I am a historian at the University of Alberta and teach in the Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation. My research program highlights Canada's social and environmental history, particularly in western Canada and mountain regions. Understanding the history of people, parks, and politics is the purpose of this research.
I publish articles in leading journals, such as the Canadian Historical Review, and books that advance humanities scholarship to understand Canada's past and present. My book Climber's Paradise: Making Canada's Mountain Parks, 1906-1974 (University of Alberta Press, 2014) investigates the Alpine Club of Canada's mountain adventures and advocacy. It was awarded the prestigious Canadian Historical Association’s Clio Prize, acclaimed with an IndieFAB Honourable Mention for Environment and Ecology, and bestowed an American Association of University Presses design award in tandem with an exhibition of winning books on tour across North America. Mountain Diaries: The Alpine Adventures of Margaret Fleming, 1929-1980 (Alberta Historical Society, 2004), co-edited with Karen Fox, was my first book. Both books were finalists at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival (2004 and 2014). I also received the Faculty Award of Merit for Outstanding Research (2015).
Mountain parks and the Canadian national park idea are a key focus in my research. Cultural production of parks and landscapes through many means, from mountaineering and hydro dams to artwork and horse travel, is the compass of my exploration. Major institutions including the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC), Banff School of Fine Arts, and Parks Canada, as well as individuals, such as surveyor Arthur Oliver Wheeler and educator Donald Cameron, are central to my work. Writers Elizabeth Parker, Mary Schäffer, and Margaret Fleming figure in my expertise on women in alpine clubs, mountain travel, and conservation in Canada. The poetry and ethics of Sid Marty also figure in my interdisciplinary mountain studies work. Diverse topics of investigation have ranged from adult education and tourism to mapping and toponymy.
My research also focuses on people and parks in urban environmental history and sport history in the west. The origins of the Canadian Birkebeiner Ski Festival, outdoor swimming pools, Edmonton Gyro playgrounds, Mill Creek Park, children's history of play, and nature play are recent subjects. Winter cities and mountain towns are a focus of my Edmonton and Canmore recreation work. Leisure studies of 'slow' movements and university extension history also figure in my adult education research. Urban biophilia and sustainability themes run through this work.
My research examines cultural landscapes, governance, and commemoration. It historicizes people and parks as well as sense of place and heritage. Landscapes are temporally and cross-culturally discursive places of social memory. Reading cultural production through outdoor pursuits in landscapes suggests the complex constructions of identities, place, region, and nation synthesized through the historical movement of people and ideas. Voluntary sector roles among clubs and NGOs also emerge in my studies.
Heritage, museums, and public history intrigue me. My heritage studies research and advocacy for public history involves many sites and persons. These encompass the Cave and Basin National Historic Site, Elizabeth Parker and A.O. Wheeler as Persons of National Historic Significance (HSMBC), the original Queen Elizabeth Outdoor Swimming Pool in Edmonton, and the historic Rossdale Power Plant in Edmonton's river valley. Commemoration and education are a special focus. I contributed to the Tipton Playground Exhibition community heritage initiative as a project co-funded by Kule Institute of Advanced Study (KIAS) and other public grants.