Response: Egan’s The Beginning of the End of America’s Best Idea

Jessica M. DeWitt: Editing and Consulting

Hello! Your fave park historian, here.

Today in the New York Times, Timothy Egan published an opinion piece titled “The Beginning of the End of America’s Best Idea.” He writes:

“The national parks, oft-called America’s best idea, were created by people who looked beyond their own lives. Those people made great ancestors — benevolent, farsighted, selfless.” 

I call:

Bullshit

A few points:

  • The American and Canadian park systems were created in order to maximize profit on otherwise “useless” land. As I note in my review of Leslie Bella’s Parks for Profit, “rather than ensuring that these areas remain untouched, the formation of parks guaranteed that these areas would become centers of development.”
  • Yellowstone and Banff were projects backed by railroad companies in order to profit on tourism.
  • This tourism was elite because very few people–before the proliferation of automobile travel–could afford to reach western national parks.
  • Indigenous…

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#HIST274US: Reflecting on My Course Hashtag

Jessica M. DeWitt: Editing and Consulting

I integrate social media into my professional and personal life daily. In addition to serving as Social Media Editor for the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE) and Media Officer for the American Society for Environmental History Graduate Student Caucus, I run several other academic Twitter accounts and regularly consult and give talks on how to effectively use social media in academia. When I learned that I was going to teach HIST 274: American History to 1865 in the fall of 2017, I knew that I wanted to try to integrate Twitter into class. Because it was my first time teaching and because I was teaching a subject outside of my comfort zone, I was hesitant to get too fancy with my social media integration. I did, however, decide to create a hashtag for my course. That is when #HIST274US came into being.

*Advice I was given: course…

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Moving Tales: Editorial Comments for Winter 2016-2017 Issue of Folklore

Jessica M. DeWitt: Editing and Consulting

The following are my editorial comments for the Autumn 2016 Issue of Folklore Magazine. To subscribe to the magazine and to become a member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, go here and complete this form. Also follow SHFS on Facebook. Cover Photo: At Bascom’s ranch – looking after Claydon 400 horse herd. Eastend. 8 October 1958. Everett Baker Slides.

folklore-winterThis issue of Folklore revolves around the theme of movement and mobility. From the way in which the Saskatchewan environment has affected the province’s development, to human-animal relationships and technological advances that have enabled Saskatchewanians to live in this sometimes challenging climate to the movement of ideas.

As discussed in Moving Natures: Mobility and the Environment in Canadian History (an open-access copy of which can be accessed here), Canada is a country that has developed in spite of the challenges imposed by its geography and…

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Continuing the Park System Visualization Experiment: Ontario Parks in Timeline Form

Jessica M. DeWitt: Editing and Consulting

Back in February I explained how I am using interactive timelines to more easily analyze the develop of state and provincial park systems in the United States and Canada. In “Visualizing a Park System: Creating an Interactive Timeline,” I explained how I developed a label/colour system (see below) and mapped the development of Pennsylvania’s state park system temporally.

Timeline Categories

At the time I was interested to see how this method would work for my other three park system case studies: Ontario, Idaho, and Alberta. I am currently halfway through creating a timeline for Ontario. I am finding the task to be more difficult for Ontario than it was for Pennsylvania for three main reasons:

  1. Ontario has over 250 provincial parks, over one hundred more than Pennsylvania.
  2. Background information on individual Ontario parks is harder to find, particularly for those in the nature reserve and natural environment classes. (Does this…

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DeWitt’s Top Artists of 2015

Jessica M. DeWitt: Editing and Consulting

This is the second in a set of three end-of-year music stats posts. I published my top songs yesterday and will publish my top albums tomorrow. I keep track of every track and podcast episode I listen to on Itunes, my Ipods, Spotify, and Rdio (R.I.P.) by way of Last.fm scrobbling. If you don’t have all your platforms connected to Last.fm, then you’re doing it wrong. 

2015 Top Artists II

Below are my top artists for 2015 paired with the song that I listened to the most by each artist.

*If we discount PBS Newshour, Taylor Swift falls into tenth place. 

*Yes, I know how unfortunate that headdress choice is for Nicki in the above image. 

