PubComm 2017: This is Why We Fight!

March is shaping up to be a full month, and one of the exciting events coming up is the 7th-annual Public History Community Forum (PubComm). The theme for this year’s PubComm is “This is Why We Fight: Public History for the Public Good” and the event will be held at the American Philosophical Society on March 8, 2017. Presenters include Annie Polland of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Sean Kelley of Eastern State Penitentiary, Ismael Jimenez (organizer of the Philly Education Black Lives Matter Week of Action ), Mary Mark Ockerbloom (Wikipedian-in-residence at the Chemical Heritage Foundation), and Temple University’s own Margery Sly.

The American Philosophical Society, located around the corner from Independence National Historical Park.

The event is, as always, a collaboration of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) at Rutgers University-Camden and Temple’s Center for Public History, but other sponsors this year include The Myer & Rosaline Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University and The American Philosophical Society.

Several of my classmates (Cynthia Heider and Chelsea Reed) are the brains (and bodies) behind this event, so it’s pretty cool to see it attracting healthy interest from the broader public history and public humanities community here in Philadelphia. I had an archivist (Hey Michelle!) recommend it to me today, so kudos to Cynthia and Chelsea!

I’ll likely be posting some kind of wrap-up/summary of the events, but if you’re interested and can make it to the event, RSVP for it now and make it the best PubComm ever!


Photo of American Philosophical Society created by Teemu and used under Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 2.0

Writing: “An Assertion of Self”

Each week for my research writing seminar, I complete a short exercise of some kind. The assignments are short, articulating the questions we seek to engage and place them in the contexts of sources and historiography.  It’s throwing me off; I want to explore all of the ideas that I see connections with, and make reference to all of the books that I have checked out of the library (but haven’t opened). That is the point, though: I don’t really know what questions I can answer, let alone which ones I want to answer.

An illustration from Rodwell, G. F.: “South by East: Notes of Travel in Southern Europe” (1877), image in the public domain, accessed and shared via WikiMedia Commons.

So I am finding it tough going. To try to grease the gears a bit, I’m trying to write down lots of things: what I feel about sources, how I’m framing my work against existing scholarship, etc. I am going to try to do this; it’s been mostly theoretical up to this point.

And I’m going to do some of it –maybe most of it– publicly. Here. See, for instance my previous “Research Notes” post. I wrote those few paragraphs because I think Chamounix is a fascinating place and I want to tell everyone about it. But as I think about putting more of my formative research questions out on display, I am influenced by a few key ideas.

For one, I came across Dr. Timothy Burke’s decade-old post “Not a Sandbox” recently.1 The first couple paragraphs concern the “scandal” of Amanda Marcotte’s firebrand stewardship of the John Edwards presidential campaign’s blogging operation, something of which I was totally oblivious in 2007, but Burke uses the topic to explore a more fundamental question about blogging. He writes:

But the one thing I didn’t like from some of Marcotte’s defenders was the proposition that somehow what we have written in the past in our blogs is trivial, or disposable, that our freedom as writers requires that blogging be understood as Not Ready For Prime TimeContinue reading “Writing: “An Assertion of Self””

Research Notes: Chamounix Mansion (Hostelling International)

Having made my way through some of the pile of scholarship on Historic House Museums, I made a foray into Fairmount Park on Wednesday to visit the Chamounix (SHAM-ah-nee) Mansion, which has operated as a hostel since 1965. Abbe, the hostel’s steward, and Andrew, the manager, showed me around the place and then we had a really nice conversation about Philadelphia, historic buildings, Fairmount Park, gentrification, and the Church of the Divine.

Because I’m trying to learn some Google Map APIs, here’s a map of where Chamounix is located in Fairmount Park:

A photo from the Fairmount Park Historic Preservation Trust (now the Fairmount Park Conservancy) after restoration work completed 2006-2008.

Built in 1803, the mansion has been a summer-home, a year-round residence, a concession stand, a boarding house, a raceway, residence for a park employee, and a condemned fire-damaged shell before it found its current purpose.

[Check out’s collection of images that show the condition of the mansion in 1962*]

Continue reading “Research Notes: Chamounix Mansion (Hostelling International)”