Der Neunte Elfte [The ninth of the eleventh]: A Complicated Date in German History

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By Deborah Kallman, MA Candidate, Department of History

Public History students in Professor Jon Olsen’s Introduction to Public History course recently curated an exhibit, Der Neunte Elfte, in conjunction with campus events commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989. The fall of the Berlin Wall represented a celebratory moment in German history and heralded the end of the Cold War; but this date is shared with darker moments in German history. The students’ exhibit addresses the complex history behind this date, which has prevented its consideration as a day of national celebration. Instead, October 3, the date of German reunification became the national holiday after 1990.

Der Neunte Elfte

Der Neunte Elfte

Students Rose Gallenberger, Emily Jarmolowicz, Deborah Kallman, and Santo Mammone installed Der Neunte Elfte in conjunction with the November 12 screening of My ’89, six short films by students of director Helke Misselwitz. This screening is just one event in a semester-long series dedicated to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (the series is entitled “Wall Stories 25 Years and After”) and is part of a grant UMass received from the German Embassy in Washington DC. “Wall Stories” is a collaborative effort between German and Scandinavian Studies, the Department of History, and the DEFA Film Library. Members of the community are encouraged to read more about “Wall Stories” and attend upcoming events.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is understandably a moment of light in German history, but what other events also share the date of November 9? In 1918 Kaiser Wilhelm II was forced to abdicate his throne. Wilhelm II had been Germany’s emperor since 1888 and, facing growing unrest and revolution, (the Imperial Navy had mutinied) he renounced his throne and went into exile in the Netherlands. In the wake of his abdication, two republics were declared: the Socialist Republic and the Democratic Republic. The Democratic Republic¾later known as the Weimar Republic¾survived but was weak and plagued by numerous revolts and hyperinflation. The Republic collapsed in 1933 with Adolf Hitler’s rise to power as Chancellor.

Film Director Helke Misselwitz

Film Director Helke Misselwitz

In 1923, Adolf Hitler mounted his first attempt to take over the Republican government in a failed coup known as the Hitlerputsch or, as it is known in America, the Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler, General Erich Ludendorff, and 2,000 ill-armed putschists seized the military headquarters in Munich and took members of the city council as hostages. They marched to the Felderrnhalle, a monument to Bavarian army leaders, where they clashed with police. Sixteen putschists and four police officers died in the skirmish. Hitler was tried and convicted of high treason but given a lenient sentence. He served a mere eight months in prison during which time he wrote Mein Kampf, outlining his ideology and world view. Hitler learned from the failed putsch and he carefully reorganized and built the Nazi Party. His election in 1933 as Chancellor enabled him to fulfill the nationalist, anti-capitalist and anti-Semitic aims outlined in Mein Kampf.

1938 marked the darkest event that shares the date of November 9–Kristallnacht–or “Night of Broken Glass.” On this night, Germany’s streets erupted in violence as Nazi rioters destroyed Jewish homes, businesses, synagogues, and cemeteries. Dozens of Jews were killed and hundreds wounded. Tens of thousands of male Jews were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. This violence marked a turning point in the Nazis’ anti-Jewish policies and began a staggering escalation of radically anti-Semitic measures that ultimately culminated in the Nazis’ “Final Solution” and the Holocaust.

The culmination of a series of mass demonstrations throughout Germany during the previous year, the actual fall of the Wall on the evening of November 9, 1989 was somewhat serendipitous.   A member of the government mistakenly announced that East Germans could travel to the West on the night of November 9, 1989.  The announcement was meant to convey that the number of travel permits would be increased. In the immediate aftermath of Gunter Schabowski’s announcement, thousands of East Germans gathered at the seven major checkpoints. Unable to hold back the crowds, border patrol guards disobeyed standing orders and permitted East Berliners to cross into the West. Germany was reunited on October 3, 1990. Although the newly reunited government would face many cultural and economic challenges, the fall of the Wall heralded the end of Communist Eastern Germany and the Cold War.

Santo Mammone discusses the fall of the Berlin Wall as Emily Jarmolowicz looks on

Santo Mammone discusses the fall of the Berlin Wall as Emily Jarmolowicz looks on

This timely exhibit provided valuable experience for these aspiring public historians but more importantly it represented an important service for the community: a means of educating the public about these painful and sometimes overlooked dates in German history. As we celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall twenty-five years later, we remember the other legacies and complex history associated with the date of November 9.

The Med Student’s Museum?

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By Meghan Gelardi Holmes, alumna, UMass Public History

Almost ten years ago now, I heard Linda Friedlander from the Yale Center for British Art talk about the museum’s innovative program for first-year medical students. Using visual thinking strategies well-known to art historians, this class aimed to help future physicians hone their ability to correctly assess patients and clinical situations. Museums as labs for medical students? Or training grounds for police officers? Sign me up. The idea remained lodged in the back of my mind – I, too, wanted to take on the challenge of collapsing disciplinary boundaries in the museum setting.

