Category Archives: Classes

Time keeps getting away from me.

So, its half way through March. I thought February went by quickly!

This semester has just been one thing after another. Marking for my TA assignment– midterms and essay proposals, work for the iPhone app my public history class is producing the content for, a conference style critique presentation, an essay proposal, coding data about my MA thesis for an assignment, research ethics board proposal, research proposal for the department, and Ignite Culture. Of course, all of these things have been time-consuming, and have made the past month go by ridiculously quickly.

Ignite Culture was AMAZING! Props to all those that presented and helped out, but especially props to Jenn Nelson. The whole event was well executed, the venue was great, the audience was supportive, the networking went well, and I even presented. A basic run down of what Ignite Culture is: speakers have 5 minutes to present on a topic of their choice, they get 20 auto advancing slides that switch every 15 seconds, and that is it! You have to be on the ball because the time goes by extremely quickly. If you aren’t paying attention your slides can get away from you very easily and you have to play catch up, or come up with something on the fly.

I spoke about the importance of storytelling and you can watch my talk here. I do have to say it was nerve-wracking once I was up there, PowerPoint was finicky at first and flustered me but it got sorted. I hit a snag in the middle, but it all worked out in the end.

I also attended Ignite London this past week. The speakers were wonderful as well, and my team for the opening activity won third in the duct tape fashion contest (hurray!).

As I mentioned above I was working on my research ethics board proposal for my MA thesis over the past couple months and handed it in last Wednesday. It was from my research ethics board proposal and my SSHRC proposal (which was handed in this fall) that I came up with the first draft of my research proposal for the Anthropology department. MA candidates have to hand in and defend a research proposal in late March to early April so that members of the department and their advisers can get an idea of the direction the candidates project is taking. It also is used to make sure that the proposed project is feasible. It includes details about what your project entails, your hypotheses, the methods you plan to use, your site selection, a reference list, and any other information you think might be important in explaining the reasons for your current direction. I emailed my supervisor my second draft today. I am really hoping that the defense goes well.

Otherwise, I am mostly plugging away on course work, TA duties, and thesis prep. There is always so much to do. Luckily classes are almost over and I will be able to devote more time to assignments and getting things ready for my trip to Peru. Almost unfortunately the weather has been amazing, making it very difficult to stay inside and work. I don’t want to say I hope the weather takes a turn for the worse, because I really don’t care for all the rain London tends to get in the spring, but cooler weather would at least make it more appealing to be inside where it is warm.

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Rolling Right Along… How is it February?

This term has been going by really quickly, and is only going to get more hectic than it already has been. I’ve done a presentation and handed in an assignment about writing for popular audiences/newspapers so far, doing assignments that will help with the completing of my thesis proposal/defense which will take place later in the term, and have been working on my ethics proposal so I can get it approved as soon as possible. TAing has also been going very well.

I have helped lead two discussion classes in the Introduction to Sociocultural class I TA for this term. The first dealt with the modes of (agricultural) production used by different groups, and the second dealt with indigenous knowledge. We went over these areas, watched some Youtube videos, and asked the students questions. They were very responsive, which I was happy to see. I had been afraid that they would just sit and stare back at myself and the other TA leading the class and expect us to give them the answers. My only qualm with it is how reliant students seem to be on PowerPoint these days. I much preferred classes where the prof. would just put up key words and dates, and just expect us to listen and take notes. The PowerPoint always seemed like a hindrance to me. Spent too much time focusing on them and copying the text rather than focusing on the prof., who has the real answers. In our case we had just taken the content from the textbook, they could have gotten it from there and listened to the discussion/took notes on what was said instead of worrying about if we were going to post the slides online. I’m also, only slightly, sad about the fact no one has come to my office hours, though I suppose that gives me more time to work on other things.

For my Heritage and Society class I had to present two readings the third week of class, the presentation went really well, leading to an interesting conversation about what applied archaeology is and its role in society compared to academic archaeology. Later in the term I will have to complete a review of an internet source, I’ve chosen four twitter accounts that tweet archaeology news, complete a ‘conference’ paper and presentation for class, and complete a final essay—as well as completing another presentation on a reading. I am excited for the internet review, and I enjoy the topics I have selected from the papers, but I am unsure how to go about them still. I suppose it will take a lot of puttering and figuring out.

The popular writing assignment is the article I posted previously. In the future, on a similar vein, I will need to write another article and find somewhere to submit it to for possible publication—this is also an assignment. At the moment I have a couple of ideas that may be viable, including the War of 1812 in Northern Ontario and the start of Dr. Banting’s insulin research (to go along with the 91st anniversary of its start). If anyone has other suggests regarding this I would be more than happy for them.

