Saturday, December 06, 2008

An Unwanted Journey: Day 1109 - Visits as Artifacts


Using the term artifacts was a conscious decision in the early 1980s by some colleagues and me when we started up a part-time business. We wanted to create and distribute software to museums, galleries and archives which improved their effectiveness in documenting collections, and sharing that information with other publicly funded institutions.

One of the key terms at the time in federally funded museums across Canada was "material culture". Material culture was anything physical that survived over time and provided material cultural historians with objects for study. The idea was simply that historians tended to use surviving texts, got paid reasonably good money, and taught in universities. Material culture historians tended to have at their disposal objects made or modified by human culture and then recovered during archeological endeavours. These historians got paid poorly, if at all, and taught tour guides. The word artifacts was part of a clear trend among such poorly paid "professionals" to regularize and normalize what they did.

I had already taken a leave from doctoral studies in Canadian medical history at the University of Waterloo. One of the trends I monitored was something called Public History, the practice of history outside the academy. Examples of pubic history practitioners included educational consultants, museum curators, historic site interpreters, and authors of historical fiction.

When friends, family, and colleagues visit me these days, I sometimes feel like I am engaging in Public History with a specialization in out-patient palliative care treatment for patients dealing with metastatic colorectal cancer. Since our visits don't consistently generate artifacts, thinking this way is a bit of a stretch. If I blog about a visit, then the blog itself becomes a "virtualized" piece of material culture.

In fact, this blog is a truly a kind of Public History whose value becomes greater the more people there are who take similar initiatives.

I seems the connections and implications I want to see from blogging become more tenuous with each passing day. But if the blogosphere is opening up communications channels, increasing frequency of communication, and providing a 24/7 online resource for others interested in this artifact, then I'll grudgingly accept the previous criticism.

As for the visits of just the last couple days themselves...

Mom and Dad - always good to see them and get/give the requisite hugs and kisses.

M.S. from work - a great colleague whose wit and wisdom I truly miss daily.

C.D. and B.M. - an introduction, some reflections on assets based loans and the various financial crises in the United States, and catch up on family events and functions.

The best of the best is, of course, catch up.

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