The opportunity finally presented itself while I was working at the Taubman Museum of Art, developing programs for college students and adults. The Taubman is located in Roanoke, Virginia, where Carilion Clinic is big business. This network of hospitals and providers stretches across rural southwestern Virginia, providing care to over one million Virginians and acting as one of the largest employers in the region. The museum had recently formed a young professionals group to help us organize events and encourage membership; several people in the group had ties to Carilion.

After a few meetings, I learned that one group member directed the Roanoke Brain Study at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute; the project focuses on human decision-making and the ways in which cultural messages affect our decisions. Her research examines the ways our brain assigns value to abstract concepts, and how, for example, these valuations – monetary, social, etc. – might influence our interpretation of art (among other things). A collaboration was born. Not only did this seem like an ideal entry point to explore the connections between visual thinking, medical practice, and neuroscience, but our development office found the possibility of attracting a whole new audience to the museum quite appealing.

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- A functional MRI shows increased brain activity in certain areas while volunteers make decisions about certain works of art. (Roanoke Brain Study)

We called our first event “This Is Your Brain on Art.” It was part of a series of programs entitled “Conversations,” designed to bring together people from different backgrounds to share their unique perspective on a particular exhibition. Up to this point, we paired experts in different fields – maybe photography and history, say – but not different disciplines entirely. For this event, Dr. Harvey provided the scientific narrative; our education staff and audience served as the counterfoil, by participating in an interactive exercise assigning value to paintings in galleries. The program got rave reviews from the audience, although the balance of the conversation skewed towards the neuroscience.

Our next step was to develop a more focused set of programs, which we referred to as the Science Café. Admittedly, our project was much smaller in scope than those that served as my initial inspiration. There are so many ways in which the visual arts and biological sciences overlap, and although our constituency included a sizable population of people in both fields, they weren’t talking to each other – and certainly not within the walls of the museum. Our modest goal was to create a space where they could have a regular dialogue, thereby influencing each other’s thinking and methodology. (Although I wasn’t aware of it at the time, this model shares some similarities with medical humanities programs. These new initiatives teach medical students to employ narrative or historical context, for example, to enrich their training.) We were concerned about a number of things that could impede the success of the Science Café, but mostly, I wanted our choice of topics and presenters to be very precise. The most crucial component, in my mind, was that we select issues for discussion that were neither squarely in the field of neuroscience (like our first event) nor purely art historical in nature. Our initial slate of topics included an examination of color theory (central in both fields, but conceived of differently) and a discussion about the varied meanings of elegance (elegant design, elegant solutions, etc.).

The Science Café didn’t quite get off the ground. Financial considerations and a changing executive structure meant certain initiatives were benched for a bit. And yet, our initial program had some legs. This spring, the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine turned the Science Café on its head and created a mini medical school targeted towards non-professionals, called “Anatomy for Artists and Other Curious Sorts.” The opening seminar for the program was drawn from our very first event, proving that both communities continue to be interested in finding opportunities to bridge the disciplinary divide.

Later this month, the New England Museum Association will be highlighting these kinds of programs (and many, many others) during their annual conference; the theme is “Picture of Health: Museums, Wellness, and Healthy Communities.” In addition to the presentations from the MFA and other art museums about medical-museum collaborations, I plan to attend a few of the talks that speak even more directly to public historians. I am eager to hear about the myriad creative ways in which museums across the region are meeting new and interdisciplinary goals and serving as a laboratory for students in a variety of professions. Two sessions focus on reading objects; bringing historical analysis to bear with visual thinking skills is an important piece of the puzzle for museums with object-based collections. I am also looking forward to hearing about issues-based exhibitions and programs, like those at the Culinary Arts Museum, the Boston Children’s Museum, and the Yale Peabody Museum, as I am convinced history museums are poised to develop partnerships with medical schools that could simultaneously benefit both medical students and the museum’s own audiences. (Think explorations of historical foodways paired with dietician training or pop-up object analysis on a medical school campus.) Lots of food for thought – I hope to see you there.

Introducing Edith Wharton to the Students of Today

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By Debbie Kallman, M.A. Student, Department of History

Little did I know that the UMass Public History Program trip to the Berskshires last autumn would lead to a rewarding internship this summer at The Mount in Lenox, Massachusetts. The Mount, designed and built in 1902, is the onetime home of Edith Wharton (1862-1937), the celebrated novelist and the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This Gilded Age mansion now operates as a historic house museum. In addition to tours of the house and gardens, the site offers a wide range of public programming. The Mount’s on-site school programs were particularly attractive to me. These programs, designed for grades 7-12, in the fields of social studies, language arts, and art and design, provided an opportunity to link the public historian’s important role as an educator with my personal love of literature.

Debbie Kallman in Mrs. Wharton's Library

Debbie Kallman in Mrs. Wharton’s Library

The Mount’s on-site school programs explore Wharton’s life and work, the significance of her Berkshire writer’s retreat, and Gilded Age America.   These programs attract approximately 600 students per year, and while most are drawn from Massachusetts schools, The Mount also attracts students from New York school districts. Sixty to seventy percent of students attend private schools while the remaining thirty to forty percent are drawn from public schools. My supervisor, Kelsey Mullen, was quick to explain that attending a private school is not necessarily an indicator that a student comes from a privileged background. It became essential for me to link Edith Wharton and her world to students from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds and who may have different academic interests other than literature.

Three projects comprised my internship. The first two involved writing educational units for two of The Mount’s current on-site offerings. I selected two social studies programs. For each program, I wrote three pre-visit lesson plans, a step-by-step program for the on-site visit, and two post-visit lesson plans. Each lesson plan included source documents, key vocabulary terms, and activities. I adapted learning objectives and activities for each age group. It was essential that the field experience be integral to the learning outcomes of the unit and tie to the Common Core standards. As many of these students may not know who Edith Wharton was or may not be familiar with her work, these units offer an opportunity to introduce students to Wharton, to the time and place in which she lived, and to draw connections from Wharton and her world to the present day. The issues of wealth disparity, labor relations, working conditions, and class and cultural differences explored in both of these educational units still exist in the present day. Finally, what local connections could I make for the students?

In the first unit, entitled “My Dear Governess: A Portrait of Anna Bahlmann, ” I introduce students to the art of biography but also to issues of class and gender during the period beginning with the Gilded Age and ending midway through World War I when Bahlmann died. Anna Bahlmann worked with Wharton for over forty years–first as her governess and later as her secretary. Irene Goldman-Price recently published the edited letters from Wharton to Bahlmann. These letters offer students a glimpse into the world these two women shared. The primary learning objective for students is to closely read excerpts of these published letters and other sources, visit The Mount to learn more about the day-to-day life of each woman, and then to extract key pieces of information from these sources and their site visit in order to write a biographical sketch of Bahlmann.

A second unit, “Making the Picture Prettier: Edith Wharton and the Fictional Lens,” explores Wharton’s 1907 novel The Fruit of the Tree, juxtaposed against the child labor photographs of Lewis Hine (1874-1940). Wharton’s novel and Hine’s photographs critically depict early twentieth-century mill life in New England. Hine traveled throughout the country photographing child laborers at work in an effort to influence state and federal child labor legislative reform. Wharton’s complex novel addressed early twentieth-century social issues including labor and working conditions at a fictional New England Mill. The purpose of this unit is to explore how these artists framed their work. What did they omit? What did they include? Who were their intended audiences? What may have been the purpose of their work? Were they attempting to influence political action or were these artists simply drawing attention to important social issues of their time? Finally, students are asked to consider how these social issues resonate in the twenty-first century.

The third project is still in progress. As summer ends, I am adapting the current physical exhibit Edith Wharton and World War I to an online format. The exhibit focuses on Edith Wharton’s humanitarian work during World War I. Wharton founded a number of charities and relief organizations during the war and made numerous trips to the front to deliver medical supplies. The current exhibit has been on display for several years and will be taken down in the coming year. Adapting this exhibit to an online format provides future patrons with an opportunity to learn more about Wharton’s often overlooked activities during the war and how the war impacted Wharton both personally and professionally. Mullen helped me to understand that patrons typically visit an online exhibit for less than five minutes. Therefore it is critical that the exhibit capture and hold the audience’s interest so that they experience most if not all of the exhibit. My task will be to edit the images and text in the current exhibit, write a script for the online exhibit, conduct additional research, potentially incorporate new materials, and determine navigation for the exhibit. This promises to be a challenging project for this future public historian, but more importantly it will insure that the scholarship manifested in the current exhibit lives on to be enjoyed by others in future years.

Debbie Kallman with Andrew Hitzhusen portraying Wharton's butler Alfred White and Anne Schuyler portraying Wharton's secretary Anna Bahlmann

Debbie Kallman with Andrew Hitzhusen portraying Wharton’s butler Alfred White and Anne Schuyler portraying Wharton’s secretary Anna Bahlmann

This internship introduced me to the complexities of educational program delivery in a museum setting. While developing school programs that conform to educational standards is indeed important, the public historian grapples with larger issues in terms of how best to tailor programs to the interests of the intended audience yet also fit into the museum’s overall mission and values. How can we link past and present through educational programs? How do we navigate sensitive issues including class, ethnicity, and gender? What activities would be relevant to the learning objectives but also interesting and engaging to students? Similarly, when adapting a physical exhibit to an online format, it is not simply a matter or replicating material on the museum’s internet pages, but rather it is vital to consider the viewer’s needs and perspectives. What would our “typical” patron want to learn? How do we best structure the exhibit and navigation for ease of use? What should be the ratio of images to text? Should there be audio bites? Does the material better lend itself to a chronological or thematic format? These are a few of the many larger issues that the public historian must consider when developing programs–yet contemplating these and other issues are also what lends appeal to the work of the public historian.

