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.
I am working on two projects in no particular order.
One 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 to explore narrative constructions of landscape, society, and identity on the eastern prairies c. 1793.
The second involves two papers related to the Winnipeg General Strike.
One – working title ” Strike or Revolution? H.A. Robson’s Inquiry and the Winnipeg General Strike” – explores the role of Hugh Robson’s 1919 royal commission inquiry report in shaping the meaning and interpretation by historians of the 1919 crisis. It will appear this fall in a special edition of The Manitoba Law Journal devoted the H.A. Robson.
The second, a conference paper for the Winnipeg General Strike Centenary Conference scheduled for May 1919 titled “A Scandal, a Royal Commission, a Tradition,” examines the historical provenance of one legal strategy that the Citizen lawyers sought unsuccessfully to deploy in their struggle against labour radicalism in 1919.
What was it? The Legislative Building scandal of 1915 that brought down the Roblin government and led to Royal Commissions and subsequent criminal prosecutions gave the Citizens a strategy – a royal commission – to turn organized labour into a criminal conspiracy.
Legacy: In 1945, E.K. Williams’ recommendation to W.L.M. King of a royal commission investigation – really a star chamber proceeding – into the Gouzenko Affair also had its provenance in Manitoba in the crisis of the Roblin government in 1915, and the Citizens’ struggle against organized labour in of 1919. Williams was both a participant and a student of these events.