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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Plans for Summer 2013, Part Two

LFH

What do public history grad students do with their summers? Learn about the exciting internships and projects that students are undertaking across the country and beyond.  Be sure to check back over the summer and  fall for students’ reflections on their work.  To read what our first batch of students are doing with their summers, click here. And, to see about what our students did last summer, click here and here.

Joshua Arens, First Year Public History Masters Student: This summer I will be in the great state of Wisconsin eating cheese and brats (duh), hanging out by Lake Michigan, and going to Summerfest and Brewers games! Oh, I have an internship too. I’ll be spending my summer working at the Milwaukee Public Museum in the anthropology department cataloguing and researching Bronze Age artifacts from the Hopi Tribe. Check out my blog to read all about my happenings this summer!

Kristin Emery, Second Year Public History Masters Studient: Well, I just graduated from Loyola and let me tell ya, it feels totally awesome. In addition to insisting that my friends and family call me “Master” and signing all of my correspondence “Kristin Emery, M.A.,” I recently started a new position as the Programs Assistant at the Newberry Library’s Hermon D. Smith Center for the History of Cartography. In my role there, one of my primary charges will be researching and selecting images, then obtaining permissions to use them in “Make Big Plans:  Daniel Burnham’s Vision of an American Metropolis,” an NEH-funded online resource that explores Danial Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago and its influence on urban planning in the subsequent century. I will also be promoting and coordinating several public programs including, “Pictures from and Expedition: Aesthetics of Cartographic Exploration in the Americas,” a Newberry Symposium on June 20 and 21, and the Eighteenth Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lectures in the History of Cartography which will focus on the War of 1812 and its effects on American Cartography. There may also be a mail merge or two in there…Oh yeah and if anyone has any suggestions for post-grad hobbies, tweet them to me @PublicKristory.

Laura Johns, Second Year Public History Masters Student: Like Kristin, I recently graduated and agree that, “it feels totally awesome!”  I am looking forward to catching up on sleep, reading for pleasure, walking on the beach, and watching all the films I missed while in graduate school (based on recommendations by Lakefront Historian posts, of course).  How, you may ask, will I find time for these activities?  I am invoking the “eight-hour day.”  That’s right!  No more sixteen to eighteen-hour graduate student workdays.  My wonderfully abbreviated workdays will include contract exhibit design and curation for Rush University Medical Center, submission of applications for the ever-elusive permanent public history job, and continued work on personal projects related to history, memory, and the Civil War.

Cambray Sampson, First Year Public History Masters Student: I will be spending my summer on the shores of Lake Huron interning at Tawas Point Lighthouse.  This lighthouse, first lit in 1877, is located at Tawas Point State Park in East Tawas, Michigan and is part of the Michigan Historical Museum System.  While there, I will be giving tours, working with guest lighthouse keepers, working in the museum store, and assembling educational and programming materials.  When I’m not working, I look forward to living at my grandparent’s cabin, reading, and spending time with my family and friends in my home state of Michigan.  If you’re interested in what I’m doing, please feel free to check out my blog.

Joshua Wachuta, First Year Public History PhD Student: This week I will be starting my eighth season with the Wisconsin Historical Society at its longest running historic site, Villa Louis in Prairie du Chien. Located on an island in the Mississippi River, Villa Louis encompasses a War of 1812 battleground, a nineteenth-century fur warehouse, and the country estate of the H.L. Dousman Family, meticulously restored with its original 1890s furnishings. When I’m not leading house tours after our hands-on Victorian breakfasts or exploring the fur trade with fourth-graders on field trips, I expect to keep busy looking after object collections and sorting through the institutional archives that have accumulated since Villa Louis opened as a museum in 1936. I also hope to continue my study of American Indian, French, British, and U.S. cultural interaction in the Mississippi Valley and help keep the Villa’s public interpretation fresh with new research and perspectives.

Plans for Summer 2013

PH Students
Loyola Chicago Public History students at Historic Pullman, Chicago
Photo by Greg Ruth

What do public history grad students do with their summers? Learn about the exciting internships and projects that students are undertaking across the country and beyond.  Be sure to check back over the summer and  fall for students’ reflections on their work.  To read about what our students did last summer, click here and here.

Anne Cullen, Second Year Public History Masters Student: After a whirlwind summer in New York City last year, I plan to stay put in Chicago this time around. I’m currently employed as a Public History Consultant at History Works, Inc. and a Project Assistant on the Chicago Community Trust Oral History Project, both of which will continue into the summer months. In June I’ll also be partnering with the Women and Leadership Archives to curate an online exhibit using materials from the Mundelein Collection. Since I’ll be finishing my degree this May, I can’t wait to spend my newly-found free time on the Lake Michigan beach reading for pleasure.

Chelsea Denault, First Year Public History PhD Student: This summer, I am headed to “The Best Island in the World” (thanks National Geographic!), Nantucket! I’ll be working there as a Public Programs and Visitor Experience Intern at the Nantucket Historical Association. Over the summer, I will help the NHA staff run their summer programs, including family art classes, evening concerts, lectures & cocktail nights, and – the community favorite – a (very) dramatic reading of Orson Welles’ play “Moby-Dick Rehearsed” in the NHA’s Whaling Museum. I will also be working on a yet-to-be-determined individual project (look for the big unveiling on my blog!). When I’m not caught up doing public history-related work, I plan on spending my New England summer enjoying clambakes, harvesting quahogs, whale watching, and learning how to sail!

William Ippen, Second Year Public History PhD Student: I plan to devote most of my time this summer to completing my dissertation proposal, along with the occasional backpacking trip. In the realm of public history, I will be collaborating on a National Register nomination with Devin Hunter for The Plant, a self-contained vertical agricultural complex occupying the historic Peer Foods building in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. The project will pioneer new avenues for industrial preservation and public history sustainability. I will also continue my work as a member of the NCPH Task Force on Sustainability and Public History. We are currently developing a white paper to be presented at the 2014 NCPH Annual Meeting in Monterrey that will address the intersection of public history and sustainability, the issues therein, define the role of the task force, and recommend NCPH policies and practices regarding sustainability. Sustainability will be that meeting’s theme, and members of the task force will be organizing panels and roundtables around that theme.

Maisie O’Malley, First Year Public History Masters Student:    I plan to spend this summah dropping my R’s, eating lobstah, and having a wicked good time interning in Boston.  I will be splitting my time between the South End Historical Society and the Boston College Archives.  I will primarily intern at SEHS, where I will work on a variety of projects geared toward the preservation of the South End’s historic built environment.  At BC, I will work on the Emmett Larkin Papers.  Larkin, a prominent Irish history scholar, is famous for his work on the role of the Catholic Church in Ireland after the Great Famine.  During my free time I’ll be taking advantage of all the history Boston has to offer, so check out my blog about life in the “Hub of the Universe”!

Laura Pearce, First Year Public History Masters Student: This July I will be heading to Poland through a Fellows Program from the Auschwitz Jewish Center for an intense three-week experience learning about the Holocaust and Jewish heritage in Poland.  The other Fellows and I will visit Kraków, Warsaw, Łódź, Treblinka, and Oświęcim (Auschwitz) as well as South-Eastern Poland. We will meet with local leaders, learn about the areas Jewish heritage and pre-war Jewish culture, hear what life was like under the Nazis and Communism, and explore the state (or lack thereof?) of Jewish communities and memory in Poland today.  I’m especially excited for a workshop with collections and education staff at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum!  In August, after I return to the states, I’ll begin my fall internship with the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.  While a focus on the Holocaust won’t make this a particularly upbeat summer, will without a doubt be engaging and educational to say the least.

Jessica Hagen, First Year Public History Masters Student: I’m going to be spending my summer as an archival intern at the National Archives and Records Administration regional office here in Chicago. I am going to be working on a variety of projects this summer, some alone and a few with another intern (yay group projects!). I am also the graduate student intern at the University Archives and Special Collections at Loyola, and I am looking forward to employing the archival techniques I have learned at LUC to my work at NARA Chicago. I am  anticipating that I will learn so much more throughout this summer as well. I am super excited about this experience and cannot wait to get started! I’ll be blogging throughout the summer so if you like archives, old documents, entertaining stories about experiences with the public, or are curious about why keeping records of the past is important, check it out. I will also be actively documenting my internship throughout the summer on my twitter machine with the hashtag: #SummertimeChiAtNARA. (For those of you familiar with the twitter, yes, I do realize how stupendously long that hashtag is. I will probably be amending it sometime during the summer, but I will put that update on my blog as well.)

Living Donors and the Oral Historian

When Kristin wrote recently about the troubles of working with living donors, I could not help but relate her woes to my own summertime job experience.  This summer I have worked as the Oral History Intern at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City where I have had the privilege of engaging a whole other type of living donor: the oral history interviewee.

In October, the Tenement Museum will debut a new exhibit entitled Shop Life. This basement exhibit explores the history of business culture at the landmarked 97 Orchard Street tenement.  One of my goals is to strengthen the Museum’s oral history collection with information about other neighborhood shops and storefronts, past and present. These interviews might someday serve as the foundations for a Shop Life neighborhood walking tour to accompany the new tenement exhibit.

LES TLH PostLower East Side tenements

To collect oral histories, I rely on the theory and methodology taught in our graduate course Oral History at Loyola University Chicago.  We delved into the intricacies of interview technique, transcription methodology, and the ethical implications of exploiting interview sources for our own academic and professional gains.  Now that I am in the field doing this work for myself, I realize one topic, preceding all the rest, remained largely unaddressed: How do you even get someone to sit down with you for an interview?

Continue reading “Living Donors and the Oral Historian”

Living Donors and the Maintenance of Legacy

It’s 95 degrees and about 75% relative humidity. I’m hunched over a box of documents in the un-air-conditioned attic of a former US Senator who now lives in Chicago. As I flip through hundreds of file folders, I remove all financial records and anything that says “FEC.” To the left, my boss stands and hands folders one-by-one to the Senator, who reviews every document-be it a lawsuit or a Christmas card- and tells a brief story before approving it for donation or discarding it. 30-odd large boxes surround us, brimming with files and papers yet to be sorted. After 4 stuffy hours, we’ve made it through 1/10 of the material. Does anyone have a bucket of ice water I can borrow?

After some rehydration and reflection on this archival materials pick-up I recently accompanied my boss on, I realized how the experience can be used to examine some of the benefits, pitfalls, and other issues archival professionals face when dealing with living donors.

Living donors can be an amazing resource for archivists- and indirectly for historians. Donors can answer questions and provide context for their collections through storytelling or other verbal and written communication. Interaction with donors also gives the archivist an idea of the donor’s personality, which could lead to insights when arranging and describing a collection. Such knowledge can also be shared with users to provide deeper context for their research.

Of course, the politics of working with a living donor can be difficult too. Some donors make demands for control of the arrangement and description of their collections. Some donors ask for materials back after they have been legally signed over to a repository through a deed of gift. Headaches, to be sure.  But to me, the most interesting aspect of a living donor is the desire that often manifests for one to edit-or in some cases censor- one’s own legacy. We all want to look good in the history books, right? When donors are alive, they can decide what not to include in their own record. And in the name of shared authority, this is unquestionable. But it makes for an incomplete historical record.

It also raises questions about who has the right to dictate a legacy. Should an individual alone decide how he or she is remembered? Does that right fall to those who were most affected or closest to the individual? What about outsiders or third-parties (including but not limited to Public Historians) who can come in with a supposedly unbiased approach? Of course in the case of archives, it is less about memory and more about creating and preserving a complete and accurate historical record. A gap in context created by the omission of one document could shape historical interpretation for centuries.

Of course, legacy maintenance is nothing new. Court historians have flattered their monarchs to keep their jobs (and sometimes their heads). Corporate lackeys have shredded papers to escape prosecution but also to erase histories of corruption in their companies. Because all primary resources are biased in some way, archival professionals must recognize the importance of working with living donors to document recent history and to ensure the most robust historical record possible.

Summer at the Library of Congress

Greetings from Washington, D.C! I feel fortunate to be spending my summer in the nation’s capitol as a Junior Fellow at the Library of Congress. My internship is in the technical services section of the Prints and Photographs Division, working with a team on an ongoing rehousing and inventory project. The goal of the project is to consolidate thousands of boxes of unprocessed collections from two storage locations into a new storage facility in Maryland. Our job is to rehouse the material, organize it if needed (which is usually the case), create folder-level container lists, and update the catalog and finding aids used by the reference staff so that the collections are more accessible to researchers.

Admittedly, processing archival collections is not the most exhilarating way to spend a day, but I find photographs and printed material much more compelling than textual records, so I very much enjoy my work. One of the best parts is that I have the opportunity to work with a variety of collections and materials, and I get to choose the collections that I process. After processing eight different collections, I have a new appreciation for all that you can learn just by paying attention to visual evidence. Let me tell you a little bit about two of my favorite collections and what I’ve learned from the visual evidence (and a little bit of contextual research).

The American Humane Association

Horse ambulance
Horse ambulance operated by the Erie County SPCA, c. 1910

The American Humane Association served as “a voice for the voiceless” – advocating for the humane treatment of animals and children beginning in the late nineteenth century. The photograph collection illustrates the activities and interests of the AHA beginning around 1910 through about 1960. One of the most interesting aspects of the collection is that, taken as a whole, it shows how people’s notions of animals evolved over the first half of the twentieth century. Most of the early photographs deal with horses – either working in the city, on ranches, or being used in wartime. Early education campaign posters photographed in the collection urged people: “be kind to dumb animals,” “you can’t starve and beat your horse and have him haul the load,” and “don’t skip his meals.” By the 1930s and 1940s, these basic reminders of how to treat animals were replaced by charming photographs of children with puppies and kittens, and a special series called “Touring with Towser,” that demonstrated the best way to road trip with your dog, including having the proper equipment such as a dog bed, thermos, food, collar and leash, and even raincoat. By looking at the content of the photographs used by the AHA in their publications, one can see how animals changed from being generally utilitarian creatures to members of the family.

Continue reading “Summer at the Library of Congress”

Who Are You?

The philosophical ramifications of the title question are profound.  For memorial or commemoration committees, the question is deeply pragmatic.  Is a person the sum of their achievements?  Should they be recognized for their personalities or behavioral characteristics?  How do you physically manifest those ephemeral concepts?

I don’t envy the task of a memorial designer or artist.  Summarizing a person’s essence must be daunting.  Great memorials do evoke the emotion surrounding the person or event being memorialized.  Last fall, I read about the proposed Frank Gehry design for the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C. I am neutral about Gehry. Some of his designs are overwrought; some fulfill their aesthetic parameters. I found the Eisenhower design exceptionally overwrought and completely lacking any sense of Eisenhower. While I am not an Eisenhower fanatic (I do respect him and his achievements), I think a person should be appropriately memorialized.  The memorial should invoke the person’s essence, not the artist’s personal aesthetic. Continue reading “Who Are You?”

Plans for Summer 2012, Part Two

Winter BreakThe Field Museum, Chicago Illinois
Photography by Anne E. Cullen

What do public history grad students do with their summers? Learn about the exciting internships and projects that students are undertaking across the country. And check back in the fall for students’ reflection on their summer work.  To read about what our first batch of respondents are doing with their summers, click here.

Continue reading “Plans for Summer 2012, Part Two”