Posts Tagged 'Marquette University history department'

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).


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.

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 

Some Guys Get Lucky: Honoring Fr. John Patrick Donnelly

Late in October the History Department hosted a reception in honor of Fr. John Donnelly, S.J., that featured the public launch of the book From Rome to Zurich, between Ignatius and Vermigli, Essays in Honor of John Patrick Donnelly, Kathleen M. Comerford, Gary W. Jenkins, and W. J. Torrance Kirby, eds. (Brill, 2017).  The several dozen attendees included former and current MU history faculty, a number of Pat’s Jesuit brothers, editors and contributors of the book (in town for the Sixteenth Century Society conference), a few former students, and Pat’s beloved nephew and his wife. The book grew out of panels organized and presented in Fr. Donnelly’s at the Sixteenth Century Society’s conference in Vancouver a few years ago (when, through the efforts of his Rector at San Camillus Retirement Community, Pat had Skyped in to one of the sessions!). 

Kathleen Comerford, one of the editors of the book, offered a warm toast to Father Donnelly.  She and Pat shared a dissertation director at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Robert Kingdon (although they received their PhD’s more than twenty years apart).  An excerpt from her remarks, which refer to stories told by and about Pat in their circle of friends and scholaDonnellyrs, follows:

“I’m sure that we all have dissertation-related stories about money, living quarters, drinking, and struggling with languages, but I’ve never heard anyone else having to deal with the kind of crisis which would lead someone to decide to be a missionary in Tanzania rather than take prelims, or spending a few hours in Sicily looking in vain for a church in which to say Mass. That collar tends to invite more confidences, and more responsibilities, than the average student experiences. The events of 1968, recounted as they concerned Madison and Florence, provide a fascinating background for Pat’s interest in the mavericks Ignatius Loyola (who, to my knowledge, did not have to bribe himself to learn a language) and Peter Martyr Vermigli (whose experience with rioting students appears to have been rather more serious than Pat’s).

When I met Pat, about 25 years after the events Lynn recounted, and about 25 years ago, he was an established scholar, and like many graduate students, I was anxious about approaching him. Our mutual mentor, Robert Kingdon, worried little about the niceties of academic distinctions, and eagerly put current students in contact with former ones. He also obviously taught his students to feel the same way about treating junior scholars with genuine interest and respect, and I was fortunate that early in my career I met Pat, who read some of my work as a reviewer for Catholic University Press (it was later published elsewhere) and corresponded with me for a while as I hopped from job to job. It is thus a great privilege for me to be involved in this project.” Kathleen also introduced the several contributors in attendance and thanked other scholars involved with the project.

The highlight of the event was Pat’s short speech; a slightly edited version follows:

“I am very grateful for this award in my honor. . . . This [honor comes] to a scholar for a lifetime or long years of achievement as a scholar. For scientists it usually depends on many good research grants, for scholars in the humanities it means abundant scholarly publications. Winners usually have put in many years of hard work.

But intelligence and scholarship are necessary.

One does not get intelligence on his or her own.

Our raw intelligence largely comes through our genes. Here I owe a big debt to my father and mother. Both were Marquette graduates, my father was a [graduate of Marquette University High School, and Marquette University’s college of Arts and Sciences] and Law School. My mother was a graduate of the MU nursing school. Both were bright and well trained.

I was not a good student in grade school.  My parents sent me to Campion. We had to take an exam right at the start: we were then sent to class A, B, C, D, E, or F. I stated in the E class. After the first quarter I bounced up to C and later to B. At the end of my second year my grades were good enough for A class, but my worst grades were in Latin and I did not want to take Greek, so I stayed in B class. Toward the end of my senior years I took an exam in Chicago in which the best Campion student got a 4-year full scholarship to Loyola University. I beat out the valedictorian. He ended his career as head of the NY Federal Reserve bank. I entered the Jesuits.

I decided as a Jesuit, I had to master Latin, my one bad high school subject. I did, but I was never any good at Greek. That turned out to be very important. Latin was big for our courses in philosophy and theology, the heart of Jesuit training. I loved history. I wanted to work on European history from the Roman days to 1600. I could use Latin for that—most of the scholarly books written then were in Latin. I decided Renaissance/Reformation was the period for me. . . .

