Animal Crossing, Museums, and Space for Contemplation

I’ve never been interested in video games, and up until recently I didn’t even know how to turn on our household gaming console. Not long after the Illinois Stay-At-Home order, my husband suggested I try Animal Crossing: New Horizons. It was a perfect suggestion: building a delightful animated community has been an enjoyable escape. The game involves building a village from a handful of tents on an island, and I was surprised to see that one of the earliest public buildings that can be unlocked and built—even before shops and restaurants—was a museum.

Image 1: Cate and her husband on a date to an art exhibit.

The museum is hosted by a lone employee, a professorial owl who serves as curator (and apparently registrar, educator, administrator, guest services representative, collections manager, exhibit designer, et cetera). The Animal Crossing museum begins as a natural history museum, stocked with fossils, bugs, and fish that players collect. Later, the museum can be expanded to include an art wing.  I’ve been considering what it means for a game (especially one that has been mocked for its overly capitalistic trappings) to include a museum as one of the first buildings in a community.

At first, I found it frustrating—I felt obligated to stock the museum with fossils and fish, but I also knew I could sell them to pay off my unavoidable in-game debts. Choosing between a love of museums and financial solvency is something I have had to do too many times in my real life to feel it was fun in a game.

I’ve grown fonder of the museum and have contributed more to it as time has gone on (and my debts have been paid). As my island community as has grown, the museum remains the only true public building besides the home base “visitor services” center and built-in airport. I’ve yet to see an opportunity to build a school, library, post office, or any other public building.

The Animal Crossing museum is a flat version of a museum: it’s about collecting and displaying. This was my predominate thought until my nephews sent their avatars to my island. We talked on the phone together while our cartoon projections of ourselves ran around the screen. As this global pandemic has worn on, the few times I’ve played Animal Crossing with my nephews has been a perfect example of the social experiences we’ve all been having—separate but together, interacting virtually. My nephews are avid museum goers—curious about the world and their place in it– and right away they wanted to visit my digital museum.

Image 2: Cate and her nephew express delight and wonder in the natural history wing.

Walking around the dimly-lit halls with them, looking at animated fossils, I was reminded of the roles museums play beyond collecting and displaying. I began thinking about museums as space. Although I don’t know when my nephews or I will be able to visit a museum again, we were able to pretend for a little bit. As the realm of acceptable spaces for me to be has drastically shrunk, I’ve been reminded of why spaces are important.

Historians have long discussed the role or need for the real, the tangible, when we have the digital. Are digital exhibits just as informative as in person exhibits? Probably more so, because one can peruse them without the distractions and bodily discomfort of being in a museum space. Various email lists I am subscribed to have recently sent me articles hyping “10 Museum Exhibits You Can Visit Virtually” or other similar promises, and I’ve been interested in how many of these digital tours emphasize a feeling of walking though the museum space more than serving as a virtual exhibit. Without being there, one can imagine they are.

Museum spaces matter for housing and displaying objects, but they also matter because the spaces themselves facilitate our experiences. Museums can be social spaces, and many of us are currently craving places for in-person socialization. As a university educator, I was forcefully reminded this semester that learning can happen anywhere, so while museum spaces facilitate learning they are by no means the only way for this to happen. For social and educational needs, we are forced to confront the fact that museums aren’t “essential.”

The value of museums as physical spaces, then, is neither solely educational nor solely social, though tied to both. The true value is in contemplation. How many public spaces do we have for contemplation? Museums are spaces where we can think. We can sit and process what we’ve learned, we can share it with others, and we can process our wonder, our awe, our confusion, and even our skepticism. In museums (and to a degree, parks and libraries), it’s okay to openly show our delight and our understanding or lack thereof. It’s okay to obviously wowed, bewildered, amazed, or even lost. In museum spaces we can exist fully and without an expectation of spending money to support a for-profit agenda—how many other places can say the same?

Museums across the country have upped their online presence during the pandemic and consistently proven just how important, relevant, and useful their collections and information are. The range of digital resources that have become available or have been highlighted is impressive and vital. Not being in museums has highlighted how much they have and how useful it is in ways that a traditional visit might not have been able to. The biggest takeaway from not being in museums, though, is how magic they are as spaces, and how much we miss them. Even with this vast array of content available, I’ve found it challenging to find wonder in my own apartment. When we’re at home, expressing our feelings is not as significant as the opportunity museums provide to do so in public.

In the Animal Crossing museum, my nephews and I ran up and down the stairs, read exhibit labels, and used our “delight” reaction. But we also sat on a bench together. It was only for a moment, but sitting on a bench made of pixels in an imaginary museum provided a tiny opportunity for reflection—almost like the real thing.

-Cate LiaBraaten

Loyola University’s Unusual Students: Italian POWs and Loyola University

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next four weeks for new stories.

The Jesuit mission is to “to work for reconciliation every day — with God, with human beings and with the environment” [1]. As a Jesuit institution, Loyola University has used this statement as its guiding ideal in education and service. During World War II the world needed reconciliation more than ever before and Loyola University was compelled to extend its humanitarian mission of education to individuals who were otherwise considered enemies: prisoners of war.

Figure 1: Portrait of Marie Sheahan, head of the Home Studies Division and correspondent to Father Ferreri. (Photo Credit: “Mary Sheahan”, One Hundred Years of Knowledge in the Service of Man:  Loyola University of Chicago, 1870 – 1970”, Box 1, Folder 3, Correspondence Study Division, Loyola University Archives, Loyola University Chicago.)

From 1922 to 1985 Loyola University maintained a Home Study Division (later renamed the Correspondence Study Division), which allowed students who could not reach the campus to take courses in a variety of subjects [2]. Like others of its kind, this program was popular among students who were housewives, who lived in the countryside, and who had to work full-time. Loyola University’s division was unique as it was the only Catholic university that cooperated with the United States Armed Forces Institute (USAFI), which provided high school and college education to American service members [3]. In addition to providing correspondence courses to Americans serving in the armed forces, Loyola University partnered with Father Achilles F. Fererri (Captain, AUS) to offer courses to Italian prisoners of war.  The USAFI only covered American service members, so this decision went above and beyond Loyola’s contractual obligations.

Father Fererri was the chaplain at Camp Hereford, a prisoner of war camp in Hereford, Texas [4]. The prison held five thousand Italian prisoners of war who were captured in North Africa [5]. Out of these five thousand prisoners, fifty-four enrolled in correspondence courses through Loyola University [6]. English courses were by far the most popular with twenty-two imprisoned students enrolling in those courses. Spanish and French language courses were also popular with eleven and four students each.  Six soldiers enrolled in Sociology courses, five in law, four in Economics, and three in both Biology and Education. Psychology, Philosophy, Geology, and Latin each had only one student enrolled [7]. The Loyola University Archives does not have any record of what grades these students received.  Although the Correspondence Division kept records of all the enrollment fees and book purchases, all coursework was sent directly from the students to the professors [8]. Despite this lack of record, it is likely that these imprisoned soldiers worked diligently on their assignments.  After all, there was precious little entertainment available in prisoner of war camps.

Figure 2: Camp Hereford prisoners with priests, standing outside St. Mary’s church. (Photo Credit: St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Umbarger, TX. Accessed December 11, 2018, https://stmarysumbarger.com/)

Fifty-four students are a small percentage of five thousand inmates, but there were several factors that likely limited who among the prisoners at Hereford could take classes. First, such courses necessitated a certain level of language skills and education. Soldiers who were barely literate or who had left school at a young age would not have been able to take college classes. The second, and arguably more important limitation, was money.  Like any other students, these soldiers had to pay course fees and buy books and only a few could afford to do so.

Loyola University initially offered a half-rate discount only to prisoners of war who were not commissioned officers. In a 1944 letter to Marie Sheahan, the head of the Home Study Division, Father Ferreri explained that the commissioned offers were not paid as well as U.S. officers. Most of the officers interred at Hereford were first or second Lieutenants and received only twenty dollars per month to cover all the needs not provided by the prison. He also mentioned that Loyola’s neighbor, DePaul University of Chicago, offered a flat rate of $10.00 per course to prisoners of war regardless of rank [9]. While DePaul University also cooperated with the military for the benefit of foreign prisoners of war, DePaul was not a participating university in the United States Armed Forces Institute. Father Ferreri had originally believed that the discount rate applied to all of the students he oversaw and hoped that he could reach a similar bargain with Loyola so as not to disappoint his charges. Just over a week later Miss Sheahan replied that Loyola had not realized how small a salary the commissioned officers received and gladly extended the half-rate discount to all the students at Camp Hereford [10].


Figures 3 and 4: Left: Interior of St. Mary’s church prior to decoration by Italian POWs.  Exact date unknown. Right: Sanctuary of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Umbarger, Texas.  Interior decoration by Camp Hereford POWs and Loyola students.   (Photo Credit: St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Umbarger, TX. Accessed December 11, 2018, https://stmarysumbarger.com/)

Readers who are interested in World War II may have heard of Father Fererri and these Italian prisoners before as they were the subject of Donald Williams’ book Italian POWs and a Texas Church: The Murals of St. Mary’s. When food was scarce in Camp Hereford in 1945, Father Fererri found ways for the prisoners to use their artistic skills to work for food [11]. In the most remarkable of these activities Father Fererri and his friend the Reverend Krukkert arranged for talented artists among the inmates, mainly painters and carvers, as well as a few unskilled help-meets to decorate the interior of Krukkert’s St. Mary’s Church in nearby Umbarger, Texas [12]. Many of these same prisoners constructed used their skills in carving and painting to build a chapel that marks the graves of the five prisoners who died in the camp during their interment. 

Today the chapel is overseen by the Castro County Historical Commission and St. Mary’s Church likewise preserves the art of these imprisoned artists. In 1988, a group of the former prisoners returned for the chapel’s restoration ceremony. Only Mario De Dominicis’ name appears in both the student roster and Williams’ book, but this reunion leaves one to wonder how many uncredited Loyola students also worked on the chapel and St. Mary’s Church [13]. By working with the Armed Forces Institute, Loyola University uniquely contributed to the education of American service members as the only Catholic university to offer classes through the USAFI. By going the extra mile and offering classes to foreign prisoners of war who were not covered by the USAFI Loyola University fulfilled its Jesuit mission of reconciliation.

-Emily-Paige Taylor

Lecturing on the Big Screen: Closed-Circuit Television at the Loyola School of Dentistry

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next six weeks for new stories.

Over the course of nearly a century, students sought out dental education in the United States in high demand. Dental schools popped up all across the country from the late-nineteenth century and into the mid-twentieth century, becoming well-rated, and drawing in an international pool of students. Some schools, especially in the late-nineteenth century, even required medical degrees upon admission. Even among hundreds of dental schools, some emerged as the best and most respected. One of these top-tier dental schools was the Loyola School of Dentistry. It all started in 1883, when Truman W. Brophy established the Chicago Dental Infirmary on 22 West Adams Street. Renamed the Chicago College of Dental Surgery (CCDS) with a new charter in 1888, the college grew quickly in size and reputation. Over its first 5 years, CCDS moved into new buildings a total of four times to accommodate the growing student population and dental technology needs. By 1893, the school found its longtime home at 1757 West Harrison Street [1].

Figure 1: Photograph of the Chicago College of Dental Surgery at 1757 W Harrison [2].

From its inception, CCDS pioneered the field of dental education and attracted students from across the globe. As early as 1890, school officials noted student enrollment from countries such as Canada, Germany, and Peru [3]. The school was the first to integrate the educational use of apparatuses for cultivating bacteria, and boasted a graduate, who later became Dean of Faculty, who was responsible for reorganizing the Dental Corps of the United States Army [4]. Though these innovations came within the school’s first forty years, CCDS continued to raise the standards of dental education. In 1923, the Chicago College of Dental Surgery affiliated with Loyola University Chicago. Under the university’s charter, and a newly formed Department of Dental Research, faculty members contributed to dental literature at an unprecedented pace. It was in 1954, however, that the Chicago College of Dental Surgery took one of its largest strides in pioneering dental education—It became the first dental school in the United States to own a permanent closed-circuit television system for clinical lectures [5].

Beginning in 1951, Loyola University reserved local channel 11 for the first round of TV programming coming from the university. Broadcasts included university updates, music programs, and Rev. Francis Filas, S.J.’s yearly Christmas special [6]. TV broadcasting from the university turned out to be a successful investment for Loyola. From the initial incorporation of university public broadcasting, departments of the university implemented the use of television for their own needs. The dental school was no exception.

As the student population at CCDS grew, so did the needs of faculty members to properly instruct clinical practices. Dental students typically crowded around one dental chair in order to observe the techniques of their professors. This manner of observation could only serve three to four students at one time, and the rest of the class would miss first-hand instruction on dental care. One way that CCDS attempted to alleviate the issue was by establishing a Department of Visual Education in 1950, where photographic slides were made available for classroom use [7]. Four years later, the alumni publication of CCDS, The Bur, reported a recent purchase by the department of a closed-circuit television [8]. The purchase reflected the broader effort by Loyola to implement educational material on broadcast television.

Figure 2: A pamphlet advertises closed-circuit television at the dental school [9].

Shortly after the Chicago College of Dental Surgery purchased the closed-circuit television equipment, the school presented its new clinical lecture method at the Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting in February of 1954. The poster and table presentation, titled “Teaching Dentistry with TV,” displayed the advantages of the closed-circuit TV method. On the left side of the board, a picture showing students crowding around a dental chair to observe their professor is pinned with the caption “Few Really See.” On the right side of the board, presenters pinned a photo of current dental students watching a lecture with the TV projections. The caption under this photograph reads “Vision Unlimited.” Clearly, the dental school envisioned a bright future for its students upon adopting a new lecture style. The Bur also took a positive approach to the method. In the 1954 issue of the bulletin, editors praised the Visual Department’s new purchase:

In recent months this department has been highlighted with purchase of its own closed circuit television system. This means that the faculty at the dental school, through its own department of visual education, can televise any demonstration, technic or clinical procedure from anywhere in the dental school building, to any other part of the school. For example, it will be possible to televise an oral surgery procedure from the surgery to the amphitheatre, where it will be possible for 100 students to see what is being done instead of the usual one or two. The use will not be limited only to clinical demonstration, but will have a place also in laboratory demonstrations, such as setting up of teeth or even an anatomical [dissection]. [10]

Figure 3: The dental school’s presentation at the Chicago Dental Society meeting [11].

Within the first eight months of incorporated closed-circuit lecturing in the dental school curriculum, students and alumni already expressed positive interest in the new format. The Bur reported, “The days of a few students viewing an operation is past. Now the entire class has a front seat” [12]. Closed-circuit television opened avenues for the dental school. Students were no longer limited to a faraway view of their professors’ hands, nor did they need to rely on notes from classmates who had a closer look at clinical techniques. Displaying the professor’s work on televisions inside an amphitheater meant that more students could view the lecture at once; in effect, the dental school could accept more students into the program with the new method. Implementing closed-circuit television also decreased the amount of time professors spent on each lecture, since they could easily move from one technique to another without worrying about students’ poor vantage points.

Figure 4: Students watch their instructor on the screens at the front of the classroom [13].
Figure 5: A technician holds a camera for the procedure to be broadcast to a classroom [14].

Even after the incorporation of closed-circuit television for lecture halls, CCDS remained committed to innovative teaching methods and spaces. By the late 1960s, Loyola’s dental school was the only school in Illinois to teach the “four-handed, sit-down” method [15]. The method utilizes the help of dental assistants alongside the dental practitioner for more efficient dental hygiene appointments, and is still incorporated in dental assistant programs today. Additionally, a new dental school building was completed on the Maywood medical campus in 1969 to accommodate more students, lab space, and technology. During the centennial celebration of Loyola University in 1970, a commemorative booklet noted that fifty-one percent of Chicagoland dentists were graduates of CCDS [16]. Loyola’s dental school retained its strong reputation as one of the state’s largest dental schools until decreasing enrollment and high maintenance costs led to its closing in 1993. Although Loyola no longer has a formal college of dentistry, the former school’s Maywood building has been renamed the Maguire Center, and houses the medical campus’ Oral Health Center [17].

-Bianca Bárcenas

Mundelein and Loyola Speak Out: Social Activism in Student Publications (1967-2018)

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next seven weeks for new stories.

With their Jesuit affiliation, social justice has been at the forefront of the missions of both Loyola University and Mundelein College.  With the approach of the 1960s, however, students and faculty felt particularly empowered to make their voices heard— at their home institutions, in their communities, and around the world.   In this post, we’ll look at a few examples of Loyola’s participation in social activism and political discourse over the past 50+ years.

Figure 1: Students and faculty debate the ramifications of the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War (1967), Skyscraper, 1967

“Every time we’ve escalated it’s because another policy has failed,” Loyola sociology professor Clark Kissinger, one of the “doves” on the panel, is quoted as saying in the Skyscraper, addressing the motivations behind the United States’ escalation of its involvement in the Vietnam War [1]. Reporters at the entirely student-run, Mundelein College newspaper were covering the April 26, 1967 Vietnam War Teach-In, an opportunity for discussion and reflection about the causes and implications of our nation’s continued involvement in the conflict abroad.  While the headline clearly addresses the tension between those on either side of the debate, the panel distribution hints at the majority political leanings of the school’s student body and staff as well.

Figure 2: Students confront Loyola administration at 1969 Student Convocation, Loyola News, 1969

“…probably the first time university administrators were criticized to their faces…”  In 1969, Loyola’s “very best” students were invited by the administration to attend the Honors Convocation and share their “opinions and perceptions” about the past year. What the administration and attending parents got was a succession of admonishments about the university’s dismissal of students’ voices and the “radical change” that needed to occur within the university’s walls and policies.  While many parents in the audience responded with gasps and rebukes of the speakers, the Loyola News does note that “administration took the remarks graciously as the sincere reflection of responsible students’ opinions” [2]. 

Figure 3: Black students at Mundelein College demand change in the culture of their institution, skyPAPER, 1970

“The future of both cultures hangs precariously on our decision.” Black students at Mundelein spoke as one voice and presented a list of five demands to the university faculty. On May 26, 1970, they received a response at the town hall meeting in McCormick Lounge.  “We have chosen not to ignore [these demands],” responded Sr. Virginia McDermott to the “several hundred” people in attendance.  Money was pledged to assist the families and honor the memories of the two students who had been killed at Jackson State, recommendations were made to the white community at Mundelein, and university president Sr. Ann Ida Gannon promised that the administration would “move to meet the black students’ needs as quickly and as fully as possible” [3].

Figure 4: Blackacre’s editorial board reflects on the tumult of the past few years and the change it produced, Blackacre, 1975

“…the more or less calm satisfaction…” The September 25, 1975 editorial in Loyola Law School’s Blackacre speaks to the tumult that the university had experienced in the first half of the decade, and the present “contentment” felt after a year of “news and controversy.”  There had been faculty resignations, “publicity controvers[ies],” and a rift between the law school and the university about a proposed Legal Aid Clinic. However, the start of 1975 brought a year of all seats on the faculty being filled, a functional Legal Aid Clinic, and the redesign of classrooms.  The editorial attributes these changes to the “student activism of the past two years” that was “instrumental in effecting a change in the University’s position toward the law school,” as well as the new Dean Murdock [4].

Figure 5: The Loyola Phoenix’s political cartoon, titled “Castro, the archer,” Loyola Phoenix, 1982
Figure 6: Students and faculty call for the withdrawal of of military and economic aid from El Salvador, Chicago Tribune, 1990 

On March 19, 1982, the Loyola Phoenix published a political cartoon depicting Uncle Sam grabbing Central America and clenching it between his fists as Cuba’s Fidel Castro shoots arrows into his behind [5].  Later, in a continued attempt to shine a light on the United States’ military involvement in Central America, Loyola students and faculty published a full page ad in the Chicago Tribune, calling for the withdrawal of economic and military aid from El Salvador after a string of brutal killings of Jesuit-affiliates by the Salvadorian military [6].  

Figure 7: Loyola graduate students interrupt budget meeting in an attempt to negotiate with administration about pay and working conditions, Loyola Phoenix, 2018

Current examples of activism and it’s coverage in student publications is evident on October 17, 2018, as graduate students crashed a budged meeting “calling for higher wages and union recognition.”  Long a source of tension in university environments, the demands of many graduate students workers—demands that often require a set number of hours per week, in addition to grading papers, holding office hours, and attending their own classes—felt untenable to many, and they voiced these concerns.  “We are fed up,” members of the union are quoted in the Loyola Phoenix as saying.  To date, they have not been able to negotiate with the university, as Loyola representatives have expressed that graduate student workers are “students in every sense of the word” [7]. 

Like most Jesuit-affiliated institutions, the student bodies of Loyola University and the former Mundelein College have a deep sense of the importance of social justice and the power of political activism.  We look forward to seeing their ongoing commitment to social change and the reporting on it through their myriad student publications.

-Ericka Christie

Playing a Part: Loyola Actors Find Their Place in the Chicago Theatre Scene

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series of essays written by students of the Fall 2018 Public History course and based on research at Loyola’s University Archives and Special Collections. Check back over the next eight weeks for new stories.

While Chicago’s rich theatre history evolved over the 20th century, Loyola students pushed their pins into the map of the Chicago theatre scene. [1]. With Pulitzer Prize winning premiers and Broadway bound productions, the city’s theatre scene clawed out a reputation as a lab for world class performances. Loyola University theatre program grew on a parallel trajectory beginning as a student run organization and ultimately becoming a full fledged professional training program with the creation of a theatre department.

When Professor Joseph Rice took over direction of the Loyola University Players full time in 1931, it didn’t take him long see the need to move Loyola performances off-campus to reach a larger audience. In March of 1932, he directed Loyola students in “The Enemy” by Channing Pollack at the Goodman Theater [2]. At that time, the Goodman was housed at the Art Institute which provided an opportunity for the student production to perform downtown [3].

Figure 1: This emblem dramatically displays LUP, Loyola University Players,’ from their 1932 production of The Royal Family of Broadway by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber [4].

In 1952, the Loyola Theatre Players, under the direction of Reverend James T. Hussey, did more than transport their theatre to the outside world; they brought the world to their productions [5]. In a much-publicized event, Father Hussey produced the Loyola Theatre Festival which brought in Hollywood and Broadway stars to perform alongside Loyola student-actors. The brightest star of the lot, Gene Raymond, had shared a stage with the likes of Humphrey Bogart and appeared in ninety-seven films but took the time in 1952 to perform in The Devil’s Discipline by George Bernard Shaw at the Loyola Community Theatre [6].

In a retreat from the slings and arrows of Hollywood fortune, Raymond “took a kitchenette apartment near Loyola University” according to the Chicago Tribune’s gossip column “Tower Ticker by Will Leonard” [7]. In his rented abode, Raymond hosted the student cast of another Loyola Theatre Festival production, The Royal Family, to a dinner he prepared himself.

Figures 2 and 3: These two programs from the 1952 Theatre Festival are the dullest in the whole Loyola theatre records archive [8].

The 1952 Theatre Festival, while charming, did not necessarily put Loyola theatre on the map. It was a spectacular event but not a legitimizing one. Students must have been a thrilled to work and play with world class actors like Raymond, but critics did not find it very amusing. Tribune columnist, Claudia Cassidy, condemned Loyola Theatre Festival’s attempt at George Bernard Shaw’s work by saying, “Frankly, it seems wiser to me and infinitely more enjoyable, to read such a play than to share in a botched-up performance.” Cassidy left after the first act of one of the program’s performances complaining that the star, Dennis King, did not have a suitably aquiline nose for the part—yes, literally, his nose—adding that Shaw was “quite simply not for amateurs [9].”

There is no word that could cut as deeply into the heart of Loyola’s burgeoning theatre than that—amateurs. After roping in a handful of professional actors including Hollywood stars, Loyola was still being relegated to the kid’s table in Chicago’s theatre scene.

The Curtain Guild, Loyola’s student led theatre group, dealt with the same criticism. A Loyola News review from 1965 gave their “Six Characters in Search of an Author” by Luigi Pirandello a harsh critique once again alluding to the lack of quality in acting [10]. Later that school year, an editorial in the Loyola News recommended the Curtain Guild include a “company of professional actors” to increase audience attendance at performances [11].

Figure 4: This program cover is from the 1965 production of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Character in Search of an Author.

            Loyola University responded to that criticism in 1968 by creating a professional training program, the Loyola Theatre Department [12]. The first theatre majors were in the same generation of actors as the Illinois State University grads who started Steppenwolf Theatre at the North Shore Unitarian Church [13]. In fact, in 1974 when Steppenwolf staged its first production, Loyola theatre majors boasted Chicago theatre credits at popular venues like the Athenaeum, Court Theatre, and a handful of other Chicago venues [14]. The theatre department, under the direction of Arthur W. Bloom, merged with the Chicago theatre scene at the most exciting time in Chicago theatre history. The department’s inaugural theatre majors took advantage of the fortune of their era and cast off the amateur designation.

Figure 5: Here are a selection of programs from the early seventies during the first few years of the official Loyola Theatre Department [15].

Dr. Arthur Bloom chaired the Theatre Department during the zenith of the Chicago storefront theatre age in the early 1980’s. He worked to secure internships at Organic and St. Nicholas Theatre which both produced acclaimed world premieres of Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet [16]. Under his leadership, the Theatre in Chicago class brought students across the city to see an array of productions from the Lyric Opera’s Macbeth to Steppenwolf’s Of Mice and Men [17]. Bloom prioritized students’ engagement with the Chicago theatre community.

