Well, it’s been an amazing term, but the day has finally come where I have to say goodbye my Research Assistant position at Banting House National Historic Site. This term has gone by so quickly and I’ve had so many meaningful experiences here, but it’s time to pass the torch to one of my talented classmates in the Public History MA program at Western! Looking back on this term, I’ve had the opportunity to perform so many tasks related to the everyday operation of a museum and National Historic Site, including event planning and management, historic interpretation, research, social media, and archival work. These are skills and experiences that I know will be beneficial to me as I continue my journey in the field of Public History, and I am so grateful to our Museum Curator, Grant Maltman, and all of our wonderful volunteers for welcoming me and offering support every step of the way.
I want to take this opportunity to reflect a little bit more on some of the projects that I was able to work on while at Banting House, as each one was different, and allowed me to grow as a public history student in different ways.
To begin, let’s jump back to World Diabetes Day 2019, where I was able to practise event planning and management. Almost from the beginning of my time at Banting House I began to work on the plans for this amazing event, which included creating a comprehensive critical path and check list for the day of the event, creating signage, helping to generate a slideshow, building off of last year’s suggestions, creating an event layout, and creating and marketing the event on social media. Seeing all of this hard work pay off at our World Diabetes Day event was one of the highlights of my time here at Banting House, and every part of the planning process was integral to the event’s success.
While at Banting House I was also able to practise historic interpretation, meaning that I gave tours of the museum to the public. This is something that I have a background in, and it was really exciting to be able to learn everything about Dr. Banting’s life and his research, in order to share it with the enthusiastic visitors that often walked through our doors.
Another project that I’ve been working on is completing research for a book focused on Dr. Banting’s paintings in our collection that will be published next year for the 100th anniversary of Banting’s ground-breaking idea. I’ve talked about this book in blog posts before (See Paintings and Places and Voyage to the Eastern Arctic), and its truly been a pleasure to get to comb through primary sources like Banting’s diary or read reviews about his art from the 1920s. So far, I’ve been compiling a spreadsheet of every Banting painting in our collection and keeping a record of every mention of that painting or any comment that may refer to its creation, and I can’t wait to see how this project unfolds.
Another major aspect of my position has been posting on all of our social media platforms, including our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This included blog posts, posts about the museum, lots of posts promoting our World Diabetes Day event, and even some Facebook Live updates. This was a great experience and not only allowed me to share some unique and interesting aspects of the museum, but also allowed me to better connect with our visitors before World Diabetes Day through the frequent posting schedule I created and Facebook Live.
Finally, I got the opportunity to do some archival work while at Banting House. I’ve explored some of the amazing archival collection that is held here, including Dr. Banting’s wife Marion’s diary (See Dear Diary), looked at and researched some of Dr. Banting’s paintings in the collection, and worked with the archival program PastPerfect. I’ve always loved working with primary sources and archives, so to be able to do this at Banting House was such a great opportunity.
All in all, I’ve had a fantastic experience at Banting House, and I want to say a huge thank you to Grant and the rest of the team. It’s gone by so quickly, but I’ve been able to learn and do so much in a mere 13 weeks. I wish I was able to continue this position, but it isn’t goodbye forever, just for now. I’ll be back next term to continue working on a project in partnership with Banting House and the Public History MA program at Western, and I already know I’ll be back to volunteer my time, so I can keep working on some of the great projects that I’ve had the opportunity to get to know!
This post was written by Jenna Philbrick, Graduate research Assistant at Banting House NHSC. Jenna is currently completing her M.A. in Public History at Western University.