At Campion High School: I was best in Physics and Chemistry and before becoming a Jesuit I leaned toward a major in chemistry. . . . Some of my professors urged me to go on for a Ph.D. in Theology. But I wanted to be a historian. I applied to doctoral programs at University of Chicago and the three top history programs in the Big Ten. I was accepted in all four. I went to UW, to be close to home.

Also, I had heard that Robert Kingdon at Madison was a good expert in the Reformation and a good man to work with. This was one of the best choices I ever made.

Kingdon was a fine teacher and had a reputation of getting his Ph.D. students out in good time. I made the best choice. I could also take a bus from Madison to Milwaukee and spend weekends with my mother.

I was lucky—Kingdon’s seminar, which we had to take every semester, had several excellent members; Lynn Martin, Bob Kolb, Jerry Friedman, Ray Mentzer, Fred Baumgartner, Hans Gustafson, Maryanne Cline Horowitz, Luther Peterson and Bob Richgels. Kingdon’s best doctoral student came some years later. She is being honored [this week at the Sixteenth Century Society meeting]:  Merry Wiesner-Hanks, [of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee].

In my first week at Madison, Kingdon asked what I might want to do for a dissertation. I said I had a good background in Catholic theology, maybe I should do a dissertation on a Protestant theologian who was writing in Latin and was understudied. He suggested I consider Peter Martyr Vermigli. For better or worse I have been with Vermigli ever since. Right now I have a 1000-page manuscript in press on his Genesis commentary, and I am working on his commentary on 1 Corinthians. But my last three books have been about the Jesuits, mainly St. Ignatius.

Some guys get lucky. I am one of them.”

Fr. John Patrick Donnelly, SJ, retired in 2011 after nearly forty years of service to Marquette. He has written, edited, or translated nearly twenty books; served on virtually every committee at the university (including many years on the University Promotion and Tenure Committee); and taught the large sections of western civilization in the Varsity Theater for many years (which earned him the Lawrence G. Haggerty Award for Teaching Excellence in 1988). You can find out more about From Rome to Zurich at Brill’s website:

A Medievalist in the Italian Archives

By Lezlie Knox

For the past three years I have been hunting for a manuscript. “Giaccherino, Codice GH” is one of three copies of the so-called Vite dei Santi Frati Minori, a collection of biographies of pious Franciscan friars compiled by Fra Mariano of Florence during the first quarter of the sixteenth century.  The reasons I needed to see this particular manuscript and the ways I tracked it down reflect some of the differences in how historians work.  Last July, this blog shared Cory Haala’s reflections on what he means when he says “he is going to the archives” to conduct his research on recent Midwestern politics.  I want to follow up on his remarks to discuss how a medievalist proceeds.  Following his example, I will start with access and then address my own research and search for Codice GH.


In planning a trip to a public or private archive, you are expected to contact them in advance to seek access and present your specific research project (although confirmations are infrequent). You also need proof of your credentials to gain access once you are there in order to secure a reader’s card.  At this stage of my career, I bring a letter of introduction from our college’s dean.  When I first started working in Italy, though, I also had a letter from my dissertation adviser that went into more details about my specific training as a medievalist, as well as a document confirming my status as a Fulbright scholar, i.e. the holder of a prestigious research grant that allowed me to spend a year in Italy researching my project.  One of the things that has changed over the years I have worked in Italy is that I am treated with more respect when I come to the archives—it is partly due to experience, but it is also a product of time and, frankly, age.  As one friend has commented, it is easier to do research in Italy when you transition from being a dottoressa (a younger woman with a university degree) to being a signora (a mature woman).

