In the Trump era, supporting our immigrant and international students is critical work

By Alison Clark Efford

We’re featuring a blog by Associate Professor Alison Clark Efford, who writes and teaches on immigration history and on the Gilded Age.  Alison wrote this blog for the website of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society, which she serves as editor of the society’s newsletter.  It’s a timely and interesting take on one of the most controversial issues facing the United States today.

You can read Alison’s blog at: https://iehs.org/supporting-our-immigrant-students-is-critical-work/.

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Center for Urban Research, Teaching, and Outreach: Year One

By Rob Smith, Director

Alumni mag photoAcademic years fly by. Nine months is indeed a long haul, yet it seems there is never enough time to complete all those well laid plans. Here are a few highlights from the inaugural year of the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach (CURTO), with some thoughts on what’s next for CURTO.

Key CURTO accomplishments during AY 2017-18?

Our most significant accomplishment has been securing the support, confidence and input of our campus and community stakeholders. CURTO did so through a series of meetings and visioning sessions that gave us insight into how our various stakeholders imagined CURTO’s success. Based on these insights, the following roles and objectives now guide CURTO’s emerging vision.

  • Supporting Faculty & Student Research
  • Serving as a Hub for Interdisciplinary Collaborations
  • Role Modeling Engaged Scholarship in our Research and Outreach Agendas
  • Fully Integrate Community Voices
  • Champion Engaged Scholarship in the Promotion/Tenure Process
  • Anchor a Physical Presence within Milwaukee Communities

 

Another key accomplishment is the cultivation of a robust partnership with Marquette’s Haggerty Art Museum. Because the issues our stakeholders tackle in their scholarship and grassroots activism are varied and complex, in some ways seemingly intractable, engaging the arts gives CURTO stakeholders an important pathway to creative inspiration steeped in mental and emotional wellness. James Baldwin’s comments on The Creative Processsays this with more intellectual force:

The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place.

CURTO’s outreach efforts and our partnership with Neighborhood News Service(NNS), an award-winning grassroots media outlet, made invaluable contributions to the community-wide celebration of the 50thAnniversary of the Open Housing Marches, named 200 Nights of Freedom. Most demonstrably, CURTO, NNS, along with the Office of Community Engagement(OCE) collaborated on the publication of The Long March to Freedom, a booklet and multimedia series chronicling the March on Milwaukee and its long-march-to-freedom-900x0legacies a half-century later (it’s available as an ebook here). CURTO also partnered with several organizations on the following programming inspired by the 50thAnniversary. Lessons from the Long Black Freedom Struggle, a half-day workshop on related histories on African American resistance movements. The Voice and Vision of James Baldwin, a public workshop on the famed author’s teachings and his role with the Long Black Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 8.17.21 AMFreedom Struggle. And,A Community Discussion: Civil Rights in Milwaukee Since the Time of Dr. King, featuring local leaders at the forefront of rights-based movements in the city. More broadly, CURTO’s outreach efforts include ongoing support to the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, and supporting interns who created the “Protests@MU: Dissent on the Marquette Campus” website and another team of interns developing pilot digital archives for community organizations as part of the Near West Side Archive Project.

CURTO is also excited to announce that the Future Milwaukee Community Leadership Program is now housed within the Center.  The connections between this 40-year program and CURTO are numerous – both working to enhance collaborative linkages within our broader community and to build the capacity of leaders to sustain those relationships.  Even before Future Milwaukee joined CURTO, Future Milwaukee participants this year were collaborating with MU, community leaders, and organizations on projects related to:

  • 50th Anniversary of the March on Milwaukee/200 Nights of Freedom (two projects)
  • James Cameron, the founder of America’s Black Holocaust Museum
  • Running Rebels youth-serving organization
  • Social Innovation and the 707 HUB
  • Sherman Park Asset Mapping

These project areas underscore the great synergy Future Milwaukee brings to CURTO – and the opportunity to broaden CURTO’s impact on developing leaders in our professional communities.

What’s next for CUTRO?

CURTO is noticeably lacking a digital presence. This was by design. CURTO will formally introduce itself to the Milwaukee community and the digital world early Fall 2018 once we have constructed a dynamic website and shaped the Center’s digital media strategy. CURTO is also shaping pilot research collaborations that will also be formally introduced Fall 2018. These research collaborations promote undergraduate and graduate student researchers and interns working in tandem with expert voices from campus and local communities.

Stay tuned…

Rob Smith is associate professor of History and John Professor of Urban Studies. After a number of years of teaching and serving in a number of academic positions related to community outreach and diversity issues at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukeee, he took over CURTO in fall 2017.  Rob teaches courses on African American and urban history and is the author of Race, Labor & Civil Rights: Griggs v. Duke Power and the Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity(Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008).

Historians Working: Awards Season

Late winter and spring are often called “award season” by show-business types: the Golden Globes and Oscars, the Grammys and Tonys—the list goes on and on.

Spring is also award season for academics, and MU Historians have had a very good year! Here’s a list of the grants and awards our friends and colleagues in the history department have earned this year.  Scroll down and you’ll see more detailed descriptions of their projects.

Tim McMahon: Way Klingler Humanities Fellowship

Jenn Finn: Way Klingler Young Scholar Award; Scott R. Jacobs Fund Fellowship for Studies on Alexander the Great

Bryan Rindfleisch: Way Klingler Young Scholar Award; Bright InstituteFellow,Knox College

Kristen Foster: Summer Faculty Fellowship

Chima Korieh: Regular Research Grant/Summer Faculty Fellowship

Cory Haala: Schmitt Fellowship, MU;Paul Simon Congressional Papers Travel Stipend; Dirksen Congressional Research Grant

Lisa Lamson: Center for Transnational Justice Graduate Student Research Grant; Lord Baltimore Research Fellowship, Maryland Historical Society; MU Graduate School Dean’s Research Enhancement Award

Luke Greenwalt: Center for Transnational Justice Graduate Student Research Grant

Sam Harshner: Colonial Dames Research Fellowship

Ben Nestor: Funded Attendee: Teaching Anti-Semitism in the Twenty-First Century, York University (Canada)

Maggie Nettesheim-Hoffman: Travel grant from the Economic History Society at the London School of Economics; Tilly Award from the Social Science History Association.

Laura Matthew: Mellon Grant—“Remembering Madre Rosa: Oral Histories of a Marquette Doctor in Highland Guatemala, 1962-1992.”

Alison Efford: Mellon Grant—“HIST 4120 Collaboration with St. Rafael School to Research the Latino History of Milwaukee,”

Lezlie Knox: Mentor of the Year, Arts and Sciences

Jolene Kreisler: Outstanding Staff Member of the Year, Arts and Sciences

Major faculty research awards: The University makes several research awards funded by the Way Klingler fund each; the awards are made at the Distinguished Scholars Reception every March.  This year three historians were recognized for the past accomplishments and for their ongoing research.

Tim McMahon became the first member of the department to receive a Way Klingler Humanities Fellowship—only one is awarded each year, and it provides $20,000 in research funding for three years. Tim’s book focuses on a pivotal moment in modern British and Irish history—that is, the establishment of two separate states on the island of Ireland in 1921-22.  He seeks to understand the emergence of two distinct national identities in Ireland between 1910 and 1930, building on sociologist Rogers Brubaker’s insight that group identities are not static but occur as events in time that are changeable and analyzable. What makes the presence of the Irish border so important to understanding identity formation in the 1920s is that neither Irish nationalists nor unionists had proposed dividing the island in any serious way prior to 1918. Once the Tim acceptsboundary was in place, however, conflicting forces associated with state-formation on the one hand and civil society on the other created a new dynamic, as island-wide institutions (such as churches) and trade networks adapted to link people in new ways. Indeed, until late in 1925, many thought that the border might cease to exist because Irish and British negotiators had agreed to create a boundary commission to assess exchanging territory according to “the will of the people.” That phrase and the mechanism of a commission to assess the popular “will” came almost directly from the treaties written at the Versailles Conference of 1919, and in fact, staff who served on the Irish Boundary Commission had experience serving on similar commissions in central Europe after Versailles. Placing the Irish case into this context is, thus, critical to understanding what the state actors believed they were doing. But it goes only a limited way toward helping historians assess how the people of Ireland—and especially the people along the new border—saw themselves before the boundary existed, while its existence remained in doubt, or after the British and Irish governments suppressed the Commission’s recommendations. (The border remains intact to this day.) Tracking opinions about border identities before and after partition will enable Tim to move beyond the rhetoric of those claiming to speak on behalf of “Irish” nationalists or “British” unionists to assess the wider population’s own self-conceptions, pace Brubaker. Given the ongoing importance of partition in Ireland and elsewhere in the former British Empire, as well as the implications of the Brexit referendum, a detailed study of identity formation on this frontier has both historical and contemporary resonance.

Bryan Rindfleisch and Jenn Finn became the third and fourth historians to receive Way Klingler Young Scholar Awards(their awards also mark the first time two members of a humanities department have earned the awards in the same year). The awards provide a semester sabbatical and $2000 of research funding.

Bryan acceptsBryan’s first book, George Galphin’s Intimate Empire: Intercultural Family, Trade, & Colonialism in Early America, will be published by the University of Alabama Press in 2019. His new project, for which he was named a Way Klingler Young Scholar, is tentatively called From Creek (Mvskoke) to Cherokee (Tsalagi):The Entangled Histories of Native America, 1600-1800. Bryan’s ambitious goalis to change the ways in which historians understand and articulate the history of Native America by demonstrating the complex and multi-dimensional inter-connections of Indigenous societies in Early America.  His topic will be the intertwined histories of the Creek and Cherokee tribes in the eighteenth century southeast, who through intermarriage and other connections came to share territory and to live in shaed communities.  This led a younger generation of Creeks and Cherokees assert their own political interests separate from that of the traditional structures of authority in their societies. “This,” as Bryan says, “only scratches the surface of many such intersections between Native groups in Early America.”

            Jenn published her first book,Much Ado about Marduk: Questioning Discourses of Royalty in First Millennium Mesopotamian Literature, a year ago. Her Way Klingler Young Scholar award will further her work on a second book, History Rewritten: Revisionism in/on the Age of Alexander the Great,will focus on specific—though not mutually exclusive—ways in which history was represented both during and after Alexander’s Jenn acceptsreign. She will accomplish this through a series of case studies that examine the ways in which Alexander himself—as well as those who recorded his history many centuries later—manipulated received narratives of Mediterranean history to create something entirely new in their own period. In addition to helping  us understanding the phenomenon of historical revisionism, a major goal of the book is to make ancient history accessible to a wider audience of scholars in the Humanities.

Bryan received another honor this spring: he is one of fourteen members of the first cohort of fourteen fellows in the newly established Bright Institute at Knox College, a program for professors who teach early American history at liberal arts colleges. They will attend a two-week, in-residence summer seminar for three years on the Knox campus. Each year’s seminar will be co-hosted by an eminent professor of American history before 1848 and a pedagogical consultant who will help participants turn their research into incisive classroom opportunities.

Read more about this exciting program at https://www.knox.edu/news/bright-institute-announces-first-cohort-of-scholars.

Jenn also received a $2500 research grant from the Scott R. Jacobs Fund Fellowship for Studies on Alexander the Great; it will help fund a research trip to Greece late in the summer.

The Committee on Research offers a number of Summer Faculty Fellowships (SFF) every year, along with Regular Research Grants (RRG). The former pays for two months of time to write or do research; the latter provides funding for travel to archives and other research costs.  This year, two history faculty received grants this year.

Kristin Foster also received an SFF for “Finding Cato Adams,” which is part of a larger book manuscript entitled Haiti’s Mirror: Reflections of Race, Revolution, and Equality in Early Americathat sets American ideas about equality in the context of the revolutionary Atlantic World. “Finding Cato Adams” seeks to recover the lives of free black citizens in Foster01the early Mid-Atlantic. To date, scholars have argued that the founding generation did not support racial equality in early America. This project questions and complicates this argument by asserting that the first generation of Americans shaped a republic of propertied citizens, only moving to a white man’s republic after the violence of the Haitian Revolution. While the voices of Cato Adams and hundreds of free black heads of households in the 1790 census have been hushed by time and distance, their lives are significant as testimonies of black citizenship in revolutionary-era America.

Chima Korieh received a Regular Research Grant and a Summer Faculty Fellowship for Chima-Korieha project tentatively called “The Genuine Farmer: Gender and the Dynamics of Agricultural Change in Colonial Southeastern Nigeria,” which will be a history of the gendered nature of colonial agricultural planning and their impact on agricultural transformation in southeastern Nigeria from 1900 to 1960. Chima will explore the specific circumstances under which rural farmers produced, how colonial planners ignored women, and their effects on rural life. He hopes to show that changing gender relations, local perspectives, ecological and demographic variables, and local responses, offer a better understanding of agricultural policies and agricultural transformation during this crucial period in Nigeria’s history.

 Graduate Student Awards and Fellowships:

Several graduate students also received research funding this spring.  Cory Haala s200_cory.haalareceived one of a handful of Schmitt Fellowships from MU’s graduate school. This provides a full year fellowship to complete research and begin writing his dissertation on “The Progressive Center: Midwestern Liberalism inn the Age of Reagan, 1978-1992.”

The MU Center for Transnational Justice awarded $2500 Graduate Student Research Grants to PhD candidate Lisa Lamson and MA student Luke Greenwalt.  Lisa’s grant will help fund research for her dissertation on “Black Girlhood and Education in Baltimore City, 1820-1890,” while Luke’s will help him complete research on “Patterns of Racism and Nationalism in post-WWII Germany.”

40030Lisa has also received a Lord Baltimore Research Fellowship from the Maryland Historical Society and a Graduate School Dean’s Research Enhancement Award. The former gives her expanded access to the Historical Society’s collection, give her the chance to present her research-in-progress in a brown-bag presentation, write a post for the library’s blog, and submit my finished work for possible publication for the Maryland Historical Magazine.  The latter provides a $5,000 stipend to allow her to prepare and write a major extramural research funding application.

HarshnerSam Harshner received a $4000 Colonial Dames Fellowship to help fund research on his dissertation, which is tentatively called “Pope’s Day and Masculinity: An Ideology of the American Revolution.”

Ben Nestor received full funding to attend a workshop on “Teaching Anti-Semitism in the Twenty-First Century,” at York University (Canada), which is Sponsored by the Israel and Golda Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto photo-ss-benjamin-nestorand the Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Antisemitism and Racism at Tel Aviv University. This intensive summer institute is for advanced graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and early career scholars.

Maggie Nettesheim-Hoffman’s travel grant from the Economic History Society partially funded her travel to the New Directions in American Philanthropy Conference in Sheffield, England, where she delivered the paper, Maggie-Nettesheim“A Menace to the National Welfare: The Final Report of the United States Commission on Industrial Relations & The Progressive Era Critique of American Philanthropic Foundations.”  The Tilly Award from the Social Science History Association recognizes an outstanding graduate student paper at the SSHA’s annual conference (this year in Montreal, Canada); Maggie’s award-winning paper was on“The Philanthropic Factory: Capitalism, Corporate Charity, and Forging New Socio-Economic Worker Identities in Milwaukee,”

Mellon Grants

The College of Arts and Science’s Mellon fund provides funding for projects that enhance undergraduate education. The department has received a number of these grants over the years, many of which have funded public history programming. This year,  Laura Matthew received $13,000 for “Remembering Madre Rosa: Oral Histories of a Marquette Matthew-KS2A8144Doctor in Highland Guatemala, 1962-1992.” She is leading an undergraduate student research team to investigate the history of dozens of Maryknoll Sisters who studied at Marquette in the mid-20th century, then ran a rural regional hospital in the middle of the Guatemalan civil war. The Mellon grant will pay for Laura and the students to travel to Guatemala in the summer of 2018. The  team visited the archives of the Maryknoll Sisters in Ossining, NY, over spring break, with support from the Office of International Education.

alisonAlison Efford received nearly $1000 of Mellon funding forHIST 4120 Collaboration with St. Rafael School to Research the Latino History of Milwaukee,” which enables students from St. Rafael School on Milwaukee’s South Side to travel to campus several times during the course of a semester to work on Milwaukee Latino history projects with students in her immigration history class.  William Denzer, a graduate assistant, blogged about this project last spring at Historians@Work (https://marquettehistorians.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/marquette-history-students-collaborate-with-middle-schoolers-to-research-the-latino-history-of-milwaukee/).

Annual Klingler College of Arts and Sciences Awards

            Finally, although not directly related to research, two members of the department received prestigious awards at the annual Klingler College of Arts and Sciences Awards.

Lezlie Knox was named Mentor of the Year.  Honored chiefly for her work as Director of Graduate Studies for half a decade, Lezlie was described by one student supporter in this way:Without her counsel, I may have passed up a number of significant opportunities that proved to be key components in my journey as a scholar. She has a way of listening to her students and understanding the variety of individual strengths we bring to our studies, and makes individual recommendations for success based upon our unique talents. I owe much of my success as a graduate student and as an academic to Dr. Knox. My successes, however, are only one example. She is an advocate for all of her students and has guided many of my colleagues on to similar achievements.  We are stronger students and professional academics, and better prepared for the world outside Marquette University because of Dr. Knox’s work on our behalf.”

IMG_3781Jolene Kreisler was named Outstanding Staff Member. Jolene’s nomination declared thather enthusiastic kindness towards students and her commitment to fulfilling her duties  . . . contributes to the academic mission of the University. Jolene has definitely taken ownership of her position at MU, and considers herself a representative of the university when dealing with students, parents, and other members of the MU community.  She is very, very good at her job, but her demeanor, kindness, professionalism, and good cheer truly separate her from many other administrative assistants on campus.

Practical Magic: Taking “Witches, Magic, and Demons” Seriously

By Steve Molvarec, SJ

Steve Molvarec reflects on teaching an undergraduate reading seminar on “Witches, Magic, and Demons” in Fall 2017. In the end of the year evaluation of the course, students called it “an amazing adventure,” “exactly what I expect from a capstone course in the history department,” and “enthralling and fascinating and eloquently presented.”

All last semester colleagues, other Jesuits, and even some students would ask me: “How’s that ‘Defense against the Dark Arts’ course going?”  One Jesuit I live with was “convinced” that I was beginning a coven.  Teaching a course on magic and witchcraft is sometimes hazardous—at least to one’s reputation.  I tried to prevent some of this: on the first day that “Witches, Magic, and Demons” (a history department seminar) met for class, I explained to my students: “This course is not a practicum in magic.  It is a consideration of neglected strands of the Western intellectual and religious tradition—things that have often been understudied or ignored by scholars.  The people we’ll be reading and reading about have different worldviews and sets of experiences than we do. We don’t have to believe what they did.  We don’t have to experience what they did.  We will, however, respect their worldviews and beliefs.”

This made for some interesting intellectual navigation throughout the course.  I had to find ways to encourage students to check their biases, to encounter the authors we were studying.  Historians always have to do this while teaching.  In this case, however, there were some challenges that stemmed largely from the scientific perspective inherent in our worldview, a post-Enlightenment emptying of the spiritual and supernatural from our cosmos.  Students would sometimes ask during class if some experience that they were reading about (for instance, ceremonies that are said to allow conversation with one’s guardian angel) was “real.”  And while I assured them that our authors believed so, I would dodge questions as to the reality of magical or supernatural phenomenon.  Still, I would often edit the texts I gave them, especially ones that had practical aspects.  This was to make them unusable.  Students would tease me and say: “Why are there these red bars across parts of this diagram or magic circle?”

And people at Marquette not in the course would write me or find me to ask questions about demons, exorcism, magic, spirits, occultism, etc.  All of this was actually fascinating—to observe the ways that this interested people.  It was also interesting to put what my students expected they would be learning about next to what they were actually learning about. I was very interested in the experiences our authors were having, students were having, and various inquirers were having.  I even told my students that some of the texts we were reading together were designed to alter consciousness and so they shouldn’t be surprised if they began having dreams or nightmares.  And sometimes they did.

In an attempt to understand the experience of practicing ritual magicians while I was preparing the course during the summer, I began visiting some private libraries, archives, and repositories.  I was especially interested in the various 19th century magical and occult brotherhoods and societies.  From my perspective, these were a kind of culmination: they borrowed, stole, found, invented, and misunderstood all kinds of occult and esoteric texts from Antiquity and the Middle Ages.  And when these groups imploded in the early twentieth century, their materials became the seeds for the New Age, modern Satanism, various occult movements—all aspects of our own age that often receive only peripheral attention.  All of this borrowing, inventing, “finding,” creating, imploding, and transmitting were the dynamics that would be featured in my course. Students were often surprised and fascinated by the persons who were involved in such things:  W.B. Yeats, Florence Farr, Alan Moore, Jimmy Page, Grant Morrison, Prince Charles.

So I began tracking down artifacts from some of these groups.  I found the expected manuscripts with diagrams and accounts of ceremonies.  I found manuscripts and documents discussing theories of magic.  And I began finding objects that practitioners had made for various purposes: wands, swords, medallions, disks, chalices, models of ritual chambers.  These were fascinating:  texts are important, but holding objects that some of the authors my students would be reading had made and used was something else.  This was, well, cool.  Or hype. Or whatever people say these days.  I was sometimes allowed to photograph them for use in my course.  I wanted to bring as much of the experience of our authors as I could into the course.  A few of my students ended up working with some of these, especially an unpublished manuscript of a play from the late 19th century by a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn.

As I worked in such libraries, my attention was constantly called to how much was still hidden, how much was secret, what people had not written down, how many artifacts and documents had been lost or destroyed.  The history of magic is truly a history of silence and secrecy, a history of hiding.  Sometimes this was because of persecution (the practice of some forms of magic, after all, has been illegal in various times and places) or fear of what one’s neighbors might think. Sometimes there was secrecy because, as I concluded, being in the know can be a sort of drug for some people.  Occult groups flourished in the 19th century perhaps because of this.

13599_atlantis1Secrecy and hiding, however, make it difficult to look at the experience of groups of people.  I found that each time I was looking at documents or artifacts, a librarian or a curator would say to me: “Have you been to X library?” Or “Do you know Ms. Y?” Eventually, I found myself at Atlantis Books in London. Atlantis is a quiet, unassuming bookshop a few blocks from the British Museum. Despite its unassuming appearance (I had difficulty finding it the first time), it is perhaps one of the most important occult sites in London.  The bookshop has been on that site and in business since the early twentieth century and visitors to it read like a “Who’s Who” of twentieth century occultism.  I walked in out of curiosity.  And discovered that there was IMG_3006a collection of magical wands, swords, paintings, etc. on the back wall created by people I had been reading about.  So I asked the proprietor whether I could photograph them.  She said I could.  And I then struck up a conversation with Geraldine and explained why I had dropped in.  And we chatted for a few hours on a couple of occasions about all kinds of things.  It turned out that her family had been involved in various groups in the city of London and that her father had known Gerald Gardner, the father of modern IMG_6298 2Wicca.  She herself was active in such circles.  I asked if she would consider skyping into one of my class meetings when my students were reading about Wicca.  She agreed.

My students had been reading portions of Gardner’s High Magic’s Aid (1949).  And some scholarly articles on modern Wicca and its practices.  Sometimes they thought the texts were dull, but they came to class excited the day that Geraldine was skyping in.  In so many ways, often the course was not what they expected and that class session was no exception.  Geraldine is a woman in her 50s with purple hair.  She’s grandmotherly and English with a witty sense of humor.  Direct and open.  She was not at all what my students expected of a woman involved with Wicca and the esoteric.  And some of what they learned from her—about her experience as a practitioner and the historic figures that she and her father had known—was unexpected, too.  One student asked her about her first experiences of magic.  She replied, “My first experiences of magic were going to the movies as a child. I found that I was transported to another world.  Or taking penicillin to get well from an infection.”  As you might imagine, this was entirely unexpected–even by me, despite my various conversations with Geraldine and our correspondence.  Students were fascinated too by her matter-of-factness and the way that she considered her practices to be simply part of the fabric of her life, a “lifestyle” she said.  They asked her for an example. “I have rice every Monday,” she said, “because it’s white and Monday is the day of the moon.”  They asked her about various occult figures who had been in her shop or who figured prominently in certain groups and oral traditions.  She told them what she thought of Aleister Crowley—a prominent dark magician in the first half of the twentieth century, whose influence is still found in bands like Tool and the Beatles, groups like Scientology, and various artists and intellectuals, like Timothy Leary.

