International Women’s Day

Today’s regularly scheduled blog post on sneakily teaching Public History in the general education class has been rescheduled for next week in honor of International Women’s Day and the Day Without a Woman Strike.

And here are some (not at all comprehensive) links about women everyone should know about:

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes in Charleston

OLLI at the Museum

OLLI at the Museum

A few weeks ago I was so happy to lead a group from Coastal Carolina University Osher Life-Long Learning Institute to Charleston, South Carolina.  OLLI’s new “On the Road with a CCU Professor” program was a perfect opportunity for me to share my love for museums and public history with a new audience.  We started our day nice and early, leaving from campus, and we headed down the highway and the coast towards The Holy City.

Old Slave Mart Museum, from NPS

Old Slave Mart Museum, from NPS

Our museum visits started with a stop at the Old Slave Mart Museum, a National Parks site. The building is located on one of the last cobblestone streets in Charleston and it is the only known extant building used as a slave auction gallery in South Carolina. Contrary to popular belief, this building is where slave auctions were held, not the city market.  We had a very informative talk with their educator about the history of slavery in the Americas and the history of the building itself.  Comments and questions from the attendees rounded off our visit.

Textiles!

Textiles!

After lunch at Hyman’s Seafood, we went on the Charleston Museum.  At this museum we were lucky to get a Behind the Scenes curator tour, and we got to spend time in the collections storage areas talking with curators about their jobs.  We got to see fossils that were over 26 million years old, amazing textiles including shoes, an 18th century dress reminiscent of my Felicity American Girl doll, an amazingly embroidered waistcoat, and a ton of old poisonous medicinal bottles. And a sad, badly taxidermies baby buffalo, which I did not get a photo of.

It was a gorgeous, sunny, only slightly chilly day to spend in Charleston, and I hope the students all got a glimpse of why I love public history and museums so much.  Now to go volunteer at a museum an touch all the artifacts….

Next up, New York City for the Art on Paper fair! See you soon, NYC!

Happy Lupercalia!

Ah Lupercalia… er, Valentine’s Day? There is a lot of interesting history about the origins of Valentine’s Day, St. Valentine, et cetera et al. I want to talk about the OG Valentine’s Day today, though.

Ooh-la-la: Pan with a She-Goat, from Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibit at the British Museum.

Ooh-la-la: Pan with a She-Goat, from Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibit at the British Museum.

Lupercalia. A Roman festival (perhaps Pre-Roman, Greek festival of Pan)  celebrating the god Lupercus or Faunus. This combines so many of my favorite things: pagan festivals, history, the Classical world, Pan/Faunus, and of course, goats!

Lupercalia, traditionally celebrated on February 15, was a combination of many things; one of the most important was as a celebration of the wolf who suckled and raised Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome. Anyone who has read the Harry Potter series will recognize two words here: Remus and Lup(in). Therefore, the word Lupercalia literally means wolf festival.

The Capitoline Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus in the  Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome

The Capitoline Wolf suckling Romulus and Remus in the Palazzo dei Conservatori in Rome

At the Roman festival, priests of the god Faunus, a goat-like god of farms and forests and the Roman equivalent of the Greek nature god Pan, would sacrifice dogs and goats to the god. These priests were called the Luperci, the “brothers of the wolf.” They would be anointed with the blood of the sacrifices, and the celebrations would start. The priests would dress in the goat-skins of the fresh sacrifices, and the real fun would begin.

Statue of a Luperci with his whip. Whipping it good.

Statue of a Luperci with his whip. Whipping it good.

The luperci, dressed in their fresh goat skins, would run the borders of the Palatine city, leather thongs (not that kind of thong) in hand, happily whipping the women and girls who lined up for the privilege of being (literally)

hit on by the priests to bring about fertility and ease the pains of childbirth.

Plutarch described it thus:

“Lupercalia.. was anciently celebrated by shepherds, and has also some connection with the Arcadian Lycaea… many of the noble youths and of the magistrates run up and down through the city naked, for sport and laughter striking those they meet with shaggy thongs. And many women of rank also purposely get in their way, and like children at school present their hands to be struck, believing that the pregnant will thus be helped in delivery, and the barren to pregnancy.”

Once Christianity expanded and pagan rituals and festivals were often outlawed (Thanks Theodosius), pagan rituals were often rebranded and repackaged as new, holy, Christian festivals.  This might be the case with Lupercalia and Saint Valentine’s Day, though primary sources are often muddled and hard to interpret.  Some scholars indicate that a pope in the 5th century combined the two holidays to keep the peace and encourage Christian worship.

