When I was applying to university in grade twelve, I was incredibly adamant that I would not become a Western Mustang. I meant no disrespect to the school, but my entire family had went there and many of my friends. I was determined to forge my own unique path and gain some independence at a school a little further from home or else, I figured, I would be “popping home” for supper three times a week and would never learn to rely on myself. As a result, I choice the hippiest school I could find, Trent University and lived out my undergraduate life a Trent Excaliber. I was so glad to have done this as it was one of the best experiences of my life, and I came to make some great friends and had amazing professors in very small classes.
So you can imagine my mom’s surprise when she learned I would be applying to Western for my Masters degree in Public History. After four years of long greyhound and car rides home, I was ready to move closer to my family (especially my brand new nephew!), in with my boyfriend and way closer to my home town. I was also looking to not give up on history while still leaving myself open for lots of career paths- Western provided the perfect opportunity to do this in its Masters of Public History program.
I’ve never looked back since. Not only have I participated in tons of cool projects, but I have built up my resume, CV and my online presence. I thought I’d do a quick blog post about some of the really cool projects I’ve been a part of this year in the Public History Program.
JP Metras Oral History Project
For this project, everyone partnered up and was assigned an alumni athlete from a Western sports team. We then interviewed and recorded this athlete, transcribed the interview and reviewed it. A copy of the transcription was then placed at both the JP Metras Museum on campus and the Western Archives. This was a really neat project for me because not only did I get to interview a legendary track and basketball athlete, but I also gained some insight from her years as a soccer and basketball coach. I was able use the skills I had learned from ANHS in Living Memories Oral History Project and apply them to this but also learned many new techniques from a few of the workshops held by our professor, Mike.
London Heritage Homes Project
In this project, each of us were assigned a house in the Blackfriars District or Wortley Village. Our job was to research the history of the house and assign it a priority level based on its contextual, historic and aesthetic value. These reports will be used by the London Advisory Committee on Heritage to decide whether these homes will be a) assigned as historic sites or b) whether the entire districts will be assigned as historic sites. One thing I loved about this, was its practical value. For one, the reports would actually be useful in the real world to LACH. Second, it gave us hands-on experience in historical consulting- which is one of the major job avenues for public historians.
My home was a bit dull looking but after looking through fire insurance plans, city directories, architectural text books and a bunch of other primary sources on the mircofilm reader, I came to be somewhat attached to it and it turned out to sort of interesting. In fact, it was the first concrete block home in the area and still remains the only one in its direct vicinity.
We presented our findings to LACH at city hall. It was a really interesting experience as I love public speaking and this allowed me to do so in a professional setting. The members ofthe committee were all very helpful.
Finally, we set up an exhibit of the project at Western Archives and it was featured in the London Free Press! Check out the photos below.
The Tillson Legacy
I blogged about this quite a few times (so I apologize to my loyal readers) but it was one of the coolest projects I did all year. In my Digital History class, we had a guest speaker teach us about an app called Layar that allows you to make any historic lesson digitally interactive on their smart phone. Taking inspiration from his project called Tecumseh Lies Here I created The Tillson Legacy. This project was a book about Annandale National Historic Site but the photographs in the book can be scanned in the app on the user’s smartphone and they came to life- teaching new lessons about the house in videos and bonus photographs. I was able to get a lot of mileage out of this project on my blog, at the York University New Frontiers Conference and even on Inside Tillsonburg a local television talk show that I was featured on (I’ll post a video as soon as it’s up online)!
John Lennon’s Peace
My History of Peace class allowed me the opportunity to write a short biography on John Lennon and his concept of what peace was. This allowed for some very interesting insight on one of my favourite musicians and poets. Even though it shattered the hero myth about him, I realized that he made some amazing and very artistic strides for peace in the world that are very admirable.
Doctor Jones Fanshawe Pioneer Village Exhibit
Our major project second semester was to research and design an exhibit at Fanshawe Pioneer Village about Doctor Jones, a rural doctor who practiced outside of London in the early 1900s. The exhibit will be installed in a new building in the village, which is used as his home-office this summer. Again, the public history program outdid itself, providing us with some great professional experience. In fact, this exhibit is estimated to be up for fifteen years!