IMG_4396I had my students write briefly what they had learned after our chat with Geraldine, how it helped them understand the themes of the course and our discussions.  Here’s what one of them wrote: “… One being her opinion on secrecy, which I found to be very interesting. Many of our questions and struggles in class revolve around the fact that we do not know everything about these orders. Or about their practices and most importantly their experiences they often do not even write down. Instead of secrecy, Geraldine said discrete rather than secretive, which has a completely different meaning. One is much humbler less elitist in nature, where they don’t push people away or seek to be left alone but rather simply don’t want to push their thoughts on others or disturb people.”  In many ways, learning about Geraldine’s family history, as well as her own, helped my students to look more deeply at the experience of work with magic and secret orders.  The stories she told them are ones that give voice to lived experiences, ones like those of the dead authors they had been reading all semester.

Dr. Steve Molvarec, SJ, received his PhD in medieval history from the University of Notre Dame.  He is completing the second of a three-year Regency at Marquette, which is part of his training in the Society of Jesus.

Frederick Douglass Day: Transcribing History

By Lisa Lamson

After an hour of transcribing for the “Frederick Douglass Day: Transcribe-a-thon,” a student approached me and said that, although she had completed her mandatory Screenshot_20180213-223738hour of transcription, she wanted to continue working on a series of letters written by and about a single family; she wanted to know how their story ended. My warning that “you might not find the ending you want,” fell on deaf ears – she had begun to transcribe documents and she was going to continue until she was satisfied.

This student’s excitement regarding the act of transcribing was one of many responses I received during Marquette’s “Frederick Douglass Day: Transcribe-a-thon.” She was there because Dr. Rob Smith’s African American History class had been assigned to do an hour of transcription, but the mandatory assignment had also parked her curiosity. I coordinated Marquette’s “Frederick Douglass Day: Transcribe-a-thon” through the Ott Memorial Writing Center on Wednesday, February 14th. This was part of a national event celebrating the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass, one of the most well-known anti-slavery and black equality advocates in the nineteenth century. The Transcribe-a-thon was nationally sponsored by the University of Delaware’s Colored Conventions Project, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Smithsonian Transcription Center, to celebrate Douglass’s 200th birthday. I was tapped for this event for many reasons – I am a40030 nineteenth century historian whose work focuses on girls of color in Maryland (where Frederick Douglass was born) and I am a graduate writing tutor at the Writing Center. I also passionately believe in making history and the work historians do accessible to everyone, inside and outside of the academy. The Transcribe-a-thon allowed me to combine these elements of my work at Marquette and, in the Jesuit tradition, service the greater community. On the heels of Service Week and in the middle of Black History Month, I could not pass on this great opportunity to show value in the work that historians do and transcribe documents that share the rich histories found in the papers of the Freedmen’s Bureau.

After Douglass’s death in 1895, black communities established Douglass Day to celebrate his life. Douglass Day was one of the inspirations for Black History Month. Last year, in 2017, archivists at the University of Delaware revived Douglass Day as an occasion to encourage the transcription of the approximately two million image files of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedmen’s Bureau.

For several years after the Civil War, the Bureau aided formerly enslaved individuals during their transition to freedom and eventual citizenship. The Freedmen’s Bureau officers created one of the richest documentary records of African American individuals living in the fifteen Southern and border states and in Washington D.C. The records include letters, labor contracts, lists of food rations, indentureship and apprenticeship contracts, and marriage and hospital registers from throughout the South.

Among the many services the Bureau provided for the newly freed enslaved people and African Americans included securing food, clothing, legal representation, education, helped legalize formally enslaved individual’s marriages, and assisted 40011African American soldiers and sailors in securing back pay, bounties, and pensions. One of the goals of the Freedman’s bureau was to assist many of the newly freed peoples who wanted to find their families that had been separated through enslavement. The documents transcribed during the Transcript-a-thon provided a window into many different stories and narratives. To celebrate Black History Month and the spirit of Frederick Douglass, the Colored Conventions Project decided to honor the efforts of the Freedman’s Bureau in assisting African Americans and formerly enslaved people’s efforts to find their families.

The “Transcript-a-thon” was also intended to “help African Americans discover their ancestors and help historians better understand the impact of freedom and unfreedom in the years following the Civil War” by allowing anyone with an internet connection access to these documents. Digitizing continues the efforts of the ancestors of these newly freed people to find their families.

