Brock graduate Jessica Linzel (BA ’18, MA ’21) is using the specialized skills and knowledge she gained at Brock to uncover Niagara’s rich history and inspire the next generation of historians.
As Director of Community Engagement at the Brown Homestead, St. Catharines’ oldest heritage home with deep ties in the community, Linzel is passionate about engaging audiences with history in creative and innovative ways.
She credits her interdisciplinary education in Brock’s Faculty of Humanities as a key contributing factor to her success.
Along with managing the Homestead’s daily communications, supervising a team of seven staff and producing heritage restoration video content, Linzel leads research initiatives at the heritage home.
The Mapping the Brown Homestead project, which uses geographic information system (GIS) mapping technology to create interactive web-based maps of the historic site, has been successful in engaging visitors to the region.
“This project gets a lot of traction from people because it is a great way of visualizing the cultural landscape of the Homestead and how it has changed over time, including land ownership transitions and how the area was settled,” said Linzel.
GIS mapping was a skill Linzel gained at Brock while learning to create interactive exhibitions with digital media.
“Digital history is the next big trend. How do you do create these exhibitions and have them still be research-based? GIS technology is the key,” said Linzel.
Participating in Brock research initiatives with faculty members as a research assistant while pursuing her undergraduate and master’s degrees in history was foundational to Linzel’s professional path.
Elizabeth Vlossak, Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of History in Brock’s Faculty of Humanities, worked closely with Linzel on a number of research projects while she was a Brock student, most notably the Sport Oral History Archive (SOHA) connected to the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games hosted in part at the University.
“Jessica was instrumental in the creation of the SOHA as project lead for the Canada Games Collection. In this role, Jessica took on a wide variety of responsibilities, including recording, editing and transcribing interviews, communicating with our contributors and partners, and building the SOHA website,” Vlossak said.
Vlossak and Linzel, alongside Adjunct History Professor Kimberly Monk, are currently working on a research project facilitated by Brock’s Niagara Community Observatory in which The Wilson Foundation and Brock University are embarking on a multi-year partnership to map Niagara’s history and deepen the understanding of the region’s economic and social development.
“Jessica’s knowledge of local Niagara history and her ability to situate it within broader historical contexts are second-to-none, as is her ability to communicate her research to both scholarly audiences and the general public,” Vlossak said.
Linzel urged the next generation of students to learn new digital tools to help preserve local history.
“I see the work put in by older generations writing books, forming organizations; I want to honour this work and continue it,” she said. “There is a new, young cohort doing this important work in the history field, and I would love to see more.”