The History of the United States is a story of Plunder

I was supposed to blog on the assigned readings for Managing History. Perhaps I will write about them later, but fate, as it does, intervened, and so it will be in another post.

“Are any of you going to the Ta-Nehisi Coates lecture tomorrow night?” asked Cynthia, yesterday.

“Are you going to the Coates thing? Want a ticket?” said Devin, last night.

And so I found myself listening to the esteemed Mr. Ta-Nehisi Coates for approximately 2 hours this evening.

First was the more informal gathering in the Center for the Humanities at Temple to which I was half an hour late. Even in the short bit of the Q&A that I caught, Coates came off, as he does in his writing, as a level-headed thinker with a poet’s pen and an honest humility that grounds all he does. He expressed discomfort with the spotlight that has been shined on him after his annus mirabilis in which he earned not only a MacArthur “Genius” Grant but a National Book Award. He declined to speak on topics which he had not exhaustively researched or considered. He articulated a discomfort about being a public intellectual from whom positions of the news of the day are expected in pithy 10-second snippets.

An hour later, I found myself awaiting Coates’ talk in the Liacouras Center, a sports arena in which AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, and Billy Joel blasted, incongruously, from the massive speakers up near the suspended screens which would magnify Coates’ face. It seemed exactly the kind of venue that would make the writer uncomfortable, and his first comments upon taking the stage acknowledged that discomfort- “-my name is up there-” -before he commenced with a brief reading from Between the World and Me. Continue reading “The History of the United States is a story of Plunder”

Drafting an Exhibit Label

I first posted this without any context. Below you can find the original drafts but I thought it made sense to nest the various iterations of these labels (and also provide more context).

The assignment we have been handed is to write labels that provide context for artifacts without directly referring to the objects. These labels will be “backstories” to supplement the artifacts’ primary labels. I’ve been assigned to present context for a collection of photo postcards taken by one of the sailors on the USS Olympia, Ote Fairbanks.

So here’s the second draft (I welcome any editing suggestions in the comments):

World War I was the first war to feature cameras on the front lines. The Kodak Brownie (1900) had popularized snapshots, and the Vest Pocket Autographic (1914), also from Kodak, was even more portable. The photos that came back from battles were powerful. Many countries hired official photographers to show the heroic images they wanted their citizens to see and forbade soldiers and sailors to carry cameras. However, in remote parts of the war, soldiers and sailors often served as unofficial war photographers for their nations. (84 words)

Sources:

http://blog.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/the-vest-pocket-kodak-was-the-soldiers-camera/

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/photos-world-war-i-images-museums-battle-great-war/

http://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/photography

First Drafts:

World War I was the first war to feature cameras on the front lines. The Kodak Brownie (1900) had popularized snapshots, and the Vest Pocket Autographic (pictured, 1914), also from Kodak was even more portable. Sailors on the USS Olympia had very little space for personal items, but Ote Fairbanks found room for a camera. He documented many of the places the ship visited in its travels around Europe. Many of his photos were printed on photographs which he and his friends could send home to friends and family. (87 words)

Sources:

http://blog.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/the-vest-pocket-kodak-was-the-soldiers-camera/

Diary of “Cranky” O’Kelly from the archives of the Independence Seaport Museum

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/photos-world-war-i-images-museums-battle-great-war/

 

World War I was the first war to feature cameras on the front lines. The photos that came back from battles were powerful. The United Kingdom’s government went so far as to hire official photographers to show the heroic images they wanted the citizens to see. Most individual British soldiers were forbidden from taking photos of the battles that they fought in. However, in more remote parts of the war, most countries allowed soldiers and sailors to document their experiences since there were not professional photographers in those places. (89 words)

Sources:

http://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/photography

Preservation and (Re)Development

Jewelers’ Row in Philadelphia is likely on borrowed time. The historic district is perhaps the victim of being just one of many historic portions of the city and the ever-present appetite for condo towers. If these buildings, constructed a century ago, are knocked down next summer, they will join many casualties of urban development and redevelopment, alongside New York City’s fallen Penn Station and large swathes of urban America.

It was the demolition of that iconic station and countless neighborhoods over fifty years ago that first sparked the historic preservation movement into action. Fifty years ago this year, the National Historic Preservation Act was signed into law, beginning a boom in historic-conscious redevelopment and preservation, but a half-century on, questions–such as those raised in the debate between Herbert J. Gans and Ada Louise Huxtable in the pages of the New York Times in 1975–remain about how best to use historic preservation or how to fight for sites such as Jewelers’ Row.

In Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities, Andrew Hurley provides a concise history of “urban renewal” and historic preservation before presenting case studies of projects that used methods of preservation and public history to serve the needs of urban communities. Pairing preservation of buildings and beautification of neighborhoods with oral history and archaeology, Hurley sets out the aims, pitfalls, and, ultimately, rewards of combining urban development and public history.

Hurley concerns himself less with Gans and Huxtable’s question (“What should be preserved?”) or even the issue of representation (“Who should be preserving?”) than with methods for effective projects and shared authority (“How should things be preserved?”).

Many of Hurley’s grounding ethics–authority should be shared outside of academia, gentrification is tricky, racial tension shouldn’t be sugar-coated–are largely self-evident (I hope) to anyone who has sought out a degree in Public History, yet it is his very practical concerns that make his book a must-read. Reflecting on the collaboration with the Old North St. Louis Restoration group, Hurley summed up some of the project’s shortcomings thus: “Appeals to more abstract community-building and social reconciliation objectives, while not entirely falling on deaf ears, lacked an immediate and tangible payoff and thus failed to animate the involvement of those on the margins, struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis” (94). A straightforward, if hard to swallow truth. Yet Hurley and his collaborators learned from the lesson, including the goal of “build[ing] greater capacity among local residents and expand[ing] participation” into the heart of their next project.

 I have a hunch that this blend of pragmatism and optimism is a necessary disposition in public history operatives.

 

Some of this week’s readings:

Andrew Hurley, Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities

Max Page and Marla R. Miller, Bending the Future: Fifty Ideas for the Next Fifty Years of Historic Preservation in the United States 

Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History

 Jon Hurdle, “In Jewelers Row in Philadelphia, Condo Plan Worries Preservationists” in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/12/realestate/in-jewelers-row-in-philadelphia-condo-plan-worries-preservationists.html?_r=0

 “Preservation50: Commemorating 50 years of the National Historic Preservation Act”: Preservation50.org

On the Division of Labor

This week’s reading, Creating Exhibitions by Polly McKenna-Cress and Janet A. Kamien, picks up right where I left off: consensus building. McKenna-Cress and Kamien begin by articulating all of the ways in which collaboration is necessary in exhibit development. For instance, the more perspectives that are included in an exhibit (by involving a team), the more points of entry there are for visitors to engage the material. Most exhibits also require a variety of skill sets, from research to artifact preservation to writing to editing to design to assembling cabinets and applying fresh paint.

Yet once the authors have made their case in such concrete terms, they pull back and re-examine division of collaborative labor in more abstract terms. This abstraction helps the authors provide guidance to a wide variety of exhibit creators and also provide a division of labor that doesn’t fit within the framework of many position titles today. Instead of breaking the work of exhibit creation into discrete tasks, McKenna-Cress and Kamien divide the larger concerns that must be addressed in any exhibit.

For instance, rather than discussing the role of “director” or “vice president,” the authors argue that all exhibits must have a person or persons who advocate for the institution(s) that are hosting, producing, and/or funding the exhibit. Other advocacy needs that McKenna-Cress and Kamien identify are the subject matter, the visitor experience, the design, and the project/team. By freeing these needs from position titles, the authors allow exhibit teams to think about how best to divide up these responsibilities, perhaps with individuals shouldering multiple advocacies in whole or in part.

As the various advocate roles are largely self-explanatory, I will forego a summary of each, but examine more how these various facets of exhibit creation may map onto our 12-person class for our semester-end project.

Given that we are sort of creating a plan for a plan for an exhibit (or something like an exhibit, at least), and that we will identify a partner organization(s) but not necessarily carry out the work with them, much of the advocacy for the institution will be irrelevant. We will all absorb a bit of the responsibility of making our plan meet professional standards and making it attractive to partners/sponsors (and not embarrassing Temple University) but likely not have a higher-up to approve our work on an institutional level.*

Likewise, while we have at least one artist among us and I imagine we’ll do quite a few concept sketches to communicate our ideas to each other, I doubt that any of us will fully take on the mantle of advocacy for the design. This is the piece most often delegated to outside firms and I can’t see us hiring a design firm by mid-December. That said, some portion of this too will fall to each of us, with a few team members perhaps charged with undertaking some design challenges. Most of the design we do take on will probably be centered around advocacy for the visitor experience. There are firms that can handle this portion of the exhibit process as well, but given limited budget and essentially free labor (i.e. us), I imagine we’ll all tackle this. Because it will involve all (or perhaps only most) of us and we all have different preferences and museum experiences, I imagine this may be the most contentious portion of our process. I think we will all feel very invested–as museum goers and, in some cases, employees ourselves–in our guests’ impressions and take-aways, as well as their comfort and interest levels while engaged in our exhibit.