You earn respect, of course, by demonstrating your skills. For medievalists, a fundamental task is learning how to evaluate manuscripts—both how to read these hands, as well as to assess the physical status of the material on which they were written. Medievalists refer to these skills broadly under the heading of paleography.  This term literally means old handwriting.  It thus refers to our training in how to identify and read different scripts, skills which can help us date and locate a manuscript, as well as assess who wrote it.  But when I first call out a manuscript (more on how I do that in a moment), I begin with a physical assessment of the entire volume.  I will examine the binding (contemporary or a modern), its physical material (vellum or paper), quiring (how the manuscript is physically collated or put together), indications of previous ownership, the state of preservation, assess its various hands, look at its abbreviations, review its decoration, and look for marginalia.  I also survey the contents before I start reading it.  I do this even if the manuscript has been catalogued, both because I may be interested in other details and since it helps orient me to the volume.

Knox 1#1For example, I called out this manuscript both because it had a text in which I was interested (Giaccherino’s constitutions) as well as a marginal note indicating that it was once owned by the friary at Monte Alverno, which Mariano of Florence had visited (noted in the hand on the bottom right). When I opened it, though, I was delighted to discover both the pastedown (a fifteenth or sixteenth century liturgical book that was cut up to help strengthen the binding) as well as this beautifully decorated vernacular translation of Gregory the Great’s Dialogues (BNCF ms Palatino 45).  Other texts included other Franciscan rules, an interesting combination.

My basic archival tools are a laptop, pencils, and some note taking materials, usually the only items you can bring into the manuscript room. A new law (August 2017) now also allows you to use a cell phone or camera to take photographs of most materials for personal study in public archives (as this notice from the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence—BNCF—describes).  This policy is a major game changer!  Previously, I had to order microfilm or more recently a digital copy, but both were prohibitively expensive (about $2/page for the latter).  Private archives will have different rules about access.  Generally, I have found them more willing to allow personal photographs but with more limited hours.  Part of planning a trip to Italian archives always requires plotting out the days and hours different collections are open, as well as the hours when you can request materials.

To request manuscripts or other documents, you will need a “call number,” generally referred to as a shelf mark. To some extent, medievalists still reply on published finding lists or catalogues of the archives, although recent digital projects have made the process of identifying manuscripts and their shelf marks much easier (see for example MANUS which focuses on digitalized manuscripts, CASVI for vernacular codices, and CODEX for Tuscan manuscripts, as well as Mirabile, which catalogues digital projects focused on medieval culture more broadly).  These databases can make searching for other characteristics easier, too—for example, CODEX helped me identify a manuscript that was once owned by Mariano of FlorencKnox 3ae and its helping me identity books that were in the communities where he lived.  But you should not think of this as a catalogue on par with a university one like Marqcat or that of the Library of Congress.  Like other European institutions that have grown over the centuries, Italian collections can be quirky and the cataloguing reflects that.  For example, shelf numbers may indicate previous ownership or where it was created.  I once called out a folio of charters and other economic records from the convent of Corpus Domini in the Archivio di Stato in Bologna.  I received a stack of records roughly organized by date—but the range was from the late fourteenth century to 1798.  While I might have thought this was the entirety of the archive’s holdings related to this community, an exhibit on notarial hands in the townhall showed me such an assumption would be incorrect.  Other Corpus Domini documents came to the archive through the notary who created them and were kept together with his other records.  Finally, while some manuscripts in a collection might be appear in these databases, others will not.  And that is the situation I was facing with Codice GH.

My recent research trips to Italy have focused on the manuscripts connected with Mariano of Florence (d. 1523), who is the subject of my current book project. He was a prolific author, leaving us with fifteen treatises in both Latin and Italian.  These range from a short devotional prayer (2 folios, or 4 manuscript pages) to lengthy accounts of his religious order (300+ folios).  One of the things I find so striking about Mariano is that despite his prolixity (because of?), he was relatively unread by his contemporaries.  Several of his works exist in only one copy and another friar who consulted Mariano’s chronicles in the 1580s lamented that many of his works were already lost.  None of his writings were printed during his lifetime (although some passages were taken by later authors and incorporated into their works).  Some of his texts subsequently have been edited by modern scholars, although four treatises remain only in manuscript. This list includes the Vite dei Santi Frati Minori, which preserves stories about contemporary communities and brothers, many of whom otherwise would be forgotten.  I am arguing that we should pay more attention to his historical writings as they offer an important insight into the most successful religious movement in medieval Europe on the threshold of the Reformation.