At Marquette, students– both undergraduate and graduate – and Writing Center and library staff gathered in Raynor Library 227 for four hours (though many students wandered in and out as class schedules permitted) to do some of the practical work of being a historian. They scrolled through images of documents and typed what they read (their transcriptions will later be reviewed by members of the Smithsonian transcription team). My job was to help students work through the lack of standardized spelling and punctuation, to provide a second opinion on words that they were unsure about, and generally celebrate their successes as individuals worked through a phrase, a sentence, and a document.

Through the sponsorship of the Ott Memorial Writing Center, the Center for the Advancement of the Humanities, the History Department, Dr. Rob Smith’s African American History class, and many other campus organizations we were able to celebrate with cake, cupcakes, and other assorted snacks. In fact, the cake was one of the things I insisted upon as Dr. Rebecca Nowacek, the director of the Ott Writing 40006Center, and I planned the event. It wouldn’t be a birthday party without birthday cake. As people transcribed, we listened to a special Frederick Douglass-inspired Spotify list that spanned the decades and included songs like “Free” by Deniece Williams, “Living for the City,” by Stevie Wonder, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron, “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar, “Possibility (2nd Movement)” by the Roots, and “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown.

Often, a discussion emerged about what people were finding in their documents, as people shared their struggles and their triumphs as they worked through their transcriptions. One student found a mistake in several of the documents she transcribed, where “Surg” was often transcribed as “Furg, Ferg, or Farg,” and many notes suggested that the previous transcribers were not sure what the official title of the letter writer was. Paging through the image files, she found a typed version of one of the previous letters that contained the individual’s name and title in question, and, after discussion with other transcribers to ensure she was correct, went back through the previous transcriptions and corrected some of them. During her conversations with other students, several noted similar language or abbreviations in their own document, and this prompted several of them to look up guides into nineteenth-century abbreviations to help with their understanding of the documents. The collaboration enriched the experience. As these stories show, the study of history is much more dynamic and alive than books would suggest.

This event and project is not just limited to one day throughout the year. The Freedmen’s Bureau Transcription Project is one of the largest crowdsourcing initiatives ever sponsored by the Smithsonian and is ongoing. The website—https://transcription.si.edu/–contains all of the information you need to begin your own transcription and to be captivated by the stories these documents hold. Though Douglass Day is over, the transcription goes on.

Lisa Lamson is a PhD candidate in history at Marquette University.

Interning at the Milwaukee Public Museum

By Cara Caputo

Our latest blog post is by history major (and student employee extraordinaire!) Cara Caputo.

MPMThis past semester, I worked as an intern for the Milwaukee Public Museum’s Anthropology Department. With my majors of History and Anthropology, my minor in Public History, and my career goals of working in the museum field, this internship was an unparalleled experience that allowed me to expand my knowledge of museum studies. Along with the opportunity to work closely with the curator of the museum’s Anthropology Collections, Dawn Scher Thomae, this internship exposed me to the day-to-day operations of a large natural history museum through the variety of tasks I performed during the semester.

My internship coincided with the opening of MPM’s latest temporary exhibition, Weapons: Beyond the Blade. This exhibit, which ran from October 2017-January 2018, featured over 180 weapons from various cultures and time periods, including a sword made from crocodile skin and a full suit of armor. Many interns from Marquette contributed to the development of this exhibit by conducting research on the provenance and historical context of the museum’s vast collection of weapons and assisting Dawn in the process of determining which objects made it into the exhibit.

My primary responsibility during my internship was selecting ten objects from MPM’s collections that were not chosen to be displayed in the Weapons exhibit and researching these objects in order to present them to visitors. Following the opening of the exhibit in October, I presented my objects in the exhibit space every Monday morning to provide visitors with a closer look at various weapons in MPM’s collections, including armored socks worn by samurai and a sword used during the Napoleonic Wars. Many visitors are appreciative of interns’ enthusiasm to share information with them and it is always rewarding to see visitors enjoying their experience in the exhibit.

I was also tasked with developing programs that I would present during two of the museum’s largest events, Halloween Hauntings and Archeology Day. For Halloween Hauntings, my colleague and I developed a program on Egyptian Mummification and examined various objects in storage to determine which artifacts we wished to research Cara 2and interpret. After researching the provenance and history of our chosen objects, we presented our objects, which included an authentic mummified head, to visitors of all ages at the event. Our presentation also featured an interactive aspect, as visitors were able to smell various oils and incense utilized during the mummification process. For Archeology Day, I helped developed a presentation on weapons utilized by warriors from various cultures, including a shark-tooth club from the Gilbert Islands. Developing these collections-based programs and participating in two of the museum’s special events led me to discover how much I enjoy interacting and engaging with museum visitors. It was also gratifying to witness museum visitors’ curiosity and eagerness to learn about the history behind various artifacts within MPM’s collections.

