Author Archives: sushimanaraine

J.J. Talman – An Exhibit


Myself and Prof. J.J.B Forster recently put together an exhibit about the Lawson Hall Memorial Library that used to be in Lawson Hall (coincidentally where I’m sitting this very moment) and Professor J.J. Talman who ruled Western’s library system as Chief Librarian from the 1930s to 1969.

Talman did his undergrad at Western and his Masters and PhD at the University of Toronto. He was the Provincial Archivist in Toronto during the 30s after which he returned home to London as a Librarian at Western under his mentor, the renowned local historian Fred Landon.  He was humble, incredibly witty and completely committed to his job and raising the stature of the libraries at the University of Western Ontario.

A HUGEEEE thanks goes out to Laura for taking all of these lovely photos so that I could show them off to you all.

The 4 shelf display case. Photo Credit: Laura Piticco


Bottoms up.


He was also a historian who wrote extensively on the history of Southwestern Ontario. He expanded Western's collection of local works.


His work as a reviewer.


Lawson library was a hub of student activity. Would you ever see this many students lined up at library counters today? Only if they were complaining about library fines.


Talman showing off Western's purchase of first edition Milton works like Paradise Lost. Today, one of those books could pay off a students tuition through undergrad and grad school.

Quotes taken from a Toronto Star article written on March 15th, 1969.

“James J. Talman is a gentle-looking chap with snow white hair and a penchant for tweed who has for 20 years led the quiet, if sometimes wearing, life of the University of Western Ontario’s chief librarian.  But last week Talman found himself pussyfooting around the continent with a double-locked attaché case in his mitt just like some modern day blend of the Scarlet Pimpernel and Secret Agent X-9.

Interviewed in his big office in the university’s gray-stone library, Talman first asked for identification (“It sounds a little silly but you could be a robber, you know”) then fetched his little cache of Miltonia (“you better not say where I keep them.”)”

In case you didn’t notice, the images are propped up on copies of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Such a lovely shot by Laura.

From The Toronto Star

“It was last week that Talman’s university bought a couple of boxes of books by and about the English poet John Milton from a Pasadena, California book collector.  Not just ordinary books, but rare books.  Old, cracked leather-bound precious-as-jewels books.  Books kept in vaults, books fretted about by insurance companies, books that bring a certain glaze to the eyes of men like James Talman. And expensive books.  Western’s acquisition cost nearly $200,000.”

What Have I Learned

Collaboration is a tricky rope on which you have to balance.  My working style definitely had to take some adjustments during this project.  I’m a GO-GO-GO person. I like to work very quickly and tend to jump from project to the next and then back. A lot of times that means that certain details get missed. My partner in this project, Professor Forster, is very detail oriented and a precise worker. When he is working on one project he is very focused on that one task.

So in Feb, when my ADD brain was busy thinking about the research and payment process and how to lay out the exhibit plans, he was calmly contacting people and making plans to meet Talman’s family.  We had set a due date (end of March) so that attendees to the annual Talman lectures could also learn a little bit about the namesake of the lecture series.

At first I got quite antsy about if we could actually get the exhibit up in time with all of the materials I had found at ARCC and Prof Forster had acquired from Talman’s personal collections. Then I started getting antsy about whether I would have the time to dedicate to this project as Prof Forster’s work style is much more prolonged than my own (basically I can do a project, look it over and then leave it).

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

At this point, I realized I had to just take a step back, relax and take things slower. I started just working according to Prof Forster’s pace.

Thank god I made the conscious decision to just slow down or else the exhibit wouldn’t have turned out as neat and precise as it did.  As many have said, slowing down isn’t always a bad thing and in this case it definitely wasn’t. So thanks to Prof Forster for showing me how to just relax and go through the work process in a more thorough manner.

It took a lot of late of nights, hard work and tender loving care. A parting shot of myself and my baby!

Ye Olde History Squares…FINISHED


This post was co-authored by myself and Laura.

So far only the 1st stage is finished.

We hope you had a pleasant journey with us from beginning to end of our Ye Olde History Squares project. The first stage is officially finished. That’s right folks Laura and I began with a big idea and ended up completing a pretty awesome project, albeit in a slightly toned down version from our first imaginings.

