History Faculty Present at EurHo Rural History Conference in Girona, Spain

From the desk of Bailey Young:
Among the roughly 450 participants in the bi-annual EurHo Rural History conference held in Girona, Spain last week (September 7-10, 2015) were not one but two dauntless members of the EIU History Department, Drs. Deb Reid and B.K. Young, taking the scholarly partnership they launched with a successful Presidential Fund for Research and Creative Activity (PFRCA) in 2014 to a new level.  Though the Eur (for Europe) in EurHo accurately reflects its origins and continuing leadership, the scope of this prestigious meeting of  scholars of rural studies is truly global, with scholars attending from all over, and case studies from every continent featured.  

Dr. Deb Reid and Dr. B.K. Young at the EurHo Rural History conference held in Girona, Spain.

Dr. Deb Reid and Dr. B.K. Young at the EurHo Rural History conference held in Girona, Spain.

Dr. Reid was particularly active at this, her third EurHo conference:  presenting a paper on Race in a terrific panel devoted to the American South and West in the 19th and 20th centuries, and serving as one of three museum experts (the other two were from Spain and England) invited to offer, as the very last event of the conference, a keynote on the problems and potential of museums in preserving the rural heritage in the 21st century.  It was also at her initiative that an entire panel devoted the Walhain project was organized, with Dr. Young sketching the preliminary conclusions to be drawn from the first 15 years of excavation, while she drew attention to their implications for the long-term study of rural landscape, economy and social history in the heart of northwest Europe’s fertile farmlands.  

Finally Adam and Annie Tock Morrissette, both recent EIU MA  here making their international scholarly debut, presented a paper discussing the exciting new perspectives GIS can bring to this study.  An unexpected bonus: our visit to this very picturesque medieval Catalan town (narrow winding cobblestone streets, soaring Gothic cathedral, the old town huddled within lofty ramparts) coincided with the filming of Game of Thrones, the
absolute favorite of our student excavators at Walhain!

Historical Administration Attends Conference in Louisville

From the desk of Dr. M.J. Rymsza-Pawlowska:

From September 16th to 19th, the Historical Administration M.A. students, accompanied by Debra Reid, Pat Miller, and myself, traveled to the annual meeting of the American Association for State and Local History in Louisville, Kentucky. This conference was an excellent opportunity for students to learn about new developments within the museum and public history fields, meet practitioners, and reconnect with H.A. alumni who were attending and presenting.

Historical Administration on the move

Historical Administration on the move

Highlights of the conference included a keynote by Sam Wineburg, author of Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching The Past (2001), as well as panel presentations from staff at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Ohio History Connection (where Dr. Terry Barnhart worked as curator before coming to Eastern), and the September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City. We also caught up with Tim Grove, Chief of Education at the National Air and Space Museum, who was the keynote at last year’s Historical Administration Program Association Symposium and whose book, A Grizzly in the Mail and Other Adventures in American History we read and discussed during Orientation.

But it wasn’t all work and no play: H.A. students, faculty and alumni relax at dinner

But it wasn’t all work and no play: H.A. students, faculty and alumni relax at dinner

The H.A.’s were given the opportunity to volunteer at the conference: they monitored sessions, helped with registration, and oversaw a 5K run, among other tasks. Throughout the conference, everyone I met kept telling me how much they enjoyed meeting and talking with the students!

Some volunteers in action

Some volunteers in action

But the H.A.’s distinguished themselves in another way as well: a highlight of the conference was the annual Battledecks improv challenge, in which participants must provide interpretation for a slideshow of random images. Both Brian Failing (HA ’15) and current student Mary Challman threw their hats in the ring. Cheered on by her classmates, Mary won the competition (and several business cards from admirers who offered her internships on the spot!).

Mary Challman with her Battledecks trophy

Mary Challman with her Battledecks trophy

Event: Professor to Discuss Centennial Farms in Coles County

From the desk of Dr. Debra Reid:

A new book, Illinois Historic Farms (Acclaim Press, 2015) features stories of more than 800 centennial and sesquicentennial farms across the state of Illinois. Debra A. Reid, professor, Department of History, Eastern Illinois University, wrote the history of farming in Illinois for the volume. She will share information about the project and summarize key points about agriculture as it evolved in East Central Illinois. The farms designated as centennial or sesquicentennial farms in Coles County, and included in the book will be the basis for a conversation about the role of education, cultural influences, and types of business strategies essential to farm survival. In the spirit of conversation, the audience should bring their stories of farming to share with the audience.

This event will take place from 2:00-3:15 p.m. on Sunday, September 13 at the Dudley House (located at 895 Seventh Street, Charleston, IL 61920).

This program is part of the series, Community Conversations at the Dudley House, designed as public conversations about issues in local history, and funded by the Charleston Area Charitable Foundation. Programs include a 30-35 minutes presentation and time for questions and answers. Lite refreshments will be served.

Dr. Reid holds up a copy of Illinois Historic Farms.

Dr. Reid holds up a copy of Illinois Historic Farms.

The next program is scheduled the second Sunday of October (October 11). Mr. Ryan D’Arcy will speak on the topic: “Westfield College, Local Economic Development & Decay” starting at 2 pm.

Please contact the Coles County Historical Society at 217-235-6744 for more information.

History Majors Reflect on Study Abroad in Germany

From the desks of Dana Jarrard, Monica Burney, and Clara Mattheessen:

In May of 2015 Dr. Sace Elder and Dr. Christiane Eydt-Beebe led five undergraduate students and one graduate student on a three-week study abroad to Germany. The students ranged from seasoned globetrotters to those who had never been out of the Midwest. Along the way the group experienced history as they never had. Three of these students share their experiences with us.


Students in Salzburg, Germany. Photo Credit: Clara Mattheessen.

Clara Mattheessen:

Students at Brandenburg Gate. Photo Credit: Dr. Elder.

Students at Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, Germany. Photo Credit: Dr. Elder.

“When learning about World War II in many history classes the topics focus mainly on the home fronts, the battle fronts, the pre-war situation and a brief synopsis on the post-war world. In the study abroad program History in the New Germany we covered much more than the actual war. We discussed memory culture and the differences between Eastern German, Western German, and reunified German memory culture regarding the World War II period. I learned more about German history by being there than just taking a class on it. I took HIS 2500 and World War I with Dr. Elder earlier in the school year and hearing of all of these places really came alive when we visited them instead of just hearing about them. Visiting Germany opened up an experience that wasn’t possible in traditional classroom settings here at Eastern Illinois.

“The academic portion of the trip was rigorous and enlightening but the bonds between the students and professors were more impressive. The six students and the two professors ultimately became a family. A family I would have never had if I wouldn’t have went. I know I can count on Dr. Elder or Dr. Eydt-Beebe for a great conversation or advice on life after graduation. Even through the trip we have returned home we still talk to each other on campus, laugh at our inside jokes (RIP Slug), and help each other through our classes. We became a support group and a family.”

Monica Burney:

“It is truly impossible to sum up this course with just a few sentences. While the course plan on paper states that the goal is to learn about how the Nazi past is remembered in Germany, the truth is that students who are lucky enough to take part in it come to learn so much more. Tours of the concentration camps of Sachsenhausen and Dachau show students one of the most tragic aspects of human history. To stand in the crematorium at Dachau is an unbelievably surreal experience for people who have spent years studying the Holocaust. Suddenly the stories of the camps are made even more real. On the other side of the spectrum students are able to see the beauty of humanity and the world itself. Seeing the university that Sophie and Hans Scholl attended makes their sacrifices even more touching.

Dr. Eydt-Beebe and Dr. Elder in the Alps.

Dr. Eydt-Beebe and Dr. Elder in the Alps. Photo Credit: Clara Mattheessen.

Likewise, a trip to the Bavarian Alps will give visitors a breathtaking view of the world around them. Balance in that effect is the key to this trip. Even though the subject matter is often heartbreaking, the professors who lead the trip ensure that a dark mood doesn’t overtake the group. Evenings are spent relaxing and exploring with fellow students and professors,all of whom eventually come to feel like family, admiring the beauty that is Germany. So, if anyone who is reading this is interested in taking part in next summer’s program I urge you to throw caution to the wind and take the plunge. Make sure to eat all the pastries you want, get to know your group members, eat at every gelato stand in sight, and most importantly take this once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about Germany and its people.”

Dana Jarrard:

“Television personality Andrew Zimmern once said “Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you.” The faculty-led study abroad trip gave students the opportunity to learn to become travelers instead of tourists. Germany is so multicultural that our group experienced German, Indian, Brazilian, Russian, and a multitude of other cultures and subcultures many had never been exposed to. I was surprised at how quickly Berlin and Munich began to feel like second homes and I crossed over from tourist to traveler. This was achieved by the combination of faculty involvement in orienting us to the cities and then allowing us to strike out on our own.

“As a graduate student I consider myself very well read in German history, but nothing prepared me for the type of learning that takes place when you are physically in a site of historical memory. Whether it was medieval Nüremberg, the Nazi Part Rally Grounds, or the Berlin Wall I consistently felt a stronger connection and greater understanding of the past than I ever experienced inside a classroom.

“The selected readings and daily discussions enhanced the experience of visiting these historic places. It is one thing to read about the Holocaust from a distance than to read about it and a couple of hours later stand in a dark room surrounded by letters written by Jewish victims to their friends and family. We were asked to write daily journals of our experiences and these entries helped us all process through the somber moments we experienced. Through these journals and our discussions every one of became more self-aware and open to new experiences.

“Perhaps most importantly we saw Germany beyond the Nazis. While the country’s twentieth century past is still a haunting legacy the German people are resolved to not let such atrocities happen again. This trip transcended the Nazi past; learning how Germany remembers its own turbulent history opened up debates about how the United States could learn to deal with its own history of violence and racism that has been so heavily repressed.”