Website update week 3

This week, despite a small road bump with our meeting on thursday, we were able to gain access to a lot of the information that the MHSO has available that isn’t accessible to the public.  Going through these documents I really got a lot more excited about doing this assignment and working with the MHSO.  I picked my oral history to focus on and chose Michal Kyjovsky, but unfortunately his collection was in Ukrainian.   I ended up reassessing the collection and chose Stanley Frolick.  Listening to his history and going through some of the documents with more detail really excited me about starting my paper and getting content for the website ready.
Also this week we narrowed down each of our groups topics to do research.  There was a lot of hesitation about picking a topic, I initially thought that there would be information just handed to us and we would be putting it up on the website.  But, I like this a lot better because it makes what we need to do for our essays a lot clearer and gives me more freedom to choose something that I enjoy.  One thing I was curious about Matt is I know that we are supposed to be putting these essays onto the website but some of the material I have I dont think will translate very well to my section.  Also, since I have two major “topics”  for my portion of the website, an oral history as well as my research trying to incorporate them into my essay would fragment it and not make for a very good essay.  Should I focus on my oral history or my research.  I was thinking about stringing my oral history through my research in the essay but again, I feel like that may come off as very forced to someone reading my paper.

More personal websites

As we all try to do independent research this week, I tried to focus more on the design aspects that I had limited time to explore this past week. After getting off to a good design start in last weeks class, conceptually, in my mind, I feel like we finally have a good backbone to work with for the layout of our site. And, I definitely think it is best to use the parent theme matt suggested just for the simple ease of use and troubleshooting reasons, that might be a slight change, but I’m looking forward to doing that in class or soon after this coming week.
I’ve been trying to find some examples of other community historical websites relevant to people who may even visit our website one day. My goal is to see what they’re doing specifically that we may not have thought of, since the people interested in exploring historical websites are possibly other folks involved in some way with another community history society.
The following three websites

All have their strengths and weaknesses just like we discussed in the first semester. However, they give visitors a much more personal connection to the volunteers and facilitators of each historical society and historical society event. I think this is one aspect that we haven’t considered enough, if we want KMHS to be able to build membership, or maybe reach out to other post-secondary or secondary students to do volunteer research for them, the KMHS site must feel personable and welcoming of community members. One way to do this, talk more about the background of the historical society founders and profile their accomplishments or involvement with KMHS. Another way is to take photos and develop a page that chronicles KMHS events, one of which is happening in March, so we could even include it in our website and set up the infrastructure for more posts like it.
Definitely something to consider.

Interviews and migration patterns

This week our group got access to the oral histories that were collected by MHSO. It has caused a bit of problems for the group and me. For the group, 3 our 4 of the interviews from Toronto are in Ukrainian, while the ones from Ottawa, Montreal and Kingston are in English. We decided that I would work on one of the Ukrainian Toronto interviews, Liam will take the English Toronto interview, while Paul and Anstey will pick English ones from else where. How this affects our scope we will have to see.  We still don’t have our paper topics but I have narrowed mine down to two, Ukrainian Churches in Toronto, or the Ukrainian Students club in the 60’s and 70’s.

I had a problem reconciling the dynamics of history. I also have had some problems articulating my problem exactly, so I apologize in advance. I originally was focusing on the oral history of a man named Stanley Frolick who was a member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalist (OUN) when he was in Ukraine. While this groups mandate was to have an Independent Ukraine, there image and understanding of this Ukraine, was one only for Ukrainians. It was a nationalist organization and it’s members, and groups formed by them,  helped with the elimination of the Jewish, Czech, and Polish populations from Ukraine. Now this is much more complex then I am briefly outlining here but I my problem really lies in the fact that organizations like OUN are still idealized. The Ukrainian Diaspora glorifies groups that massacred the Jews in the Holocaust, and then defends these actions. I had a moment when I did not think as a historian but as a member of the Ukrainain community, disappointed with a large elements of it and it’s historical myths. So my problem really is that line of objectivity, I guess the problem with working with topics that are so close to you drawing this line.

This experience reminded me of a German movie made in the 1990’s called The Nasty Girl, where a young girl asks the questions ‘What happened in my town during World War Two?’

