Going corporate in the Capital

Hello again, world. It’s been a while!

So for those of you who remember my last couple posts, I recently came back from the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities all fired up and inspired and ready to rock whatever employment opportunity came my way. As it turns out, not one but two employment opportunities came out of that conference. And I am pleased to say that I am now ending my third week in Ottawa as a freelance historian and cartographer/research associate at one of Ottawa’s private historical research firms.

Have you ever heard of the world of private historical research? If not, let me enlighten you.

When I talk about being a historian to those outside the field, many people ask if I work in a university or a library. A lot of historians do, but some have their own consulting companies that do research for hire. Communities, governments, individuals, corporations, and other organizations that need historians will put out contracts. Whoever submits the winning bid gets the contract and completes the work. In such a manner, corporate histories have been written, exhibits have been designed, biographies have been published, oral histories recorded, family trees discovered, and movies made.

So that’s what I’m up to, and it’s great. The really fun part about working for such a consulting company is the pace and variety of research – one downside being that, by providing a service for someone else, you are often limited in what you can say about the work you do. So far that hasn’t been a stumbling block for me, but it’s quite a different world from that of the historian professor, or even from the community-based research I’ve been up to in Northern Ontario. But in these different settings, I find that the historian’s ultimate goal remains the same: to understand change over time, and to communicate that understanding. The same goes for freelance projects as well, and through the Canadian Historical Association conference I’ve come into contact with freelance historians who are putting their skills to great and diverse use.

Now as for everything else: well, it was a long move, but Ottawa is a beautiful city, with a rich history and plenty of heritage attractions to delight those of us who enjoy looking backward on the timeline. That in itself is interesting – what is commemorated and how that happens reveals a lot about the institutions that do the commemorating. And there’s plenty of commemoration going on with the federal election and Canada’s 150th not far away. I’m sure that will provide fodder for later posts. The only unfortunate thing is that my apartment was in bad condition compared to what was advertised. That’s the last time I’m renting sight unseen! Should’ve seen that coming. But things are starting to get fixed now, and like a responsible, independent adult I compensated for the stress by buying a green leather jacket. Sigh…(it sure looks good though).

But that’s all for today’s update. Other possible posts are brewing at the moment, including some cartography and language stuff, commemoration in the capital, and another Active History post. Maybe even some literature stuff. I’ve read some really good books lately. Plus, I should be doing some portfolio work, as my classmate-turned-historian colleague Jessica Knapp just reminded me with her blog. Who knows where this website will go next? In the meantime stay tuned, and enjoy the rest of the summer!


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