Note: A great huge big thanks to the awesome CHRISTIAN for helping us with all of the coding and translating it into English that we could actually understand. We know the glitches were bugging you but the program WORKED!! SO yay, thank you!


This was our original idea:

A grid split up into squares and already filled with historical Lego figurines (made out of lego possibly? or styrofoam and felt?). A sensor would recognize when contestants point/pushes down on a specific historical figure/Lego figure. The questions were to be displayed on an LCD screen, contestants would push button A or B corresponding to what they think would be the correct answer.  If they answer correctly, an LED light in the square would light up in green.  If they were wrong the LED would light up red and the square would still be available.

Positives – we get to use a multitude of King and Queen lego pieces (already acquired). IE Henry the 8th in the middle surrounded by his 6 wives, Bloody Mary and Elizabeth 1st.

A very simple example of our initial idea.

Fast Forward 2 months

SUCCESS, SUCCESS, SUCCESS! And it feels so good.

But we still have some adjustments and bugs to figure out

Our Final Project. We know you're jealous of our AWESOME castle.
Photo Credit: Adrian Petry

1. The questions are now displayed on a computer screen vs. an LCD screen

  • we are simple Grad students. If we can make our lives easier by just displaying the questions on the computer through Processing then OF COURSE that’s what we’ll do.  Don’t judge us, be proud that we think so logically.
  • We also made an AESTHETIC CHOICE and went with a computer screen vs an LCD screen. We can make the words and background look prettier on the computer.

2. The first question is automatically displayed on the screen. Player one presses either key “T” or “F” to answer.  If the answer is true, the light will turn green and if the answer is false the light will turn red.   If the player gets the answer right the screen will display “BOO YAA”. But if they’re wrong they get a big fat “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

  • YEAH YEAH YEAH, we know that the LED should really react and respond to whether or not the Player got the question right but IT’S A BUG that needs to be debugged. In a perfect world, this would happen. But it’s not a perfect world so for now Laura and I are quite happy with the LED merely indicating whether the answer is TRUE or FALSE.

3. If a player gets the question right, they get to place one of their corresponding Lego men (who are quite fierce, if I do say so myself) into the box of their choosing. If they are wrong, it is Player 2’s turn to answer a question.

  • The lego pieces aren’t attached to a TouchShield that reacts to human touch (DUH! hence the name “TOUCHshield”).  This is what would’ve made our original idea of touching the Lego man to get a question work. However, the TouchShield wouldn’t respond to a Lego man and there was already too much coding we would have to do so we simplified (This is us thinking practically like the Grad students we are. Our teachers would be so proud with our common sensical-ness.)

Well, obviously we would love to one day actually program the whole project so that the Tic-Tac-Toe board responds to touch rather than just being a stationary object.  One day (when we conquer the world – or maybe just the museum world) it would be nice to go back to our original idea and have a totally interactive Tic-Tac-Toe board complete with all the lights and dazzle.

Doing our presentation. Explaining glitches.
Photo Credit: Adrian Petry

We would have to do the following:

  • Find some way to make the TouchShield (which already has 9 interactive touch pads) bigger.  It is a really small device (measuring about 2 ” x 2″) and so we would probably have to do some soldering to create a larger object that works like the touch pads.  The best way to do this is to connect the touch pad with coins (using wire) which then becomes a touch pad.
  • Once the coins become the makeshift 9-square touchpad then we can begin to develop a Lego Tic-Tac-Toe board around them.
  • LEDs.  Place a red AND a green light into each square that would indicate whether the player’s answer was right. Obviously this would mean some complex coding to do the following: if Player 1’s answer = the answer to the corresponding question, then LED turns green ELSE the LED turns red. (this makes sense even if it doesn’t seem that way)
  • Program the questions to be displayed in an LCD screen. This can be forgone because the LCD screen can only display up to 32 characters. So it might just make sense to continue displaying the questions on a computer screen so that we have more space to make the questions more detailed and interesting. This also gives us the opportunity to make the game interface more fancy.

Working hurriedly to fix a minor bug we found.

ARGH!! That little bugger.


