I am a historian at the University of Alberta and teach in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation. My research program highlights Canada's environmental and social 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 new 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, and was awarded a Canadian Historical Association’s Clio Prize. My first book was Mountain Diaries: The Alpine Adventures of Margaret Fleming, 1929-1980, co-edited with Karen Fox. Both titles were Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival finalists.
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. Diverse topics of investigation have ranged from adult education and tourism to mapping and toponymy.
My current 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, children's history of play, and nature play are recent subjects. Winter cities are a focus of my Edmonton recreation work. Leisure studies of 'slow' movements also figure in my Edmonton 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. Most recently 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.