Carleton Unveils First Public History Kiosk for Canada’s 150th Celebrations

By Joseph Mathieu
Photos by Chris Roussakis

On the eve of International Museum Day, the first of several public history kiosks developed by Carleton University students was unveiled at Lansdowne Park on May 17.

A grey traffic control box at Bank Street and Exhibition Way became an exhibit of a post-game photo of lacrosse players and spectators from June 1891. With Ottawa’s football and hockey histories so intertwined at Lansdowne, MA student Lisa Bullock shed light on the Ottawa Capitals lacrosse team that used to draw crowds of 12,000 to the grounds.

“The kiosk itself is such a smaller area than a traditional museum exhibit,” said Bullock, “but we have the luxury of bringing information directly to the visitor. Here, the museum comes to them.”

The kiosk was unveiled by Mayor Jim Watson and Guy Laflamme, executive director of Ottawa 2017, in the presence of Carleton History Prof. David Dean, the project lead, and several project partners.

Created by the Workers’ History Museum in partnership with the Carleton Centre for Public History (where Dean is co-director), the design firm Chapter One Studio, artist Ross Rheaume, and Ottawa 2017, Capital History kiosk stories were funded by the Ottawa 2017’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Program (stewarded by AOE Arts Council, Ottawa Arts Council and Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa).

Incubating a Public History Project

Dean’s course, called Museums, National Identity, and Public Memory, was the incubator for the public history project. Bullock and 18 classmates were encouraged to propose any Ottawa story they wanted. Their work was supported by the project team and Dean navigated the approval process between the city, various BIAs, city councillors, neighbourhood groups and project partners.

“David is adept at pleasing everyone,” said Bullock. “He told us: ‘Do the research, find the story, and I’ll go to bat for you.’”

There will be a dozen more kiosks in the coming weeks that include stories of a little-known photographer (Bank and Laurier), Jockvale School (Barrhaven) and the old Ottawa Jail (near the University of Ottawa).

Without the benefit of archival photographs, original artwork was created by Rheaume. In March, Rheaume finalized eight paintings for several kiosks, including a sprawling courtyard scene of prisoners cutting firewood. That painting and another of a woman inside a jail cell will adorn the kiosk at the Ottawa Jail Hostel. Another of Dean’s grad students, Sarah Chelchowski, dug into an 1874 logbook with details about the Carleton County Gaol.

“There wasn’t much to work with,” she said. “So I went to Ross with some preliminary ideas, then we toured the jail so that he could get solid ideas and accurate angles.”

Juxtaposing the Experiences of Women and Men

Rheaume’s paintings juxtapose the experiences of women working inside the jail and men working outside in the yard.

“I wanted my story to shed light on prison life for both men and women inmates,” said Chelchowski. “I hope my story captures the agony of prison life, but also, for lack of a better word, the relief that work duty brought the prisoners.”

Each kiosk will examine a lesser-known aspect of the city once known as Bytown and feature a QR code linking to CapitalHistory.ca, where the stories are explored in greater detail.

The project is one way in which Carleton is collaborating with the city for Canada’s 150 birthday celebrations as the university marks its own 75th anniversary.

Some of Carleton’s Computer Science and School of Information Technology students are also contributing projects during National Video Game Awards Week this November.