I would encourage any public history student pondering a career in museum and site interpretation to consider the program and educational aspects of the field as these roles are rewarding and truly make a difference and a summer internship is a great way to learn and experiment with program delivery.

Historians and Our Planet’s Future: Reports from the People’s Climate March

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 Compiled by Dan Chard with Jessica Johnson, Mark Roblee, Sigrid Schmalzer, and Miriam Wells.

Historians spend a great deal of time writing and teaching about history, and occasionally we like to participate in it as well.

Faculty and graduate students from the UMass Amherst History Department were among the 400,000 people who descended upon Manhattan on Sunday, September 21, for the People’s Climate March, an event organizers dubbed “the largest climate march in history.” The March brought together a diverse coalition of indigenous peoples, students, religious groups, community organizations, unions, environmentalists, and others from throughout New York, North America, and the world. More than 500 buses transported participants there, including 22 from Western Massachusetts, 6 of them from UMass. Solidarity actions took place in over 150 countries.

The March was timed to roughly coincide with Tuesday’s UN Climate Summit. Though ignored or downplayed by much of the media (whose parent corporations stand to lose from climate action), the March sent a clear signal that people across the planet demand serious political action to stop the advancement of climate change.

Here are some reflections and photographs from the People’s Climate March submitted by History Department faculty and graduate students.

I traveled with my friend Michael on a bus that featured a group from Mothers Out Front (an organization dedicated to combatting climate change) and assorted other folks.  The bus drivers from Amherst did some fancy driving in the Bronx, making U-turns on a stopped I-95 and hard left turns into busy street traffic in order to get us there on time.

At 11:30, the March’s lineup was filling but not yet moving, and we slowly made our way from 83rd street to 75th in order to join the renewable energy crowd.  Along the way we saw all kinds of participants.  I remember community groups from Maine, Illinois, Arkansas, Missouri, Florida, Colorado, Vermont, Connecticut, New York, and Massachusetts.  The demographics were encouragingly more diverse than they were at last year’s climate rally in Washington, D.C.  

The great variety of participants in the March shows just how many issues need to be addressed, and how different parts of the country face different challenges.  For example, we spoke with a couple of women from St. Louis, Missouri, about their concerns over a hastily passed piece of legislation misleadingly called “Right to Farm,” which benefitted agribusiness and encouraged inhumane farming practices.

I also think the composition of the March demonstrated that there is a place for nearly everyone in this movement, regardless of race, age, or political ideology.

- Miriam Wells, PhD Candidate

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Photo courtesy of Miriam Wells

My partner Winston and I packed our six-year-old Ferdinand and our sixteen-month-old Anarres into the car at 6:00 a.m. and drove to the Metro North station in New Haven. It was fun to see more activists boarding at every stop; the train was standing-room-only by the time we reached Grand Central just before 10:00. But I won’t lie: getting there with the kids was hard, especially since Winston had injured his back the day before. It was a long walk for Ferdinand just to get to 70th street, where we joined the line-up, and I had to carry Anarres the whole time.

History was very much on our minds. Winston kept telling Ferdinand, “Now you’re a part of history,” and we told him stories of earlier marches we had attended: “DC in ’93” for gay rights, the anti-war protests at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York, and others. But with the baby on my back and Winston periodically carrying Ferdinand even with his back injury, I also found myself thinking about the Chinese Long March and refugees in historic evacuations — the incredible courage and solidarity it requires for large numbers of people to move from a place of danger to one of relative safety.

The most exciting moment came at 1:00 when, amazingly, everyone around us paused for a minute of silence to recognize those who have already died from climate change – truly, I can’t think when I’ve ever heard the city get that quiet – and then we heard from far behind a roar of voices that grew louder and louder until it swelled around us like an enormous wave… and then moved on to lift the people farther along.

- Sigrid Schmalzer, faculty

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Ferdinand takes a break from marching.

The People’s Climate March? I liked it better than Cats. It turned about to be a family reunion as well. My partner and I met our son who just started college and my mother-in-law who has been part of the recent action to stop the privatization of public library properties in NYC. We also ran into some friends from the Valley who we don’t often see. Maybe we’re starting to come out of the woodwork around climate change? I was left with the impression that hitting the streets is a necessary ingredient in “re-publicizing” public property, public values, and the public good, that the planet *is* public. No plan(et) B! It was a demonstration of democracy that hopefully sent shivers through our elected leaders and their short-sighted corporate patrons. Our bus captain, David Glassberg, proved that trying to stop (or adapt) to climate change could have a fun side too. We were all left ready for more action.

- Mark Roblee, PhD Candidate

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UMass History Professors Laura Lovett and David Glassberg (courtesy of Lovett and Glassberg)

I attended the People’s Climate March with my partner, Julie, and our four-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Louisa. We travelled on a bus from Northampton, and made new friends along the way. The bus dropped us off at 86th Street, at the back of the March, and the crowd was so enormous that we quickly realized we would have to let go of our plans to meet friends at 67th. We stayed flexible, met other friends, sang and danced along with drummers and marching bands, and took inspiration from the art, banners, discussion, laughter, and community that surrounded us.

            One thing we know from history is that most changes for the betterment of humanity have come at the behest of grassroots social movements. Will Louisa’s generation, and those that follow, confront climate-induced famine, mass migration, war, and social meltdown on a scale unprecedented in human history? Or will new relationships forged through the Peoples Climate March culminate in a powerful, revitalized global climate justice movement, one with the power to block the apocalyptic tide of corporate-driven ecological destruction? The answer depends on all of us. In the words of the March’s organizers: “To Change Everything, We Need Everyone.”

- Dan Chard, PhD Candidate

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Julie, Dan, and Louisa

 

History was on my mind as I made my way to New York City for the People’s Climate March. As I sat on the slowly moving commuter rail into the city, I found myself reflecting on the way that the March was promoted as an event that would — perhaps in and of itself — “bend the course of history,” to quote the official language around the event. I am certain that the March will change history, though perhaps not in ways that we can easily predict and certainly not overnight. This discourse around the March reminded me of how US social movement history is too often narrated, with a focus on singular, triumphant events. As historians, we know that one-time events rarely change the course of history on their own. Rather, change comes through the hard, unglamorous, and often invisible work of sustained struggle.

            History also teaches us that part of this hard work of making change is the work of connecting, creating community, building alliances and celebrating. While the full historical impact of the People’s Climate March is yet to be seen – or perhaps more accurately, yet to be made – on an affective level, Sunday’s march already felt like such a joyous success. To meet, gather and connect with so many activists from such diverse perspectives and subject positions was such a pleasure and a source of energy.

- Jessica Johnson, Outreach Director

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Photo courtesy of Miriam Wells

Interning at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination: an Interdisciplinary Collaboration

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By Emily Pipes, M.A. Student, Department of History

This past summer I had the opportunity to participate in an internship at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD). This experience was made possible through funding from the Dr. Charles K. Hyde Internship Program scholarship, awarded by the history department of UMass Amherst. My internship was located at MCAD’s Boston office, which is one of four MCAD locations; the other three offices are located in Worcester, Springfield and New Bedford.

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The MCAD is the second oldest civil rights agency in the United States. The Commission began in 1944 as a result of what had been expected to be federal funding to create a Fair Employment Agency. The federal funding fell through in 1946, and consequently the Governor of Massachusetts at the time, Governor Tobin, allotted some state funding towards the effort. These state funds created the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practice in 1946, which later evolved into the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. The Massachusetts Fair Employment Practice initially only had jurisdiction over employment discrimination; however, today the MCAD’s coverage extends to housing and public accommodation discrimination. Furthermore, the Commission is also responsible for enforcing laws surrounding use of criminal CORIs in hiring and the Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act.

The MCAD is the state’s chief civil rights agency, and its mission is to advance the civil rights of Massachusetts residents in the work place, and in various types of housing and public accommodations through law enforcement, outreach and training. The Commission enforces Massachusetts discrimination laws by receiving complaints from the public and subsequently investigating these complaints to see if Massachusetts discrimination laws and policies are being violated. In order for the MCAD to investigate a specific complaint, the Complainant must show that they have been discriminated against, or treated less favorably then someone of a different “protected category”. The categories that the MCAD protects are: age (40 and above), criminal records, disability, gender, gender identity, genetics, military personnel, national origin, race or color, religion, retaliation or sexual orientation. The Commission is more expansive in terms of its civil rights coverage than most other civil rights agencies in the country.

The MCAD works hard to ensure that it is possible for anyone in the Commonwealth to navigate its complaint-filing system. It is not required that an individual filing a complaint with the MCAD has any legal representation at any stage of the investigation. Furthermore, there is no cost to file a complaint at the MCAD, nor is there any cost to conciliate or settle a discrimination case through mediators at the MCAD. In congruence with the Commission’s mission of equality, and in order ensure universal access to every member of the Commonwealth, it is necessary that the Agency provides these services free of charge.

Each individual investigator working at the MCAD has roughly 300 cases assigned to him or her, and the MCAD receives 4,000 and 5,000 discrimination complaints every year. It takes on average 18 to 24 months for investigators at the MCAD to come to a decision for each discrimination complaint. Until a decision is made regarding whether or not discrimination actually occurred within a specific case, the MCAD serves as a neutral party. The work at the MCAD is demanding but vital to ensuring that discrimination laws are honored in Massachusetts.

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Needless to say, investigators at the MCAD have an enormous workload, which makes the role of interns even more crucial. All members of the MCAD make it known how appreciative they are of the work interns do and make sure that we receive a great deal of hands on experience. One of my responsibilities as an intern was to meet with the public to take their complaints. While this is one of the more challenging and time-consuming tasks at the MCAD, I found it to be the most rewarding. I listened as individuals recounted the allegedly discriminatory actions taken against them and then crafted their narrative into a concise report. This first step is critical, as this report follows the Complainant throughout the entire investigation. Through this work I learned how to find the information that would be most significant in an investigation, while leaving out superfluous details.

I was also able to play a significant role in the investigation process at the MCAD, and I was assigned a number of housing discrimination cases at varying stages in their respective investigations. Depending on the status of the case, I was responsible for requesting documentation and evidence from parties, reviewing case files, and drafting recommendations regarding whether probable cause exists. Finally, I also worked as one of two interns involved in legal research on a discrimination complaint filed by the MCAD itself. This complaint was a product of the MCAD’s testing program, which analyzes how selected individuals are treated as they seek employment or services to determine if discrimination occurs. I worked alongside another intern over the course of the summer to compile our research into a report and a corresponding presentation informing the Commission of our recommendations for the next steps in this case.

The experience of working at the MCAD has provided me with a useful skill set that will prove to be valuable as I continue studying and researching the history of American social policy. I learned about Massachusetts discrimination law and MCAD procedures. I had the opportunity to view discrimination cases at every stage of the investigation process, as well as witness how the MCAD applies discrimination law in various contexts. I observed mediations, public hearings and appeal hearings. I learned how to analyze data derived from testing and investigation in order to distinguish random sets of data from patterns of purposeful or systemic discrimination. I attended weekly “brown-bag lunches,” during which different members of the Commission would lead a discussion about a specific element of discrimination law enforcement.

Most importantly, my work with the MCAD truly solidified my understanding of how the academic disciplines of public policy and history can collaborate to foster positive social change. Since entering graduate school, my historical research endeavors have guided me towards an interest in American social policies. As an intern at the MCAD, I was able to hone my ability to historicize political problems by analyzing current social conditions and attempting to piece together the historical events which created modern-day society. As a history student, I aim to deconstruct traditional historical narratives and reveal the agency of overlooked groups of people. Utilizing archival material coupled with extensive secondary source material, my work as a graduate student revolves around collecting data and using the information I find to provide insight into the lives of largely unknown or misrepresented groups. By working at the MCAD I was able to see the modern-day applications of the skills I have developed through my graduate studies at UMass.

Understanding the history of discrimination, anti-discrimination policy and how these policies have shaped ideas of citizenship and identity, as well as the roles of race, class and gender in our society, was a very important component of my work at the MCAD. I believe understanding the repercussions of past anti-discrimination policies, both intentional and unintentional, is vital to understanding the policies we create and that the way we enforce these policies will shape the roles different groups of people play in our society. There are many discrimination cases the Commission is investigating that are the first of their kind and that will shape the future of anti-discrimination policy/enforcement. The way the Commission rules on these types of claims will determine how future cases will be handled; therefore, understanding the history of anti-discrimination policy and the profound effects these policies have had is very important.

There are many skills historians possess which are relevant to the work done at MCAD and to public policy more broadly. While there are some obvious dangers found in exclusively relying on the past to dictate the future, there is a great deal of helpful guidance history can provide to public policy. Historians constantly reevaluate and reinterpret the past, and these new interpretations need to be applied to present-day policy decisions. The internship at the MCAD was a perfect fit for me, given my skill-set as a historian coupled with my interest in social policy, and passion for economic, racial and gender equality, and it has helped me to become a better researcher and historian.

Interning at James Monroe’s Ash Lawn-Highland: Reflections on the Multidisciplinary Approach in Action

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By Kayla Pittman, M.A. Student, Department of History

The term “multidisciplinary approach” receives a fair share of air time amongst scholars, but what does that actually mean? What does the multidisciplinary approach look like on the ground? For a historian, how does one attain the skills necessary to breach the borders of her own discipline, and feel comfortable in uncharted waters? I have often praised the multidisciplinary approach from the standpoint of a traditional academic historian, but only as a public historian have I truly been able to embrace the breadth of sources one can access when you are able to employ not only the tricks of your own trade, but those in other highly specialized fields to better connect with the public.

