On April 2nd, students in Steven Maynard's core seminar on Canadian social history assembled for their last class of the year at Kingston City Hall. The location was fitting. Students presented the results of their research based on the archival records of the Kingston Police, which, from the 1840s until the early 1970s, was located in City Hall. It was also the appropriate setting given the theme of this year's seminar: the public presentation of the past. Students shared their research in the form of academic posters and answered questions from an audience that included the Chief and Deputy Chief of the Kingston Police, the City Curator and others from Cultural Services, and representatives from the Archives, including the chief archivist of Queen's. The History Department was represented by its Chair, Professor Jamey Carson.
In addition to uncovering a diverse and fascinating range of Kingston social history, students made other contributions through their engagement with the project. One student's detective work revealed that the archival provenance of an important set of jail records in the Queen's Archives, long believed to be from Kingston, in fact originate from somewhere else in Ontario. Another student's work at Kingston Police headquarters turned up a rare Kingston Police Court register from the nineteenth century, which we now hope will make its way to the Queen's Archives where it can be properly preserved and made available for public research. Linking their police cases to accounts in Kingston historical newspapers on microfilm, students created the demand for and helped to push both the Library and the Archives to update their microfilm readers. Finally, media interest in the project gave students the experience of learning how to communicate their historical work to a broader public, including interviews with the Whig-Standard, CKWS television, CBC radio, Kingston This Week, and the Queen's News Service.
A selection of the students' posters will be on display in the Department before moving this summer to Kingston City Hall where they will be seen by tourists and others who take the City Hall historical tour. For more on the project, see: