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!

AAA Summary

As I suspected Montreal was far too busy for updating my blog. Walked around the old town a bit, went to Schwartz, and many good laughs were had. Besides this, and the main reason for the trip, the AAA conference was a wonderful experience.

I went to a number of sessions that dealt with museums, heritage, memory, collections, and tourism—all of which had something that will prove useful when it comes time to do research for my MA thesis. I was able attend the following sessions at least in part:

– 3-0225: Tours and Traces: Breaking New Ground in the Anthropology of Tourism and Heritage- Papers in Honor of Nelson Graburn
– 3-0685: Unruly Things: Museums and the Co-Production of Knowledge
– 3-0810: Querying “Art”, “Tradition”, Museums, and Heritage- Papers in Honor of Nelson Graburn
– 4-0235: The Rhetoric of Heritage
– 4-1065: Living Collections: Social Networks of Space, Place, and Materiality
– 5-0215: Museums and Communities
– 5-0620: Re-Activating the Legacy: Current Research on Museum Collections (Poster Session)

I took a lot of notes that I am going to need to go through in order to synthesize all the information I received, but I can say that I have a list of new authors to look into, while other that were already on my list were confirmed (i.e. Nina Simon).

One of the other highlights was getting to see Gabriel Moshenska speak after his work on the archaeology of bombing sites played so heavily into our readings about memory in Archaeological Theory a couple of weeks ago. I really enjoyed his talk and was glad that he touched on his excavations of neighbourhoods destroyed during WWII air raids in Britain.

On Saturday I went Exhibit Hall (had stopped by earlier in the week but finally had some time to devote to exploring on Saturday), under the advisement of M I picked up a book for my Political Economy class next semester. I was also able to grab a bunch of order forms from printing companies that service the discipline, and may be able to order a number of my books for next semester at a discount for having attended the AAAs—bonus! I also picked up some information about Documentary Educational Resources, a bookmark with a link to the archive collection at the Smithsonian, and a card for the Human Relations Area Files. To top it all off I received a free book from Vanderbilt University Press, and a glasses cleaner from Duke University Press for being a follower on Twitter. All in all a good Exhibit Hall experience.

Finally, I would like to take a moment to thank Naomi Leite, Jennifer Wagelie, and Emily Stokes-Rees for taking the time to speak with me; Olivia Littles Erickson for her advice about word clouds/wordles; and Bill Wood, and Larry Zimmerman for all their advice about research to look into.

Hello Montreal!

Left bright and early this morning for Montreal! The drive was great, props to M and B for driving the van. Lots of snacks, music, and good conversation to be had– on top of reading some Ingold.

C, M, and I checked into our hotel, relaxed for a bit, and then headed out to find some food. We ended up wandering for a while before ending up in ‘Chinatown’ for Vietnamese food, particularly pho. This resulted in lots of puns based on ‘pho’, and even more laughter. M loved his first pho experience.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel, making a quick stop at the group floor of Montreal Convention Center just to see what it was like prior to the swarms of anthropologists.

Have my schedule ready for tomorrow… Hello Montreal and AAA2011!

Ready, Steady, Go!

So, one of the reasons I chose to start this blog when I did was because of the American Anthropological Association‘s annual conference which is taking place this week in Montreal. As a spur of the moment decision I decided to join a few friends on their trip to the conference two weeks ago. I knew I was going to need to start blogging before that since I wanted to be able to write about my trip– hence the inception of Memories Bookshelf on Sunday.

I’ve never been to Montreal, but I hear it is fabulous, which makes me very excited. I’m even more excited for all of the sessions with connections to memory, commemoration, heritage, and museums(!). Hopefully I’ll be able to take some good notes, which may act as jumping off points for my MA research and thesis. And besides being just an all around good time the trip will be an excellent opportunity to start networking and get some information about the publishers, film producers, resources, and organizations that serve the discipline (Exhibit Hall is going to be near the top of my to do list for sure!).

This is going to be my first conference so I’m not exactly sure what to expect but it will be nice to have a little bit of an understanding of the format before going to present at one or when attending for a job interview in the future– regardless of what discipline said future conference is for.

The blogging could go either way for this endeavor, I’m not sure how much time I will have each day to devote to it, so I am going to take notes in case an update is delayed. I will, however, be tweeting about the AAA conference rather frequently so feel free to follow me at @AlisonDeplonty.

Regardless, my bags are packed, itinerary is printed, and the blog is started and off to a good start. Which just leaves the 8 and a half hour drive tomorrow between me and the 2011 AAAs.

‘Banting Day’

All morning the song ‘Beethoven Day’ from You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown has been playing in my head. The only difference was that ‘Beethoven’ was replaced by ‘Banting’. Now, I know World Diabetes Day isn’t only celebrating Banting’s birthday but still– I also realize Banting has at least two days to commemorate him and the discovery of Insulin, sort of. October 31st commemorates the day insulin was conceived of, and November 14th is World Diabetes Day.

Dr. Banting conceived of the idea for the insulin treatment while working on a lecture for The University of Western Ontario about the pancreas, which he admittedly knew nothing about. When Dr. Banting, wrote down his 25 word hypothesis about how to try to treat diabetes on October 31st, 1920 he spelled ‘diabetus’ wrong, but we’ll forgive him. In May of 1921 Dr. Banting left London to conduct his lab work and tests at The University of Toronto, his alma mater, with (Dr.) Charles Best. Dr. Banting is credited with the co-discovery of insulin, incorporation with Drs. Charles Best, James Macleod, and James Collip. These four men effectively ended diabetes death sentence.

In the end, all of this just leads me to say: ‘Happy Birthday Dr. Banting and Happy World Diabetes Day!’

And so, it begins…


My name is Alison Deplonty, and I’ll warn you now, I’m new to this.  I’m an Archaeology MA student (with an ever so evident Public History bent) at The University of Western Ontario.  My MA project involves the study of the complex interactions of actors and actants, and their effect on visitor experience, at archaeological site museums on the north coast of Peru.

Let’s just start with a little about me:

  • I graduated from Western with a BA, honours double major in Anthropology and History, in June 2011.
  • I love Peru and have been there twice for month long stints, first as part of an archaeological field school led by Dr. Jean-Francois Millaire, and second to do preliminary field work for my MA.
  • I have worked at two historic sites, Ermatinger Clergue National Historic Site in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and Banting House National Historic Site of Canada in London, Ontario.
  • My passion is the public, and I feel it is the responsibility of professionals (and academics) to disseminate and mobilize their knowledge.

The purpose of this blog is to act as a hub of information for myself and those interested in my MA project, public history and public archaeology, and general information about my time in graduate school and transition into the working world.

Well, this seems like a good start, so…

Until next time.