Mariano’s Vite survives in t2 knoxhree copies.  Florence, BNC, ms. Landau Finaly 243 is the oldest copy and includes some sections in Mariano’s own hand (its shelf mark indicates that it came into the library through the collection of Baron Horace Landau, a wealthy nineteenth-century bibliophile).  Due to its date, multiple vitae, and Mariano’s own notations, it is the most interesting of the three to me.  My own favorite page includes this marginal note that tells us he was still working on the text. Questa legenda non est bene ordinata et pertanto non sia lecta in publico: this life is not well organized and therefore should not be read in public!   (NB—to respect copyright on these manuscripts and their reproduction, I have cropped all pages and left them in lower resolutions.)

Rome, BNC ms. Sessoriano 412 dates from 1541 and was copied by sisters at Sant’Orsola in Florence at the direction of Fra Dionisio Pulinari who drew on many of Mariano’s biographies for his own chronicle of the Franciscan Order in Tuscany.  The order of the lives differs from the BNCF text.  It does have a table of contents, which tells us that some biographies are missing.  These are the biographies of Pier Pettinaio, a fourteenth-century lay Franciscan, and John of Capistrano, the fifteenth-century leader of the Franciscan Observance, as well as (in)famous inquisitor and leader of a crusade against the Ottoman Turks in Belgrade.  Pulinari was also probably responsible for Codice GH, which also dates from the mid-sixteenth century.  This copy contained the only surviving copies of these two vitae missing in the Florence and Rome libraries.  Reading them is an obvious reason for wanting to see it, but I also hoped I could photograph it in its entirety since the mid-sixteenth-century hands tend to be more legible, especially when the copyists were nuns.  Compare below Mariano’s autograph with the opening of his Life of Saint Francis prepared by a nuns at the convent of San Lino in Volterra.  Mariano’s hand is described as a bastarda, that is a combination of a Gothic textura (book hand) with cursive writing.  The image on the left (Tractatus de origine, nobilitate, et de excellentia Tusciae, Biblioteca Provinciale di Frati Minori di Toscana ms. 334) shows that this unique treatise was very much a work in progress compared to the polished book hand represented in volume on the right (Vita di San Francesco, Volterra, Bib. Guarnacchi ms. 5966).

But to read it, I had to locate it. The manuscript’s shelf mark indicates that it had been housed at the library of the important Franciscan friary at Giaccherino, located near Pistoia (now available for wedding rentals and other festive occasions). In 2005, what was left of the Giaccherino library was donated to the Biblioteca Comunale Forteguerriana in Pistoia (which already had other Giaccherino volumes due to the Napoleonic suppressions, although a 1907 article apparently indicates that the Vite manuscript had remained in Giaccherino—I say apparently as I have not been able to obtain a copy of that article through ILL or in Italy, and know its details only from a summary in a later article).  I emailed the archivist in Pistoia to arrange a visit, but she replied that they did not have that manuscript.  She suggested perhaps it was with the Franciscans in Florence?  I then emailed them, hoping they had it as I had already done research there and had a good relationship with the librarian.  But alas, she too replied they did not have Codice GH from Giaccherino.  When I did research there in June, we found no references.  Back to the hunt.

Searching the manuscript databases listed above remained fruitless, as did searches for the shelf mark in research databases, Google Scholar, and (the latter is particularly useful for medievalists as European scholars regularly post articles, information about smaller conferences, etc.). An article on the 2005 Giaccherino donation had been published in 2007, but ILL also could not access the journal Storia Locale (Local History).  I had continued to scour footnotes on John of Capistrano’s biographical tradition hoping to find a reference to the manuscript’s current location, but was having no luck.  Pier Pettinaio—Peter the Combmaker—is considerably less well known and previous searches had also turned up nothing on his hagiographic record.  But in August I looked again and I found it.

