Left to right: Marwa Amer, Dr. Jeanne Theoharis, Erica Fagen, Jacob Orcutt, Katherine Garland, and Karen Sause

By Katherine Garland, M.A. Student, Department of History

Lately I have been thinking a lot about bookends. No, I do not mean the kind that keep my copies of Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Edmund Morgan’s American Slavery, American Freedom from falling off of my bookshelf. I mean bookends on the ends of historical stories. When my advisor and I meet to discuss books about early American religious history, we often end up talking about beginnings and ends. When comparing books on similar subjects, we note how historians play with the time period, starting and ending their stories in different decades in order to emphasize different ideas. Those bookend dates are not arbitrary; they deeply influence the text’s meaning.

When I tell the story of the UMass Graduate History Association’s 10th Annual conference, “History in the Making: Pivotal Moments in Public Understanding,” I will need to think hard about where to place my bookends. For me, the conference did not start and end on March 29, 2014 — the actual date of the event — it started months before that, perhaps last April when I accepted the position of GHA secretary, or perhaps in the fall when planning began in earnest. My story contains months of fundraising, organizing panels, communicating with conference participants, and planning meals. And that was all before the actual conference. On the conference day, we set up food, attended informative and thought-provoking panels, and enjoyed Dr. Jeanne Theoharis’ keynote speech, “Hidden in Plain Sight?: Rosa Parks and the Black Power Movement.” Read More

By Emily T.H. Redman, Assistant Professor, Department of History

This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing a year-long project come to fruition: the Science for the People (SftP) conference here at UMass Amherst. The conference, aimed to bring together participants from the 1970s radical activism group — alongside academic historians, scientists, and young scholars — explored the early origins of SftP and its lasting legacy, with a healthy dose of looking toward future reform, advocacy, and activism. I was, by the start of the conference, quite eager to see how it would unfold, which speakers would make an impression, and the overall zeitgeist of the event.

As a historian of science, I am interested in the ways in which science interacts with the larger culture. Science, of course, is inextricably part of that culture, but one that shares an interesting position — many find it inaccessible, imagine it to exist within impenetrable ivory towers (or worse, lock-and-keyed federal laboratories), and be driven by moneyed or powered interests that remain concealed. Science represents a stark duality of both fear and promise. Just as we look toward science and technology to solve our problems — ranging from cancer cures to prosthetic limbs to cleaning our oceans to just about everything — we also have a long history of deeply mistrusting science. At best, science is the pinnacle of human achievement; at worst it’s our Frankenstein, set into motion by our collective hubris, sure to rear its monstrous head and wreak havoc on any comfortable intimacy we might have had with scientific inquiry and practice.

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By Sean Smeland, M.A. Student, Department of History

As Professor Marla Miller observed in her recent announcement, conference season is here, and with the successful completion of our own GHA 2014 Graduate Conference this past weekend, I thought this would be a good time to share my own recent experience as a first-year graduate student attending a major history conference for the first time. I hope that first-year students and other first-time conference-goers, in particular, will find this tale helpful, and to that end I will feature some key practical lessons at the end.

The weekend before Thanksgiving, the world’s largest annual conference for the history of science — the History of Science Society Annual Meeting — took place in Boston. Thousands of historians and scholars in related fields converged upon the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel and Boston Convention Center for four days of scholarship, discussion, networking, and sleep deprivation. Being so close, the meeting presented a fortuitous opportunity to get a broad and up-to-date look at the field of history of science and meet scholars from other institutions. As a relative newcomer to the field, I sallied forth to see what all the fuss was about. Read More

This is the fourth post in a series of entries from the UMass community celebrating Women’s History Month.

By Erica Fagen, Ph.D. Student, Department of History

Last week I had the great opportunity to facilitate a workshop entitled “Wikipedia 101 for Women’s History” at the annual National Council for Public History conference in Monterey, California. The main question of this session was the following: how is women’s history written on Wikipedia? The age of Web 2.0 provides an array of platforms to share, post, and tweet information on a variety of topics. What is unique about Wikipedia, and how can we as historians influence what people read? With only 13 percent to 15 percent of the English-language Wikipedia editors being women, there are evidently great strides to be made on how women and minority groups are represented on this massive encyclopaedic site.

My own experience with editing Wikipedia goes back to my first public history class in Fall 2007 at Concordia University. As an undergraduate student who recently took a survey course on medieval history, I chose to edit the entry on “Catherine of Siena,” a well-known Italian saint. I decided to pick a famous woman in history, as I realized then that women are underrepresented on Wikipedia. Over the past six-and-a-half years, I’ve noticed the entry go through several changes, including further textual analysis, additional images and an expanded bibliography. This exercise helped me better prepare for the workshop on NCPH. Read More