On another note, I have discovered something interesting, that there was a migration of Ukrainians from the Prairies to Toronto after World War Two. Often these Ukrainians came from families that migrated in the interwar years. This is interesting because it is not often discussed in terms of immigration or settling patterns of Ukrainians in Canada. There is a lot mentioned about migration of Ukrainians from Saskatchewan and to Alberta during the depression, and other movements, but not as much about settling in Toronto.



Blog 12: The Legacy of Kensington Market—Some Interesting Findings

As our team’s research on the history of Kensington Market continues so do the interesting findings. Below is a snippet of the some of the research I’ve been pursuing as I develop a basic profile of important milestones in Kensington’s recent history:

In 2006, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) designated Kensington Market as a site of national historic significance. Established in 1919, the HSMBC assumes an advisory role to the Minister of the Environment concerning the national historic significance of locations, individuals and key events that define Canadian history. As of April 2012, 965 National Historic Sites exist and are administered by Parks Canada or other levels of government or private entities. The HSMBC granted Kensington this designation on the basis of three reasons. First, the community witnessed multiple waves of ethnic communities who have settled in Toronto since the early 20th century. Second, Kensington represents Canada’s ethnic mosaic on a micro scale. Third, the neighbourhood has developed into a unique urban district with a legacy cultural institutions and custom shops which distinguish it from the larger metropolis.[1]

[1] “Government of Canada Commemorates the National Historic Significance of Kensington Market.” Canadian Corporate News, May 25, 2008.|A179375085&v=2.1&u=tplmain_z&it=r&p=CPI&sw=w&authCount=1 (accessed January 25, 2013).


KMHS/ Team Cobra Update III: Diving into Research

This week I was tasked with starting the initial research; my time period is the “pre-Kensington” period in a sense, from the late 19th century through to 1910 or 1920 (I don’t actually remember the cut-off we agreed on…). First off, research is going to be really time consuming. Not so much that it is more work than any other project, although is IS difficult to find such local sources since we are excluding oral ones, but more that there is a lot of time spent in order to do the research. For example, the handful of about 10 books that I wanted to read are spread out across at least 5 different libraries, which means a lot of to-ing and fro-ing: it feels like I do more tramping around campus than actual reading of sources which can be frustrating. Furthermore, a lot of the data is going to have to come from pouring through Toronto Archives and online article databases. Tomorrow I’m planning on heading down to Kensington itself to check out rumours of resources at St Stephen’s community center.

Today I finally feel like I got some actual content down – I spent a few hours with a really good resource in the ROM library. The book, though I didn’t finish the entire section on Kensington before the library closed (you can’t take the books out…), gave me a much better handle on the early history; it provided a very extensive portrait of the Denison family (wealthy, Protestant, conservative loyalist, military men by the accounts I’ve read). It’s interesting though; the author, Doug Taylor, focuses mainly on the significance of individual buildings – looking at their architecture, history, and records of who lived there – and less on telling a narrative of the market as a whole. It felt more like reading a compendium of statistical primary sources than a secondary source.

Reading today made me wonder about the content and narrative of our project. On one hand, we need to write essays for this class. The idea is that our essays will be content for the website, but I feel like in order to write a good paper with a thesis, our papers will need to be a lot more specific than I imagine the narrative that needs to be constructed for the website being. In one of my classes last semester we talked about the difference between writing say, a monograph and a textbook; I feel like to write a good essay is more along the lines of writing a monograph but, perhaps, writing the narrative structure of this website is more akin to writing a textbook. Furthermore, the specific nature of Doug Taylor’s history made me question the best way to explore Kensington’s history. My initial reaction was that his data was too precise for us; he focused too much on individual houses and who lived in and rented them when etcetera while we are trying to draft a larger narrative that reflects the flow of Kensington’s atmosphere over time. However, on the other hand, Kensington market IS in the details and maybe to write an overarching history erases its vital essence.

KMHS/ Team Cobra Update II: Divide and Conquer

So, this post should have been last week but it’s happening now.

We met up last week to talk about our project and finish putting together the proposal. Liz had drawn up the  mock-ups of the designs that she, Sam, and I talked about after class the previous week. It’s interesting because once we were talking as a group and looking at them, our ideas about what we want, considering the logistics of using (and creating!) the website, really changed. I think that the model is going to keep evolving as we go further into the project and, in order to succeed, we will need to remain flexible and not get too fixated on certain aspects. For example, we had initially imagined a map for every time period, with different markers on it, possibly changing with a slider on a timeline. In the end, we have decided that this is not only very technically challenging, but also something that we wanted in the project, not the KMHS. In the end we have decided to just have one page with one map with markers which can act as the inventory of building that the KMHS talked about wanting to create. To use the words of William Faulkner, I think it is going to important to be able to “kill [our] darlings” when necessary.

In terms of the timeline, it seems like we are going back to the idea of dividing time numerically, in say 20 or 30 year brackets, rather than by waves of immigration. It seems as though waves of immigration would create problematic, in the sense of being arbitrary or even artificial, breaks that restrict telling a narrative that embraces the flow of Kensington’s history. This week, while Liz and Sam focus on visual, Sarah, Anneliese, and I are doing initial research which we will compile in order to create the basic timeline and decide how best to break of the periods. The basic chronology that I’ve sketched out, from Marion Kane’s article, A Kensington Century, goes like this:

1880s: Denison family estate which was divided into lots and sold to, predominantly, Anglo-Saxon families
~1910: first waves of Jewish immigrants moving into the Kensington area from The Ward
1920s-1930s: ~80% of Toronto’s Jewish population lived in Kensington Market
1910-1940s: various waves of Jewish, Italian, Ukrainian, and “Black” immigrants
1960s: Jews started to move out, and Portuguese started to move in
late 1960s: Caribbean commercial presence in the market (though they did not live there)
… followed by latin Americans, Vietnamese, Chinese, up until today’s eclectic mix.

Clearly, there is a lot of overlap and, I would say, it would be problematic to label time periods according to ethnicity.

WordPress Plugin Needs

I’m trying to collect a list of technical problems we know will be faced by projects this term. I’m going to try to help implementing some of the solutions, though I likely won’t be able to do everything. So I will definitely need feeback/buy in/testing/coding help from some of you at some point. Anyway, here is a partial list, can you use the comments list to expand/correct?


Projects: Kensington & Regent Park, at least; MHSO, maybe.

Functionality: Geotag some or all posts. Generate map markers from those posts. Enable filtering of markers e.g. by category.

Starting Points: Geo Tag Plugin, and some others on WP plugins site.


Projects: Probably everyone?

Functionality: Create & style sliders. Have them generated automtially form post content. Make it easy for end-users to edit/modify.

Starting Points: zillions of them. Most require jQuery.

Popcorn Oral History Interface

Projects: MHSO at least

Functionality: An internal interface to the popcornmaker editing framework that saves the popcorn data in custom fields of a custom content type. Uses WordPress’s own internal user authentication & returns the data in some bits, perhaps. Ned to figure out the relationship btwn the popcorn template & the wordpress templating system. ugh.

Starting Points: the popcorn list…


Projects: Kensington, probably (cf. proposal)

Functionality: Display a selection of posts on a timeline. Would be nice to be able to filter 7 control the timeline…

Starting Points: VéritéCo Timeline now exists! awesome! Cf. support threads here. Other options may be good too, but this looks pretty functional, pretty good-looking, & customizable (at first glance).

Your turn

OK, that’s what I’ve got. Comments, questions, additions? Please install the starting-point plugins on your sites & see whether they seem like good beginnings.

Blog # 13 Getting Started

So due to time constraints on my work schedule and because a truck load of homework has been dropped on my lap for this week, I have taken the liberty of writing my blog a lot earlier so I can get it done on time. This week my group and I have started looking into the oral histories which we will be using for the website for the MHSO as well as the focus for our Essays due in February.  The oral history I have chosen is about the story told by Joe Romanow.

As I write this I have only gotten through two of the four audio files which have been posted by our MHSO contact. His story is really interesting as he recalls tales of why his father and mother moved to Canada, or the fact that he was a World War II pilot who was stationed around the coast of France then transferred to become a transport pilot in London. One of my personal favorites of his story is when he begins to talk about his Post-War activities, such as gathering information for Ukrainians who were tuck in Allied Germany and were looking for ways to get out of the Country.

While I don’t as of this moment have a specific topic on what to write about in my essay, I have looked into some general sources such as Ukrainian immigration to Canada and their experiences, areas in Toronto in which they have lived in, and aspects of Ukrainian nationalism in Canada.

This week in coding academy, my group worked on using Python syntax. Again this type of coding was not really difficult for me as I have work with some of it during that course I mentioned two blogs ago in High school. The concept of variables and making calculations is straight forward and for me, easy to work with.