As for my thesis, related ethics protocol and proposal, strides have been made toward narrowing down my project idea. As mentioned previously, I will be spending two months at Huaca de la Luna in Peru to study and analyze how people experience the archaeological site museum. I will be examining how people interact with their environment and other individuals at the site, and how they are influenced by the contested narratives that are being portrayed to them. To get at this I will be conducting survey like and unstructured interviews, using GPS tracking technology to see how people move about the site, and conducting participant observation. The ethics protocol forms have been progressing well but there are a few things left to do for it, and I am going to be meeting with Janet Loebach from the geography department later this week to discuss GPS techniques, ethics, and consent forms. The thesis proposal is a little further off in my mind but weekly exercises for my sociocultural anthropology methods class have gotten me thinking about it, and making the first steps towards its completion.

Otherwise, the app content that is being written by my Public History class is progressing. We handed in our 2nd report today and the first draft of the text is due in early March. I am looking forward to seeing the final product as everyone has put in a lot of work for it.

I also have been at Banting House the past two weekends to volunteer, and am glad that so many interesting and interested people have been coming in, I love being able to talk to them.
Hopefully the rest of the term continues to go well, and my thesis proposal and ethics protocol are excepted without too much trouble.

I am really looking forward to the summer and getting to spend so much time at Huaca de la Luna, I am interested to see what I find there and am excited to see my project really coming into its own.

CMHR’s Valient Pursuits Hidden By Controversy

This is an article written for a popular writing workshop held in my Public History class about the forthcoming Canadian Museum for Human Rights. I have edited it a tad (grammar rather than content) after receiving comments in class but wanted to post it more or less as is here.

CHMR’s valiant pursuits hidden by controversy
The forthcoming Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), announced in 2008, has striven to become one of Canada’s most morally aware museums. Though the CMHR’s possibly hierarchical treatment of the Holocaust, in relation to other genocides, has resulted in controversy, there may be practical reasons behind the chosen interpretive design.

Human Rights issues have come to the fore since World War II. Similar atrocities have occurred in various countries, including Soviet Ukraine, however few stir the public as vigorously as the Holocaust. Because the Holocaust holds a central position in society’s collective consciousness it serves as an effective means to discuss Human Rights violations and serves as a draw for visitors. People know something about the Holocaust, but are still curious and can always learn more. If space devoted to the Holocaust exhibit is also used to display information about Human Rights advances since WWII (of which Canada is a leader) and WWII’s stimulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the exhibit will have served a dual purpose, rather than representing a single event.

While at the museum visitors are exposed to information about other atrocities—regardless of if it was the Holocaust exhibit that brought them through the doors. Exposure to these events and other human rights issues can influence visitors to learn more, effectively spreading awareness about the Human Rights violations that have occurred throughout history—and still occur today.

What is perhaps more important is the attempts of the CMHR to gather stories about everyday forms of Human Rights violations as well: dehumanization, criminalization, and the invisibility of hardship; rights issues faced by women, children, youth, persons with disabilities, the LGBT community, and indigenous populations; and economic, environmental, and social justice problems—not just genocides. Through efforts to shed light on a range of Human Rights issues the CMHR feared they would come up against attempts by contemporary governments to dictate content. So efforts have been made to protect the museum’s independence, and safeguard its ability to evolve, think reflexively about, and critique Human Rights violations in Canada and around the world. This is a valiant pursuit for the CMHR, which is aptly being built at The Forks in Winnipeg, where the Red and Assiniboine rivers meet—a historic gathering place, which will now serve as a location for Human Rights enlightenment and an examination of Canada’s role in this evolving field.

On to Term Two

So, the holidays are over, as is the first week back to class, and it seems that this semester will be just as hectic as the last, perhaps more so. I have two new classes—Heritage and Society, and Socio-Cultural Methods (both Anthropology classes)—and am continuing with my (technically two-part) public history class. This semester I will need to work on my thesis proposal and present it, do primary research for the War of 1812 iPhone App and write my portion of the content, as well as various other assignments/essays.

Now that my GRA is done I have moved onto a GTA contract. I will be TAing an introduction to Socio-Cultural Anthropology class. This will involve attending classes and doing the readings, holding office hours, leading some in-class discussions, as well as marking reflection pieces, essays, midterms, and final exams. I’m interested to see how this experience will go as I had never really considered teaching, at least not in a school, as a profession, but I am really excited to try it.

This term I am also hoping to take up recreational skating and squash. Hopefully these will become continuous healthy leisure activities that will also work off stress from classes. I am also hoping to start learning more Spanish as I received the complete Spanish edition of Living Language for Christmas from my parents.

In the next couple of days I am hoping to meet with Dr. Gilliland from the Geography department to discuss the possibility of utilizing GPS and GIS in order to track the movement of visitors at Huaca de la Luna for my thesis project. If I haven’t mentioned so previously I have decided to restrict my research to only one archaeological site museum now so that I will really be able to get an in-depth grasp of what is occurring there.

