Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Cartoon: Internal and External Perspectives on Chapter Completion

Another great cartoon from the HGSC's resident artist Frances Reilly

How you look to the outside world ...

... and how you feel on the inside!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Post-CHESS 2014 Reflections: Park Déjà vu

Originally published in The Otter

By Jessica DeWitt

Location of Rouge Park; Source: Canadian Geographic/Chris Brackley
CHESS’s Saturday excursion into the suburban wilds originated at the Markham Museum, a Toronto suburb located north east of the city. Our visit began with a presentation by two Parks Canada employees on the new Rouge Urban National Park initiative, which will be the first Canadian national park located within an urban setting. Rouge Park was initially created in 1995 and is currently made of 47 square kilometres of provincial and municipal land. With the creation of Rouge Urban National Park, it is expected to expand to 58 square kilometres. (For more reading on Rouge Urban National Park see the July/August 2013 issue of Canadian Geographic, which contains an excellent article on the park). The Parks Canada staff emphasized a few main points. First, the new urban national park is being created by the Canadian government to meet rising demand for accessible outdoor recreation. Rouge would be the first national park reachable by public transit. Second, they emphasized the green belt function of the park, a mechanism by which to preserve and restore the last remaining sections of green-space in the Greater Toronto Area. Third, they discussed the park’s relationship to the farms located within the park boundaries–a relationship that is either idyllic or fractious, depending on who you are talking to.

Map of Bronte Creek
Location of Bronte Creek Provincial Park; Source: brontecreek.org
What struck was that I had come across all of these arguments before. The rationale for park creation is nearly identical to that of Bronte Creek Provincial Park, in Oakville, Ontario, halfway between Toronto and Hamilton and just off of the Queen Elizabeth Way. The preeminent landscape feature is the Bronte Creek Ravine, which crosses the centre of the park and reaches a depth of 150 feet. Bronte Creek was created in 1971 from five separate family farms and it represented the first concrete manifestation of the Ontario government’s 1970s fascination with the near-urban park concept. It acted as a catalyst for other near-urban park initiatives in Ontario, including London’s Komoka Provincial Park and St. Catherine’s Short Hills Provincial Park. Other provinces had their own near-urban park projects, such as Alberta’s Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary.

The objectives of Ontario’s near-urban park enterprise can be broken down into two categories: environmental considerations and the further democratization of recreation. On the one hand it was hoped that parks like Bronte Creek would siphon off some of the visitors from more primitive parks, like Algonquin and Quetico, thus protecting them from the threat of over-use. Near-urban parks were also meant to save the last remaining remnants of green-space from urban sprawl, functioning as part of a city’s greenbelt and acting to drive further conscientious land use planning. On the other hand, near-urban parks were meant to make outdoor recreation more accessible to urban populations. Provincial park accessibility hinges on the availability of automobile transport and cheap fuel, both of which were increasingly elusive for most of Toronto’s citizens during the 1970s.
Bronte Creek Ravine
Bronte Creek Ravine

Henry C. Breckon Farm
Henry C. Breckon Demonstration Farm
In 1971, Premier William Davis commented that Bronte Creek represented a “dramatic departure from the established concept of provincial parks [that] promises to bring the pleasures and beauties of our natural environment closer to a large number of city people.” (Marsh 4) It was to provide day-use opportunities to the 1.5 million people who lived within a 40 kilometre radius of the park. 6,000 parking spaces were provided and the park was designed to handle 30,000 visitors a day, 15% of whom were expected to arrive by public transit. It was the first provincial park to design facilities specifically for disabled people. Original plans created separate recreational zones designed to protect more fragile areas of the park. Efforts were made to restore the creek valley, including reforestation and wetland restoration. These restorative efforts occurred alongside efforts to replant orchards, fields, and other plants that had been present during the land’s agricultural heyday. Two of the farms were restored and used as a children’s farm and a demonstration farm, which was to represent  turn-of-the-century mixed farming in Ontario.
Cows at Bronte
Two Handsome Cows -Residents of Bronte Creek Provincial Park
Bronte Creek and other near-urban provincial parks represent a takeover by the provincial government of what was traditionally a municipal responsibility: providing recreational opportunities for urban residents. What occurred in Ontario and North America more broadly that made this shift occur? Does the contemporary takeover of this responsibility by Parks Canada with the Rouge Park initiative represent another notable shift?  It should be noted that in some ways the near-urban provincial parks were a failure: they never reached the level of popularity that was initially expected. Much of the elaborate original planning for Bronte Creek, which included a tram system, was never realized. The entire near-urban park initiative was basically canned by the late 1970s, when a conservative government came into power in Ontario and deemed the concept not worth pursuing further. Does the creation of Rouge Urban National Park illustrate the failure of Ontario Parks to meet urban outdoor recreation demand? Or does it represent a resurgence of the same societal pressures that led to Bronte Creek Provincial Park in the early 1970s? Comparison of the two parks raises such questions as these. The parallel origin stories of Bronte Creek and Rouge Park further illustrate the importance of looking to the past to more fully understand the implications of our current actions.


