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Updates! Public History Things! Thoughts on Blogging!

Hello, dear readers!

First, an update on my Goose Village web documentary project:

I am still working on the editing, plugging away on it for at least two hours a day, every day.   The hardest part, by far, is coming up with introductory voice-overs that don’t seem pompous.  (I must keep in mind the motto: What Would Werner Herzog Do?)  But the end is in sight!  And I think it will turn out well.

I have been selected to present at the upcoming National Council on Public History‘s annual meeting this spring in Monterey, California!  I will be talking about the project as part of a panel on the historical interpretation of regional landscapes as it relates to environmental sustainability.  My presentation is tentatively entitled: “The Lost Landscape: Non-Linear Storytelling and Urban Micro-History in Montreal.”

In the meantime I’ve begun my first semester as a doctoral student at Brown University, pursuing a mix of scholarly research and publicly-engaged projects through the American Studies department and its Public Humanities program. I am not sure what to expect when my PhD program ends.  Traditional, history-related jobs that pay a living wage are becoming quite scarce.  But for now, at least, I can enjoy five years of job security in an atmosphere of creativity and resource abundance.  My goal is to make good use of this time and do as much as possible while it lasts.

Also: I have migrated my primary web presence to a new web site.  You’ll note that it’s a work portfolio, not a blog.  The fact of the matter is that I’m still figuring out how blogging relates to everything else that I do.    Wunderplatz became most popular when I was working in Alaska, as friends, family, a few public history folk, and various random people from the internet followed my adventures in fair Tenakee.  Then it was on to Montreal.  Throughout that time the blog represented an odd hybrid form of professional discourse and travel journal.  Now that I am back to routine life in the Lower 48, what is the blog’s raison d’etre?  Perhaps I should maintain two blogs: a personal one for friends and a separate one for “professional” public history matters (though, truth be told, these two spheres of my existence blur together quite a bit).  And perhaps while I’m at it I should choose a new blog name that is easier to spell and pronounce?

Until I resolve these matters, I will continue blogging here at Wunderplatz as the mood strikes.

As always, thank you for reading!

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From Outline to Mind-Map: History and Non-Linear Storytelling

Workers erected the Black Rock monument in 1859. Image from the McCord Museum (Creative Commons).

Establishment of the Black Rock monument in 1859. Image from the McCord Museum (Creative Commons).

History tends to be interpreted in the form of a story with a beginning, middle, and end.  And so as I started to plan out my Goose Village documentary project, I created an outline laying out the area’s history in chronological order.

The shortcomings of this approach were immediately apparent.  Take, for instance, the Black Rock monument.  The rock relates to many periods of history and themes covered by my project, including the typhus quarantine sheds for immigrants in the 1840′s, the building of the Victoria Bridge in the 1850′s, and the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ annual marches in the present day.  Bones from the mass grave of immigrants have been continually unearthed and reburied near the rock, “a voice arising from the old clay,” as an Irish ambassador referred to them in 1942.  So the Black Rock does not belong to one moment in time, easily wedged into an outline under a single heading, but to a 150+ year period of history and memory.  Continue reading

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Goose Village Documentary: Filmmaking Begins

A still from footage shot today: the Farine Five Roses sign overlooks Goose Village.

A still from today’s footage: the Farine Five Roses flour mill sign overlooking Goose Village.

Today I tested the camera equipment I’ll be using for my Goose Village documentary.  Now that my fingertips have thawed, I can blog about my high-def adventures!

I studied filmmaking in college, but back then I only worked in standard definition on miniDV tapes.  Now I have access to an HD camera through the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling here in Montreal.  Having no experience with the fancy 1080i HD format, I wanted to make sure it would work with my video editing program.

With a tripod and camera bag heaved over my shoulder, I walked down Bridge Street to the parking lot and rubble yard where Goose Village once stood.  I gathered footage from around the area, including some of the World War II memorial, which is practically all that is left of the neighborhood, plus some of the Black Rock.  I shot until my fingers went numb from the cold, then I came back and whipped up a clip.  Continue reading

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The Vanishing of an Urban Village: Research in Progress

A 1907 map showing Goose Village.  The neighborhood was to the east of the train tracks, between Mill Street and the St. Lawrence River. (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec)

A 1907 map showing Goose Village. The neighborhood was to the east of the train tracks, between Mill Street and the St. Lawrence River. (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec)

When I arrived in Montreal, my main challenge was to decide on a site to study for my Fulbright project.  I was looking for a place that had been somehow abandoned but that remained alive in peoples’ memory.  A many-layered place, perhaps one that had experienced radical physical and social changes from pre-colonial times to the present.

In my wanderings, I visited a local history museum, the Centre d’Histoire de Montréal.  There I encountered the Quartiers Disparus exhibition on Montreal neighborhoods lost to urban renewal projects between 1950 and 1975.  These included the Red Light, Faubourg à m’Lasse, and Goose Village.  The exhibition featured interviews with former residents as well as urban planners, weaving together different perspectives on the communities to explore what happened to them and why.  Continue reading

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