World War I Tweeting Project
For this, our class was assigned the year 1914-15 to tweet about World War I news that was happening in London, Ontario. We each chose a month (starting in June 1914 and going to June 1915) to tweet what exactly was happening in London, Ontario on each day of the month. We then logged these tweets into Hoote Suite and scheduled them so that they will begin going out on June 30th 2014 (100 years to the day that Archduke Ferdinand was arrested. In order to find out what was happening, we looked at archival London Free Press microfilms and used headlines from the day’s issues. I thought this idea was really cool and am working at launching a similar one at my internship this coming summer but rather than following the London Free Press, it will document where and what the regiment was doing.
World’s Smallest Rock n’ Roll Museum & Homemade Turntable
I feel like I’ve blogged about this a bajillion plus times but it was definitely one of my favourite projects that I did all year, purely for the fact that I got to study my favourite music and make it accessible and exciting for others. You can read more about it here: https://gabriellebossy.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/this-is-the-end-beautiful-friend-the-end-wrapping-up-interactive-exhibit-design-and-the-worlds-smallest-rock-n-roll-museum/
Holocaust Denial Conspiracy Lecture and Essay
Unlike most of my classmates, I chose to take a course that was not the recommended one each semester from the regular history stream because I was worried about not keeping up my essay writing skills. Man am I glad I took the American Studies course, Conspiracy Theories! We covered tons of interesting topics including 9/11, Pearl Harbour, Satan Ritual Abuse, the moon landing hoax, the John Kennedy assassination and Roswell. I also chose to study Holocaust Denial in closer depth to understand HOW THE HELL (pardon my French) anybody in their right mind could possibly, on this or on any other planet, deny the Holocaust. My conclusion is…well they can’t (stay tuned for a blog post on this coming up). By delving into their faulty research and circular arguments, I was able to debunk the myth that the Holocaust never happened or that it was not done with intent or that there were no gas chambers. Besides just writing an essay, our professor also had us lecture on the topic, which I found very helpful. It gave us real classroom experience and also made me realize that being a professor is still an career path I’d like to keep open for myself for the time being.
The Hippie Historian Blog
Of course, I have to thank my Digital History proff Josh for getting me into blogging. In first semester it was assigned as a part of the course work but now I’m sort of addicted to it. Not only has it completely changed my online presence (Google me and you can see why) but I can’t count how many people I know have come up to me and told me they read it, or commented on my Facebook links to it. It’s nice to be able to get my writing out there and I think it helps keep me sharp!! I even got the opportunity to have my blog post about Neil Young’s Honour the Treaties concert featured on Niche. Big thanks to my loyal readers!
Grading Assistant for an Undergraduate Holocaust Course
This was by far one of my best experiences of the program. Although going in, I was banking on being able to be a first or second year TA, I was very happy when they assigned me to a third year course on the Holocaust (a topic I knew pretty well from my undergrad) as a marker. This meant I could attend lectures, read and grade assignments and have contact with students who were looking for help to improve their papers. In the future I would love to try being a TA but I found I actually got lots of contact and I loved marking papers. I also really enjoyed the lectures as Professor Priestman taught me lots of new things that I didn’t know about the Holocaust before. I was also able to attend a talk with Ely Gotz, a survivor.
Overall, I can say that my parents had it right all along…sort of. I wouldn’t have wanted to go to Western for my undergrad. I’m a Trent-kid through and through. However, I’m so glad I chose it for my Masters program. It was a practical, hands-on approach to learning that made me feel more prepared for the real world. My professors were fantastic and very approachable and helpful. Going to class usually didn’t feel like I was going to class, just attending a discussion of interesting topics with my peers. I met lots of great, goofy and weird friends who I hope to keep in contact with and I am excited to see where their internships take them! Stay tuned for posts on the tobacco industry in Tillsonburg, Holocaust Denial and my new internship!