Here is hoping for another good term, and a wonderful beginning to 2012!

LACH and my Pithouse Finale

It feels like classes ended forever ago, but I know it has only been about a week and a half (my course syllabus assignment and presentation, mentioned previously, was well liked by my classmates and professor). Since then I have given my presentation to the London Advisory Committee on Heritage (as have the rest of the 2011/2012 Public History students), handed in my Arch Theory paper (mentioned previously), met with my supervisor about my MA Thesis project, helped set up out LACH exhibit at ARCC, finished my GRA research on pithouses, and handed in my LACH report. All that is left is to meet with my GRA supervisor (Chris Ellis) to hand in an electronic version of my pithouse research on Monday morning.

My LACH presentation went well, they did not have too many comments or suggestions for me, and I feel that it couldn’t have gone much better. The report writing also went fairly well. I was able to use a program online to edit the designation evaluation forms and insert them into my report, along with a number of pictures, and the HGIS maps I made in regards to the properties the Southcott family owned on Simcoe St.. The referencing process, which I thought would be fairly difficult, if not aggravating, actually was not as painful as I expected it to be– perhaps because of all the practice I had navigating the microfilm copies of the records I used while finding the information.

The exhibit set up for our heritage houses was a well needed break from my pithouse research. It allowed me to be a bit more creative than I had been in the days previous as the research was becoming very tedious by the end. I had been working with this one book, and creating notes from it, for a very long time, and I was ready to do something else. The exhibits came together very nicely and perhaps over the break I will have the opportunity to put some pictures up on here from it and the exhibit I helped put up for homecoming at the med school.

As for the pithouses, I’ve spent about 140 hours doing research for Chris Ellis over the past semester, looking into how they are built, when they are used, who lived in them, activities that occurred inside, storage, etc.. Now that I am done I can hardly believe how much I was able to get through, and despite some tiring hours, I cannot say I did not enjoy the experience. It was a wonderful exercise and hope that he is able to utilize the research soon.

As always, my MA project is being refined and it is likely that I will spend my time in Peru this summer at one archaeological site museum now– most likely Huacas de Moche, and may be exploring the framing of the site in comparison to how people experience it. There are a number of possibilities for what I could do for this, but that is to be resolved in the near future. For now I’m just pondering the numerous possibilities and trying to figure out which of them I will actually be able to do.

Now I’m just waiting to head home for the holidays with AK, and am allowing myself the opportunity to read about the Inquisition while he works on his reading course paper. Hopefully the weather stays good for our trip. I’m looking forward to going home, regardless of how brief the visit may be.

Museum Experience Overload

For the past couple weeks, and for the next week or so, much of my time has been taken up by ‘final projects’ for my Anthropology classes (Public History has been in there too but this portion of our group project doesn’t fit with my theme here– a) its not final, and b) its not about museum experience). The large assignment for Professional Development was to design a course outline and present the course as if you were trying to have it added to the next year’s course offerings; the final paper for Archaeological Theory needs to be related to something you found interesting in the course that can be applied to your thesis project (or not, but that’s the route I am taking). Both of these, for me, only left one real direction…

Museum experience!

I love it, I really do, but this has left me feeling a tad bit theoretical since I haven’t been in a museum in a little while– let alone gotten to participate or interact at one. Thank goodness I’ll be volunteering at Banting House this weekend.

For Professional Development I chose to design a course that examines the operation, creation, and experience of museums through the notion of collaboration and the application of knowledge outside of the academy. So basically it has to do with knowledge mobilization and participation. It was suggested that we not use a textbook for the class, but I felt Nina Simon’s The Participatory Museum would act as a nice framework for the class so I chose to use it anyways but supplemented it with readings from other books and journals. These supplemental readings are taken from the disciplines that are near and dear to my heart– archaeology, anthropology, and public history. The course has students create and present a poster based on intensive research in order to replicate (or mimic) the creation of an exhibit and the experience of tour guiding or acting as an interpreter. Participation, discussion papers and seminars, and a term test are also used for grading. Hopefully my Professionalization class will like this method because they get to grade me on it (as well as the professor).

My paper for Archaeological Theory, which is still in its early stages, is going to deal with the experience of museums through a discussion of material agency, interpretation, and top down/bottom up approaches. In order to demonstrate how these concepts impact museum experience I will offer up a a brief case study based on personal experience (but I haven’t gotten into that too much yet). My plan is to work on the paper much of tomorrow in order to get a jump on it for next week.

Also in the works and quickly approaching, though slightly unrelated, is my Introduction to Public History class’s presentations to the London Advisory Committee on Heritage. After which I will need to put the final touches on the report about my heritage house, and (finally) exhibit creation (not so theoretical!).

And after that, Christmas!