I think the task of advocating for the subject matter will be shared between us as well, but with divisions based on specific themes or topics within the Spanish Flu tent (there’s an image for you).

Perhaps the most interesting dynamic will be who among us takes on the advocacy for the project and team. This managerial role could become a really heavy burden. I can immediately think of one to three people who could be exceptionally well suited to this role (I am not one of them). If our class leader(s) can do this well (and let Dr. Lowe simply act as a safety net), this could be a very interesting project indeed.**

 

*This is somewhat speculative. I would not put it past Dr. Lowe to introduce a Mazer Rackham-esque character into our classroom sometime.

**But then again maybe I’m unusually enamored of central authority at the moment having just finished Jessica Choppin Roney’s Governed by a Spirit of Opposition, which portrays the pitfalls of collaborative libertarianism.

On Consensus

On the heels of reading Serrell, our class was introduced to an exhibit that did not spring from the same framework. Rather than defining a simple, digestible theme and working from there, this exhibit works as a cabinet of curiosities in order to make a set of artifacts associated with a group of people accessible to the public. The signage will be split between imagining internal thoughts of the artifacts’ users and providing context.

I was initially very skeptical. Having just read a clearly-written treatise/guide-book on signage, I wanted to jump into using the techniques and strategies of that book. Yet if, as Freeman Tilden put it, “the chief aim of interpretation is not instruction, but provocation,” this exhibit may be wildly successful. First-person emotions, wherever they come from, are always more provocative than dry context, right? Defined as the exhibit is by a specificity of setting and characters, perhaps this approach best fits the scope of the project.

I am assigned to contribute to this exhibit, about which I had initial reservations. My curatorial concept is not that of the curator, but it is his job, not mine. Even if we were equals, we would still have to mediate curatorial visions. We’re about to confront the difficult process of consensus building in class as we determine a direction for our class project. Thirteen ideas (at least!) enter, one survives. We’ve already seen ways in which various ideas might combine to form a Frankensteinian super-exhibit, that may be the best way forward. Or maybe we’ll all come to the table with Serrell on our minds and depart with a simple, clear, and, most importantly, workable, concept. Perhaps a very small one.

I’m sure not every part of the conversations to come will be fun but we’ll come out of them with something out there on the horizon to aim for. And we’ll have exercised our consensus muscles, the ones we didn’t know we had.

On Signage

Signs are important. They let you know where the fire exit is or, more importantly, the location of the nearest bathroom. They tell you to stop or to yield. They tell you where you are or where you’re going.

In an exhibit, signs raise questions, provide some answers, and connect ideas. The amalgamated text and icons of an exhibit provide just as much structure as headings and topic sentences in an essay but what works for one medium does not work for the other.

Freeman Tilden, the grandfather of the interpretive division of the National Parks Service, begins his essay on interpretive signage (Chapter 8 of Interpreting Our Heritage, 1957) with some ruminations on epigraphy. This is indicative both of Tilden’s affection for the classics and the combination of wit, poetry, clarity, and brevity that he thinks makes up the perfect sign. Tilden worries that the sign might say too much, that it could confuse readers with too much specificity. He hopes that the sign may be fully understood by all those who pass by (Sorry Freeman, no Greek!).

Tilden considers all of these parameters during the thinking stage, which he thinks should be 90% of the sign-writing process. Perhaps this ratio is what causes Tilden’s own writing to be composed of nearly standalone sentences, a series of guidelines.

“Axiom: whatever is written without enthusiasm will be read without interest.” (93)

In general, the signs Tilden likes use quotations or are composed by his friend Bob Mann “mit beer.” One that he and I both like is the following:

 A Building Stood Here Before 1680.

It was Wrecked in

The Great Indian Uprising.

This House Incorporates

What Remains.

While I’m not a fan of the capitalization protocol in evidence and I don’t know enough about the “Great Indian Uprising” in question to know if that’s an accurate name for it, this label accomplishes what it needs to: It gives us a point of reference in time, tells us what used to be in the space, and acknowledges what is currently there to look at.

So Freeman Tilden’s been telling you since 1957 that that complex string of dependent clauses with a semi-colon that captures all the nuance of your thesis just isn’t going to work on an interpretive panel. Why do you think that is?

Beverly Serrell, veteran exhibit designer, has many answers to that question and others in her second edition of Exhibit Labels. Complex sentences are a no-go for several reasons:

– They are likely to be skipped over for more interesting visuals and pithier labels

– They are not well-suited to being read aloud (as by a parent to a child) or translated

– If used as a central theme of an exhibit, complex sentences can lead to various interpretations of the theme by different members of the team rather than a unified, focused idea.

Exhibit Labels impressed me at every turn, anticipating any problems an exhibit designer, curator, or writer might run into. Broken down into bite-size portions for easy reference, and often employing memorable case-studies as evidence, Serrell’s book will certainly be an asset as my classmates and I tackle several interpretive tasks this semester.

 As I was reading this week, I found the lessons of Exhibit Labels applicable beyond my work for Managing History. I kept seeing connections between my weekend job as a tour guide and this text and vice versa.

 For example, when Serrell was discussing the various pitfalls of segmenting one’s audience (she counsels aiming for the “commonest common denominator”, an idea that will certainly stick with me), I was reminded of an image from one of the PowerPoint presentations I was shown at work. The numbers 1 to 5 appeared on the screen.

 1  2  3  4  5

 The 5’s, explained the presenter, are visitors who worked in issues of criminal justice and prisons (the topic of our historic site) and who are well-versed in the history and the contemporary issues around incarcerations. 4’s are people who, while not employed in fields associated with our topics, are very familiar with the information and come to the site wanting to know more. The 1’s, on the other hand, are totally uninterested or actively hostile to discussing incarceration, perhaps especially our institution’s current emphases and take-away messages. At this point, the presenter clicked his controller and an underline appeared under the 2 and 3.

 1  2  3  4  5

“These are the people we want to try to engage,” he said. “They didn’t come here today expecting to have a conversation about mass incarceration and they might not leave here wanting to talk about it, but if we can give them a tool kit to talk about it at some point, we’ve done our job.”*

I kept remembering that formulation of the audience question and thinking that it might be a nice complement to the various ways others have discussed how to reach a broad swath of the audience (which Serrell summarizes). For instance, I agree that it makes sense to engage various methods (sound, visuals, interactives, etc.) to convey a single piece of information; not only do you ensure that more folks connect to the information but you give individuals multiple ways to approach that datum. How could an aim of reaching the 2’s and 3’s enhance those methods?

I found further fodder in Exhibit Labels that will inform my work. I’ve begun planning the outline for my first hour-long tour and I found many of Serrell’s insights very timely as I think about how to engage my audience and convey information. For instance, we tour guides are encouraged to foster discussion by posing questions. After reading Serrell, I will be mindful to avoid “Why?” questions that essentially have one answer that no visitors are likely to know. Furthermore, when I use rhetorical questions, I will make sure that they are rooted in the sights, sounds, and surroundings which the visitors do have an authority with and that they are questions that have occurred to at least some subset of visitors.

As I craft the theme of my tour, I will remember Serrell’s guidelines for brevity. A wall of text and a thunderous recitation of facts are different experiences but both obstacles to the visitor. There is a limit to the number of ideas I can throw at a tour group, just as there is a limit to the number of introductory paragraphs a museum visitor will read.

Exhibit Labels has won a long-term spot on my bookshelf but you can be sure it will be pulled out for reference many times before this semester is over.

 

*Obviously this is not remotely verbatim.

“Bring out your dead!”

Excuse my face-mask, the readings this week in each of my classes brought out my inner hypochondriac. I was reminded of the semester in college when my friend Josh was quarantined with the “Swine Flu” (H1N1) and missed a week of classes and I started shivering. But I had to keep reading, so on I went.

In his hefty tome The Mediterranean, assigned for Historical Methods, Fernand Braudel muses that malaria was both a result and cause of inaction (“Malaria progresses when man relaxes his efforts…”) or civilizations already in decline. Braudel also connects rumored epidemics of the disease with increased movements of people and contagion (the fall of the Roman Empire and the Columbian exchange).

