Friday, July 11, 2014

A Map of Thinking involved in Understanding

Here's an example explanation of the See-Think-Wonder protocol:

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Keeping it real.

by Cynthia Wallace-Casey,
PhD Candidate
University of New Brunswick

The recent announcement of a name change for Canada’s Museum of Civilization has sparked a great deal of public debate in Canada. It all began, when Heritage Minister, James Moore, first announced the idea in 2012, as part of a departmental branding initiative. In anticipation of Canada’s upcoming 150th anniversary of Confederation, funding priorities are being directed towards specific historical benchmarks.

One month after making the announcement, Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Museums Act in order to establish the Canadian Museum of History and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, received first reading in the House of Commons, followed by a second reading in May 2013. Meanwhile, museum consultants launched a cross-Canada engagement campaign, holding roundtable discussions in nine cities, and establishing an online survey for wider participation.  By December 2013, the name change became official. The Canadian Museum of Civilization would now be called the Canadian Museum of History.

There was more to this initiative, however, than merely a name change. The mandate of the museum was made much more specific, switching from a broad cultural sweep:
…to increase, throughout Canada and internationally, interest in, knowledge and critical understanding of and appreciation and respect for human cultural achievements and human behavior by establishing, maintaining and developing for research and posterity a collection of objects of historical or cultural interest, with special but not exclusive reference to Canada, and by demonstrating those achievements and behavior, the knowledge derived from them and the understanding they represent. (Dewing, 2012, p.3)
To a more focused historical stance:
…to enhance Canadians' knowledge, understanding and appreciation of events, experiences, people and objects that reflect and have shaped Canada’s history and identity, and also to enhance their awareness of world history and cultures.(Dewing, 2012, p.3)

As well, along with this change came additional one-time funding, in the amount of $25 million, to renovate and re-integrate The Canada Hall, the Canadian Personalities Hall, and Canadian Postal Museum (Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2012). Of these three permanent exhibit spaces, proposed changes to The Canada Hall have brought about the greatest public reaction. There are those who see this as an attempt by Stephen Harper to “rewrite history” (Geddes, 2013); while others see this as a museum exercise, like none other (Butler, 2013), that has the support of museum staff, board of directors, and building architect Douglas Cardinal (Bolen, 2012).  

Sifting through the series of parliamentary discussions which took place around these events is a tedious task. One thing that clearly stands out, however, is that President and CEO, Mark O’Neill, presents a compelling argument as to why these changes are necessary at this time (Parliament of Canada, June 10, 2013). First of all, there does not exist a museum in Canada that presents a “pan-Canadian” story about our national past. As O’Neill points out, although the Canadian Museum of Civilization has been working since 2005 to broaden and deepen its Canadian content (Corporate Plan, 2005-2010, p. 17), their exhibition efforts have not met expectations. Secondly, the three permanent exhibition spaces devoted to this purpose, namely The Canada Hall, the Canadian Personalities Hall and Canadian Postal Museum, do not work together as a unified exhibition space. In the words of O’Neill, the exhibits present “serious shortcomings” (Parliament of Canada, June 10, 2013).

The Canada Hall in particular, has been plagued with problems. Presenting a Eurocentric interpretation of our nation’s past, “history” in The Canada Hall begins, with the arrival of Europeans. As such, First Nations history is totally ignored, and women’s roles are marginalized.  

Originally conceived to be a backdrop for theatrical storytelling and revenue-generating events (Rider, 1994), The Canada History Hall presents an imagined  past – not history, and not heritage. The static interpretation units present a re-constructed environment that is Disneyesque in nature, making a ‘walk through time’ seem lifeless and frozen. Although there do exist interpretive gems along the pathways of ‘imagineering’, as a visitor, we have no way of knowing what is authentic and what is merely fabrication. We are also given no opportunity to contribute our thoughts to the experience; or challenge any of the subliminal narratives we encounter. Instead, we are treated as naïve consumers of a ‘ghost town’ past.

