Getting Digital (And Stressed!)

Aside from my first blog post this will probably be the only other blog post where I talk directly about school, my classes and my projects! Mainly, I feel like I have ventured off a little too much in blogging by playing with some bigger historical and academic issues and also I have no other ideas at the moment, so why not talk about stress?

I thought undergrad was stressful, but grad school is much more stressful (as it should be!). Combine that with my duties as a teacher’s assistant, having to be a proper adult and make sure I am eating nutritious meals, cleaning, getting all my work done, while still doing things like volunteering and being social! For the most part, I am managing pretty well, I am getting good grades, keeping on top of my lesson plans, I am getting all the cleaning done, but sometimes I just want grilled cheese five days in a row, you know? If I throw a vegetable in there, it counts as nutritious!

Seriously though, I think I am doing okay. I want to use this blog post to showcase and explore all the interesting projects I have completed and am going to complete by the end of this term. Half portfolio for my parents and others to see my projects and the other half a humble brag, because I am REALLY proud about what I have accomplished!

Let’s take a look!


Digital History

Blogging:

Its been a long time since I wrote anything other than an academic paper! So this assignment has really allowed me to get back into writing and explore some topics of interest. The goal of this assignment is to understand the importance of engaging an audience, social media and writing in the digital world and gain the necessary skills so that we can then apply these outside of this assignment.

I have been able to write on some topics that I wouldn’t necessarily have a chance to explore in my classes and I have had an impact on people, which is really bizarre!

My parents have said that they are happy that I am getting back into writing, as I have a clear passion for it. I stopped writing for fun in high school as I tried to adjust to my life at university and it wasn’t until this class where I began to enjoy writing again. I found that for the most part, my enjoyment comes through in my writing which makes it all that more enjoyable for the reader. My dad has also forwarded certain blog posts to his friends at some local military museums, who have all seemed to enjoy them. So through my blogging, I have also been able to network, which is really spectacular!

Podcast:

I listen to quite a few podcasts, not many historical ones, I listen to my favourite Youtuber’s podcasts, just to bring a bit of light humor to my day. Although, Dark Poutine is an incredible podcast and you should all check it out! I never thought I would ever create my own podcast, but here I am, one podcast under my belt!

I had the chance to interview Linda Mussell, a PhD candidate at Queen’s University for my podcast entitled “Rockin’ the Big House”. We had the chance to discuss the implications of a recent rock concert held in Kingston Penitentiary, the issues and ethics that rise from that, and what possibilities are there to further improve upon the narratives of the penitentiary tours. Really, it was a narrow exploration of one dark tourist site in Kingston, Ontario. My hometown of Kingston has quite a few of these spooky spots that have become immense profit generators which have evidently benefited the preservation of these historical sites and the local economy. It was likely the love of these sites that inspired my interest in dark tourism. Here is a link to my podcast below!

Most importantly though, I got to hone my skills of researching, interviewing, script writing, narration and editing! I have had previous experience with recording and audio editing due in part to my documentary Behind the Bars. However, I didn’t know everything going into it, I was able to expand upon what I knew. For instance, the importance of having a good place to record. I turned my closet into a makeshift recording booth. Its a good thing I own as many clothes as I do which provided padding, I added a blanket and pillows to the floor for comfort and extra padding. As a result, I think my recording (pre-editing) came out really well!

I was also able to research and find a great app to record Skype calls and I was incredibly surprised by its quality! To make sure that I wouldn’t have to rerecord or to ensure that my devices wouldn’t fail halfway through my interview, I recorded the Skype call with the app, through Skype, using my USB microphone and audacity and a back up on my phone just in case! This was a lesson from my documentary journey, you only make that mistake once!

I did have a lot of fun editing it, finding music that would fit with the tone of my podcast and putting it all together. Once you get a hang of Audacity, its really quite an easy audio editing program!

I hope I get the chance to work on another podcast, I thoroughly enjoyed completing it and also hearing everyone’s thoughts on it! I am incredibly proud of this project (doesn’t hurt that I did really well on it too!).

Walking Tour:

This project has probably been one of the most rewarding projects thus far, it really was a testament to the importance of collaboration and teamwork. The goal of the project was to create a walking tour in London using TheClio, a walking tour app. One of my classmates, Mike, had the brilliant idea of doing a walking tour about WWII soldier’s return home to London. Entitled “Back to Civvy Street” our Digital History class found 9 important sites that would tell the story of a soldier returning home and undergoing rehabilitation back into civilian life.

If you are in London you should take the tour! If you are from outside London, you can still explore the sites we picked, listen to the narration and explore from the comfort of your home!

Back to Civvy Street: The Return of WWII Soldiers to London

I had two roles in this project, the first being a Clio developer and the second being a narrator. My first job was to organize the research compiled by the researchers, learn and understand how to upload and create entries on Clio, ensure that the app works, test each element of the entries (ensure all information is correct, organized nicely, photos are uploaded, sources are in Chicago, and that the narration works) and finally, test to make sure the tour route works! I shared this role with Jess and both of us worked closely with each other to ensure that the digital side to this project was the best it could be!

My second role was as a narrator. We wanted to make sure that stories of both servicemen and women were present in our walking tour. To highlight this, we thought having a female and male narrator would be beneficial. Daniel and I were both narrators and we split the stops up so that if there were important female stories, I would narrate and vice versa. I got to recreate my little recording studio to record the audio and Maggie was able to take the audio and it turned out amazing, it truly adds to our overall tour.

This was a great experience of what its like to work in larger groups, something that is bound to happen in the public history world. Everyone came from different backgrounds with different experiences, so for the most part they were able to choose a role were their strengths would shine.