In 2016, Lucy Donkin published an article on Pier Pettinaio’s visions that referred to the Giaccherino manuscript, including the information that it had a new shelf mark: Biblioteca dei Frati Minori, Fondo Giaccherino, MS I.G.2. It was in Florence at the provincial archive, but it had been renumbered (without an easy reference to its old numbering). An email confirmed they had it and I made an appointment to see in early October.

As expected, the Giaccherino manuscript was both less and more than I hoped. First, it is not really a third copy of Mariano’s Vite dei Santi Frati Minori (which is really interesting!).  While a biography of Bonaventure overlaps with the other two manuscripts and it does have John of Capistrano and Pier Pettinaio, the other lives instead overlap with a different treatise by Mariano focused on the Franciscan Third Order.  This is where the physical layout of the manuscript raises important questions.  The binding is modern—when was the volume compiled?  There is no contemporary table of contents, so what was the principle of organization?  And most interestingly, why does the manuscript begin rather abruptly with the vita of John of Capistrano with the first folio numbered 134r (see below).   Does that mean there were another 133 folios that were once considered a part of this work?  If so, were there other lives by Mariano now bound in a different volume or were they something else (this manuscript has two texts that are not his work)?  I do not have an answer yet to any of these questions.  The other manuscripts ‘adjacent’ to this codex in the numbering do not seem to be connected to it and we have not otherwise located this putative volume.

6 knox

This situation—more questions than answers—is typical of my experience working with medieval manuscripts and in Italian archives. Medievalists generally tend to have significantly fewer materials with which to work compared to our modernist colleagues, so each manuscript carries more weight as evidence (even as we must address the vagaries of survival).  These volumes also may not appear interesting at the start—I admit that reading a collection of pious lives or sermons and jet lag can be a bad combination.  However, once you start assessing the physical object and considering its relationship to the text, it often raises new questions and suggests new manuscripts to explore.  Now that I have seen all the manuscripts of Mariano’s texts known to me, I want to learn more about the books—both manuscripts and early printed volumes—that were in the communities in which he lived, as well as to keep looking for evidence of how Mariano’s contemporaries may have read his work.

A possible way of thinking about this problem came from the unique autograph copy of Mariano’s Compendium Chronicarum (Florence, Biblioteca Moreniana ms. 97).  This text is basically an abridgement of his longer Franciscan chronicle, the Fasiculus Chronicarum (a work which has been missing since the end of the eighteenth century 7 knoxwhen it was sent to Rome for use in a canonization process) and it ends on a poignant note.  After writing his last entry concerning the 1521 General Chapter, Mariano switched to red ink and wrote: Omnia in hoc volumine conscripta sunt per me Fratrem M[arianum] edita que fratribus meis corrigenda relinquo—everything in this volume was written by me, Brother Mariano, and I leave it to my brothers for correcting.   Did they?

Lezlie Knox is associate professor of history at Marquette University.  She is the author of Creating Clare of Assisi: Female Franciscan Identities in Later Medieval Italy (Brill, 2008) and co-editor of the just published Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome: The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovannie Colonna and Stefania (Notre Dame Press, 2017).

From Evanston to L’viv: Reflections on Two Holocaust Educational Fellowships

By Benjamin R. Nestor

I was recently given the opportunity to participate in two Holocaust history seminars. The first was at the Holocaust Education Foundation at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. The second was a research seminar in Lviv, Ukraine, funded and organized by the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure. Both proved immensely valuable in terms of learning, networking, and even having some fun, which was much needed given the intensity of the topic. Both of these experiences were important in my continuing development as a historian and future educator – and hopefully my reflections can inspire readers, in particular graduate students, to consider applying for similar short-term fellowships in their respective fields.

Fellowship I

The Holocaust Education Foundation (HEF), a nonprofit organization recently integrated into Northwestern University, offers an intensive two-week seminar titled the HEF Summer Institute on the Holocaust and Jewish Civilization, where roughly twenty fellows convene with top scholars in the field for a crash-course in recent Holocaust research and teaching methodologies. HEF was founded in 1976 by Theodore Zev Weiss, a Holocaust survivor, with the aim of increasing Holocaust education within university-level curricula.

