As a public historian I am committed to doing history in public. Working with English Theatre at Canada’s National Arts Centre was one such collaboration, but my most sustained engagements outside of the university has been as an activist with the Workers’ History Museum, design firm Chapter One Studio, and a myriad of local and Ottawa-based national organizations. Some of this work has been done through the Centre for Public History and has been enriched by the participation of graduate and undergraduate students, sometimes through course-based community engagement projects.
Telling stories about life and work in Canada’s National Capital Region, CapitalHistory.ca focuses on businesses and the people who made them. We tell stories about employees and employers, about customers and passers-by, about buildings and neighbourhoods. This began as a project in collaboration with the Workers’ History Museum for Ottawa 2017, with later phases in collaboration with the National Capital Commission (2019) and the Byward Market BIA in downtown Ottawa (2020). The City of Ottawa has been a major partner throughout.
We adopt a visible strategy to tell little known stories of Ottawa’s past by wrapping stories around traffic control boxes. Each installation features a striking archival image or original painting with explanatory text panels and a QR code taking visitors to CapitalHistory.ca to learn more. More than 35,000 people pass by the boxes each day.
Experiencing COVID-19 Through Science and Technology: Adjusting, Adapting, Innovating
This project documents how people have adjusted their lives to the realities of home-bound living during COVID-19 through the lens of science and technology. This lens has become integral to our understanding of everyday experiences of COVID-19: how much are we relying on science and how are we depending on new and old technologies? How have people adjusted their expectations of daily life during their experience of social distancing, of lockdown, and of quarantine? What adaptations have they been forced to contemplate and put into effect? How have they needed to innovate in their use of technologies in everyday life? By creating an archive of changes in domestic and other home-based technologies and generating content for future exhibitions (virtual/physical) associated with the Carleton Centre for Public History and Ingenium, our project will help individuals, families, communities, and institutions learn from this experience and prepare for future outbreaks and new pandemics.
Workers’ History Museum Projects
I have worked on several exhibits, notably ones associated with deindustrialization and the E.B. Eddy pulp and paper company, walking tours, comic books and videos.