 Aedes Aegypti, male on left and female center and right [Public Domain]


For US History I it was J. R. McNeill’s Mosquito Empires, exploring how the sugar plantation boom, with its deforesting effects, compact population, and plentiful mosquito habitats, created ideal conditions for endemic yellow fever. Furthermore, McNeill contends that the prevalence of fever-laden mosquitoes helped colonial powers retain their Caribbean holdings; any invading armies would be febrile and decimated if only the colonial garrison (which had built up immunity to the pathogen) could hold them off long enough. Once the colonists in the region began unburdening themselves of European control, this advantage shifted to them, as colonial forces from across the Atlantic were decimated at an incredible rate when they came in range of  Aedes Aegypti and the pathogens that lurked inside. The home-field advantage of yellow fever persisted until the United States’ occupation of Cuba in 1898. After Walter Reed’s research team identified A. Aegypti as the culprit, William Gorgas, an American army doctor, was tasked with eradicating the pests. Gorgas’ team was extraordinarily successful and when the United States acquired the site of the failed French trans-isthmian canal at Panama (which had faltered due to incredible yellow fever death rates), Gorgas went and killed mosquitoes there too, effectively ending the period of yellow fever’s reign over the Caribbean, or at least for governments that could undertake mosquito eradication efforts.

Gorgas, about to kill a bunch of mosquitoes, probably  [Public Domain]

 

Gorgas also popped up in The Great Influenza by John M. Barry, the Managing History reading, trying to tackle a significantly harder problem; the “Spanish” flu pandemic of 1918. Propelled by unhygienic conditions (especially in military cantonments and urban areas), global mobilization of soldiers and goods, the influenza crossed the globe first in a mild form and then, a few months later, as an angel of death. Gorgas was one of a cohort of doctors, essentially the first generation of modern research medicine, that mobilized to advocate for smart public health policies and to try to find a cure. Braudel blamed the prevalence of malaria on the geography of the plains and McNeill points to human-shaped environments as the catalyst for disease. Barry’s account is all about the chameleon-esque, mutating nature of the influenza virus and the ways in which the global nature of the world of 1918 (and the war that consumed it) collided with naïve public health strategies for an explosion of contagion that made ghost towns of major American cities. Frequent comparisons to the Plague were not unfounded as the sheer logistics of burying the dead led to scenes not dissimilar to this and mass graves.

While I’ve been unsettled by the graphic descriptions of hemorrhagic fevers and violent pneumonias (to the extent that I have really come around to the idea of those medical face-masks), I’ve enjoyed the overlapping content represented in the readings. Sure, the same theoreticians pop up in all of the readings (von Ranke, Foucault, Levi-Strauss, Kuhn), but it was kind of fun to have a themed week.

And why are we reading about influenza in Managing History? Our class project for the semester is to create a plan for some sort of commemoration for the centennial of the 1918 outbreak, for which Philadelphia was a prominent node of the outbreak. So if anyone has any clever ideas for sources that would be influenza-adjacent, please share them in the comments!

If you need me, I’ll be over here playing Pandemic and trying to channel William Welch’s proteges.

Heritage, nostalgia, and “popular historymakers”

The readings for Managing History this week: The Presence of the Past by Roy Rosenzwieg and David Thelen, and Pennsylvania in Public Memory: Reclaiming the Industrial Past by Carolyn Kitch

A few years ago, Carolyn Kitch set out to explore the monuments, museums, heritage areas, historic highways, factory tours, tourist trains, and other sites through which the industrial history of Pennsylvania is commemorated and then wrote a book about it. What does Kitch consider “industrial”? The book primarily deals with sites associated with agriculture, lumbering, coal mining, oil drilling, iron working, railroading, steel production, and factories that produce everything from potato chips to motorcycles with a few mentions of textile mills in the conclusion. It seems to me, however, that the uniting principle of Kitch’s study is that these are sites that are, for the most part, created by and for people who are outside of the academy. Thus the themes of these various places to encounter industrial history are more likely to be concerned with nostalgia, patriotism, and the valor of laborers than historiography.

***

The Presence of the Past is the result of a carefully conducted survey of Americans about how they find “connection” with the “past.” I use quotation marks here because Rosenzwieg and Thelen found in their initial question-testing phase that respondents spoke at greater length when prompted to talk about the “past” than when asked about “history” and the idea of “connection” to that past was what animated them. The survey found that for most Americans, the family was the center of historical authority. Surprisingly, however, that family history was not a vector for strong feelings about national concerns or identity markers like class or ethnicity (with a few major exceptions). Rather the most consistent expression of the importance of history outside of the family unit came from black Americans and American Indians, who referred to group consciousness caused by their status as oppressed peoples. The other major trend was that Evangelical Americans (across racial communities) identified their religion as a major factor in their conception of the past.