Sadly, all good things must come to and end.  I think it is safe to say for both of us that this semester and project have very much tested our computer capabilities and made us re-evalute how computer literate we actually are (turns out….moderate i would say).  Knowing how to effectively and proficiently navigate Facebook and twitter does not qualify someone to be a programming goddess.  Still, we challenged ourselves.  We had a plan, and even though its not as grandiose as the idea was in our imaginations 3 months ago, we still produced a product that neither would ever have thought possible at the beginning of this Masters program journey.  AND, we got to craft (which was a struggle and always will be for Laura….seriously, it stresses her out)!!


LEARNING IS FUN!  The moral of this story, try.  Even if you fail, you’ve tried.  And in doing so, you’ve already learned more than you did when you started.

Thanks for following us on this journey…. and now, we must say goodbye and board our ships to the undying lands.  What? we’re really excited about “The Hobbit”… you should be too!

The End! THE HOBBIT, in theatres December 2012. *plug*

BUH BYE!!!!!

Laura Piticco & Sushima Naraine

Final Coding pt 1

Final Coding pt 2

Final Coding pt 3

Final Coding pt 4

Another Post about the #cdnmedhallinduction


Who: Dr. Jenny Black, Ob-Gyn at Sunnybrook Hospital

What: wrote a blog post on the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame’s 2012 Induction on her blog roll titled “THINGS I LEARN FROM WOMEN”

Why: to discuss its Canadianess and the “unpursuit” of fame


Her blog also has some really interesting medically-related articles but written in a very understandable way

Things I learn from Women: Dr. Jenny Blake's Blog. Click on the image to access the blog.

“Ye Olde History Squares” Update


Check out Laura’s Blog for a brief update on our project.

We’re one week away from the big reveal and pretty close but of course not close enough.

I’ve been working with Processing for a good few hours today and no matter how I structure the keyPressed and redraw function it absolutely WILL NOT erase the previous words and replace it with the right answer.

This is what I want to happen:

Question – “Henry VIII’s 2nd wife, Anne Boleyn, was beheaded. True or False?”

Then Player 1 presses any the “T” button on the keyboard (T=true because True starts with the letter T – Grad students are logical) and the screen erases the entire screen and replaces it with “You are correct!” or something along those lines.

So far when a key is pressed the ENTIRE array shows up.  When I go to put in another keypressed function to signal “Correct” to the player it doesn’t let me:

This is what shows up when a key is pressed - the entire array is printed all at the same time. It only responds to one key Press.


I really though it would be as easy changing up the following sketch from the Processing website

BUT it doesn’t let me change the draw function to just having regular text appear

This example from the Processing Website makes a square turn black when the "B" button is pressed.


I changed the Fill Function to just Text. Shouldn't it be that easy to make words pop up when "B" is pressed?


National Post article re: #cdnmedhallinduction


Ben Kaplan, a reporter with the National Post, recently wrote an article about the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame’s Induction Ceremony.  Click on the image of Rolly Fox to access the article on the National Post website.

Rolly Fox, father of Terry Fox, at the Induction. I pinned that corsage on him (my 15 minutes of fame).
Credit: Darren Calabrese/National Post

 Here are some cool quotes he got from that night.

We as Canadians tend not to strut our stuff, but the people elected into our Hall of Fame have benefitted millions of people all over the world,” said Janet Tufts, the group’s executive director, adding that the Hall’s outreach program to universities and high schools has workshopped more than 20,000 students towards a medical career. “The people in the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame should be a great source of national pride.”

 In addition to Terry Fox’s in honorarium induction, six other medical professionals were elected into the group at last Thursday’s black-tie event. Dr. John Dirks, who received his medical degree in 1957 from the University of Manitoba, is an expert in nephrology, the study of kidneys, and is also known for turning the Gairdner Foundation International Awards into what’s generally considered Canada’s Nobel Prize.

 “I never thought of myself as being of historical interest, but it’s a wonderful feeling to be amongst some of the greatest medical minds in the world,” Dirks said. “I think the Medical Hall of Fame is a proud institution for this country; anything we can do to get young people interested in medicine is a good thing.”




An Induction Ceremony by The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame

The Night

On Wednesday Mar 21st, I attended the CMHF’s annual induction ceremony for 7 new inductees in Toronto.  It was a touching ceremony, much more touching and entertaining than you would think (I honestly thought there would be a lot of technical jargon etc.).  Everyone was very sociable, fabulously dressed and the dinner and venue was jaw dropping (what else would you expect from the Four Seasons?  Incidentally, this was also the last banquet taking place at the hotel as they will be moving to a new location next month).

The Four Seasons was full. The Four Seasons was a beautiful venue and the dinner was beyond DELISH!

Of the 7 inductees, only 3 are still alive today (2 of whom were able to attend) while the other 5 were represented by family, friends or associates.  Here are some of the most interesting moments and stories of the induction.  Some inductees you might have heard of and some maybe not so much.  But they’ve made tremendous strides in the medical world and we at the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame are especially proud to have had the opportunity to honour them.

The Inductees

Click on any of the photos to read the laureate’s bios on The Canadian Medical Hall of Fame website.

Dr. John Dirks

Dr. John Dirks - 2012 Inductee

Dr. John Dirks has made the Canadian Gairdner awards one of the three most prestigious science awards in the world (alongside the Nobel).  He has also done ground-breaking work in nephrology all over the world – i.e. at the Aga Khan University in Pakistan (Yay for a South Asian connection)

-Notable quotes from his speech

  • “I never thought I was of historical interest” – Most important people say this
  • “There’s a confidence, when I think of the students here, because were only beginning in this country to become what we truly can be” –  It’s good to know that there are still people out there that care about future generations getting and becoming successful

Terry Fox

Terry Fox -2012 Inductee represented by his father Rolly and brother Fred

I’m sure you all have heard of this Inductee.  We got to hear about everything Terry has done for Cancer research. Did you know that his foundation has raised over $550 million for cancer research worldwide? The down-to-earth nature of his father was touching and he allowed us to look into the life of Canada’s most inspiring hero.

  • “I can only be here because Terry can’t. Our strength comes for our commitment to terry. We won’t stop till cancer is conquered.”
  • “Despite his young age Terry had vision. He would say he was sometimes for thankful for being diagnosed because it provided with a purpose.”

  • ” Terry was penniless but I believe he was rich, rich with his knowledge of giving without anything to return.

The most touching story I heard:

  • “Terry’s last Christmas he borrowed money from his brother, Fred, to buy presents for his mom and dad yet had already raised 40 million. He never took a cent for himself.”

Dr. Armand Frappier

Armand Frappier - Inducted 2012, represented by his daughter Mme Michelle Frappier-Daigneault

 Dr. Armand Frappier pioneered the field of medical research in Quebec. He did much work on the tuberculosis vaccine and in establishing the Armand Frappier Institute, he initiated the commercialization of bio-medical products in Quebec.

  • The representative from the Institute who gave the speech called him the:  “Steve Jobs of Medicine”
  • After the ceremony, Mme. Frappier-Daigneault had the sweetest words to say:
  • “It was interesting to hear…about all these different aspects of medicine. When you think of what my father did its only a small snippet of the medical world?”

Dr. Clarke Fraser 

Dr. Clark Fraser - inducted 2012, represented by his son Dr. Noel Fraser

Dr. Clarke Fraser was Canada’s first medical geneticist.  He grew up in Jamaica (Yay for the Caribbean connection) and moved back to Canada to study.   He has been honoured by numerous organizations, including receiving an honorary degree from his own university (McGill) which is abnormal.

Although Dr.Fraser didn’t attend the ceremony, he still wrote the speech his son wrote out and it was HILARIOUS! Even at age 93 this inspiring doctor reduced the entire room to tears.

  • It started off with this:  “Hail o Hail o Great Masters of the medical field. I humbly stand before you to be honored for things I was thought to do.”   However, iambic pentameter too tiring. He reverted to the less tiring practice of writing Prose

  • “I was lucky to appear on the scene when human genetics was coming to the forefront.I was also lucky to attract good graduate students.” – take a word of advice from Dr. Fraser and HIRE SOME GRAD STUDENTS
  • The speech ended” “Farewell Farewell O Masters of the Medical Hall of Fame and farewell to the dames”.
Dr. Peter Macklem

Dr. Peter Macklem - Inducted 2012, represented by his wife Joy

Dr Peter Macklem was one of Canada’s greatest pulmonary physicians.  The work he and new techniques he applied to medicine gave doctors a better understanding of the lungs to treat conditions like asthma.  He also helped to develop the Meakins-Christie Laboratories which is a leader in pulmonary investigations.

