2013 News

Using Imagination to Activate History

by Jesika Arseneau

Jesika ArseneauThe museum has always been a place that has activated my imagination. All I needed was a text panel to provide context and I would be transported to another era. It did not matter if the object was a Victorian dining set or a piece of a fallen meteorite – I was entranced. I still believe that the museum is an exciting place to activate the imagination for experiential learning, but a large piece of this activation depends on participatory practices. As a public historian, I am a strong advocate that the more engaging an activity is, the more rewarding and memorable the experience will be for a child. This past year I was able to put this into action in the context of museum education at Museum London as part of my Public History Master’s program at Western University. 

My class was given the exciting opportunity to curate an exhibition for the Museum based on labour in London over the past two hundred years. Some students may find professional, factory, and domestic work to be far removed from their daily lives. With this in mind, we sought to design complementary educational programming that could draw on relatable experiences in order to encourage imaginative play. It was our hope that combining historical accuracy with interactive features would allow students to use their personal perspectives to re-imagine history. Participatory play proved to be an excellent way to bring the inanimate objects behind glass to life, eliminating the distance between student and artifact. Read more from The History Education Network.


Fallen War Heroes not Forgotten in Old Imperial Cotton Mill

Tim Compeau and Devon Elliott, now both PhD candidates, were invited to participate in this annual forum which brings together historians, curators, students and award-winning teachers to celebrate the best in history teaching and to discuss trends in history education. This year the forum revolves around the question "Is Technology Altering our History?"

Elliott conducted a hands-on workshop with Carleton University students in order to demonstrate how data mining tools, 3D printers, and depth cameras can be used in historical research. Compeau discussed his work with the augmented reality game Tecumseh Lies Here which teaches children about the War of 1812 and the process of historical research.


Current Student Stacey Devlin wins Prestigious SSHRC Scholarship

Stacey Devlin Algoma University is pleased to announce that recent graduate Stacey Devlin has been awarded a prestigious Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, valued at $17,500.

“Stacey is doing very innovative research in the field of history and cartography,” said Dr. David Schantz, Vice-President of Academic and Research at Algoma University. “We are pleased to see her hard work recognized by SSHRC, and we wish her all the best in her future research endeavors.”

Devlin is a native of Sault Ste. Marie, and graduated from the Baccalaureate program at Korah Collegiate and Vocational School. This past June, she graduated from Algoma University with a combined major Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree cum laude in History and English, and is currently working as a Research Assistant in the University’s English Department. She will be attending Western University in London, Ontario in September for her one-year Master of Arts in Public History. The program consists of two semesters of course work and a summer internship in a museum or art space where she will gain curatorial and museum studies experience. To help fund her studies at Western University, Devlin has also received a hefty Research and Teaching Assistant Scholarship, valued at over $10,000.

In April, Devlin also presented her fourth-year History thesis, “The World Map, 1200-1500: Cartography and Ideology in the Mappaemundi of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance”, to a panel of experts at the American Comparative Literature Association Conference in Toronto. Her invitation by Algoma University faculty and presence at the conference was a rarity for undergraduate students, since the conference consists of graduate students completing their doctoral studies, and experienced professors. It was this work which won her the prestigious SSHRC scholarship. Read more.


New Program Aims to Bring Hometown History and Hometown Stories into the Classroom

By Brock Weir, The Auroran, November 6, 2013

As Pamela Pal rummaged through the archives, she uncovered the details of an Aurora boy who died of his wounds sustained in the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917.

It was in a booklet that was, in those days, often the only memento families received of their fallen loved ones when repatriation was just a dream rather than the standard we’ve come to appreciate today.

“That hit me the hardest,” says Ms. Pal. “It wasn’t just a bunch of people fighting who you don’t know. When you see that this family had their son buried all the way on the other side of the world and they couldn’t bring him back home, that was the emotion I was trying to get.”

She hopes to share this emotion and, in turn, the story of Robert Stewart Hillary, the 20 year old scion of the Hillary family now lying in northern France, with students.

