PLEASE feed the bears!

Do you like black bears? If the answer is "yes" and you've figured out a way to bend time and space, go check out Jasper National Park in Alberta. According to a 1938 booklet published by the Department of Mines and Resources, it was a great place to get up close and take photographs of wild creatures. As was noted,

the most energetic camera enthusiast will never tire of photographing the more domesticated animals which frequent the haunts of man in Jasper Park -- particularly the black bear, which are so tame that they almost seem to understand the business of having their picture taken and strike awkward and amusing poses when encountered.

The bears weren't the only animals that tourists were promised close and ready access to.

Almost equally willing to oblige camera men are the deer which may be found around Jasper town, on camp site and golf course, while other smaller animals, also tamed by the constant association with unarmed humans, make splendid camera studies.
black bear, Jasper National Park 1938 booklet.jpg

And yes, this picture from the same booklet features a small child feeding a young black bear.

Needless to say, such behaviour is no longer considered acceptable in Canada's National Parks. That said, I'm not sure when the change in policy took effect. Do you happen to know anything about this? If so, please feel free to leave a note in the comments section below. (Thanks!)

Do you "like" The First Green Wave?

There's now a Facebook page for The First Green Wave: Pollution Probe and the Origins of Environmental Activism in Ontario. Do feel free to "like" it and help spread the word about the book.  You can find the Facebook page here.

Academic publishers such as UBC Press don't have particularly large budgets to market new books, and most of their advertising budget is directed towards the scholarly market. That said, plenty of folks outside of academia have indicated to me that this is something they'd like to read. Because of that, I'm hoping to raise awareness through word of mouth. While part of this involves speaking dates across Ontario in March and April to mark the release of the paperback edition of The First Green Wave, it would be foolish to neglect the power of social media. (This is 2015, after all.)

So, if you're interested in this book, I'd be delighted if you'd "like" it on Facebook. And if you know somebody that you think might be interested in it, don't be shy about recommending it.

Thank you for your support!

Public Lecture in Toronto on the History of Environmental Activism in Ontario

I'm delivering a public lecture on the history of environmental activism in Ontario at the Toronto Reference Library on April 21, 2015. Start time is 6:30 p.m., in the atrium. This is a free event, and all are welcome!

(I'll have some copies of The First Green Wave: Pollution Probe and the Origins of Environmental Activism in Ontario on hand.)

For information about the Toronto Reference Library, you can check out this link. The library also has a page about the event, which can be viewed here.

"The Fourth Wave of the Ku Klux Klan" and American History

Vice has released "The Fourth Wave of the Ku Klux Klan," which documents the extremist group's efforts to recruit disaffected military veterans in Mississippi. Thriving off of the economic discontent and latent Islamophobia present in the United States, the Klan also appears to be attracting a disproportionate number of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. According to the documentary, previous waves of the Klan took advantage of similar conditions to promote their expansion. As is noted, "Besides white robes and hoods, the other thing these three iterations had in common was the recruitment of disenfranchised and troubled young men returning home from combat who were struggling with adapting to societal changes happening in America."

How significant is the problem presented here? According to Daryl Johnson, a domestic hate group expert interviewed in the documentary, it's more significant than people recognize. "We're currently in one of the hottest periods of extremist activity in the United States that I've seen in my twenty year career," he explains in the third segment. "This blows what we saw pre-Oklahoma City [bombing, carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols in 1995] out of the water and makes it look like a kindergarten picnic." (I suppose Johnson has a vested interest in promoting this notion, since his consulting company, DT Analytics, specializes in domestic extremism. That still doesn't explain away the rest of the documentary.)

If you have a spare half hour to watch this, I highly recommend it. The first part of the documentary is embedded, and you can find links to part two and three here and here.

50 years since Canadian flag design approved by Parliament

The Stanley Flag, following its adoption by parliament.

The Stanley Flag, following its adoption by parliament.

Fifty years ago today, George Stanley's design was approved by Parliament for use as Canada's national flag. Stanley, an historian, based his design in part on the flag of his employer, the Royal Military College of Canada. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia,

"Stanley's inspiration had actually come from the Royal Military College flag — two red vertical stripes bookending a white centre on which an armoured fist holds three maple leaves beneath a royal crown. Stanley simply replaced the centre elements with a stylized maple leaf.

A more professional drawing of Stanley's crude sketch was eventually made, to be included among the many designs being considered by the committee, which had become deadlocked on the matter. As pressure mounted, Stanley's design won out, partly thanks to [Liberal MP John] Matheson's backing, but also because of its simplicity; it afforded a compromise between those who wanted the Pearson Pennant and those who favoured either more complicated designs, or the Red Ensign."

The Flag of the Royal Military College of Canada.

The Flag of the Royal Military College of Canada.

Despite its approval by Parliament, the flag was not officially flown until February 15, 1965.

To learn more about "the Stanley Flag," check out this link.

Time capsules in the news: Boston, Mass. edition

boston time capsule screencapture.png

I wrote about time capsules in Toronto a few weeks back. This week, a Boston, Massachusetts time capsule gained news headlines when it was unearthed. As far as time capsules go, this one sounds pretty interesting. (If it was a Rocky movie, it'd be somewhere around Rocky II territory.) It was placed in the cornerstone of the State House in 1795 by Samuel Adams, Paul Revere, and William Scollay, all three of whom were figures of renown. (All three also have popular things named after them: one has a brewery named after him, one has a namesake '60s band, and the other a square.) The time capsule was taken to the Museum of Fine Arts, and will be opened next week. For more coverage of this story, check out this article from the Boston Globe.

A provincial museum for Prince Edward Island?

When Robert Ghiz was elected premier of Prince Edward Island back in 2007, one of his promises was the creation of a provincial museum. Prince Edward Island already had a provincial museum system, featuring seven sites that range in theme from the Green Park Shipbuilding Museum to the Acadian Museum and the Basin Head Fisheries Museum. What you won't find in the province, however, is a museum that will tell you an overarching history of the province and its people. Ghiz, who recently announced that he will be leaving politics in 2015, now says that the museum might come in the form of a gift from the federal government in 2017. You know, as a thank you for the 150th anniversary of Confederation. Which we trace back to the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, so the province deserves it. But he also notes it isn't a priority. So I suggest you don't hold your breath on this one.

Prince Edward Island is a perfect example of how stratified history can become. In addition to the seven government-funded sites referred to above, there are many more museums that tell the story of a renowned figure, a town, or an important commodity. (And really, who doesn't want to visit the Canadian Potato Museum in O'Leary?) These stories are all worth sharing, and I'm happy these museums exist. They acknowledge that there is more than one experience or perspective worth remembering. At the same time, I would love to see a single site museum that provides an overarching story of Prince Edward Island that could serve as the central piece of the existing provincial museum system.

The fact that Ghiz is leaving the premier's office might provide some hope for this cause. The frontrunner to replace him is Wade MacLauchlan, who earlier this year released a political biography of Alex Campbell, Prince Edward Island's 23rd premier. MacLauchlan is a known supporter of Island culture and heritage ... perhaps he'll prioritize the issue?

As it turns out, the absence of a central museum isn't a problem unique to Prince Edward Island. The lack of a Museum of Toronto is an issue that Christopher Moore addressed at the end of a recent blog entry. Is this a unifying factor for Prince Edward Islanders and Torontonians? In the name of history, I'll take it.