Regardless, the parallels here are obvious. Love, lust, men hitting on women, the undeniable passions of the wild naked people running through the streets…. well maybe some parallels are obvious, at least.

 

Public History Projects: Fall 2016

I’m trying to take a bit of time to get things back up and running here at Something Old, Something New. Stay tuned for info about my current work writing grants, thoughts on the new world of education and public history in a new federal administration, academic teaching of PH and Museum studies rumination, and my continuing work with accessibility and historic sites and museums.

Last fall, I taught Introduction to Public History at CCU,and I wanted to take a minute to share a few of my students’ projects and promote some of their final projects.  I’m working to possibly re-design my Intro to PH class in the future, but then sometimes I’m so impressed by the projects my students come up with, as with these posted below, and I don’t want to lose that aspect. Here are just a few examples:

Bailynne Miller created a website for historic downtown Conway, South Carolina called: Small Town, Big Stories, Even Bigger Adventures. Bailynne says, “I am currently enrolled in a course at CCU called Introduction to Public History. This is not just your typical history course that involves copious amounts of reading and endless hours on Google trying to figure out if you can find some sort of summary … This class involves each of us taking our unique passions for history and helping to ignite that same spark into our community. Each student is encouraged to come up with a project related to something that they are passionate about. I happened to stumble upon my idea when interviewing the nicest man on field trip for this class. I realized that so many amazing connections can be made in this community related to history in my own backyard! So I decided to pack up my notepad, pen, and big mouth and trek to downtown Conway, South Carolina to visit some famous local and historical spots to get locals’ takes on what they know and love about their own communities.”  The blog takes visitors on a tour of some of the highlights of Conway including the town hall, restaurants, and shops. Folklore and history are blended, along with suggestions for your own adventures and further research. Bailynne’s blog can be found at: http://conwayconnections.weebly.com

Jeff Bean spent the Fall 2016 semester research the local Waccamaw people and mapping sites of importance on a public website and research blog.  He describes his passion for history saying, “I have always had a passion to know the unknown, to shine light on a subject that has been in darkness. This site is dedicated to the Waccamaw Indian people of Horry County, South Carolina. The Waccamaw people of Horry County have a poorly documented history and this is my attempt to change that.”  The interactive map and additional research can be found at: http://waccamawsites.weebly.com

Travis Holland worked with the Horry County Board of Architectural Review and Historic Preservation to identify more local businesses for their Legacy Business program.  The program pays tribute to local businesses that have contributed to the economic heritage of Horry County for more than 50-continuous years.  Travis researched and compiled information about 3 businesses for this program.  His research was made public on the website: http://hclegacy.weebly.com

Another HIST395 student, Phoebe Morrison, states, “I am a student of the world intrigued by history and empowered by physical activity. I was raised on Block Island, Rhode Island from the age of eight until I was fourteen years old with minimal understanding of how involved this small island was in American history. With age I have become facinated by the impact this small yet mighty island possesed and continues to exert.”  To these ends, Phoebe created several history bike tours of her home island.  She says her “intentions are to motivate people to explore Block Island’s historic places in a healthy way… the interactive map is designed to enhance the experience of making your way around Block Island while informing you about historic events that have been forgotten along the way.”  The history and routes she developed are available at: http://bikebihistory.weebly.com

NCPH 2016 – Working Group on Accessibility!

Next month, I’ll be presenting work at the National Council on Public History’s annual challenging-the-exclusive-past-ncph-2016meeting in Baltimore!  The working group – MAKING PUBLIC HISTORY ACCESSIBLE: EXPLORING BEST PRACTICES FOR DISABILITY ACCESS – 2016 WORKING GROUP – has created a page on the Public History Commons to foster conversation and ideas before the conference.

The working group introduction states, “Many of our museums and historic sites still exclude persons with disabilities, whether through physical barriers, communication barriers, or the omission of disability from the historical narrative. Public historians have an important role to play in providing an inclusive experience within their programs and institutions. In conjunction with the 25th year of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this working group will discuss and begin to address the challenges public historians face in creating fully inclusive sites and programs for people with all types of disabilities.”

Each participant has posted a case studies on the commons; mine can be found here. Please take a moment to browse the case studies and contribute to the conversation! 

As you may know, this aligns itself perfectly with my research! Here is my case study information:

  • How did I get here, and what did I do about it?

As I started my Public History PhD Program, I knew I wanted to do work in museums, possibly with a concentration in education. During the NCPH conference in Pensacola, FL, I walked downtown where adults with special needs were having a field trip in a park. It struck me in that moment that in my experience, at the history museums I had worked with up to that point, I had never worked with a group of people with special needs. During my dissertation research, I wanted to see how historic house museums and historic sites can create better, more accessible spaces, for all visitors. Specifically, I focused on field trips for high school students in general special education classes. In my experience in museums for several years across Tennessee, I didn’t see historymuseums, specifically, making an effort to create accessible spaces, beyond the typical ADA requirements. As part of my research, I visited several art museums that had specific programming, as well as some leading museums in New York City. I was able to take what worked and didn’t work for those sites, and through experimentation at a historic site in Tennessee I was able to come up with the “best practices” for creating programs for people with special needs at museums. After graduation, I published this manuscript as Programming for People With Special Needs: A Guide for Museums and Historic Sites, which include 7 practical steps for anyone wants to work with groups of people with special needs or disabilities, or frankly with any group in general at a museum. Another aspect of my research is the history of disability in museums – not through access necessarily, but rather how people with disabilities have been portrayed at museums, or “museums,” in the past, as exhibits rather than as visitors with agency.

  • What does it mean to make historic sites and programs accessible for people with disabilities? What challenges do smaller sites face in becoming fully accessible?

I think, and hope, that accessibility is starting to move beyond ADA requirements for wheelchairs, accommodations for hearing and sight impaired, and become something that is embraced, rather than a moral and legal obligation. Universal design is a term often used to describe a one-size-fits-all type of site or program, which should be the best solution for every person. That isn’t always the most feasible solution though, especially at smaller sites with limited staff, resources, and funds. Small budgets, historic buildings, limited time… all those things that staff at historic sites are so familiar with can put accessibility on the backburner to paying the electric bill, running copies for the board of directors, or directing a cider-and-cookies Christmas event for the public. However, even small adaptations to existing tours or programs or even the site itself can help with access for more visitors.

  • What accessibility standards do practitioners currently use?

Until recently, several museums and sites that I worked at did only the bare minimum for ADA, and often not even that. However, there are some good guidelines from the Smithsonian Institute for things like exhibit text and font size for people with low vision, introductory videos are often Closed Captioned, and some historic buildings even have ramps up to the first floor. There are several really great things in the works at museums I’ve visited – 3D printings of paintings or art (great for everyone, not just sight impaired), closed-museum tours for groups of students with autism, the old photos of the upstairs album for historic houses with multiple stories. Hopefully innovations and conversations, like this one, will inspire others to come up with more solutions and standards.

  • How should staff and volunteers be trained to incorporate accessibility standards into their practices?

One of the most striking aspects of my research was the lack of training in accessibility, in all positions at museums and historic sites from the Director to education staff, to security and reception. Even a bit of sensitivity and awareness training of disability and accessibility at a regular staff or board meeting can go a long way. As a part of my department service as a PhD student, I held an Accessibility in Museums workshop for the public. It was an all-day affair, with Morning session speakers, including a Keynote Speaker, Krista Flores, a Program Specialist at Smithsonian Institution Accessibility Program, additional speakers: Karen Wade, Director of Homestead Museum, Los Angeles County, California and Dr. Lisa Pruitt, Middle Tennessee State University.  Additionally, a panel of various experts in the fields of education, museums, special education, recreation and more spoke about challenges and solutions in their own fields. Afternoon Breakout sessions included case studies, information about specific issues, and think-tank opportunities. The workshop was not as well-attended as we hoped it would be, but those who did attend said that they saw the value in such a workshop and hoped that more would be available in the future.

  • In what ways can new technologies assist public historians in making their sites and interpretation more accessible? What new challenges do these technologies pose?

Tablet technology, digital media, and 3D printing are some of the newest and best ways that we can reach more people, “make history exciting,” and create accessible spaces and programs. Apps and tours and videos can especially make accessibility to historic buildings better, but a lot of those sites do not have the funds available to purchase technology that is changing quickly. There are some grants available through local or state governments, for technology for accessibility, but those are limited. In my own experience at a historic house museum, the site received a grant to create tablet tours. Then there were several changes in administration; then new research changed many of the stories that had been told on tours; then the entire focus of the mission of the site changed. To my knowledge, that project is still out there, funding still available, but at this point, the technology that was supposed to be used, 5 years ago, is already out of date, as well as the script that was paid for and written by local scholars.

  • How can we increase the number of visitors with disabilities to our sites?

