Report on the Inaugural Conference for Living Archives on Eugenics in Western Canada

On October 22 and 23, the Living Archives project held its first public event since being awarded Community University Research Alliance (CURA) funding earlier in 2010.  For those who weren’t able to attend, and for those who were but who want a reminder, below is a report on the conference proceedings.

Friday morning began with a team meeting.  It was announced that seven people would be joining the team.  The team now includes 31 scholars, advocates, and community members working throughout Canada and internationally. Later in the meeting, team member, Frank Stahnisch, described a workshop on the history of eugenics and brain psychiatry that is to be held in Banff on June 21, 2011.  More information will be sent out as we approach June.  Finally, the team received a presentation from Colette Leung, a research assistant in the Program in Humanities Computing at Alberta, on the five-year strategy for building the Living Archives website.  Work has already begun on the website, and we expect it eventually to become a very valuable resource for information and research on the history of eugenics.  The next team meeting and public event has been scheduled for May 5 – 7 in Edmonton.  Details to come soon.
The remainder of Friday morning was dedicated to listening to presentations from students from the University of Saskatchewan.  We heard five presentations from the following Summer 2010 interns: Sheila Gibbons, Amanda Shea, Laura Shaw, Shannon Colville, and Justin Fisher.  Amy Samson, a PhD student working as an RA for Erika Dyck, presented as well.

Friday afternoon included an extended discussion on the website proposal presented by Colette that morning, and the rest of the afternoon involved presentations from the following Summer 2010 interns from the University of Alberta: Frances Chiu, Megan Farnel, Ameer Farooq, Samantha Balzer, Brad Lafortune, and Jenney Choi.

Friday evening was the beginning of the public event.  Our keynote speaker was Doug Wahlsten, and his talk was called “Eugenics in Alberta: Science and Politics”.  Following Doug’s keynote address, attendees enjoyed a reception at the Telus Centre on the University of Alberta campus.
Saturday events were held in the Edmonton Room of the downtown public library.  The day began with a governing board meeting that was open to the public.  To open the conference, Leilani Muir read a Mayoral Proclamation from Edmonton Mayor, Stephen Mandel, declaring October 23 “Remembering the History of Eugenics in Alberta Day”.

Throughout the day, the audience heard presentations from Nicola Fairbrother, Dick Sobsey and Heidi Janz, Erika Dyck, Claudia Malacrida, and Gregor Wolbring on various aspects of the themes associated with the Living Archives project.  We were also treated to a performance from Andrew Wujkowski.  Andrew performed a scene from a play he is co-creating with Chad Drever called “Aleugenta”, which discusses attitudes prominent in the eugenics movement in Alberta.

We received a significant amount of media coverage, including print, television, radio, and internet.  You can click here to read a CBC story on the event, and you can click here to read a piece that was printed on the front page of the Edmonton Journal.
Thank you to everyone who attended and participated in the conference to make it such a success.
Marc Workman
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