Today, the results of the parallel trajectory of Loyola Theatre and the Chicago theatre scene are visible around the city and the country. Theatre alumnus Osh Ghanimah founded the non-profit, Broadway for All, whose mission is to “train young artists from all income levels and all ethnic backgrounds in a world-class conservatory–led by professionals from the Broadway, television, and film industries [18].” That mission surpasses the scope of the Loyola’s theatre leaders and pursues a goal of social progress, but the ambitious spirit is the same: Loyola’s theatre has fought to make itself an integral part of the greater community and the theatre world.

Figure 6: This blog has been constructed using the Loyola University Theatre Records with a specific emphasis on past theatre production programs. In this bizarre excerpt from a production of Arsenic and Old Lace in 1973, this student is either trying to say they are a werewolf or a vampire [19].

-Anthony Stamilio

Digital Exhibits: A Roundtable

As museums and historical institutions have increased their web presence, so too have we seen the rise of the digital exhibit. For public history graduate students, it’s almost impossible to escape a program without designing one of your own. Below, several past and current students of the Public History Program at Loyola University Chicago unpack the good and the bad of digital exhibits while adding some constructive suggestions along the way.

LFH Post

It is obvious that entering a digital exhibit is different from crossing the threshold of a physical exhibit space. What makes this difference important to us as public historians is how people react to what is being presented. In contrast to entering a designed physical space, the “threshold” one crosses when entering a digital exhibit on a computer screen has the same sensory experience as buying books or looking up pictures of cats. It is just another “click” in a long line of “clicks.”

Continue reading “Digital Exhibits: A Roundtable”

Encounters and Crossings: The Ambiguity of African American Identity

by Pamela Johnson, Masters Student in Modern European History at Loyola University Chicago.  Crossposted from The Scholarly Wife.

This past semester, I wrote a paper on historian Natalie Zemon Davis entitled, “Encounters and Crossings: The Life and Work of Natalie Zemon Davis.” Known for her charming writing style and impressive archival research, Davis has gravitated towards “exposing and bringing to life the histories of those groups often suppressed in traditional historical narratives.” She is a historian of early modern France, but more recently her work has taken her outside of Europe. Her life as both a woman and a Jew has been a story of encounters and crossings, a desire to be in the center, while challenging from the periphery. In reminiscing on her time in grade school, she once remarked, “I was very eager to be a good student and to be popular and do all the other things you were supposed to do, but I was Jewish.” She went on to say, “I was certainly an outsider.” The contradictions of center and periphery have guided Davis throughout her historical career.

There are striking similarities between Davis’ life and my own. She struggled with her Jewish identity in her younger days and I have wrestled with what it means to be African American. The complexities of African American identity sometimes astound me. It’s interesting that no matter how old you get, you still never fully grasp or understand it…for the identity is a paradox in itself. It is ambiguous because it attempts to be both African and American, while simultaneously, it is neither. You’re no longer found in the motherland, abandoned instead on strange soil. Yet this is your home…but here you are often rejected, often despised, often misunderstood. You feel an unspoken separation from both localities. So, in the end, where do you stand?

Continue reading “Encounters and Crossings: The Ambiguity of African American Identity”

So, tell me about Frank Holmes…

Public history MA student Jessica Hagen reconstructs portions of man’s rich life, using documents found during her NARA-Chicago summer internship.

7358 S Pulaski

Okay so, I had a super fun find while refoldering and adding admiralty cases to the database a few weeks ago. Admiralty cases, remember, are those relating to the Great Lakes and are heard in federal court, specifically the Northern district of Ohio, Eastern division (Cleveland).

Anyway, the first case I opened on Tuesday morning after I got to work was number 3206, “In the Matter of the effects of Frank Holmes, deceased seaman, late a member of the crew, A. W. Osborne.” Evidently, Mr. Holmes drowned on July 30, 1934 (sad). His effects stayed with the case because his family (if he had one in the states) was never located. The master of the steamer, W. G. Coles, sent a statement and Holmes’ personal effects to Vance & Joys Company, a vessel agent for the Wilson Transit Company, on December 23, 1934. In his personal effects were several neat…

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