Elizabeth Vlossak

Associate Professor, History
Faculty of Humanities, Brock University

Associate Professor of History Elizabeth Vlossak sees the Canada Summer Games as an incredible opportunity.

Students in her HIST3F02 course this winter will use the Games as an opportunity to research, design and build a virtual museum exhibit celebrating past Canada Games while looking at Niagara’s unique history.

The end result will be a legacy project available for Brock University, the wider Niagara community, and potentially even future Canada Games host sites.

What is your Canada Games-related course title, code and description?

HIST3F02: Making History in Niagara. Research, design and presentation of a proposal for a public history project using local archives, including Brock special collections. Projects may include: special exhibits at local museums, historical societies, libraries; historical information plaques; monuments/memorials; brochures/pamphlets; digital/online exhibits; live performances or other artistic productions.

Describe how you’ve integrated Canada Games related material into your course?

From September 2020 to April 2021, students will research, design and build Threads Through Time, a virtual museum exhibition that will bring together in unique ways stories from past Canada Games with historical sites, personalities, events and artifacts of the Niagara region.

Local history and Canada Games history will be linked through larger themes in Canadian history, while also being placed within a global context. Threads Through Time builds on the Niagara 2021 Canada Summer Games ‘13 for 13’ cultural program, in which the 12 municipalities of Niagara, along with the Niagara Region, have been partnered with one of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories. The title of the project is also a response to the tagline chosen for the 2021 Canada Games: ‘Strengthening the fabric of Canada through the power of sport.’

As part of the project, students will also help build A Canada Games Oral History Archive, a collection of digitally-recorded interviews with current and past Canada Games Committee members, Games officials, volunteers, athletes and coaches from across Canada.

Threads Through Time and A Canada Games Oral History Archive will launch in mid-April 2021 and be available to the general public on the Brock library’s digital infrastructure. Information panels about the project will be displayed across Niagara in the lead up to and during the Canada Games.

Why do you think Canada Games presents such a good opportunity for students at Brock?

Students of History learn about the past, and how events, ideas, individuals, groups and states have shaped the world we live in today. In some History courses, students also explore how the past has been interpreted, presented and consumed by the public in museums, heritage sites, documentaries and pop culture such as television, film, graphic novels and video games.

The Canada Games provides an excellent starting point for Brock students to think historically about sports and major sporting events, how sports shape and are shaped by culture, society, and politics, and how these events are remembered and commemorated. The Games also present students an opportunity to experience a moment of history as it happens, and to assess — in real time — how we are chronicling the Games and what we are collecting now in order to document this event for future historians and heritage practitioners. 

With Threads Through Time and the Canada Games Oral History Archive, students in HIST3F02 will be ‘making history’ by creating legacy projects for Brock University, the Niagara Region, the Canada Games Council and Canada Games alumni.

Do you have any suggestions for ways your colleagues can use the Games as a way to enhance teaching and learning opportunities in their courses?

It’s important that we not think of the Canada Games as something that can only be studied by faculty working in a field directly related to sports. Major sporting events like these become cultural touchstones and leave an imprint on our collective memory.

The Canada Games in Niagara offers all Brock faculty the opportunity to think about and interact with our community in new ways, to reframe important questions within our own academic disciplines, and to engage in pedagogical innovation.

Once the Games are finished, how do you plan to continue using this new idea in your course.

The Threads Through Time online exhibition and Canada Games Oral History Archive will be available to future students to use and draw inspiration from when designing future public history projects as part of HIST3F02. Because they are both digital collections, students can also continue to add content to them if the opportunity arises.

In addition, the connections we establish with local museums, historical societies, and public history practitioners will be invaluable to future students, and hopefully lead to new community partnerships. And who knows? Maybe schools and universities in future Canada Games host communities will be inspired to develop their own Threads Through Time projects, and reach out to Brock students to collaborate with them.