If O’Neill is correct in stating that all of the museum curators are in full support of this endeavor, then I trust their professionalism. Their dedication to the artifact collections is what counts most in this debate. I trust that they realize the great burden of reasonability that they carry for our nation’s material history. All political joisting aside, let’s not lose sight of what is absolutely essential to Canada’s network of museums: working together as a community of inquiry; and preserving our national treasures. To that, I say, please Mr. O’Neill, keep it real. Honour the collections which we, as Canadians, hold so dearly in your trust.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Kids Don't Learn Better Just Because They're Young 'Little Sponges': What Really Works

Great post by Daniel Willingham in Real Clear Education (April 22, 2014):

RCEd Commentary
You often hear the phrase that small children are sponges, that they constantly learn. This sentiment is sometimes expressed in a way that makes it sound like the particulars don’t matter that much -- as long as there is a lot to be learned in the environment, the child will learn it. A new study shows that for one core type of learning, it’s more complicated. Kids don’t learn important information that’s right in front of them, unless an adult is actively teaching them. 

The core type of learning is categorization. Understanding that objects can be categorized is essential for kids’ thinking. Kids constantly encounter novel objects. For example, each apple they see is an apple they’ve never encountered before. The child cannot experiment with each new object to figure out its properties. She must benefit from her prior experience with other apples, so that she can know, for example, that this object, since it’s an apple, must be edible.

Read more... 

Sacrificing Comfort for Complexity: Presenting Difficult Narratives in Public History

Interesting post by Rose Miron in The Public History Commons (April 24, 2014):

Editor’s Note: This piece continues a series of posts related to the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, a collaboration of public history programs across the country to raise awareness of the long history of the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay (GTMO) and foster dialogue on its future. For an introduction to the series, please see this piece by the Project’s director, Liz Ševčenko.
Fort Snelling. Photo credit: Rose Miron
Fort Snelling. Photo credit: Minnesota Historical Society
Upon entering Fort Snelling, visitors are greeted with American flags, interpreters dressed in 19th-century military attire, and a narrative of patriotism and progress. The historic site in St. Paul tells the story of Minnesota’s founding but in the process obscures a story about Dakota dispossession and genocide. For Dakota people, Fort Snelling is not a symbol of the state’s triumphant founding but rather a testament to American imperialism, a reminder of the women and children that were held there in the winter of 1862-1863, and the hundreds that died in the camp, as well as on the death marches to and from Fort Snelling. It is this “difficult history” that the Minnesota Historical Society struggles to present at Fort Snelling.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Comment peut-on rendre l’histoire et le patrimoine plus accessibles à une génération de plus en plus branchée ?

Par Nathalie Landry
( - le 8 avril 2014)

C’est une question qui préoccupe Jeanne Mance Cormier, conservatrice au Musée acadien de l’Université de Moncton, Aïcha Benimmas, professeure à la Faculté des sciences de l’éducation de l’Université de Moncton,  et Éric Poitras, étudiant au postdoctorat à l’Université McGill. Leur collaboration met à profit une expertise en éducation muséale, en pédagogie, en histoire et en éducation en réseau. Ils collaborent actuellement sur un projet de recherche intitulé Collaboration interdisciplinaire en matière d’éducation muséale — Enjeux et promesses des TIC, dont les fruits seront présentés à Toronto ce jeudi 10 avril, lors de la Conférence annuelle de l’Association des musées canadiens.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Museums make you happier and less lonely, studies find

Author: Lindsay Van Thoen
March 26, 2014  - Freelancers Union 
One of the greatest things about freelancing is that although we’re often very busy, we can choose to be “off” during 9-5 hours. This means that we can visit uncrowded museums and attend other midday events, which are often hellish on the weekends.
Here are 6 reasons why you should take a long lunch tomorrow and head off to your local museum: