KMHS/ Team Cobra Update IX: Inauguration

Liz, Sam, Anneliese, and I attended the KMHS’s Inaugural Event tonight at the Lillian H. Smith Library. (In the basement, which is kind of like an underground cathedral – check it out sometime, it’s pretty cool.) It was really exciting and a full house – maybe 2 or 3 empty seats only! The speakers were really great and it just really inspired me to want to keep working on our project: getting photos for the website, fleshing out the history with details about groups, individuals, and events. It was a really great way to get more ideas for content. Listening to Jean Cochrane, author of one of the books we used (a lot), was just like reading her book. I really, really liked the second speaker, Rosemary Donegan, author of Spadina Avenue. She was a really good speaker and her talk was filled with really interesting anecdotes and micro-histories of buildings still standing today. For me, she  provided a sense of other avenues* we could explore in order to create a fuller, richer picture of the Kensington area over time and as a part of a larger Toronto. Liz and I spoke to her afterwards and she had a lot of good ideas about where to look for images for our website. It seems to me like we are going to have to talk to the KMHS about having a copyright budget for photos – they aren’t going to be free.

We also were introduce to Sasha Knight who is a post graduate student at Willowbank School of Restoration Arts who is doing a project on Kensington Market for a class but through the KMHS. I really liked talking to him (and his program sounds super cool) because a lot of what he is studying is about the balance between conservation, restoration, and modernization: allowing for change. This is a tension that really interests me (exhibit A: my blog from 2 weeks ago) in general and particularly in terms of thinking about Kensington Market. For public history initiatives, I think this balance is a really important problem to consider. How can we preserve places of historical value, like neighbourhoods or even particular buildings, without eliminating or restricting the living element which demands the ability for change?

Moral of the Story: I just want to pour all of my energy into this project. It feels so much more real than all the things I am doing for my other classes. It doesn’t even feel like work.

Reality: I have two fairly important papers I need to be writing for other classes… ugh.

* Literally? This is a pretty great pun if you choose to read it that way… unintended but acknowledged.

Final Project Update – Blog # 5

Team Amazing’s project continues to take shape progressively. Individually we are in the final stages of collecting information that we will be putting on our website shortly; it already has the desired layout. For my end of the research, I primarily did my work on-site at MHSO, looking through their archives of images, newspapers, clippings, etc. It is truly fascinating to explore that side of history, getting close and personal with the subject matter you are covering. I was mostly looking for information of Ukrainian business operations and their progressions in Canada, with a specific focus of business co-ops and credit unions. Looking through the different pictures, advertisements and articles associated with this topic, I was able to collect some and scan them on file so as to be able to put on our website.

In regards to finding specific images and additional information for my oral interview, I found out that a lot of information exists at the Archives of Ontario. I will be visiting this location later this week, so as to acquire more information and images that will complement any previous information I have acquired, as well as provide more depth of understanding for perspective users. I have also almost finished transcribing my oral interview into digital format and broken it into sections that I want to include online. Later this week I will be working with the group to add that material online, as well as an associated written portion, so that users can read and hear the interview both at once, making for a much more interactive experience.

I think overall progress is being made, but there is still much to be done. Hopefully this week the group and I can make inroads and have most of our information put online.

Weekly Update

This week, and a few times in previous weeks, I have been visiting the MHSO archives and exploring the data and images they have.  The person I’m focusing on for our group, Stanley Frolick, has a wealth of information on him including interviews, pictures, and other information.  My favourite part of seeing all this is the amount of pictures he has.  Out of all the people in our group, he has the most information on him and it’s really cool top learn about someone who was so heavily involved in the Ukrainian community and what contributions he made.  The pictures come from a variety of places including passport photos, Ukrainian community photos, and family pictures.  The way they all come together is fascinating.  The only problem I’ve been having here is I’m not exactly sure how to go about bringing these images to our website…  Eva got a great idea for putting a header of Ukrainian immigrants up and managed to retrieve it so I’m hoping she can teach me how to use the machines there.  Usually when I go Cathy is somewhere is not in for that day.  She’s in today and tomorrow though so hopefully progress on this front will be made!

 

Game Plan

The creation of a social housing history website for Regent Park has seen its ups and downs up to this point in the project. With the deadline soon approaching, our teams objective is to create an efficient and effective game plan to come up with the desired outcome as projected in the beginning of this project.

Progress has come in waves and the focus has shifted from content creation to a look to the final project as a whole. With our essays written, focused on content creation for the website, much of Regent Park’s social housing history has been covered, leaving website design, compilation of photographs, and conducting oral history interviews as the major tasks to be completed. As of thursday March 14th, the objective is to have much of the structure of our website created and ready for upload, along with the interviewing of a local shopkeeper in Regent Park with a long history of serving the community. Furthermore, another objective is the compilation of photographs for the ‘Then and Now’ section of the website, which will comprise of photos from its classification as a ‘slum’ pre-1940s into the 1950s, post-construction, highlighting the drastic development of Regent Park. Throughout the decades thereafter, pictures will help illuminate the decaying state of a once bright and hopeful social housing project, to what has today become a development remodeled through the practice of gentrification.

Our group will use the resources of the Toronto Archives and Regent Park’s local library to compile a series of relevant photographs that will depict the development of Regent Park. One option being considered for the display within the ‘Then and Now’ section will be the use of sliders to show the changing nature of Regent Park, while the visitor simply watches. A simple description of each photograph will be provided beneath the changing photos to inform the user.

The final step of this project will be the editing of content to maintain the objectivity, a task that is difficult due to much of the complexity surrounding the implementation of the social housing project. This objectivity is key in maintaining the integrity of our website as a historical resource. Overall, as the deadline approaches our group will implement further organization and delegation of tasks throughout the coming weeks.

Regent Park; A Goal of Objective History

Wading through the pool of primary source data, my research has focused on the period within the 1970s. Post-construction saw the development of Regent Park from a different angle. As a physical construction, the social housing project in Regent Park at first is examined by many of its physical characteristics, such as its isolation, the division of North and South, and the distribution and lack thereof recreational facilities. However, this is the superficial view of Regent Park, where throughout the 1970s, Regent Park’s development or as some have argued, degradation back into a ‘slum’, has been tied to the policies and negative stigmatization of the residents of Regent Park.

The challenge of this historical content thus far has been providing objectivity without getting caught in the arguments over the success/failure of Regent Park. The discourse over Regent Park is continuously complicated by numerous factors such as the media, where as Sean Purdy points out, negatively stigmatized those living in the projects, particularly youth, as rowdy, violent, etc. through the publication of heavily negative news coverage. This representation in the media in conjunction with social assistance policies, trap people in the neighbourhood, as those residents became alienated from the rest of the City of Toronto. Furthermore, one cannot understand the history of Regent Park’s social housing history without understanding the dynamic of public policy rules and regulation. The policies such as Mother’s Allowance, where rents are charged highly disproportionate to the mother’s income due to ineffective application of public policy, have created a trap for residents within Regent Park. These concerns as outlined in the content I have created for the website have heavily impacted the development of Regent Park, turning it back into a slum.

It is arguably impossible to provide objective coverage over a topic such as Regent Park. Being one of the major challenges in the project, the many debates over the success of the social housing project are examples of the struggle between the residents of Regent Park and the rest of Toronto, whereby with the help of media and poor community-police relations, the image of Regent Park has isolated the project from the rest of the city. A goal of our website would be to clear some of the fog of subjectivity and create a narrative that is clear and objective.

LET’S DO THIS!

Our group has our work cut out for us. Not that it isn’t manageable, but it’ll require a fair bit more coordination and imagination than we’ve had thus far. I know everyone is up for it, so I’m encouraged by that.

First, we’ve got to figure out gaps in our research. I think we’ve managed to tease out some of the important threads that the website should follow, and Matt’s feedback on our essays lets us know that we’re generally on the right track. Our immediate task is to put our heads together and look for glaring weaknesses, or places where our story gets muddled or is altogether missing. Right now, I think the period between the 1950s and late 1960s is important, because it doesn’t only cover the arrival of the first families and the ostensible “birth of the community,” but there’s a lot of information we can include about post-war housing development in general. Regent Park is fascinating in and of itself, and any period

Second, and I mean RIGHT AWAY, we need to start populating the site substantively. I take the blame for this, actually; We scheduled a few meetings to work on the site in full and I was compelled to leave town for something I couldn’t really avoid. Bernadette was kind enough to send around a revised gameplan, which, if we follow, we can get back ahead of schedule. I think asking Matt our questions tomorrow will really get us going, at which point we can start to make significant improvements to the site. Until it gets on the site, a lot of this stuff is nothing more than ideas in our head.

Finally, we’ve got to make a few more community visits!

Website update from last week

Feels like it’s been ages since I last updated this blog..  I’m going to first update what I did last week and although it’s pretty late, it wouldn’t make sense to skip such an important step.  Then tomorrow I’ll update what I’ve done for this week because I’m pretty excited about it.  Last week the majority of my website contribution was in what I could create content wise.  Everyone in our group was given a section of Ukrainian Canadian history to look at and I was given the role of the Church.  What I found was anything but your typical narrative, instead I found this section of Ukrainian history to be fascinating.  Coming from a monocultural society, many Ukrainian Canadians hated the Canadian Catholic system, much of which as Matt explained to me was due to the Great Schism.  Of course I’d heard about this but I hadn’t seen it applied to Canadian history.  If you get the chance to read up on it I highly recommend it.  The Ukrainian community brought with it a completely different outlook which was met by resistance.  Needless to say it made for a great paper and really good content for the website.  However, I needed to fix up a lot of what I had written in the essay for the website content.  I’m really happy with what I have prepared, even though it took a lot more time than expected, and I’m looking forward to uploading it later tonight.  Much of the other work I did this week had to do with research at the MHSO in Kelly Library and isn’t completely finished so I’ll have a blog post updating that later on this week.  Hope everyone elses websites are going great!