My passion for history has always stemmed from a desire to tell, hear, and share stories. For me, history has always been about telling a story as much as it has been about recording events and getting the facts straight. As a graduate student studying history, and more specifically the postwar story of Canada’s Second World War Merchant Navy, I have had the privilege of critically engaging with the past in both an academic and professional setting. Work at the Canadian War Museum, Historica Canada, and at Carleton University have all helped me better understand the complexity of doing history in public and academic spheres.
As a historian I have often found myself contemplating the limits of historical discourse; the practical constraints that conventional history has brought to bear on the transference of what can conservatively be called a narrated record of human existence. As I undertook my own performative project as part of my studies at Carleton University I came to appreciate the challenges and rewards that performance based history presents. During my performance I managed to converse with the past on stage in front of an audience, and as a result, was pushed to consider the ‘facts’ I was presenting as well as my mode of delivery as a historian from a fresh perspective, one that added richness and complexity to the story I told.
I believe that historical performance enables us to connect with the past in interesting ways. It allows us to get at issues that are difficult to convey using text alone and permits critical engagement with sources and methods that often get overlooked in more conventional forms of history. Staging Our Histories offers a unique platform for historians, artists and performers to share, hear, and discover new stories about the past. It is my belief that the collaborative nature of the event will enable a richer understanding of the past, one meant to be inclusive, insightful, and innovative.