His speech was read out by his daughter and the award was accepted by his wife.  It was clear to see how devoted husband and wife were to each other.  It certainly gives some hope to those entering the medical field that have heard horror stories about long hours and a lack of relationships.

  • “His wife was his most steadfast collaborator Joy was her name and Joy was her way.  In every life it is hard to balance professional excellence and personal life but they did it.”

  • “He believed firmly that the best science was based on dialogue and you [his colleagues] gave that to him”.

Dr. J.J.R. Macleod 

Dr. J.J.R. Macleod - Inducted 2012, accepted by Dr. Brubaker from the Department of Physiology at the University of Toronto

Dr. JJR Macleod was inducted his role in the discovery of insulin along with Dr. Frederick Banting, Dr. Charles Best and Dr. James Collip.  He has always been regarded as the villain in the story of curing diabetes.  But after sufficient investigations it was found that Dr. Macleod was the stabilizing force in the sometimes volatile team of insulin researchers.  He was responsible for overseeing insulin production, clinical trials, licensing and ongoing research.  Although there were many blow-ups between Macleod and Banting the discovery would’ve never been as successful without his contributions.

  • “After the serendipity of Banting’s discovery came the organized stability of Macleod’s techniques”.

Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui 

Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui - Inducted 2012

Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui, originally from Shanghai, discovered the cystic fibrosis gene in 1981 at the Hospital for Sick Children, along with  group of scientists from 2 other institutions.  This was followed by his role in developing the worldwide Human Genome project.  Today Dr. Tsui is President of the University of Hong Kong. He continues to be an inspiration to Canadian immigrants who might not believe that they can achieve success in a country where their own educational accomplishments do not measure up.

His speech was also very witty and emphasized the importance of collaboration for success.

Note: his last name is pronounced Choy as in Bok Choy!

  • “I came to Canada and I remember that was the coldest day of my life”. –Preach, I too also experienced this.
  • “I always talking about being in the right place at the right time with the right people “.

  • “I thank my parents who started this genetic project by having me – thus they’re also geneticist and thank you to my wife for continuing this genetic project”.



I’m hopping on the bandwagon.

Participatory Projects in the Museum

We've heard lots about encouraging visitor participation in the museum

All hail Nina Simon, god of Museum 2.0 and Participation theory!!! HAIL. Simply put, she is redefining the rigid exhibit principles many cultural institutions follow in their program design.  Each project she oversees, partners and/or initiates is focused on bringing the community into the doors of the museum/gallery/library as well as taking the institution out into the community in what can only be defined as an informal manner.

Her book The Participatory Museum (ebook available free on the website) is a must read for anyone in the cultural heritage sector.  As knowledge producers, public historians are even more focused on community engagement. But what about internal institutional particip-action?

The Particpatory Museum, best $25 a public historian would ever spend.

Ch. 11 in Simon’s book “Managing and Sustaining Participation” is all about institutional participatory project and vibes.

“Promoting participation in a traditional cultural institution is not always easy. Engaging with visitors as collaborators and partners requires staff members to reinterpret their roles and responsibilities. ” – Nina Simon

Let’s take members of the visitor services departments in many museums and art galleries.  Some (a larger number than you would think) see this merely as a job that pays extremely well.  Yes they’re dealing with the public and is like a retail environment yet easier to handle.

Simon tells a poignant story about the New York Public Library.  The new director Josh Greenberg encouraged employees to “unleash their passion”.  Jessica Pigza a rare book librarian that started a blog (called Handmade) about craft items and crafting. In no time at all this turned into teaching a class about the library inspiring crafting. It was a SUCCESS!!

Click on the image to access the "Handmade" blog! If you like crafting this is the place for you!