My acceptance came in March, and in June I set off for what would be a two-week stay in one of Northwestern’s dorms. In the interim, the accepted fellows received a list of content to read and watch ahead of time, which included around fifteen books, ten documentaries, and course-packets assembled by the participating scholars, with each packet running from three-hundred to four-hundred pages. All of this was capped off with a twenty-page syllabus. Upon reviewing the material, I suddenly recalled my advisor Dr. Staudenmaier, who was a fellow in 2010, smirking and warning me when I was accepted that HEF was “quite a bit of work.” I spent most of May and the first half of June frantically preparing.

After settling in to the dorm I was provided, the seminar began on a Sunday night with an opening reception where I met the other fellows. Included among them were tenured professors, current fellows at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), post-docs, employees with nonprofits, and a few other graduate students at various stages of completing doctoral work. The fellows’ disciplinary backgrounds were diverse, which contributed to the quality of the discussions. The night ended early since bright and early the next day we were set to begin what would be an intensive two weeks of full day intensive seminars with an impressive list of scholars: Peter Hayes (Northwestern University), Barry Trachtenberg (Wake Forest University), Alexandra Garbarini (Williams College), Stuart Liebman (City University of New York), Marianne Hirsch (Columbia University), Leo Spitzer (Dartmouth College), among others.

There were around thirty hour-and-a-half sessions divided into the following categories: the history of the Holocaust, the history of Jews in Modern Europe, Judaic theology, photography and film of the Holocaust, memory and commemoration of the Holocaust through museums, Jewish responses to the Holocaust, gendered approaches to Holocaust studies, and the psychology of perpetrators. Besides enduring the work-load, the fellows also spent every meal together getting to enjoy dorm-cafeteria food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, often accompanied by several of the scholars that led the day’s seminars.

Each seminar was a combination of lecture on past and recent scholarship, discussion on the readings, and workshopping ways to translate recent scholarship into effective teaching. Discussions often moved from the specific (e.g. how do we incorporate Rabbi Halivni’s theological reaction to the Holocaust into a discussion with students?) to the broad (e.g. why should students take a class on the Holocaust?). Taken together, these seminars made for an extraordinary two weeks exploring numerous disciplinary and methodological approaches to the study of Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust.

In my own analysis, and through frequent conversations with other fellows, some of whom I can now call friends, it seems that everyone found the two-weeks extremely informative and provided each of us with greater confidence in our own research and designing our own Holocaust courses. There were also two “field trips,” which included a Chicago architectural tour with Paul Jaskot (Duke University), and a behind-the-scenes tour of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. I often capped each day with a walk next to Lake Michigan to think about the many issues raised throughout the day. After two weeks of sleeping in a dorm and eating cafeteria-food, it was nice to get home.

Fellowship II

Before leaving for Evanston, I received another acceptance letter—this time for a week-long seminar in L’viv, Ukraine, organized by the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI), EHRIwhich began operating in 2010 through the support of the European Union. The seminar was also organized in conjunction with other institutions, such as the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich (IfZ). I was thrilled to receive news of another unexpected opportunity – who would complain about an all-expense paid trip to Ukraine, including flight, hotel accommodations, airport transfers and food.

I read Tarik Cyril Amar’s The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv: A Borderland City between Stalinists, Nazis, and Nationalists (2015) on the airplane to better acquaint myself with the famously contested city – Львів (L’viv), Lwów, Lemberg – that the EHRI seminar was held, and was delighted on my ride from the airport to the hotel at how well-preserved L'vivthe city is, albeit with an expected layer of decay common to eastern European cities. The hotel was centrally located and even came with a balcony that offered a nice view of the city. The itinerary for the program promised to be intellectually stimulating: full days of in-class seminars, discussions and participant research presentations, but also “field trips” and arranged dinners at local restaurants.