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Monroe era house denoted by white paint, north façade

This summer, as a result of a Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grant awarded to Ash Lawn-Highland, I had the privilege of interning at James Monroe’s Albemarle County plantation. Monroe referred to this place as Highland, a property he purchased in 1793 right next to his friend Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Monroe considered Highland his official residence between 1799 and 1823. Highland is currently comprised of 535 acres and offers guided tours of the Monroe era house, a chance to freely move about the interpreted cellar dependencies and service yard outbuildings, as well as grounds. Its current executive director, Dr. Sara Bon- Harper has brought a new research focus to Highland. This summer as Highland buzzed with researchers, both experts and interns alike, visitors often witnessed new research and discoveries taking place during their visit.

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L-R: Dr. Sara Bon-Harper, Nancy Stetz, Kayla M. Pittman (author) Photo by R. Stillings

This summer I was one of the many researchers visitors regularly saw ascending a ladder into the attic. I did not do this for the pure enjoyment of the attic’s sauna like conditions, nor was I particularly interested in spending my afternoons in the company of wasps, lost honey bees, and the occasional snake; however I was highly interested in trailing architectural historian Willie Graham. I wanted to learn everything I could about how architectural historians approach the past so that I could grow as a historian in my own field. By understanding some of the methods and approaches architectural historians employ, I can add another layer to my understanding of the historical record. A multidisciplinary approach allows me to add another color to the palette I use to make the past come alive as a public historian. So, if Willie Graham went to the attic, I made sure to hold the ladder and follow suit.

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L-R: Dr. Sara Bon-Harper, Kyle Edwards, Kayla M. Pittman, Nancy Stetz. Photo by K.

Although l learned a great deal from Willie Graham on our trips to the attic, learning from him was not done for purely selfish reasons. As the graduate intern, my tasks were to analyze previous architectural and archaeological reports written on the Monroe era house and service yard outbuildings, confront discrepancies in research results, and put forth recommendations for areas of future research. In order to accomplish these tasks, I had to rely heavily upon my archaeological training as I read various archaeological reports filled with jargon and specialized maps. In no way do I consider myself to be an archaeologist, however having the basic skills necessary to feel comfortable operating in that realm of academia gave me an edge as I confronted previous reports.   Having some archaeological training also did not hurt when crawling under the house to confront what was seen on an archaeological map in person.

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L-R: Architectural historians Carl Lounsbury & Jeff Klee. Photo by K.

Furthermore, working with architectural historians Willie Graham, Carl Lounsbury, and Jeff Klee as they investigated and inventoried the Monroe era house afforded me the opportunity to include the most recent research conducted on the structure as it unfolded in my report. During this time, I also had the opportunity to spend an afternoon discussing dendrochronological research potential of the Monroe era house, interpreted overseer’s house, and smokehouse with Dan Druckenbrod, a dendroecologist who often works on projects at Monticello. Working with these scholars allowed me to stretch my skillset to encompass elements of other disciplines.

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Photo by Ash Lawn-Highland

My final report at the end of the summer is most concisely summarized as a document that says “this is what we know to be true and this is where we go from here.” With Dr. Sara Bon-Harper I presented my report to Highland’s guides and staff and was able to answer their questions about how to present this information to the public. This report will be used by future researchers at Highland as well as by the interpretive staff. Some of the findings described in this report will drastically change how the Monroe era home is interpreted.

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South façade of Monroe era house

For example, while examining the Monroe era structure, Carl Lounsbury, Willie Graham, and Jeff Klee found that the first building period dates between 1798/99 and 1800 and consists of the interpreted Monroe bedroom and dining room. The second building period is attributed to a shed addition constructed circa 1816 which is comprised of the interpreted Monroe study and his daughter Maria Hester’s bedroom. Lounsbury, Graham, and Klee found that the interpreted front entrance on the northern façade is in fact a secondary entrance most likely reserved for servants and slaves. The entrance Monroe, his family, and guests used would have been located on the southern façade and accessed by a series of stairs leading up to a landing or porch. This was evidenced by the observation of blind nailed flooring in the lobby between the interpreted Monroe bedroom and dining room which is a costly detail generally reserved for primary rooms.

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Circular saw marks pictured on attic beams above the interpreted drawing room. Photo by R. Stillings

Another major change to the interpretation of the Monroe era house is that the room currently interpreted as Monroe’s drawing room is not in fact a Monroe era space. The interpreted drawing room is a part of the third building period that Lounsbury, Graham, and Klee dated circa 1850s. This was evidenced by the observation of circular saw marks seen on beams in the attic over this section of the house.

