Saturday, June 30, 2012

Mentors, Meals, and Meeting People - NCPH 2012

This is the final post in a series about my experience at the OAH/NCPH 2012 Annual Meeting.  I started out talking about some of the more "traditional" sessions I attended at the meeting and then highlighted a couple of the "non-traditional" sessions that I found particularly enjoyable.  However, by far the most invaluable part of the trip to Milwaukee and attending NCPH 2012 was making connections with so many different people in the field.  

This brings me to the single piece of advice I would offer to any grad student or new professional planning on attending a conference - especially a large one for your field.  Take advantage of every opportunity offered to meet new people and have a new experience.

The first opportunity for me, was to sign up to be a volunteer at registration for the conference.  Grad students could volunteer and have our registration fee waived (so a great way to save money as well!)  Laura and I were assigned the unenviable time slot of 7:45  - 11:30am of the first day of the conference.  As much as it pained us to get out of bed so early, after such a long drive the day before, what previously seemed like a necessary evil to save some money turned out to be one of the best experiences during the conference.  Greeting members of both NCPH and OAH as they arrived, I had a chance to introduce myself, make contacts, and put names with faces of people that I wanted to hear speak.  It turned out to be a great opener when talking with people later in the conference, "Didn't I meet you at check-in?" and even resulted in some consulting work for me!

Mentor/Mentee Program
NCPH provides grad students and new professionals attending NCPH annual meetings for the first time an opportunity to connect with conference veterans through the mentorship program.  I signed up, and was paired with Mary Rizzo, Associate Director for the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.  We exchanged a few emails leading up to the conference, and then planned to meet at the opening reception the first day of the conference.  Mary was enthusiastic and easy to talk to, and introduced me to several other people at the reception.  We talked a bit about how we each got into public history, our roles in NCPH, and Philadelphia (we both love the city!)  I felt fortunate to have such a great pairing in the Mentor Program, because Mary had just as many questions for me as a new member of NCPH (she is a board member) as I had for her, a veteran in the field.  It made me feel that NCPH is concerned with meeting the needs of its members (which can be tricky for such as diverse field.) 

Women in the Historical Profession Luncheon
The conference offered many opportunities specifically for grad students, and one was free tickets (on a first come, first serve basis) the the Women in the Historical Profession luncheon.  Not wanting to miss an opportunity to network (and - let's be honest - get a free meal) Adriana, Laura, and I signed up.  This event was hosted by an Organization of American Historians (OAH) committee (it was a joint OAH/NCPH meeting.)  This was a change of pace for us, as most of the functions we had been attending were geared toward NCPH members (though some were for both organizations, like the opening reception.)  The three of us found ourselves at a lunch table with professors, authors, and traditional history PhD students.  I had a nice chat with a professor next to me about the UWO Public History program and what I planned on doing once I finished with my MA.  While it was a good opportunity to talk with people at the conference I likely wouldn't have otherwise met, it was also a bit of a reminder of why I am in public history as opposed to more 'traditional' history.

Overall, the conference was an amazing experience, and this was mostly a result of the people I listened to/talked with/met while I was in Milwaukee (as well as the fabulous people I traveled to the meeting with!)  It gave me a feel for what I dynamic organization NCPH is, and that is because of the diverse membership.  This was a wonderful opportunity, and I would recommend attending an annual meeting to anyone in the public history field.

Come to Ottawa in April for NCPH 2013!  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pathway to the Past - Route 1812

You can put the app on
your mobile device right now!
If you can "get your kicks on Route 66" you can get your history (as well as hotels and food) on Route 1812!  Yes, the mobile app for which my public history class spent all year researching content, is finally available, and it's free!  People have been asking me how they can access the app, and there are a couple ways.  

First, if you have a touch-screen device (any device - Apple, Android, Blackberry - doesn't matter) you can scan the QR code here, and it will take you to the app website.  From there you can put it right on your device.  (If you don't have a QR code scanner app on your mobile device, you can usually download one for free - it's a pretty handy thing to have since QR codes are becoming so popular.)

