When I began writing The Margins of History a bit more than three years ago, one of my main aims was to make it something more of a resource than a venue for whatever I had rolling around in my mind at the moment. In the main, with a few exceptions, I’ve largely kept with this up. Regardless of their length, I’ve tried to make sure that the stories I post are generally well-researched and have citations, so that you know where I’m getting what I write about. Of course, we’ve all got our biases, ideas and approaches to understanding the past and the present alike. As opinionated as I can occasionally get, that has generally stuck to my Twitter account and not been something I’ve committed to the pages here.
Since beginning a Master’s in History at Carleton, I’ve become somewhat less certain that this is always the best way to go. For one, I actually really like sharing what I’m working on, even long before it’s finished. I think it’s more interesting that way. While I’d like to think that nobody’s really unaware about what a historian does – or how one goes about it – it would nevertheless be fun to share. I continue to work in the field in three ways: as an amateur local, as a student in academia, and in the professional research-oriented universe. It happens to be why nothing I produce sounds strictly like it belongs in any one of these historical “worlds”.
In any event, I thought it was time to also spend a little bit of time sharing information about my approach and about the work I’m doing (where possible). None of this means that I’m letting go of the stories and doing what I’ve normally done.
I’ve never really hidden my love for Toronto. It’s among my favourite Canadian cities to be in and when it became clear that my thesis research necessitated a trip to the Big Smoke, I jumped at the chance. So, from October 20th to the 30th, I spent some quality time at the Archives of Ontario. It’s most definitely among my favourite archives to work in, so that only helped to build the excitement. This is to say nothing about bringing Ontario back into our understanding of housing during the mid-century period.
Of course, I didn’t limit myself to the Archives of Ontario while I was there. If you’ve noticed, I’ve started incorporating stories about buildings in Toronto into Margins’ repertoire, and, well, with the opportunity presented, I made sure to give the City of Toronto Archives and the Toronto Reference Library a visit.
In any event, I was able to collect around 8,000 frames, many of which will contribute to my thesis. In particular, I was able to locate some generous files related to Ontario’s 1948 efforts in housing affordability. I am still making my way through the files, of course. With 10 days (7 collecting days) and 38 boxes to root through, I was more concerned with collecting than I was with going deep into the material as such.
As these things go, while I had 38 boxes set aside for me, my original order was for 50. The remaining 12 required a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and my application to consult them was not approved until I had returned to Ottawa. Now that all of the required paperwork is in order, this should be quite soon.