The Markham native has hit the ground running as the Aurora Historical Society’s new education coordinator, tasked with developing the resources in the Hillary House collection and turning them into programs and artefacts which can be taken to local schools to drive home key planks in the Ontario education curriculum. Read more.


Ryan Hunt Wins Grant from Awesome London for the DHMakerBus

Awesome LondonCongratulations to Ryan Hunt who has won $1000 towards purchasing technology to make aerial photography accessible. Hunt is a founder of the DHMakerBus a mobile technology classroom that brings digital humanities to the public.

Read the full article "Awesome London Puts an Eye in London's Sky," by Erika Faust in the London Community News.


Students Contribute to Heritage Designation in London

For the fifth year, Western Public History students researched and made recommendations on built heritage designations for the London Advisory Committee on Heritage. This year students conducted research on the Blackfriars/Petersville area in London which is being considered for a heritage district designations. Students also researched properties in Old South for the London branch of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario for its annual Geranium Heritage Home Walking Tour in June of 2014.

LACH 2013

Back row: Carla Watson, Ryan Hunt, Amina Musa, Liz Miron, Oliver Jones, Gabrielle Bossy, Stephanie Johns. Front row: Laura Walter, Kaitlyn Kachmarchik, Stacey Devlin, Jessica Knapp, Joel Sherlock, Prof. Mike Dove.

2013 Fall Convocation

Convocation 2013Congratulations to our 2013 graduates! Left to right: Caileen Weitz, Vanessa Dal Bello, Charlotte Hall-Coates, Prof. Mike Dove, Erica Gagnon, Jesika Arseneau, Jen Sguigna. Absent: Raiza Baez Calderon, Shane Pacey, Paulina Johnson, Jasmine Fong.


Western Students Discover Oil Springs’ Rich History

From the Independent, October 27, 2013

The oil history of Oil Springs is making headlines at Western University in London.

A number of students taking their masters in public history recently visited Oil Springs, touring Fairbank Oil Properties and the Oil Museum of Canada, including the oldest oil fields in North America.

Charles Fairbank gave the group a firsthand look at the jerker line system developed by his great-grandfather John Henry Fairbank, which has been used in Oil Springs since the fields were developed.

The students also took in the exhibits at the Oil Heritage Museum including a multimedia exhibit showcasing the stories of the foreign drillers who opened oil fields around the world.

The visit was outlined on the university’s website.

Oil Museum supervisor Connie Bell says the museum Fairbank Oil have a long history with Western through the a fellowship program. “The students’ research and expertise in the fellowships has been invaluable.”


Western Students Hit Black Gold

Petrolia Topic, October 21, 2013

The rich oil history of Oil Springs is making headlines at Western University.

The main Web page of the History Department touts the headline “MA university students hit Black Gold” and features seven photos of their Oct. 4 tour of Fairbank Oil Properties and The Oil Museum of Canada.

The graduate students are taking their master degrees in public history and acting program director and Assistant Professor Michael Dove arranged for them to see the Oil Springs oil fields; the oldest in North America. Read more


ScopifyROM: Using Technology to Teach History in Museums

Jesika Arseneau, The History Education Network

A large portion of my academic focus has been on the integration of technology into history and culture. How can archives adjust to rapid developments in information management systems? Will museums be able to satisfy a generation that is increasingly glued to their cell phone? Can technology be brought into institutions without compromising educational integrity? These are not easy questions to answer, and I am often disappointed by the introduction of QR codes into museums. I have found myself sighing in disappointment a number of times when my attempts to use these codes have led me to small pages that repeat what is already on the text panels, uninteresting and low-quality videos, or broken links.

A couple of weeks ago, my position in Communications at the Royal Ontario Museum allowed me a sneak peek at the recently revealed ScopifyROM app for the Museum. Read more


MA Public History Students Hit Black Gold!