As inspiring as this story is, if the head of VS told its employees to unleash their own interests, would it be as successful?  Many in this department aren’t people who are completely invested in the institution.  They don’t see themselves being there 5 years from now in a different department.  They definitely don’t know how they can contribute to the evolution of the museum to appeal to a wider community.

Therefore it’s important to remember that before actually trying to get these employees developing their own projects, they need to be re-introduced to the museum.  They need to be able to take a half hour every few weeks when on the job to tour the museum. A 45 period in orientation is nowhere near enough time to tour the entire institution AND learn about all of its community outreach and digital innovations.  In order for people to feel involved they actually need to know the institution, not just the front line operations.

Solutions I foresee (Will they work?)

This networking session could resemble the format of the recent emerging IGNITE CULTURE conferences where participants have 15 minutes to say their spiel on anything they want.  Maybe employees talk about their personal/professional/academic interests.

Click on the image to access the Ignite Culture Website. Cool links and info!

Set up networking sessions with other departments.  Everyone loves having an extra contact here and there. A studying accountant in the VS department meets the VP of Hospitality Services who has an MBA. They get talking and all of a sudden the VP might mention hearing about a job with this or that company. Easy as pie, a connection is forged. The student feels more involved.

Some of the biases in this article

This obviously would be more applicable to a large institution where the different departments hardly come into contact with each other.

There needs to be a core group willing to organize such an event. They need to be extremely motivated and market it wisely to get workers to come to this event outside of working hours (that requires a miracle in most cases)

#GradSchoolProbs Part 3 – Getting Too Techie up in hurr!


If you’ve missed it, please take a look at my partner Laura’s latest blog post where we were introduced to the 9pad Touch Shield – the foundation of our “Ye Old Hollywood Squares” project.


-we got the touch shield working but now realized that it doesn’t register (i.e. nothing comes up on the screen) when a Legoman touches it

-we have to do some MAJOR! programming in order to get the Processing program to recognize when the Arduino/Touch Shield makes some kind of action

  • Update: this is even more of a problem because the easy way to do this – using Firmata – doesn’t work on Laura’s or my computer (#firstworldprobs Fancy software doesn’t work on my computer.  My 4 year old computer is too old for contemporary softwares. ARGH) However, Laura is currently updating her computer to a more recent operating system so we might still be successful.

-we still haven’t figured out how to write a programming script (hint: nothing like writing a script for a musical play)

  • Update: We had a whole class today on Scripting. Prof Turkel provided some really good tips and a good base for the script we will need. However, he also got stuck at the part where Processing needs to recognize that a button on the Arduino has been pressed. MOST IMPORTANT ACTION ON OUR PROJECT – ugh!

Point Form Histories


Using Twitter and Facebook to tell a Story

Using less than 140 characters to explain a historical fact is not what you would imagine a historian doing. Yet this is increasingly becoming the norm especially in the cultural heritage sector where more and more “SOCIAL MEDIA COORDINATORS” are being hired.  Which means that all those teachers/professors/educators/historians need to start practicing the art of condensing info into humorous historical nuggets.

The best example I can think of is my newest discovery: Facebook Histories of the World featured on College Humour (which also became a recent addiction of mine for procrastination purposes.  I’m still learning so it’s really not that bad to be spending time on this site).

This is my favourite Facebook History:

College Humour – Facebook History of the Protestant Reformation

You think your love life is complicated?

Summarizing some basic facts might not be what your typical history teacher/professor would want you to learn.  More than anything else, 4 years of undergrad + 1 year of grad school has taught me that when it comes to history “IT DEPENDS ON THE CONTEXT” (sh* public historians say).

This practice could essentially start in high school. This could be the solution to every high school history teacher”s predicament of “How do I get these students to care?”.

Curriculum Requirements

Grade 11 “World History” (University/College)

These are two requirement listed in the Ontario High School Curriculum (last developed in 2005).

-analyze factors that allowed certain societies to thrive (e.g., abundance of natural resources, legal and  military traditions, position on trade routes, common beliefs, strength of leadership);
– assess the criteria by which historians judge societies to have become “civilizations” (e.g., lasting influence of cultural contribution, longevity, significance of role in events of the period).


Historians like timelines.  Facebook likes timelines. WHY NOT COMBINE THE TWO?

