Hooley and his Good Vibrations Record Shop. That history may offer another opportunity for the new Belfast. These observations and ideas mark the beginning of Julie's work on identity in Belfast, but I can't wait to see what she comes up with next. I spoke to her briefly after the session in order to put her in touch with one of my classmates (also named Julie!) who will spend three weeks in Belfast collecting oral histories later this summer.
    • When the Audience is the Subject: Practicing Shared Authority, Developing Cultural Competencies, Katrine Barber, Portland State University
Katrine Barber developed this session to reflect on a recent course she taught on regional American Indian history at Portland State. Much to her surprise, American Indians made up a sizable portion of her class, adding an additional challenge to an already difficult subject. How could she, an Anglo academic, teach these students their own history? We received copies of her syllabus, in which she used ideas including "shared authority," "contact zones," and "survivance/tragic wisdom" to address this postcolonial narrative. The class worked with a few local tribes on producing public events.

Yeah, I went to a lot of sessions. I'll write the rest of them up in my next post. Now - pictures!
Bicycles for rent! I saw these stands every few blocks in downtown Ottawa. It seems to be
cycle city - I also saw lots of riders and enjoyed walking along some of the bike paths.
The Mill St. Brew Pub, housed in a 140 year old former grist mill. Really tasty food.
Looking down the Ottawa River at Chaudiere Island.
The Canadian Museum of Civilization. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to go inside. Next time.
Alexandra Bridge.
View of Parliament Hill from Gatineau.
Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica and Maman by Louise Bourgeois, on display outside the
National Gallery of Canada.
Locks on the Rideau Canal.
Sign at Pinhey's Point.
Police arrive at the Canadian War Museum after an alarm evacuated  the building.
Sock!Moose - an excellent use for my last Canadian dollars before dawn at the airport.

1 comment:

  1. Battlefield tourism itself actually predates the 20th Century. Veterans and families of veterans visited some of the American Civil War Battlefields beginning in the years right after the way as the erection of monuments began. Waterloo and other Napoleonic battlefields in Europe, especially those convenient to major cities, became sites for tourism as well during the first half of the 19th Century.