Since 2012, I have been University Archivist (Emeritus) at Brandon University. In practical terms, I am now an independent researcher, writer, documentary producer with many interests – traditional historical and archival practice included – that tend to converge on public history.
The digital revolution has furnished a new terrain for public history and given a new urgency to the need to come to terms with its epistemological nature and practice. I spend lots of time thinking about that, though the ontological nature of self and narrative – postmodern matters – is demanding more attention lately.
These days, I am working on two projects. The first concerns the history and legal character of Canadian public inquiries. One paper – Strike or Revolution – Hugh Robson’s Inquiry into the Winnipeg General Strike – has appeared (Manitoba Law Journal). A second, dealing with the origins of Canada’s first Inquiries Act (1846), is in press (Journal of Canadian Studies). An examination of the place of the Mathers (1915) inquiry – Manitoba Legislative Building corruption and the fall of the Roblin government – in the history of Canadian executive inquiries will be published this fall (Manitoba Law Journal). An investigation into the probe into Russian espionage (Kellock-Taschereau Commission ) in Canada c. 1946, and the idioms or paradigmatic models of political discourse deployed by participants in this crisis to legitimize state actions and in turn to criticize the same is well under way. This inquiry marks – I argue – the apotheosis of the development of coercive inquiries in Canada and opens a window to the currents of political thought that dominated the Canadian political landscape c. 1946.
The second project involves journals composed independently by Hudson’s Bay Company men Donald McKay, John Sutherland, and Nor’ Wester John McDonnell, while traveling up the Assiniboine River in 1793. I hope to use these journals (and related sources) to mediate a dialogue on the past, present and future of the historic site of Brandon House #1 (1793-1811), to reinvest the site with narrative and meaning, and to lay a foundation for its restoration as a place of contemporary significance on the southeastern prairies.