Students must: Create a Facebook History of one specific event in world history i.e. the rise and fall of Alexander the Great – complete with images, a few historical quotes and at least 3 different major players.  Max 1 page.


  • concise – assignment is easily understandable to students because the collegehumor histories can be shown
  • allows them to use creative skills – computer graphics will be marked
  • able to use a recognizable language – i.e. slang abbreviations like LOL, WTF
  • Short enough to keep their interest
  • still requires in depth research


  • nuances will be ignored, opinions will figure in heavily
  • history will be very basic
  • danger of descending into slanderous-like comments
  • how do you mark/recognize if the content is plagiarized or not?
  • How do you show Facebook Histories with all its swear words? Should you require the students to have PG13 timelines, or bleep them out?

WILL THIS ACTUALLY WORK? Could I be onto something? Any thoughts from you members of the Blogsphere?

COPYRIGHT!!!!!! This image isn't related to this blog post. But it's in here to honour all of our copyright debates in Digital History.

Living History Conference – Hilarity ensues!


Today I attended the Living History Conference at the University of Guelph about the War of 1812 Bicentennial.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect and even then I was still surprised (can you be surprised if you weren’t expecting anything in the first place? philosophical ponderings)

Anyways back to reality, the conference started off with a keynote address by one of the most eminent 1812 and general Canadian military history scholars, Donald Graves (note: he isn’t an re-enactor).  If you know anything about the Niagara Frontier during the War of 1812, then you’ve encountered Graves.  He’s written books such as Where Right and Glory Lead! The Battle of Lundy’s Lane, 1814 and Field of Glory: The Battle of Crysler’s Farm, 1813.

Donald Graves, found on

Field of Glory

Where Right and Glory Lead!

Now I promise this blog post isn’t a paid endorsement for his publications.  Instead it is about the lasting impression he has created for my colleagues and I.  He is quite possibly one of the FUNNIEST speakers I have ever had the pleasure of listening to (this includes myself, who I think is pretty damn funny as well).  Mr. Graves is a no holds-bar, take me as I am historian and doesn’t apologize for taking any specific stance (and trust me there were a lot of stances).  Remember this man is a CANADIAN and a HISTORIAN – apology and treading the middle line is synonymous with these words.

His talk outlined publications about the War of 1812 since the conclusion of that war up until recent years (of course, as a student currently conducting research and developing content for an 1812 iPhone App, I gobbled up as much information about possible sources as I could).

It could’ve dangerously turned into an extremely tedious and drawn out 40 minute talk about who wrote this and who wrote that and who is right and who is sort of right.  This is exactly what Graves did but through his own dry sense of humour it ended up being the fastest 40 minutes I’ve ever spent in a classroom (and I’ve had exams where time has unfortunately zipped by faster than I could handle).

Here are some of the most notable pointers and quotes Mr. Graves regaled us with:

1. Many of the early publications after the war were instrumental in the “creation of national myths of a small group of heroes holding off Persian republicans”.

2. E.A. Cruikshank – his collections such as the “The Documentary History of the Campaign upon the Niagara Frontier” continue to be the most referenced selection of primary documents for researchers (including the Public History Group).

Graves paints a picture of Cruikshank as:

“an obsessive-compulsive scissors and paste historian who wasn’t above altering texts if he considered them incorrect”

Now this is very worrying to me as I’ve scoured through many of Cruikshank’s books and used much of his material in discussing events such as the Battle of the Longwoods and the Battle of the Thames.  But all in a day’s work for a historian.

3. Joseph Wilcox – “one of the biggest traitors in Canadian history, whose descendant I believe is Dalton McGuinty”. Cue laughter

4. And my personal favourite: “The Battle of Lundy’s Lane was a massive clusterfuddle.”

Lesson for All

Yes these quotes have been taken out of context but that doesn’t mean that they’re not funny and could teach all of us a lesson. To all the Public Historians out there, you’re going to have public engagements (its a fact of life, tough!).  What should we learn from Graves?:

  • be comfortable
  • be funny, connect with your audience and the current context
  • Don’t be apologetic for taking a stance..
  • Make you’re presentations as colourful as yourself.