1. Nicki Minaj

Top Song: “Get on Your Knees” ft. Ariana Grande

2. PBS Newshour

Apparently I listened to “Inside Obama’s Middle Class Tax Plan” four times…such good stuff.

obama pbs

3. Marina & the Diamonds

Top Song Tie:…

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100,000 Scrobbles: DeWitt’s Top Artists

Jessica M. DeWitt: Editing and Consulting

10000 Artists 1

I’ve listened to 100,000 songs and podcasts since October 20, 2010. This is the second in a set of three music stats posts celebrating these 100,000 Scrobbles on LastFm. See the first, songs, here. Since October 20, 2010, I have kept track of every track and podcast episode I’ve listened to on Itunes, my Ipods, Spotify, and Rdio (R.I.P.) by way of Last.fm scrobbling. If you don’t have all your platforms connected to Last.fm, then you’re doing it wrong. The following are my most listened to artists thus far and the top song from each artist:

1. Lady Gaga: “Hair”

2. Lana Del Rey: “National Anthem”

3. Marina and the Diamonds: “I am not a Robot”

4. PBS NewsHour: “Conservatives face tougher time in elections as urban burbs take on city trends”

5. Britney Spears: “Inside Out”

6. Florence + the Machine: “Only if for a Night”

7. Rihanna: “Diamonds”

8…

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100,000 Scrobbles: DeWitt’s Top Songs

Jessica M. DeWitt: Editing and Consulting

I’ve listened to 100,000 songs and podcasts since October 20, 2010. This is the first in a set of three music stats posts celebrating these 100,000 Scrobbles on LastFm. Going with songs first, followed by top artists, then top albums. Since October 20, 2010, I have kept track of every track and podcast episode I’ve listened to on Itunes, my Ipods, Spotify, and Rdio (R.I.P.), YouTube, etc. by way of Last.fm scrobbling. If you don’t have all your platforms connected to Last.fm, then you’re doing it wrong. The following are my most listened to songs thus far:

1. Foster the People: “Call It What You Want” (109 Scrobbles)

“Yeah we’re locked up in ideas
We like to label everything
Well I’m just gonna do here what I gotta do here
‘Cause I gotta keep myself free”

2. The Naked and Famous: “Punching in a Dream” (108 Scrobbles)

“If it falls…

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Built Heritage: Editorial Comments for Spring 2016 Issue of Folklore

Jessica M. DeWitt: Editing and Consulting

The following are my editorial comments for the Spring 2016 Issue of Folklore Magazine. To subscribe to the magazine and to become a member of the Saskatchewan History and Folklore Society, go here and complete this form. Also follow SHFS on Facebook. Cover Photos: Two photos of M.R. Murray using card catalogues in the library, CA 1940. University of Saskatchewan, University Archives & Special Collections. Photographs A-3427, A-3426. Lower right: Destruction from the Regina Cyclone, 1912. Carnegie Library at far right. Adrian Paton Collection. Background: Books. Image courtesy of Kristin Enns-Kavanagh.

Buildings often serve as the focal points of our communities. They are where we live, gather, and work. Unlike other more ephemeral aspects of our culture, many buildings are a constant throughout generations, acting as physical monuments to the past, present, and future. When old buildings are torn down, like the Farnum Block in Saskatoon last spring

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“Do not want hippies, motorcycles or Catholics”: The Public’s Vision for Fish Creek PP, 1974

Jessica M. DeWitt: Editing and Consulting

I have written on numerous occasions, even fashioned an entire article, on the necessity for park historians to bring the voice of the general public to the forefront of park history. Giving voice to the people for whom the parks were created or to those who were directly affected by the park creation is not easy. Why? Sources are difficult to come by, and lack of sources can be a difficult hurdle to climb, particularly whilst trying to complete a dissertation. Nonetheless, I continue to steadfastly carry the torch for this historiographical cause…

Imagine my delight when I stumbled upon an exceedingly rich source in the Provincial Archives of Alberta today: the results of a public survey from 1974, asking the residents of Southern Alberta (and elsewhere) what they wanted from the proposed Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary.

Fish Creek Provincial Park in Calgary, Alberta; Source: Friends of Fish Creek…

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