Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Another Summer Research Trip:
The Weyburn Way
(by Lucas Richert, Postdoctoral Fellow)

Correspondent Brenan Smith is by no means the only historian from our department who is on the road this summer.  Earlier this month, history of medicine enthusiasts Daniel McFarlane (3rd year undergrad), Ryan Buhay (3rd year undergrad), and I embarked on a 3-day research trip to Weyburn. Our goals: to look at the Weyburn Mental Hospital during the Great Depression and to examine the hospital’s innovative art, music, and movement therapy programs in the 1950s-1960s. To this end, we scanned microfilm, shot video, conducted an interview, and even visited the cemetery and hospital ruins. Yet the journey to Weyburn produced so much more than just intriguing historical insights!

According to Ryan, “Weyburn was quite the time.  There was blood, a disgruntled CN worker, an old-school accordion jam session of Neil Young's 'Helpless', a paper-airplane contest, the fastest water slide in history (three seconds), Boston Pizza (repeatedly), and a continental breakfast that had a 'make your own waffle' contraption. All in all, it was an epic, mind-blowing experience.”

Daniel had this to say about the fieldwork in Weyburn: “I didn’t know what to expect going into this trip, but it turned out to be a really fun and eye-opening experience. It’s amazing how helpful people are when you tell them you want to learn about their local history. The history of the Weyburn asylum is incredibly unique, and really comes alive when you talk to people who were actually there.”

We still need to do some more primary research, but are on track to finishing our respective historical projects later this summer. That said, it seems unlikely that writing-up our research will be nearly as much fun as our Weyburn fieldwork.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Digital Mapmaking

Alumna Alice Glaze (B.A. Hons. in English and History 2007, M.A. in History 2009) sent in a link from today's New York Times on the use of Geographic Information Systems to map historical information spatially.  This technique allows historians to spot information that otherwise would not be visible.  But, as Alice cast her keen eyes over the article, she spotted a reference to one U of S historian in particular...  The article refers to Geoff Cunfer's use of GIS to examine the Dust Bowl during the 1930s.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The History Road Warrior's Abilene Adventures
(by Brenan Smith, M.A. candidate)

I went to Abilene for research, but also managed to find a fantastic museum and fascinating assortment of roadside attractions.  The giant saluting "Chieftain" welcomes travellers to a motel just down the street from the town highschool.  I was impressed not only by the fact that it had zero graffiti on it, but that the people standing beside us wondered, "What does he mean by 'Aboriginal?",  when I commented on the statue to my wife.  A real cultural difference!

Louis Lamour Lane, other than being a poorly maintained street dedicated to a Western author, leads to the giant buffalo statue -- which I did not see, as it was closed to visitors without money.  (That includes travelling grad students.)

The next two pictures are the grounds at the Eisenhower museum, every part of which essentially tells the story of the Eisenhower family and how soldiers are great.

The semi-pointilist semi-pixelated Eisenhower mural is on the side of a liquor store, obviously a nice slice of Americana...

I also found a drive through liquour store, which seemed to be uniquely American.

The following pictures are from the Eisenhower Museum, including Mamie's hats.

Then... something I found both hilarious and a tad risque for the time:  "I like Ike" pantyhose and garters.  I'd never thought of such provocative campaign tools before (especially since the men were simply given branded ties).

The safe conduct pamphlet below interested me because it was a type of psychological warfare.  It guaranteed that any German soldier who surrendered would receive fair treatment, as opposed to any other treatment that German soldiers might otherwise receive.

One of the first teleprompters was also at the museum -- a great example of early technology!  Eisenhower apparently distrusted cameras and such technology, but understood the necessities of them.

Once outside the realms of the museum, I discovered the world's largest spur.

Which, in turn, reminded me of something that I should be doing:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Fateful Trip

Now sit right back and you'll read a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...

Back in September 2005, History Honours alumna (2005) Jill McKenzie was one of eight Canadians chosen for the Young Professionals International Program, which is administered by the Canadian Museums Association and supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs. For six months, Jill worked as a Junior Curator at the Migration Museum in Adelaide, South Australia.  She reviewed the Museum’s collection of Vietnamese objects to assess their relevance to the South Australian Vietnamese community's immigration and settlement history and made recommendations for future museum acquisitions. She also worked with South Australian Vietnamese community organisations to research and develop South Australian content for the exhibition, Fall of Saigon: Collected Fragments of Post 75 Generation.

After her internship, Jill worked as a curator at the Migration Museum in Adelaide and the South Australian Maritime Museum in Port Adelaide.  Jill also met her partner David (an Aussie) during her placement and they married in November last year.  She is now managing online and other public programs at History SA, but has recently applied to begin her PhD at the University of Adelaide.

What started as a six month placement has become six years! 

Jill and her husband David in Port Douglas, Queensland

"I like GPS -- it gives me direction
when I am driving."

Earlier this summer, I received news of our alumna Akira Peters (2010) who had suffered a hemorragic stroke in 2008 just before her final year of a combined Honours degree. Now entering her final year of an Education degree at the University of Alberta, she was recently featured in an inspirational article by the Stroke Recovery Association of Edmonton in which we learn about the usefulness of GPS and how to put "possibility in stroke disability."  But that is not her only big news: while on a cycling trip in the Rockies in June, she got engaged to her long-term boyfriend, Andrew.  Exciting times ahead, GPS or no GPS!
What Graduate Students
Do in the Summer

So far this summer we've heard about our grad students giving conference papers, but The Summer Research Trip is another staple activity of grad student life.  MA student Brenan Smith has kindly agreed to be a roving graduate student reporter this summer.  As a history road warrior, he will be sending us a couple dispatches from the highways and byways of the United States as he goes forth in search of his sources.  Up next week: Abilene, Kansas.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Weekend Plans?

If not, how about a book signing at McNally's?  Stuart Houston and Bill Waiser will be having a book signing at McNally Robinson on Saturday, July 16 at 1 p.m.  Their book, Tommy's Team, has been shortlisted for the CAA Lela Common Award for Canadian History and the winner will be announced in just over a week!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

How Professors Spend the Summer:
The Heritage Fair

Robert Englebert (see February 10th entry) has been busy introducing the young people of Saskatoon to Métis history.  Below is his special report on his participation in the Saskatoon Regional Youth Heritage Fair...  It sounds like a fun day -- maybe next year he will provide What's Up with a video of him playing the spoons!


For the last couple of years I've been on the organizing committee for the Saskatoon Regional Youth Heritage Fair. Think science fair: but history for students grades 4 to 9.

It has been a great experience. One of the things I've enjoyed the most has been bringing in a Métis fiddler and jiggers to entertain the kids and their parents. This year, Dallas (Fiddler) Boyer and St. Mary's Dance Troupe performed, while I helped kids in the audience learn to play the spoons.

I was also excited to be able to contribute a book prize this year on behalf of the history department. Valerie Korinek and Linda Dietz provided a couple historical fiction books written by Dr. Geoffrey Bilson, which I presented to the winner of the highest judged project at the grade 4-5 level.  Bilson would have approved.  An American specialist who taught at the University of Saskatchewan from 1964-1987, Bilson also had side interests in Canadian medical history and children's historical fiction.

The best part of the Heritage Fair, though, has been spending time meeting the students and talking to them about their projects. Their enthusiasm for history is infectious and has made the Fair one of my favorite events of the year!