On Friday, October 4th, the sun, warmth and fabulous autumn colours of Lambton County provided a perfect setting for a day-trip to the village of Oil Springs for the graduate students in the MA Public History Program.  Through the kind support of Charlie Fairbank, President of Fairbank Oil Properties Limited, the students and the Program’s Director Mike Dove were able to step back in time to the days of Canada’s oil pioneers.  The Oil Heritage District is home to both the Oil Museum of Canada and the oldest oil fields in North America.        Oil Museum 1

Left to right: Amina Musa, Gabrielle Bossy, Jessica Knapp, Carla Watson, Stacey Devlin, Elizabeth Miron, Stephanie Johns, Kaitlyn Kachmarchik, Ryan Hunt, Laura Walter, Joel Sherlock, Professor Mike Dove.  (Absent though present in spirit: Oliver Jones)

In addition to viewing the gum (asphalt) beds, formed by crude oil migrating to the surface, and the sites of the first commercial oil well in North America (1858) and Canada’s first “gusher” (1862), the group also had a first-hand look at the oil wells and drilling system that have continued in use since the late nineteenth century.

Oil Museum 2The students were guided through the property by Charlie Fairbank, great grandson of John Henry Fairbank who established an oil business on the site in 1861.  Fairbank Oil Properties Limited is the oldest single-family-operated oil company in the world!  

Oil Museum 3Left: Charlie Fairbank explains the operation of the Jerker-Line System of pumping oil, introduced in 1863 by his great grandfather John Henry Fairbank and still in use today! Right: The Jerker-Line System.

Oil Museum 4The group also had the opportunity to tour the several galleries housed in the Oil Museum of Canada dedicated to telling the history of the petroleum industry in Oil Springs, Canada, and the world.  Both the site and the Museum are invaluable resources for which to study the history of an energy source that has shaped our way of life for the past 150 years. 

One of the wonderful recent additions to the Museum is the Foreign Drillers Gallery (below), a multimedia exhibit showcasing the stories of the drillers from Oil Springs who journeyed all over the world to discover and develop oil fields.

Oil Museum 5Fairbank family generously funds the Robert Cochrane Lambton County Fellowship, awarded each summer to a Western MA public history student. During their visit, students took the opportunity to examine the several excellent projects performed by previous Fellows, ranging from oral history interviews to a virtual exhibit, and were encouraged to continue the process of securing a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for the Oil Heritage District. 

To explore more of Canada’s oil heritage, please check out the Fairbank Oil and Oil Museum of Canada websites.



New Curator Takes Over at North American Black Historical Museum

By Ron Giofu, From Rivertown Times

A new curator is at the helm of the North American Black Historical Museum.Terran Fader has entered her third week as the curator, taking over from Kenn Stanton. Stanton retired July 31.Fader said she is getting to know the museum and the job and is enjoying her experiences early on.“I love it so far,” said Fader.Fader said she is getting settled and getting further acquainted with the collection as well as the people who support the museum.“There’s a wonderful community supporting the museum and I’ve really enjoyed meeting everyone so far,” she said.Fader’s background is in black history, as she studied it while at the University of Windsor. She also studied public history at the University of Western Ontario, a time period when she also worked at Fanshawe Pioneer Village.The LaSalle native has also ties locally including previously being a volunteer at the North American Black Historical Museum. She also worked a summer job at Fort Malden National Historic Site and has also experience working with the Town of Amherstburg’s tourism and special events department, the London Life corporate archives and the Secrets of Radar Museum. Read more


Alumni Appointed to Emerging Museum Professionals Advisory Committee

The Ontario Museums Association has appointed our alumni Jenn Nelson (2010-11) and Braden Murray (2009-10) to serve on its inaugural Emerging Museum Professionals Advisory Committee.

This six-person committee will help prepare Ontario’s museum sector for leadership transition by empowering, supporting and creating a community of emerging museum professionals through social media, conferences, workshops and networking events. 

Nelson is the Heritage and Special Collections Administrator for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in Ottawa. She also runs her own business called The Social Studio, specializing in social media for museums and cultural institutions and is the organizer of Ignite Culture. Murray is the Museum Educator for the Lake of the Woods Museum, Kenora. 


Local Boy Makes Good

By Alan MacEachern, NiCHE

NiCHE webmaster Adam Crymble was a recent winner of the international "2 Minute Thesis Contest," and as such has had a description of his PhD thesis at King's College London turned into an animated video. Besides describing his thesis, "Distant Reading and the Digital Humanities" turns out to be a good, short primer on the value of digital history.

You can see the video, 42,000 hits & climbing, at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tp4y-_VoXdA

Congratulations, Adam!


London Students Make Big Splash with ‘The Bus’

By Craig Gilbert, London Community News, August 31, 2013

Hacker purgatory, thy name is Iowa. Picture 12 people, many of them graduate students at Western University and all of them packing four e-gadgets on a trip designed to promote the creation of a mobile “hacker/maker space” rolling through one of the largest roaming dead zones on the continent.“ Iowa has its own cellular service provider so the major carriers in the States don’t work there,” Ryan Hunt said. “So we basically had a five-hour dead space.” It was by far the scariest part of a 2,800-kilometre techie roadie for the founders of DHMakerBus and nine others who journeyed from the safe haven of the London Lawn to a Digital Humanities (DH) conference in Nebraska in July. “We actually had to talk to each other, like what the heck?” Kim Martin joked. Luckily, the group had a pair of “amazing” volunteer drivers that got them there and back again. Hunt, Martin and Beth Compton, all Western grad students, have been fundraising to purchase a bus and outfit it like a tinkerer’s wet dream for several months. In 2012 there were an estimated 700 to 1,100 active hackerspaces around the world. There are three mobile makerspaces in the United States. The DHMakerBus would be the first of its kind in Canada. Read more

Brothers at War

Iceton brothersThe two Iceton brothers enlisted in the 124th Battalion in Toronto in December 1915, but only one returned home after the war. Family members put together a small collections of letters, photographs, and other keepsakes as a tribute to their service and sacrifice. Public History student Vanessa Dal Bello has edited and published this collection as Private Memories: The Iceton Brothers which is available here from the WartimeCanada.ca website.


An Undefended Border and an Undeterred Canadian

From the Otter, NiCHE

Claire Campbell (1996-97) talks about moving from Dalhousie University to Bucknell University, Pennsylanvia.

In a few weeks, I will be moving from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. You’ve probably heard of Halifax – mid-sized city on the ocean, historic citadel, clock tower, sea air, donairs. You’ve probably never heard of Lewisburg, a small town of about 5000 people on the west side of the Susquehanna River. It seems really charming, and I’d tell you about it, except I’ve spent a grand total of four and a half days there, and read exactly two books about the area. One of them tells me it’s on the river with the largest watershed east of the Mississippi (assuming, I guess, that we’re talking only about the continental United States,). The other has dozens of photographs of floods over the past two centuries, bridges washed away, and people glowering at the camera as they row their boats down the main street. So the Americanism notwithstanding, I’m inclined to think the river is pretty big.

Like most of us, I’ve done this before. I moved from London, Ontario to my first teaching job in Aarhus, Denmark in 2002; from there to Edmonton; and then to Halifax, eight years ago. All academic positions, sure, but substantially different places. Each time it became pretty obvious pretty quickly that whatever I was supposed to teach – the history of Canadian culture, Canadian environmental history, public history, the Canadian west, etc. etc. – was going to be dramatically modified based on responses in the classroom. To Danes, Canada was a curiosity, a big question mark north of and presumably distinct from the American culture they were familiar with. We could read The Backwoods of Canada, but first I was going to have to talk about Loyalists and what a “backwoods” was. (There aren’t a lot of backwoods left in Denmark.) To students from Alberta, the Group of Seven generally registered a tolerant “meh.” Talking to Nova Scotians about the impact of grain elevators on the prairies, I get polite (glazed?) stares; a student from Manitoba finally snapped to her classmates, “Lighthouses. They’re like lighthouses out here.” And now I’m going to be Talking to Americans. Read more


3D Printing Workshop Takes Shape

By Chris Montanini, Londoner

DElliottA rapidly developing technology being used to create everything from car parts to machine guns will be on display at Museum London next week for a workshop about its impact on historical research.