Walter H. Kehm, “Near-Urban Parks: What Are They?” Park News 13 (1977): 8-16.
Gerald Killan, Protected Places: A History of Ontario’s Provincial Park System (Toronto: Dundern Press Limited, 1993): 213.
Ellen Langlands, Bronte Creek Provincial Park Historical Report, December 1972.
John Marsh, “Near-Urban Parks,” Park News 13 (1977): 2-7.
Project Planning Association Limited, Bronte Creek Provincial Park Demonstration Farm Report, Bronte Creek Provincial Park, 1973.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Archive Profile: UK National Archives

Originally published at the Military Nursing Project.

By Erin Spinney

Reposted as part of our Summer travel feature here at "Thoughts Across Time" a profile of my the UK National Archives and my work there.

Why am I Here?

AO 1/1524/285 Roll detailing hospital expenses in Minora 1799-1800

The United Kingdom National Archives is a central depository for Government records.  I am primarily interested in naval pay lists for hospitals and hospital ships featuring nurses by name along with other information from ADM 102.  I am collecting data from these records to create a database of nurses for prosopographical analysis.  I can also track the amount of money paid to nurses in army hospitals on a campaign basis, through auditors rolls.  Unfortunately these do not list individual nurses by name.

I also use various sets of letter books including letters to and from the Navy’s Sick and Hurt Board in ADM 97 and ADM 98.  As well as letters received from various hospital inspectors and other medical practitioners in ADM 105.  Regulations and other instructions to hospital administrators, often including stipulations on the employment of nurses are also found in these letter books, as well as, printed regulations issued in 1808 for hospitals at home and abroad (ADM 106/3091 and ADM 106/3092).

The National Archives also hold hospital plans that are particularly informative detailing ward organization, building layouts, and locations of apartments for nurses and other staff members.

Where am I?

The National Archives are located at Kew in the London Borough of Richmond and is a ten minute walk from Kew Gardens Station accessible by District and Overground lines.


So what’s it like to do research here? In short it is rather wonderful.

Flowers from the grounds
The document room on the first floor is the primary reading room and is surprisingly bright making picture-taking easy.  The large windows offer a good view of trees and passing trains.  Each seat number has a large cubby for document storage.  Readers can remove and re-deposit documents in their cubby themselves.  Copying services, camera stands, computer terminals and reference help is available outside of the reading room.

The second floor is home to the map and large document reading room.  Seats in this room are not assigned though your documents are organized by your seat number from the first floor.  There are several large tables which can be raised and lowered by staff to facilitate the reading of your documents.  The staff is helpful and patient, and I’m grateful for their assistance in helping me tackle the daunting task using rolls!

The ground floor has locker storage (where you don’t need a £1 coin deposit!), a cafe, restaurant, Keeper’s Gallery with various exhibits, and a bookshop.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe grounds are lovely – a perfect place for lunch and a coffee!
There are two ponds, home to ducks and swans, with the walkway to the national archives between them.  One pond is bordered with a small alcove of trees, flowers, and a large lawn.