Explaining One’s Research to the Public

From the desk of Dr. Charles Foy:

A basic responsibility of EIU faculty is to create knowledge. For historians, this typically takes the form of monographs published by university press or articles in academic journals. Unfortunately, the readership for these works is generally not extensive. The public’s exposure to history often is limited to the History Channel (Hitler, Hitler and more Hitler!). How to ensure a wider audience for our interesting scholarship? Eastern’s historians are engaging the public on a number of non-traditional and digital medium, including blogs, Twitter, and online essays.

Where can one find EIU history faculty’s informal writing? Here are some examples:

Twitter: Dr. Laughlin-Schultz, a historian of 19th century reform movements and women’s history regularly tweets on these issues, political matters and her new book project on the reformer Lucy Stone at https://twitter.com/bls75.

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Dr. Newton Key tweets on 17th century British history at https://twitter.com/newton_key.

Blogs: Short form essays are a handy means to quickly describe one’s research. The longest-standing blog by a EIU historian is Dr. Key’s Early Modern England blog at http://earlymodernengland.blogspot.com/

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Online Articles: Recently, a plethora of websites have been developed that seek to explain historical issues to the general public. One of these, Red Hooks Water Stories, http://portsidenewyork.org/history-cultural-tourism/, has undertaken to explain New York City’s maritime history to the public.

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This Fall it will be publishing Dr. Charles Foy’s short essay, “Blacks on the New York Waterfront during the American Revolution.” This is essay is a condensed version of Dr. Foy’s recent scholarly article “The Royal Navy’s Employment of Black Mariners and Maritime Workers, 1754-1783,” published in the February 2016 edition of International Maritime History Journal.

Join us online!

History Professor Presents at Symposium

Bailey Young, Distinguished Professor of History, was one of five international scholars invited to present a paper on October 10, 2015 a Memorial Symposium for Fredric L. Cheyette: “Land, Law and Lordship in Medieval France” held at Amherst College (Amherst, MA), co-sponsored by the Trustees of Amherst College, the History Department, and the Harvard Interdisciplinary Committee on Medieval Studies.

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Professor Young’s presentation, entitled “Fred and Archaeology” was focused on Fred’s last scholarly project, an investigation of the possible role of climate change into the fall of the Roman Empire and the development of a distinctive landscape and economy in Medieval Europe that foreshadowed the emergence of the modern world.  One of America’s most distinguished medieval scholars, a Fellow of the Medieval Academy and Professor of History at Amherst 1963-2005, Cheyette had invited Young’s collaboration in assessing recent archaeological evidence in France over the past decade and, when too weakened by cancer to continue, turned over to him his notes with an invitation to carry it on.

The Medieval Academy of America has accepted Dr. Young’s proposal to include a session featuring three prominent French medieval archaeologists presenting recent developments in environmental archaeology at the its upcoming Annual Meeting to be held in Boston in February, 2016.

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!

AIMA Executive Committee Met in Reading, England

From the desk of EIU’s Dr. Debra Reid, AIMA’s First Vice-President, webmaster and minute-taker:

The Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), headquartered at the University of Reading, provided plenty of stimulation for the executive committee meeting of the International Association of Agricultural Museums (AIMA) July 2-5, 2015. Attendees represented nine countries (Canada, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Poland, Slovenia and the United States, and the delegate from Indian connected virtually). The meeting began with discussions about diversifying financial support through heritage lottery funds and capital development campaigns and continued through conversations about broadening visitor access to museum collections using digital means and social media outlets. Representatives from the UK’s Rural Museums Network also participated. Executive Committee business included review of statutes, planning for future meetings including the 18th triennial Congress scheduled for May 2017 in Tartu, Estonia at the Estonian Agricultural Museum, and formation of additional professional networking opportunities focused on agriculture and art; digital media; and rye and other crops. These networks join already active working groups focused on bread and on living animals in museums [the topic of a conference planned at the National Museum of Agriculture and Food Industry in Szreniawa (scheduled May 13-16, 2016)]. For information: http://www.agriculturalmuseums.org

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Professor Receives High Honor, Completes Agricultural History Society Triple Crown

Debra A. Reid received a high honor from the Agricultural History Society at that organization’s awards banquet on Saturday evening, June 6, 2015. AHS president Sally McMurry announced Reid as a Fellow of the Society, an honor that recognizes high standards of scholarship in agricultural history, broadly defined, and in service to the society and to the study of agricultural history. For information on the Agricultural History Society, see: http://www.aghistorysociety.org/

Melissa Walker and Debra A. Reid, named as Fellows of the Agricultural History Society, June 7, 2015, Lexington, Kentucky. Photograph by Chuck Reback.

Melissa Walker and Debra A. Reid, named as Fellows of the Agricultural History Society, June 7, 2015, Lexington, Kentucky. Photograph by Chuck Reback.

The context for receiving this award became even more memorable given the location – Lexington, Kentucky – and the timing – the running of the Belmont Stakes. David Hamilton, chair of the AHS local arrangements committee, and faculty at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, timed the reception preceding the banquet perfectly, to coincide with American Pharaoh’s bid to be the first Triple Crown winner since 1978. Deb took her post at a table a distance from but with a perfect view of the large-screen TV in the Hyatt in Lexington, Kentucky. Deb grew up watching horse racing, and reveled in the wins of Secretariat in 1973. But the break-down of Ruffian in a match race in 1975 destroyed the aura of the sport. Thus, the ascendance of Seattle Slew in 1977 and Affirmed in 1978 to Triple Crown status did not have the same romance as Secretariat’s win for her.

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But Deb got to relish her own AHS Triple Crown of sorts, at the 2015 AHS on the same day as American Pharaoh’s win. . . Deb received 1) the John T. Schlebecker Award for Excellence from the Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums (ALHFAM) in 2000, an award named for AHS president, former curator at the Smithsonian Institution, and ALHFAM founder, John T. Schlebecker; 2) the Gilbert C. Fite Dissertation Award from the AHS in 2001 (named in honor of a prominent historian of southern agriculture and EIU president from 1971-1976); and now 3) recognition as a Fellow of the Agricultural History Society. And the circle, it goes round and round. It’s been a long run, but Deb looks forward to many more years of racing!

 

Mark Antony Goes to Armenia

Lee E. Patterson returns to Armenia once again in his latest article, titled “Antony and Armenia,” recently published in TAPA, the official journal of the Society for Classical Studies (formerly known as the American Philological Association).

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The piece examines the role Armenia played in Mark Antony’s eastern activities, especially his disastrous Parthian war.  It also situates Armenia in the wider politics of the Roman world that saw Antony ultimately oppose Octavian and ally with Cleopatra.  Contrary to the common belief that Antony annexed Armenia as a Roman province, Patterson posits that a proper accounting of the evidence, scant though it is, and of the broader historical context argues against Antony’s intent to reduce Armenia to anything other than a client state.  In an earlier publication Patterson argued against the emperor Caracalla’s annexation in the 210’s.  This pattern is consistent with overall Roman policy regarding Armenia (the emperor Trajan being a notable exception), which Patterson is currently exploring in a book project.  The latest issue of TAPA is available to subscribers of Project Muse and can be accessed here.

Organization of American Historians (OAH) in STL: Gen Ed in the Morning; Cardinals at Night

From the desk of Dr. Debra Reid:

I had the pleasure of participating on a panel on designing general education courses at the Organization of American Historians conference in St. Louis, Missouri, April 17. The OAH Programsession brought together veterans who shared their perspectives on a process that people seem to love to hate – general education. I talked about the philosophy of general education, about differences between top-down and department-driven curriculum reform, and about methods that can engage students in the U.S. History survey since 1876. Other panelists talked about incorporating ethical conundrums (Robert Sampson, Millikin University) and about maintaining high standards (Maureen Nutting, North Seattle Community College).

Between sessions I met Lea VanderVelde (University of Iowa), author of Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery’s Frontier (Oxford, 2010). I wish she could have met Bonnie Laughlin-Schultz who was at the conference but not in the room at the time. I am sure that the OAHlogowomen of John Brown’s family, the subject of Laughlin-Schultz’ award-winning,  The Ties that Bound Us: The Women of John Brown’s Family and the Legacy of Radical Feminism (Cornell, 2014) would have plenty of things to talk about with Mrs. Dred Scott. It sounds like an interesting possibility in light of the upcoming 150th anniversary of Reconstruction. Malgorzata Rymsza-Pawlowska presented at the OAH as well, in a session entitled “Working across Spaces of History Pedagogy: Classroom, Exhibit, Community.” She met David Thelen at her session. He co-wrote The Presence of the Past:  Popular Uses of History in American Life (Columbia, 1998), a book that the Historical Administration graduate students were assigned as summer reading last year.

In between all this stimulation, I took a break and went to the ball game. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Cincinnati Reds on runs batted in by Yadier Molina. How sweet it is!

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History Professors Address and Respond to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL)

From the desk of Dr. Newton Key:

On April 14, a group of faculty and students gathered in Booth Library to discuss one aspect of the Middle East, in a presentation entitled “Making Sense of ISIS/ISIL,” organized by Prof. Jinhee Lee, History, as part of Asian Heritage Month. Panelists Prof. Brian Mann (History), Prof. Hasan F. Mavi (Kinesiology), and Prof. Newton Key (History), moderated by Prof. Gordon Tucker (Biology), made brief opening presentations. Prof. Mann noted ISIS has different strategies and goals than al-Qaeda, though historically they have similar origins. Mann also noted that active ISIS or even ISIS supporters were a small group compared with the large Muslim population world-wide. Both Mann and Prof. Mavi stressed the very un-Islamic nature of the self-titled Islamic State. Mavi distinguished between the faith and culture of Muslims and that of the ISIS “modern pirates.” He also noted Muslim suffering in the 2nd half of the 20th century and beginning of the 21st. Prof. Key noted the importance of the Syrian Civil War in providing a space for ISIS, as well as the vast spaces across which fighting continues to take place (noting ISIS current holds what is the equivalent of a huge chunk of Illinois-sized Syria combined with a huge chunk of California-sized Iraq).
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After a break for pizza and soda (many thanks, Asian Studies), attendees asked about the relative success of ISIS social media campaigns and the sociological even psychological make-up of those joining from abroad. The panelists suggested distinguishing media wars from actual fighting, that ISIS could seize the jihadi mantle on social media because al-Qaeda followed a more “traditional” route for modern, guerilla or terrorist war of hiding and being slow to lay claim for actions. The panelists also suggested distinguishing means and ends, the some joining ISIS from outside Syria-Iraq might be attracted by horrific acts of violence or rape, but that in theory the violent terror of ISIS could be viewed as the means, while their ends could be viewed as a new, in their view “ideal” state. Mann pointed out the intriguing development that, much against all previous Islamic teachings, ISIS now believed that they could identify and punish heretics. Key noted a key question for academics is how we can understand or comprehend ISIS (or other) horrific events or actions before condemning without condoning (accepting) them.
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Ninety minutes was not enough time to explain the vast issues involved in the spread of ISIS (let alone the Syrian Civil War), but the panelists hope they brought a bit more historical, not hysterical context to bear.

A Reflection On The NCPH Careers in History Symposium 2014

From history major Brandon West:

In Real Estate the saying goes location, location, location when finding that perfect home. In History we have our own saying when trying to find that perfect job we’ve always dreamed about: networking, networking, networking. Ok maybe that’s not what all historians say but in a competitive job market this is a key component to achieving our dream job. As budding historians we look forward to the day when we graduate with our Bachelor’s Degree and can finally start working in a museum, politics, education and so on; however, just our degree alone will not, for the most part, guarantee us the career we want.

These are important lessons learned at the Careers in History Symposium that Dr. Elder and I attended at IUPUI in Indianapolis last December. The Symposium was sponsored by the National Council on Public History.

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The day started off with a panel of professionals in the field of public history who shared a little bit about themselves and the jobs they held. Once each individual had spoken, quick breakout sessions took place in which symposium attendees could sit down and speak to each panelist about his or her education and the nature of their jobs. These panelists included a Park Service historian, archivists, curators and several others. These conversations gave each of us insight into what it would take to crack into the field of history and the steps that would be necessary to achieve success. All of the panelists stressed the importance of networking with individuals inside the field already, and getting your name out there. These suggestions included calling someone in the field already and asking if you could interview them about their job; this way your name is out there in case a job were to open up and you are able to discover the nature of that profession. They called this the “informational interview.” Another big component to success that each individual spoke about was the need for internships. One important note to make is that internships come in a variety of forms; they can either be paid (not as common) and unpaid (more common). This not only gives you a chance to build up your resume but also a list of contacts within the field.

Once these mini breakout sessions were completed we are able to have lunch at the college itself, which was quite enjoyable. Dr. Elder and I met a few students from various schools and spoke with them about their aspirations and enjoyed just casual conversation as well. After lunch there were two sessions that we could pick from to end our day. One session was geared towards students looking to go to graduate school and the other a session for those students who have a degree already and are looking to find a job within the field. The session for those who already have a degree was centered on those with a Master’s Degree or better who are having a tough time finding their career.

The message each of these sessions had in common was the overwhelming need for networking and internships. Without these two components, historians will find it difficult to attain their careers. In such a highly competitive job market, it truly is about “who you know,” and “experience is required.” Largely, these two can be achieved by internships and networking with other professionals in the field you are hoping to enter.

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2015 will offer another Symposium. I would encourage any of those interested in learning about opportunities within public history to be sure to consider attending this informative and exciting seminar. If you have any questions I’m sure Dr. Elder would be happy to relay any information she may know. And anyone can also visit the National Council on Public History website directly at www.ncph.org.

2015 History Careers Day

The History Department held its third annual History Careers HCD 2015Day on Friday, February 20.

Our keynote presenter this year was Angela Scalpello. Angela, who has worked for many years as a senior human resources executive at major firms in New York City and San Francisco, shared with majors and non-majors her considerable interviewing and hiring experience as someone who understands the skills historians bring to the job market.

For our 11am panel, EIU alumni and current students discussed how they are using their history degrees.

During our third panel EIU alumni and faculty shared their experiences teaching in a variety of settings—public school, private school, and community college.

At our final panel of the day, some faculty and current graduate students discussed the joys (and challenges) of MA and PhD programs.

Thank you to all of our panelists who helped us make this year’s History Careers Day such a success!