Monday, February 9, 2009

Charles Taylor Prize to Historian

The Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction was given out today in Toronto.

The jurors narrowed down a field of 135 books from all fields of non-fiction to just three. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the three finalists had all written histories.

Tim Cook's Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1917-1918, a history of Soldier's letters in WWI, won the grand prize. Tim is also an employee of the Canadian War Museum.

Also on the short list were Elizabeth Abbott's Sugar: A Bittersweet History and Ana Siljak's Angel of Vengeance: The "Girl Assassin," the Governor of St. Petersburg, and Russian's Revolutionary World.

Take that non-historians!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Academic and Public Historians: Working together?

Sean Kheraj, a postdoctoral student at the University of British Columbia recently defended his doctoral thesis on the environmental history of Vancouver's famous Stanley Park. In most people's books, that' makes him an expert on the field.

Sean was recently asked to write a review of the Vancouver Museum's exhibit, "The Unnatural History of Stanley Park." The experience, which Kheraj likened to "witnessing the physical manifestation of my dissertation as a museum display," was a challenge for him. Every detail that the museum had gotten wrong popped out. But, rather than posting a negative review, Kheraj reflected on the role many academic historians could be playing as consultants in instances that they choose not to.

It's something that came up a lot last year in our UWO Public History discussions, but perhaps not something that regularly enters the consciousness of many academic historians.

You can read the review at