There are many ways to increase the number of visitors with disabilities – by having a space that they can access, by telling their own stories so they can see themselves in the museum, through involvement from the very beginning, and more. In my own experience, reaching out to communities and telling them that they are even welcome is a big aspect, especially with children with special needs. In a survey I distributed, teachers and parents of children with special needs were concerned that history museums or historic sites (not necessarily science or children’s museums) were supposed to be quiet and still places, where no disruptions or noise would be tolerated. In my experience, by reaching out and inviting students and teachers to a specific program tailored just to their needs through detailed discussion with the teachers and aides, that myth was dispelled, and everyone had a great and educational time at the historic site.

New State, New Job, New Life basically.

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So, I promised to write more this summer in amongst all of my travels.  But then…

Those travels happened….

Salt Lake City

Salt Lake City

Then we bought a house…

Miss Frances, unsure of all this.

Miss Frances, unsure of all this.

And then we moved to South Carolina, the Palmetto State.

State Motto: “Dum Spiro Spero” – While I breathe, I hope.

State fruit: The Peach;  State Dance: The Shag; State Beverage: Milk.

Where Spanish Moss hangs from Live Oaks, the liquor stores close at 7pm, people run red lights with abandon, and almost everyone (local) smiles and waves at everyone else.

We live in this adorable little town

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Which is about 15 miles from the Atlantic Ocean and the beaches.

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So what else is going on?

I went to Salt Lake City to grade the AP Exams, which was as fun and fabulous as ever.  Sure, I had to read thousands of high school essays, but I also got to see a great group of friends that I reconnect with every June. We also went up into the Wasatch Mountains, which is always beautiful. Unfortunately, the Mormon Museum was closed for renovations.  Next year, or the year after, I will definitely be visiting.

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With other history educators at Silver Lake, Utah

Mostly I’ve been settling into the new house and state.  My family came to visit and we spent a week or two touristing.  We visited Medieval Times (of course), Charleston, and so much more.  And of course, beach time.

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Touristing in Charleston, SC

My biggest news is this:  Starting on Monday, I will be teaching Public History and History to the students of Coastal Carolina University!  I’m so excited to be back in an academic atmosphere, and I’m honored to have this opportunity.  The campus is beautiful.

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And our mascot is Chauncey, a Chanticleer (information on how that came about here).

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For now, I’m getting back into the swing of syllabi and schedules, and enjoying every moment.  I can’t wait to have the opportunity to think and discuss Public History and current issues with students.  Look for more posts on that soon.

And as I’m constantly pining for Ireland, those updates will appear someday as well.

Transitions, Updates, and Moving Forward

Well folks, I come to you today bearing news, and lots of it!

3 years of Statehood Parties - First day at Blount Mansion in the bottom right, last day on the left

3 years of Statehood Parties – First day at Blount Mansion in the bottom right, last day on the left

Last Friday was my last official day as the Executive Director of the Blount Mansion in Knoxville, Tennessee.  After 2 years of slogging through the madness that is historic house administration, I am leaving my job, the city, the state, and even that particular field!  It would be a lie to say that I enjoyed every second of directing a historic house, but I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy most of it.  I will especially miss the people – several board members, the other directors and staff of houses and museums in the area, and especially my own staff members!!

11351258_10102637936556175_194239038432179703_nAs I said on my personal Facebook page, “Luckily, my assistant, the longsuffering Dāv, is taking my place as interim Executive Director. He has endured much under my tenure (“can you NOT eat in here please?”, hangriness, bringing me coffee, cutting apples for me, cleaning up human shit more than once, etc.) But I know that’s nothing compared to what he has coming up!! Thank you for always defending me to old white men (actually that’s Dr. Sunshine, PhD) and thanks for being the rockingest, and all the best luck and my best wishes in the future! You know I’m just a text away! And oh yes! Welcome to the fabulous Jessica, aka the new Dave wink emoticon you are gonna rock it, mini me soulmate!!!!”  I mean it!

So what does this mean?  What’s coming next?

Well, I have a chapter coming out in the upcoming edition of The Manual of Museum Learning,  edited by Barry Lord and Brad King.  So that’s exciting!  My chapter is about accessibility in museum learning, and I’m very proud of it.  I’m also pleased that the new edition is including accessibility as an important aspect of learning in museums.

Wild and Crazy AASLH Regional Reps at dinner

Wild and Crazy AASLH Regional Reps at dinner

I am also writing and article with Aja Bain for the AASLH History News magazine!  I was so happy to serve as the regional chair for the AASLH Awards Committee for the past two years – we had a blast at the selections meeting, and getting to write articles about our favorite winners is just another perk of the job!  I’m sure I will post more about that once the article is available.