If you don't have a touch screen device, you can still access the app using a computer.  The app is available online here.  The website will only work if opened in a Google Chrome browser.  (If you need to put Chrome on your computer - you can do that here.)

Article in the Amherstburg Echo
announcing Windsor launch.
I recently wrote a wrap-up of our year-long Public History project, and I mentioned there how the scope of the project had evolved during that process.  The app now encompasses the entire Southwest Ontario region, and includes War of 1812 sites, other tourist attractions, as well as hotels and restaurants for those travelling the Route.  

Our class was still only responsible for the content of the 22 sites we were originally assigned.  So as you go through the app, you can find our research primarily on the sites between Windsor and London (the little black top hats.) The stellar Prelude to War section written by Adriana can be found under the Introduction tab of the app, as well as Sushima's amazing wrap-up, The Aftermath, in the Conclusion portion.  There is also a list of everyone who assisted us through our research and collaborative process (and it is a lengthy one) in the Tecumseh Parkway Development of the Acknowledgements section.

There has been a bit of press surrounding the launch of Route 1812, with events this past weekend in both Windsor and Hamilton.  I was able to attend both, and they were quite different experiences.  

Article in The Windsor Star about
the Windsor launch.
Saturday evening was the Windsor launch.  This event was held at the Mackenzie Hall Cultural Centre.  It opened with hors d'oevres, featuring specially labelled 1812 wine and a blueberry "cannonball" jam.   The official Essex County War of 1812 Commemoration Declaration was read, followed by speakers Kyra Knapp, 1812 Bicentennial Southwest Ontario Region; Jim Hudson, Southwest Ontario Tourism Corporation; Mike Dove, Western University; and Steve McBride, Weever Apps.  As Steve was walking the audience through the app, he also asked me to talk a bit about the sources we used during our research, and how we obtained all the images and audio found on our sites.  Even after the "official" event was finished, I lingered quite awhile speaking with some of the attendees.  We were thrilled to talk to the grade 7 teacher who planned to have her students access the app on their smartphones in class on Monday.  This was just one of the many ways we had envisioned our original app being used!  It was a nice opportunity to finally meet some of the other collaborators face to face, as well as catch up with my classmates who are all busy with internships this summer.  

The Sunday afternoon event in Hamilton has a slightly different feel to it.  Downtown Hamilton was busy with people since it was also an Open Streets day, and the road was closed to car traffic.  There was a VIP reception prior to the official launch, with more 1812 wine and ice cream.  We also had the opportunity to preview the new documentary series by the Ontario Visual Heritage Project, A Desert Between Us and Them.  I'm looking forward to seeing the finished project, which will officially launch next year.  The official Route 1812 launch ceremony took place in the lobby of the Tourism Hamilton Visitor Centre, and there were numerous speakers representing the many organizations and municipalities that collaborated on the project.  I would list them all here - but honestly I can't remember them all!  It concluded in similar style, with Steve, of Weever Apps, demonstrating to the attendees how to navigate the app on an iPad.  Perhaps it was because this event was larger, or due to the fact there was so much else going on around it, but I felt less "a part" of this event than I had Saturday evening.  Still, it was a pleasant afternoon of visiting with classmates and catching up.
Featured in an 1812 Special Section
of the Windsor Star.
The Amherstburg Echo, The Windsor Star, and the Southwestern Ontario Tourism Corporation have all run articles about the app.  It's interesting to see how each organization involved highlights different aspects of Route 1812.  Some tout the boost in tourism it could bring to the area, others delight in the merging of history and technology, but most seem to recognize that the whole project would not have been possible without the hard work and collaboration of many different people.

I was also interviewed for the CBC Windsor radio show The Bridge to talk about our role in developing the content for the app!  They weren't sure when I recorded the interview when it was going to air, and by the time I got the notice I had already missed hearing it!  Oh well, is probably for the best - as I don't care for the way my voice sounds recorded (chalk it up to my nasal mid-western accent...)  However, I did screen-capture the tweet mentioning the segment about our app.

Radio spot on CBC Windsor, The Bridge.
If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, I will likely be updating any more Route 1812 related news I find.  It's rewarding to see all of our hard work finally reaching the public!