Seminar themes ranged between broad Holocaust scholarship and research methodologies to topics specific to L’viv. They included round-tables on the current state of the field, presentations on Jewish artists in L’viv, the Holocaust in Galicia, the 1941 pogrom, the Babi Yar massacre, and spatial approaches in Holocaust scholarship, in addition to informational seminars such as how to “decode” German documents and finding sources. Presenters included Karel Berkhoff (NIOD), Andrea Löw (IfZ), Frank Bajohr (IfZ), Dieter Pohl (University of Klagenfurt), Mykhaylo Tyaglyy (Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies), Niccolai Zimmermann (Bundesarchiv Berlin), Kai Struve (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg), Waitman Wade-Beorn (University of Virginia), among others. Also, as mentioned above, each of the roughly ten fellows, ranging from tenured professors to doctoral studeL'viv 2nts, presented on our current research.

The “field trips” were also a highlight of the seminar and helped situate the Holocaust within a local context. The excursions included going to the Lysynychi forests, the site where tens of thousands of victims were killed in mass shooting operations on the outskirts of the city, the Lontsky Prison Memorial Museum of the Victims of Occupation Regimes, St. George’s Cathedral, Janowska camp area, a visit to the “Space of Synagogues,” and a Rosh Hashanah service at a Jewish community center. Visiting these sites drove home the contested memories and meanings of the city’s Jewish past, Ukrainian involvement in the Holocaust, and the history of occupying regimes in L’viv.

Each day ended with a group dinner. The fare was often delicious, and the dinners gave us all the opportunity to decompress, to get to know one another, and to talk about our current research. Everyone I spoke to about the quality of the seminar had exceedingly


Ben Nestor is third from the front, on the left side of the table.

positive things to say. I made new friends and professional connections, learned a lot, and got to leave with some great memories. These are reasons alone why I hope other graduate students spend time searching for, and applying to similar seminars and conferences.


As I complete my final year of course work and prepare for my doctoral examinations back in Milwaukee, I continue to grapple with some of the larger questions raised in both seminars: What should students take away from a class on the Holocaust? Is there a balance between commemoration and the touristic nature of Holocaust memorials? Do educators and museums unintentionally “functionalize” victims of the Holocaust, especially in the use of photographs? Is “Never Again” impractical, and if so, how can I express the importance of my research and teaching to non-academic audiences, especially when the humanities in general seem to face an unrelenting crisis in American society? I hope to develop some answers to these questions while researching and writing over the next few years.

Benjamin R. Nestor is a second-year history PhD student at Marquette University specializing in Modern Germany, the Holocaust and Täterforschung. His dissertation will focus on the intellectual and cultural world of the Einsatzgruppen in the so-called “Holocaust by Bullets,” with particular interest in ideology and contingency, masculinity, and the role of mid-level functionaries in the advancement of the program to murder the European Jews.

What I mean when I say, “I’m going to the archive.”

By Cory Haala

Introduced by James Marten

As I caught up with my high school friend Lindsey and her husband Austin last night, I casually mentioned that tomorrow I would “be headed back to the archive.” Lindsey stopped me and said, “I’m sorry, but you always say that, and I don’t know what the ‘archive’ is.”

I realized that I do that. A lot. So here’s a post generally explaining that (1) I’m still working on my PhD, and (2) what it is that I do when I say “I’m going to the archive!”

That’s the beginning of History PhD student Cory Haala’s essay on his current dissertation research. We’ve all been there—describing our work to an old friend, a family member, some other non-academic: yes, I’m still in school; no, the dissertation’s not done, and so on. I’m sure doctors and lawyers and plumbers and people working in virtually any other occupations have similar conversations. They try to explain what they do to people who have only a general idea about being a dentist, a piano tuner, or any other occupation. Cory articulates a process that is pretty basic to any scholar who does archival work, but is unfamiliar to anyone who hasn’t written anything longer than a college term paper. Along the way he describes his own research on modern politics in the Midwest.

Read the rest of Cory’s blog post—and a number of other posts about his journey through Midwestern archives—here:

 Cory Haala has delivered papers at the Midwestern History Association Conference, the Great Lakes History Conference, the Midwest Labor and Working-Class History Conference, and the Northern Great Plains History Conference. In 2017 he received a $5000 Minnesota Historical Society Legacy Research Fellowship, for research in the Gale Family Library, as well as a $5000 grant to support his dissertation research from the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. 

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