SLC Punks

SLC Punks

Later this month I will travel once again to Utah to grade thousands (literally) of AP World History exams.  It may sound like torture, but we sure make it fun.  There is something incredible about being in a giant convention center with over 1,000 World Historians, piles of all the candy you could eat, and ice cream at every (free) meal.  I’ll take it.  Plus, we get to stay at a swanky hotel and go to the pool after our shift ends (even though the ice cream at every meal and piles of candy make it slightly difficult).

At the end of the month, my fiancé, the famous Charles, and I will be moving to South Carolina (15 minutes from the beach – poor us, I know).  He has accepted a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Art and Foundations Coordinator Position at a university.  I’m so proud of him, and I’m also excited to move to a new state for the first time in my life!  We look forward to starting our little life down there with our bebe Miss Frances.

Beach times!

Beach times!

As for my upcoming position… I will be sharing more about that in the coming months, and I should have plenty of fodder for the blog once I get going.

As the summer continues, and as I am (temporarily) jobless and in airplanes and airports a lot, I plan to do a lot of catch-up here.  I’m planning to write about my recent trips to Ireland and New York City and all the museums we visited along the way (Irish Whiskey Museum!  The National Archaeology Museum!  So much more!).  I’m also planning to finally get to the Mormon museums in SLC this year – last year I only made it to one small visitors center, which was amazing on its own. I also want to talk about the amazing experiences and sessions from NCPH 2015, and I have a bunch of drafts I’ve been sitting on here as the life of an executive director at a historic home took over.

Onward and upward!

Looking forward to the future!

Looking forward to the future!

Hurling: Done Poorly by Americans

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Soon I will be back with those promised Ireland reviews, as well as a lot of exciting news.  In the meantime, here is a teaser of our adventure in Ireland.

Hurling (Irish: Iománaíocht/Iomáint) is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic and Irish origin. The game has prehistoric origins, has been played for over 3,000 years, and is considered to be the world’s fastest field sport.

The GAA says on their website, “Hurling is believed to be the world’s oldest field game. When the Celts came to Ireland as the last ice age was receding, they brought with them a unique culture, their own language, music, script and unique pastimes. One of these pastimes was a game now called hurling. It features in Irish folklore to illustrate the deeds of heroic mystical figures and it is chronicled as a distinct Irish pastime for at least 2,000 years.  The stick, or “hurley” (called camán in Irish) is curved outwards at the end, to provide the striking surface. The ball or “sliotar” is similar in size to a hockey ball but has raised ridges.”

In 2015, Katie and Charles made their best efforts to “hurl.” Here lies evidence of their valiant efforts. Special thanks to the Extreme Ireland team for their fabulous Cliffs of Moher tour, our great Hurler and Tour guide Shane, Liz Hurley, and The Burren.

Ireland 2.0: More Travels to the Emerald Isle

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Ireland, December 2013

After last year’s travels to Ireland, Northern Ireland, and London, I’ve had an airport tracker on my email.  When a deal popped up last summer, I couldn’t pass it up, and we were off again!  We traveled again on St. Stephen’s Day, and spent New Years Eve in Dublin.  We stayed only within the Republic of Ireland this trip, so we got to see a lot more of the countryside, the West, and Dublin!

This year, I also had my FitBit, so I was able to track exactly how much we walked.  Last year I was obsessed with the maps of everywhere we went, and this time was no different.

Here’s the quick rundown of our trip:

Ireland, December 2014

Ireland, December 2014

December 27  – Arrival in Dublin

December 28 – Off to the West – Galway Bay, Quiet Man Bridge, Connemara, Killary Sheep Farm, Connemara National Park and Diamond Hill, Letterfrack, and Clifden

December 29 – Clifden Castle, Kylemore Abbey, Killary Sheep Farm (again!), Galway

December 30 – Dublin Museums – National Archaeology Museum, National Art Gallery, Irish Whiskey Museum

December 31 – Boyne River Valley, Hill of Tara, Bective Abbey, Trim Castle, Loughcrew Passage Tombs, Monasterboice, Drogheda, St. Oliver Plunkett’s Head in a Box, Dublin for New Yeas Eve Shenanigans

January 1 – A quiet day around Dublin and the shops and pubs

January 2 – Out west again to the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, The Burren for a bit of hurling, Corcomroe Abbey, and Kinvara

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Ireland, January 2015

January 3 – Another day in Dublin for shopping (Penneys!), an adaptive reuse church/pub, and more shopping

January 4 – Glendalough, Wicklow, Kilkenny, and the greatest cultural offering that Dublin has: Sunday night Bingo with Shirley Temple Bar at The George.

January 5 – Back home 😦

 

Stay tuned for the highlights!