Another reason this project was important is because the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe day is this May 8th, 2020. So, this project could help those in the London area celebrate this anniversary, so the project can have a real world impact!

Final Project:

This is the one project in the class that I have not finished yet, but have made great progress on! Essentially we are to take a digital medium and/or technology and explore its applications to public history. I had several ideas for this project and only recently have I narrowed it down to one. Here were some of the ideas I was playing with:

  • Interactive, photos, GIS mapping of Makeup trends and influences in the 19th, 20th, 21st century
  • Game; Investigative game about the Donnellys
  • GIS Mapping, Interactive story book: Frederick Loft
  • Something with AR
  • GIS Mapping of the Acadian deportation
  • Interactive storybook/GIS tracking/mapping; Miramichi troops in WWII
  • Witch trials: Interactive game? GIS mapping?

Some of these ideas were clearly more thought out then others and even looking back on the list now, I want to do multiple of them because I think all the topics could utilize a digital medium in some way. In the end I think I have finally settled on GIS mapping the Acadian Expulsion using my family’s history to tell the story. I may incorporate an interactive e-book app that I found called Kotobee, but that’s only if I have the time! I am debating whether or not to do the makeup trends, because makeup is also something I hold near and dear to my heart, but perhaps that’s something I can do in the future.

The GIS workshop we had was really informative and cemented that this was the medium I’d like to use for the project. You are able to use the software to create an interactive story map that’ll take the readers through the journey you create and be able to view it on the map. I know its the perfect medium to tell the story of a diaspora. I am already proud of the work I have done on it so far and can’t wait to share it with the Acadian side of my family. There hasn’t been much genealogy done on my Acadian side of the family, so this is a nice little start to it!


Public History Theory

LACH:

The London Advisory Committee on Heritage (LACH) has partnered with the public history stream for a number of years, giving students, like myself, the chance to work with heritage designation, learning about the process, conducting the necessary research and potentially having our report used to designate (or not to designate) the house we chose.

I ended up choosing 962 Richmond St and from my preliminary research it appears to be an Ontario cottage style house, that stands out from the other houses around it. Its absolutely stunning and really looks like it belongs on a lake in cottage country! I have a lot of work left to do with this project, but I have come to enjoy the hours I spend in the archives. There really is something relaxing about sitting in a quiet room, surrounded by city directories. At this moment, I don’t think I’ll go into historical designation and heritage in this manner, but I really have enjoyed the experience and I am grateful for the skills I have developed during this project.

We present our findings to the committee on November 26th at City Hall, wish me luck! My house is quite incredible, I really do hope it gets designated!

Banting:

This is the one project were I have an emotional connection to and it has a personal meaning. The objective of this assignment is to create six panels and one larger summary panel that will be on display locally, travel across Canada and be show on social media that celebrates the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin. Jess and myself will be researching and exploring Diabetes Canada and Banting House, with a focus on good stewardship! We are currently going through the London Free Press and other newspapers to find articles about the origins of Diabetes Canada, acquiring the Banting House and the house becoming a national historic site. We will be conducting oral interviews with members of the community, something I have experience with after working on my documentary! Its pretty early still in this project, but its another project that will actually have a real world impact, especially to type one diabetics like myself!


Rot and Ruin

This class is probably one of my favourite classes that I have taken period. This class truly is about rot and ruin and how loss and decay has shaped history, our understanding of history and how it shapes us. For a lot of us, its hard not to place material value on objects and feel a sense of loss when we look at something ruined. Maybe I am the weird kid who lived relatively close to a cemetery, but this class has just been incredible and really has opened my eyes.

There is only one project in this class, an essay. I switched into this class and prior to me joining it, my friend told me how my research interests would align with the class. What better person to talk about decay, loss, rot and ruin than someone obsessed with studying dark tourism?

For the paper I am looking at cemeteries. Sounds pretty basic right? Cemeteries are evidently rotting and ruining, they are inherently about loss and decay. However, I am taking it one step further. To try and frame everything in a little elevator pitch, here is my argument:

The maintenance and upkeep of cemeteries is halting natural entropy from occurring which in turn stalls the ruination process and stops cemeteries from being heterotopic. There is innate ruin value and sublimity to cemeteries that is more or less ruined by our fixation on up-keeping them.

Here is my preliminary thesis:

Western society’s fixation on the consistent upkeep of headstones and graves in cemeteries has resulted in the natural entropy being interrupted. The interruption to the natural process of decay has resulted in the ruination process of cemeteries to be halted which becomes an issue as the process of decay needs to occur. This paper will argue that there is ruin value to cemeteries, specifically, in the ornate tombstones that have become increasingly popular. When visitors to grave sites interrupt the natural entropy, they are obstructing the innate ruin value found in cemeteries.

  I will start my essay by explaining the various theories that I have mentioned and I then will apply them to cemeteries. I will also be looking at the problems and concerns with preserving historical cemeteries to bring a little bit of my public history knowledge into the essay. I finally will conclude with a case study where I will pick a local London cemetery, take some pictures and hopefully be able to do a comparative analysis between the older headstones and some newer ones (many cemeteries nowadays will have the older sections and the newer ones separated).

This research is incredibly different from anything I have done, I am using theories that span across disciplines in order to apply them to my topic. It is also way more innately theoretical than any other essay that I have written, but I am excited for the challenge!


Final Thoughts

I am really grateful for how well this semester has gone! I have gained some valuable skills and experiences and have made some amazing friends and support systems. (Shout out to Ellery and my whole Pub Hist family!)

I am incredibly excited to see where the next semester takes me as I explore museology, writing history and get to work more on the public history Banting project!

~ Kat

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