James Monroe’s Highland is nestled in the hills of Charlottesville, Virginia, but it is not a place to be forgotten in the shadows of Monticello. It is a vibrant place for both visitors and scholars alike. At Monroe’s Highland, historians and especially interns can grow as academics and readily connect with the public we most desperately seek to engage as public historians. A multidisciplinary approach is the key to unlocking our understanding of Monroe’s Highland not only as the historic home of fifth president James Monroe, but also as the home of an enslaved population. Further research is needed at Highland, but with Dr. Sara Bon- Harper leading the charge, Highland remains rich with opportunity.

Why Should Ken Burns Get to Have All the Fun?

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By Brian Comfort, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History

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Grumbling can often be heard emanating from various history departments around the country about the power that documentary filmmaker Ken Burns wields over public perceptions of history and how he wields that power. After all, his extraordinarily popular documentaries on subjects as diverse as the Civil War, jazz, baseball and legendary prizefighter Jack Johnson reach a few more folks than your average or even highly regarded monograph from a respected academic publisher. The Civil War reached 40 million viewers on PBS in its initial run. That’s Michael Jackson Thriller territory, whereas we historians would gladly settle for some airplay on local radio and a couple of CDs sold from the trunk of a car. Stephen Ambrose was quoted as saying, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.” And that continues to be the case as the number of viewers of his documentaries has soared past 100 million. Continue reading

The Internship Experience: It’s What You Make of It (And What Others Make of It)

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By Rebecca Schmitt, M.A. Student, Department of History

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Rebecca Schmitt photo-documenting the Kathryn M. Lee, an oyster schooner currently undergoing restoration

For any graduate student in public history or historic preservation programs, probably the most nerve-racking requirement is the internship. Everybody wants an internship that is fulfilling, fun, and can help lead to a job later. All of us who have had internships can attest to the fact that there are bad internships, good internships, and great internships. Although sometimes you just have to take what internship you can get, there is always something that you can do to ensure that your internship is good or great. My summer internship is a good example of a great internship that was molded through not only the actions of others but also myself and my fellow intern. Continue reading

Lessons from Special Collections: A Public History Summer Internship

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Emily Hunter hard at work in University Special Collections

By Emily Hunter, M.A. Student, Department of History

This summer, with support from a Charles K. Hyde internship scholarship, I have been interning at the Special Collections and University Archives of the W.E.B. Du Bois Library at UMass Amherst. My major project has been processing and creating a finding aid for the papers of the Diana Mara Henry Collection. Born in 1948, Henry is a photojournalist best known for her documentation of sociopolitical activism of the late 1960s to the early 1980s. With her camera and pen, she followed the 1972 and 1976 Democratic presidential campaigns (McGovern and Carter campaigns), served as the official photographer for the President’s Commission on International Women’s Year and the First National Women’s Conference, and photographed the activities of a variety of well-known politicians and activists, including Shirley Chisholm, Al Lowenstein, Elizabeth Holtzman, Liz Carpenter, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Jane Fonda, and Eugene McCarthy. Additionally, Henry captured images of the political demonstrations of organizations such as Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) and the Women’s Pentagon Action Committee. Henry also photographed the New York City fashion scene in the 1970s and, in the decades to follow, pursued work as a photography instructor, arts administrator, newspaper journalist, and independent scholar and researcher. Her photojournalism has appeared in a wide array of publications, including Time and New York Magazine and in collections at the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the Schlesinger Library at Harvard.

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Return to Sender: Lessons from Boston College’s “Belfast Project”

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By Margo Shea, Alumna, Department of History

Margo Shea completed an M.A. in Public History in 2005 and a Ph.D. in History in 2010 (both from UMass Amherst), with specializations in public history and memory, Irish history and Urban history. She is currently an assistant professor in the History Department at Salem State University, in Salem, Massachusetts. Shea is currently revising her doctoral dissertation, “Once Again it Happens: Collective Memory and Irish Identity in Derry, (Northern) Ireland 1896-2008,” for publication.

“Return to Sender” originally appeared on Shea’s personal blog. See Shea’s blog here.

On Tuesday, May 6th, Boston College’s Director of Public Affairs, Jack Dunn, announced that “The Belfast Project” oral history initiative would honor all requests from participants to return recordings and transcripts of interviews not currently in use as evidence in the murder investigation of Jean McConville, a Belfast widow abducted and murdered by the IRA in 1972. The college will keep no copies. The information in the interviews will remain known only to the interviewers, a few Boston College employees, and William Young — a federal district court judge who read the transcripts to determine which ones should be delivered to Northern Irish authorities under a treaty governing exchanges of information between nations for the purposes of law enforcement. Continue reading

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