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Hello world.

(Sorry; it has proven impossible for me to embark on this blog with any other phrase.)

I’m looking forward to blogging: I really like my work and I think the stuff I uncover in the course of doing research is really interesting. Of course, I also like microfilm and think that piles of old documents are awesome, so I may not be the best indicator of what is actually fun...

About twenty years ago, a historian named David Kyvig said that “all historians bear responsibility for the public’s history.”[1] This blog is a little way to share some of the work we do in research at this museum in the public domain. Since this museum is a public institution, all of our work and all of our results belong to the public anyway, so we should make sure they’re available!

I’d like to develop two aspects of my work in this blog. The first is to consider the grist for the mill: what kinds of things does an immigration historian come across in research? Why do they matter? The second, though, is a bit bigger: I’d like to reflect a bit on methods and approaches historians take to those sources. I hope that the two things together will help people get a real introduction to the work we do in research at the Museum—not just what we find, but how we might think about it and why it matters.

This blog won’t exactly be a research diary, and it won’t try to be a how-to for historical process either. But I’d like to try to mix a bit of the process into my discussion here. After all, regardless where we practice, historians generally follow a similar (and simple) set of principles that keep us honest with regard to our approach to the past. The way we think about the past is as important to talk about publicly as the results that we create.

One habit of historians in approaching the past is to look for ruptures and continuities, to listen for voices and silences. The subject of my next post, the old quarantine island in Halifax Harbour, is interesting in that regard.

  1. David Kyvig, “Public or Perish: Thoughts on Historians’ Responsibilities”, The Public Historian, 13, 4: 13.