Western University history professor Bill Turkel and PhD candidate Devon Elliott will hold a 3D printing demonstration May 16 and discuss how the technology will affect museums and the public’s access to previously inaccessible artifacts.

“Within the past six (or) seven years or so, these 3D printers have become more accessible,” Elliot said. “There are (printers) available for under $1,000 that hobbyists or people who aren’t engineers or scientists (can use) to get into 3D printing on their own.”

Turkel has started a fabrication lab for the history department at Western where they can use 3D printers to reproduce historical artifacts with a corn-based plastic called PLA. The printers work with software that uses digital models (which are drawn or photographed) to recreate objects to a desired scale. While people experimenting with 3D printing are developing at-home machines big enough to print household decorations like lamps and vases, Elliott said the printers they use (the MakerBot Replicator 2 and the Printrbot Jr.) can fit on an average desktop.

“I use it to make things that don’t exist anymore or that I don’t have access to,” said Elliott, who is completing his PhD on the history of stage illusions and magic tricks. Read more


Grad Student Labour puts 'Works' on Display

By Adela Talbot, Western News, March 14, 2013

You could say it is an interesting, if not welcome, change – temporarily shifting the attention away from London’s ever-fluctuating, seldom optimistic, unemployment rate to its rich history of labour. 

London Works: Labouring in the Forest City, a Museum London exhibit researched and curated by students in Western’s Public History master’s program and currently on display, takes a nuanced look at the history of working in the Forest City. It showcases a variety of artifacts that tell tales of the city’s industrial, professional and domestic labour past.

“I think a lot of people always focus on factories in London. There are a lot of factories, but we went inside the home and focused on professionals. It gives it a different dimension,” said Erica Gagnon, one of the students who contributed to the project.

The exhibit features close to 200 artifacts – a fraction of the museum’s collection of roughly 45,000 London items – among them bottles from Carling and Labatt breweries, a sewing machine next to various domestic items and a prosthetic leg that belonged to Londoner Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke, a prominent Canadian psychiatrist of the late 19th century. Read more


London Works is Dedicated to the Working Men, and Women, of the Forest City

By James Reaney, London Free Press, March 6, 2013

Western public-history students have turned the north side of Museum London’s main floor into a wall of wonders.

The students have chosen scores of artifacts from the museum’s collection into an exhibition called London Works. It fills a major display area, an established “wonderwall” at the museum, with everything from thirst-inducing Carling and Labatt beer bottles of classy vintage to a touchstone of the old Clam Bake cigar business — complete with the antique ID “Phone 816.”

The exhibition has its official opening Thursday. It is divided into three areas. At one side is material associated with factory work, including the fighting words from the old Industrial Banner, in an April, 1899 edition vowing there will be justice for London Street Railway workers.

The centre area is devoted to work by professionals in London. Perhaps the most startling juxtaposition has a beatific photograph, likely from the late 19th century, of the saintly Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke in a family setting on a porch close to his prosthetic leg. The great Londoner and pioneering psychiatrist lost a foot to frostbite crossing the Sierra Nevada in the U.S. late in 1857.

The third area showcases domestic work. Among its star attractions is a scrub board sporting a determined slogan about the old McClary factory’s household articles giving lasting satisfaction. Read more


Exploring Honour and Loyalty

For Tim Compeau, an unexpected find led to a lifelong fascination. After graduating from high school, Tim took a job at a museum in his hometown of Gananoque, Ont.

Rummaging through the museum, he discovered a suitcase filled with hand-written letters. Flipping through them, he found correspondence from the 1780s penned by Joel Stone, the loyalist founder of Gananoque (in eastern Ontario).

“For the rest of the summer, I got to explore these 200-year-old letters, put them in order and archive them,” says Tim, who was 19 years old at the time. “That was a formative experience which left a lasting impression on me.”

So lasting that Tim is now completing a PhD in history at Western. The inaugural recipient of the Eleta Britton Graduate Scholarship in History, Tim focuses on the British loyalists who left the U.S. after the American Revolution and moved to Canada. Read more