My final project of the semester was performing a summative evaluation of the Weapons: Beyond the Blade exhibit. This project consisted of two main components: unobtrusive visitor observations and exit interviews. For the observations, I recorded the ways that visitors utilized the exhibit space, including whether or not they read the labels and the amount of time they spent in the exhibit. In addition, I conducted exit interviews as visitors left the exhibit, which consisted of asking them a few questions about their opinions of and experience in the exhibit. I was interested in learning more about how museum professionals measure the effectiveness of exhibitions based on the public’s reactions and opinions, and this project effectively provided me with insight into this process and essential aspect of museum studies.

In addition to these larger projects, I also performed various tasks to assist the department, such as moving objects to and from storage and aiding researchers. For instance, a Ph.D. candidate came to the museum to conduct research on the museum’s collection of Phoenician and Punic ceramics from Malta, and I helped him streamline the process of taking 3D digital scans of the objects. I was even able to utilize this technology to scan a few objects, and I really enjoyed learning more about the development of 3D scanning in the fields of archeology and collections research.

Ultimately, this internship was a fulfilling experience that exposed me to various aspects of the public history field and reinforced my career aspirations of working in a museum. Make sure to visit the Milwaukee Public Museum and check out the upcoming special exhibition, Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed, which opens on February 10!

Scroll down to view gallery of photos from the weapons exhibit.

Cara Caputo is a history major who has studied abroad in London and participated in a number of public and digital history projects. Last fall she was part of the public history class that created an exhibit for the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear (see more at https://medium.com/@MUArtsSciences/class-at-the-museum-25267710f5b). 

History in the Seams

By Emily Dattilo

Working in a museum is full of surprises. Most days as a museum intern, and now as a Collections Assistant at the McHenry County Historical Society, I encounter objects that leave me with more questions than when I began the day. Some questions are eventually answered with research, many are left unanswered, and several questions make me wish that I hadn’t found an answer to them. For instance, in the few months since I began working in the McHenry County Historical Society clothing and textile collection I’ve been learning how to distinguish between different types of animal fur used on nineteenth and twentieth century coats and capes. In the case of identifying monkey and wolf (or possibly dog) fur, I almost wish I had remained clueless. But among the many questions in my work, it’s easy to wonder where my academic history training fits in with my newly acquired fabric and fur identification skills. I’ve realized time and again that my Master’s degree in United States History from Marquette gave me the knowledge base to provide historical context for all of the artifacts I handle on a daily basis.

One day while working on a dress from the 1930s my academic training proved to be especially helpful. I noticed an unusual tag sewn into the side seam of a green dress. (See NRA tag dress-MCHSphotos.) The letters “NRA” were printed in blue underneath a blue eagle clutching something in each talon. Below that the tag read “Made Under DRESS CODE AUTHORITY,” followed by some identification letters and numbers. Thanks to Fr. Avella’s class on Modern U.S. History, I knew that NRA stood for the National Recovery Administration and the blue eagle, clutching a gear and lightning bolts, was their symbol. President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed the National Recovery Act, which formed the National Recovery Administration, in 1933 as part of his New Deal plan to lift the American economy out of the Great Depression. This act in particular established regulations for manufacturers and workers, and after a littNRA tag-MCHSle more research I discovered that clothing manufacturers following NRA guidelines sewed this tag into garments to show consumers that they were following these new policies. The NRA only lasted for a few years (1933-1935) because the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. Although FDR was unhappy about this ruling, it’s an uncommon blessing to museum professionals like myself because it allows the clothes with this tag to be dated to those specific three years instead of to an entire decade.

I’ve also unexpectedly encountered some historic clothes relevant to my own previous research. On one occasion I found a long velvet robe with a satin lining printed with paper lanterns, probably Japanese, and cherry blossoms from the 1910s. Another Chinese house coat-MCHSartifact, a house coat from the 1920s,resembles traditional Chinese jackets and features an embroidered and painted pagoda and garden design on the front.  I could have easily incorporated both of these items into my research for Dr. Donoghue’s seminar on Race and Gender in International Relations. For that paper I analyzed the relationship between late nineteenth and early twentieth

century American immigration policies and Orientalism in Western fashion during the same time period. As pieces of loungewear, both the robe and the house coat illustrate my point that popular

Lantern robe interior-MCHS

Western fashions relegated many elements of East Asian traditional clothing and design to garments worn in private spaces, instead of the public spaces where the traditional clothing would have been worn.

Even though I graduated from Marquette less than a year ago, it has been gratifying to see the ways in which I’ve already continued to learn about history outside of the classroom and to share my knowledge with others. One would hope I’d be doing that as a museum professional with degrees in history, but it’s not difficult to get wrapped up in the aspects of my work more fixed in the present moment, such as photographing the garments. When I handle historic clothing like the dress with the NRA tag or encounter a robe similar to ones that I studied, I can’t help but be reminded that the historical context is still very much present. Sometimes I just have to look again at the details or in the seams.

Emily Dattilo received her MA in history from MU in 2017. While here, she worked on digital projects for Milwaukee County Historical Society’s exhibits on brewing and on music. She was also an intern at the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear in summer 2017.


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