Brock students, faculty and members of the public came together last weekend to celebrate all things history and mark the start of a new community collaboration.
The History Lab (THL) was launched during a history community open house held Saturday, April 7 at the Niagara Military Museum and Niagara Falls Public Library.
The initiative — a partnership between the Niagara Military Museum, Seedling for Change in Society and Environment (SCSE), and Maria del Carmen Suescun Pozas and Elizabeth Vlossak, Associate Professors in Brock’s Department of History — aims to create, support and sustain communities that promote history research through scholarly citizen engagement.
The THL launch was one of several highlights of the weekend event, which also featured the research and pedagogy of Suescun Pozas and Vlossak, poster presentations by MA students and the launch of the third edition of the undergraduate history journal The General.
The History Lab has grown out of the success of Seedling for Change in History, part of the non-profit SCSE founded by Suescun Pozas. Vlossak and Suescun Pozas are Fellow Associates with THL.
“Seedling for Change in Society and Environment is a community group whose members see themselves as citizens engaged in communicative action pursuing knowledge together for positive social impact,” says Suescun Pozas. “The History Lab was born in the space SCSE opened to have this kind of conversation and to start making a difference across Niagara.”
The History Lab brings together “what may at first appear to be unlikely partners,” Vlossak says. “But collaborating together and with community partners generates an incredibly dynamic, creative free flow of ideas and approaches. The lab is not only a metaphor, but a very real physical and mental space in which to experiment and develop new ways of ‘doing history.’”
The History Lab will work to connect academia with grassroots organizations like the military museum, encouraging student engagement with the museum, Seedling for Change in History, and Seedling for Change in Society and Environment through joint events. It will also engage scholars in the Niagara region through lectures, seminar series and special events.
The History Lab will organize special annual commemorative events, such as a recent International Holocaust Memorial Day event.
During his opening remarks at last weekend’s open house, Interim Provost and Vice-President, Academic Tom Dunk said an understanding of historical and social context gives meaning to human life and is essential to making the world a better place. This understanding comes not only from professional academics, but requires the input and participation of the entire community.
“Without knowing how the human world works — what the humanities and social sciences do — the technical skills and promise of big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence is unimportant,” he said. “Fundamental to all of this is understanding the historical and social context that gives meaning to human life.”
In addition to the THL launch, the open houses saw the introduction of the 2018 edition of The General, the Department of History’s annual undergraduate journal.
The publication gives students the opportunity to engage in a range of public and intellectual debates and to showcase the diversity of research being done by students in the department. This year’s edition features essays on a broad range of subjects, including early modern midwives, death in renaissance Italy, the Vietnam War and Sputnik, as well as a special paper by Tricia Nowicki, a second-year History student who passed away in November 2017.
The journal is written, peer reviewed and edited by History students in collaboration with department faculty and the Brock University Historical Society. This year’s editors were fourth-year History students Matt Jagas and Grace Viana.
Print copies of the journal are available from the Brock University Historical Society. The journal is also available online through the Brock library.