Experiential Learning: Research - Ontario Barn Preservation (HIST*4070) | College of Arts

Experiential Learning: Research - Ontario Barn Preservation (HIST*4070)

Code and section: HIST*4070*01

Term: Summer 2023

Instructor: Kim Martin


Instructor: Kim Martin | kmarti20@uoguelph.ca
Workplace Contact: Hugh Fraser

Dedicated to preserving Ontario’s old barns, Ontario Barn Preservation is a not-for-profit providing resources, advice, connections, events, and services to preserve these beautiful pieces of architecture and craftsmanship. OBP has an ambitious plan to document as many old barns as possible while they remain standing because, sadly, they are disappearing at an alarming rate. This includes most barns which do not have any official heritage status. 

OBP, together with previous EL students from Guelph’s History Department, has created a database to be populated by barn owners, titled Your Old Barn Study. This can be thought of as an on-going ‘census’ of barns. Owners are the census takers, answering 50+ questions about their barns. Questions include description, photos, and schematics, with drop-down menus of answers for better precision and consistency. Sticking with the census theme, there would short and long-form data made available to members of the OBP, with some information available to the public and some not because of confidentiality. The database is currently being populated by barn owners and needs to remain searchable, flexible, and able to be updated. 

In Summer 2023, OBP is working with Kim Martin from the Department of History to offer an opportunity to students interested in rural history and agriculture. Students will work with OBP Directors to clean and analyze the first set of data and to continue to add to this study for old barns across Ontario.

The selected student(s) will:

  • Learn the objectives of OBP and some history of how barns were an integral part of the rural heritage of Ontario;
  • Learn about old barns through first-hand experience answering questions about them, or by visiting a barn with an OBP director near where the student lives, or through barn photos over videoconference with an OBP director (subject to COVID-19 protocols);
  • Research similar existing rural and historical preservation projects on the web to determine how databases have been used for research purposes;
  • Offer advice to OBP on best practices for the database in future;
  • Work with OBP to suggest ways the database could be used for research purposes.

Skills for your CV include:

  • Training in Qualtrics (self-directed)
  • Quantitative research methods (data cleaning, data analysis)
  • Writing historical research for the public (blogs, social media)
  • Writing reports (best practices, documentation)
  • Working with the public (data collection)


For further information about old barns in Ontario and this project:


Methods of Assessment:

2 x Blog posts – 20% (Due whenever you feel prepared to send to Hugh/Kim)
--- Well-written posts on some aspect of your research and work with OBP. 

Meeting preparation, task-keeping, and reporting – 20% (Weekly)
--- Short, detailed reports on your work to be sent to the faculty supervisor bi-weekly.

Survey testing (in person) – 30% (When possible and weather permitting)
--- Provide a written reflection on conducting a Barn Study yourself. What worked? What didn’t? Notes on any unexpected encounters during the process to be submitted to Kim/Hugh.


Marketing plan for Summer launch of Your Old Barn Study – 30%
--- Help devise a plan to launch the study, including lists of community groups to reach out to, social media posts, an exciting landing page on the OBP website, etc.

Final Report – 30% (End of term)
--- This report should detail the findings of the first set of Barn owner data, best practices for cleaning and maintaining the database and include any details necessary for future students to be involved in the project. Expected length: 8-10 pages.


10 credits including 1.5 credits in History at the 3000 level. Restricted to BA Honours program students with a minimum average of 70%.  


Image icon Old Barn.jpg137.77 KB
Image icon Barn Design.jpg25.71 KB