Yet Rosenzwieg and Thelen found that despite the idea that the public is uninterested and uninformed about history, many of their respondents were actively involved in some sort of historical inquiry(in the words of one of Rosenzwieg and Thelen’s collaborators, being “popular historymakers”), through genealogy, coin collecting, visiting sites of historical significance or myriad other ways.

***

I find it difficult, as I flip through the pages of Pennsylvania in Public Memory, to identify too many threads of connection between these places. What do a pretzel factory and the Lincoln Highway have in common? Tourism, perhaps, rooted in a sense of local distinctiveness. When you throw in a coal mining museum that’s open a few hours every month and located in some civic building, what common denominator are you left with? These are all sites that are telling a story or stories of a local, regional, or national past. Some of them are successful in bringing visitors from far away to invigorate the local economy but far more are mostly patronized by locals and out-of-town guests—often family members.

The connections between Kitch’s travelogue and Rosenzwieg and Thelen’s survey are more apparent to me. The roadside interpretive panel and the former steel mill redeveloped into a boutique shopping center are both forms of popular history-making that seek to mark the importance of place. The ride at Hershey Chocolate World is more about commemorating individual entrepreneurship, but it too is staking a claim to relevance. The mine tours convey mining methods but, more importantly, function as a site for remembering and catharsis of the hard work that once was done there and the way of life that has largely disappeared.

While I do not share some of the concerns (politically or culturally) with some of the mine and foundry museums that Kitch described, I was impressed with how some managed to grapple with the environmental concerns and the labor injustices while still taking pride in the industry of the workers and the community. Some of these museums seemed to strike the right balance between sharing authority with community members, providing a tool for local identity, and yet providing specific historical insights as well.

I was most frustrated by the sites that uncritically offered up a nostalgic version of the past. The agritourism that nods to a vague agrarian past, or as Donna Haraway once put it, “seductions to organic wholeness,” carries with it baggage of racism, patriarchy, and general exploitation, yet it is reassuring. The agrarian countryside is not the only route to “the good old days.” Kitch herself observes that “very much railroad heritage today is unmoored from its historical context” (51). I recognize in this vague nostalgic business model that of Amish tourism that Susan Trollinger and others have explored (I reviewed Trollinger’s Selling the Amish recently) and find its conflation with identity-making and history-telling disturbing. I am left wondering: Is this kind of nuance-free nostalgic simulacra is what the American public wants from its history? If so, are we public historians compelled to indulge those comforting (enabling?) impulses? Or to what extent are we compelled to honor shared authority if a community wants to a mythical feel-good past that reinforces oppression today?

Managing History

I’ve just begun graduate school and first impressions are mostly that it’s a ton of reading. Which might have meant, but for a bit of deus ex machina*, that this blog would slowly crumble from neglect as it fell to the bottom of my to-do list. But it doesn’t, because one of my courses, “Managing History” (the introductory Public History class in the M.A. sequence) requires, not only that we keep a blog (Hey, presto! one requirement down!) but that we also use it to respond to each week’s readings. So I’ll actually be posting a bunch more than usual, aided by a lengthy booklist, writing prompts, and deadlines!

I’ll be tagging all of these posts “Managing History” in case you want to read through them all at once (you’ll have to wait until December for that, you binge-readers). There will be a sprinkling of non-class blogs maybe, but my calendar is filling up and my bookshelf is groaning.

*I.e. the class syllabus, which fell to Earth from the 9th floor of Gladfelter Hall.

Introducing AnabaptistHistorians.org!

Today a new collaborative blog launched! My good friend Joel Nofziger tapped a couple of historians (who were all interested in studying various Anabaptist denominations) on the shoulder and several months later, there’s an actual thing! After a lot of fruitless brainstorming (looking for that perfect catchy name that would nonetheless represent the breadth of our scope) we settled on the typo-inviting AnabaptistHistorians.org. There are a couple posts up already and we have some more in the pipeline by a bunch of wonderful scholars (and they’re wonderful people too!*). I’m not sure exactly how often I’ll find time to post something over there during this school year, but maybe I’ll find time for an occasional short essay.

*It’s seriously a great list, with a bunch of friends and colleagues (past and present!): https://anabaptisthistorians.org/contributors/