History Camp Boston 2016

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History Camp Boston 2016—Sessions

The False Lessons of the Stamp Act Crisis

J. L. Bell (boston1775@earthlink.netboston1775.net)

Two hundred fifty years ago this spring, Boston—and the rest of North America—celebrated Parliament’s repeal of the Stamp Act. Thus ended the first act of the British imperial crisis. Both sides came away with misconceptions that led them into replicating the same conflict within two years. This talk explores those mistaken ideas, some of which still affect our understanding of the coming of the Revolution today.

Discovering New England’s Hidden Histories in Congregational Church Records

Jeff Cooper, Congregational Church and Archives (jcooper@14beacon.orgcongregationallibrary.org/nehh/main)

Every summer over the last decade, Jeff Cooper has trekked to Massachusetts from his post as a professor at the University of Oklahoma to research the earliest records of the Congregational Churches in Massachusetts and throughout New England. Earlier this year he moved to Massachusetts and is now working for the Congregational Library and Archives full time, leading their “New England Hidden Histories” project to find, preserve, digitize, and make these records available to all online.

Who Was Benjamin Franklin?

Robert J. Allison (rallison@suffolk.edu, www.robertallisonhistory.com) chair of the History Department at Suffolk University in Boston.

Who was Benjamin Franklin?  There is a well-known character he created in his Autobiography, and there is the legendary figure in our historical imagination.  But is this the real Franklin?  How can we find out?  We will explore some of his work—in electricity and in popular culture (18th-century) and his family—to see if we can find the real Franklin.

I am preparing a “Great Courses” series on Franklin, and look forward to hearing from participants at History Camp about their own knowledge and understanding of Franklin, or their curiosity about how we unravel myths to understand the past.

Planning the Massachusetts 100th Anniversary of Suffrage

Colleen Janz (@colleenejanz and Colleen@susanbanthonybirthplace.org) is the Executive Director of the Susan B Anthony Birthplace Museum and the Chairperson for the Massachusetts 100th Anniversary of Suffrage.

Planning is already underway for the celebration, which is slated to begin June, 2019 and run through August 26, 2020. Colleen, who is the Chairperson for the Massachusetts 100th Anniversary of Suffrage, will describe what’s been planned so far, including “100 Things to do to Celebrate 100 Years of Suffrage,” and how you and your organization can be involved. Colleen will also be looking for your creative ideas of ways to get the word out and reach more people.

Busing in Boston: Teaching the history of segregation, desegregation, and busing

Josue D. Sakata (jsakata@bostonpublicschools.org) is Assistant Director for History and Social Studies for Boston Public Schools and one of the creators of this resource, http://sites.google.com/a/bostonpublicschools.org/desegregation/home/teachers

This was an extremely contentious period in local history that reverberated nationally. To help students and others understand this what happened and why, the Boston Public Schools has created online resources for teaching about the history of segregation, desegregation and busing in Boston. This session will include a review of the history and discuss how that history is presented in Boston Public Schools today, including how the online resource was created and how it’s used with students.

Salem’s Gallows Hill Project

Marilynne A. Roach and Emerson “Tad” Baker (@EmersonWBaker and www.salemstate.edu/~ebaker/, Tad will have a table and be signing books).

Salem witch trials experts Marilynne Roach and Emerson “Tad” Baker  discuss their recent widely-reported project.  (Covered by the Washington Post, US News, USA Today, the UK’s Daily Mail, and many other outlets).  Roach is the author of several books Salem and the witch trials, most recently Six Women of Salem: the Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the  Salem Witch Trials. Baker, a history professor at Salem State University, is the author  of A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience, and other books.

After centuries of conflicting beliefs and more recent internet speculation, a team of scholars has verified the site where nineteen innocent people were hanged during the 1692 Salem witch trials.  The site is Proctor’s Ledge, an area bounded by Proctor and Pope Streets in Salem. In this session, two Gallows Hill Project team members will explain how they drew upon the trial papers, maps from different periods, oral traditions, and new technology to confirm this site, first suggested by Salem historian Sidney Perley in the early twentieth century. They will also discuss the long history of efforts to locate and memorialized the site, as well as the current work by the City of Salem to properly maintain and mark Proctor’s Ledge.

A Teachable Moment: A Discussion of the Choices and Challenges Facing Public Historians Today

Taylor Stoermer (@History_Doctorstoermer@fas.harvard.eduwww.taylorstoermer.com), Harvard University, and Ruth Taylor, executive director of the Newport Historical Society (http://www.newporthistory.org).

Public history in 2016 is in a state of flux. Have historic house museums never been stronger or have they never faced more peril? Employing the latest technology and securing the attention of Millennials are essential to growth or missing the point? Survival depends on more leisure-type experiences or more focus on heritage tourists? And is there no longer any real connection between academic public history programs and the practice of it? These are among the issues that we’ll explore in this session, with an eye towards defining the shape of the discussion that public historians should be having in order to better steer our way forward.

Echoes of the Past: Bringing historical role-playing to the streets of Boston

Daud Alzayer (daud@bostonhistory.org), Revolutionary Characters Manager, The Old State House in Boston.

View the Slides from this Presentation >

“Echoes of the Past,” staged in Boston last year as part of the anniversary of the Stamp Act protests, put real historical characters on Boston streets and challenged participants to find them and piece together a story. It was a new type of living history event—a “game” that broke down barriers and engaged audiences with challenges, mystery and role-play.

As a lifelong history buff, it took me a long time to understand why there are so many people who view history as a “boring” subject. How could the story of human experience across all continents and ages be boring? I am convinced that the difference between a history lover and everyone else is the spark of engagement that convinces them of the effort of studying and carefully reconstructing the past in their imagination. But getting engagement is easier said than done. We struggle against stereotypes of history and historians, bad previous experiences (often in a classroom), emotional distance and the difficulty of making our subjects relevant to our audience. 

Designing and producing “Echoes of the Past” on a tight budget was a fascinating experiment. Regardless of your type of historic building or site, there are lessons you can take away and apply.

Ancient Britain and the Roman Empire

Mark Kenneth Gardner (@HistoryGardner) is an educator and public historian who serves on the board of trustees for the Center for South County History and Culture in Kingston RI, and is the archivist for the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society, ahistorygarden.blogspot.com.

Before Julius Caesar ever set foot on the south coast of England, the Roman Empire had drawn Celtic Britain into its economic orbit. In AD 43, the Romans brought cities, aqueducts, roads and all the trappings of Mediterranean civilization to the shores of Albion. Yet the island was never fully conquered, and in the years following the fall of the Western Roman Empire, nearly all traces of Roman language and civilization disappeared. This session will examine how ancient sources, archaeology, and new historical interpretations continue to illuminate the history of the Roman’s furthest-flung province.

Using Genealogy in Historical Research

Erik Bauer (@Hipster818 and erbauer@mac.com, https://about.me/erikrbauer), Archivist, Peabody Institute Library, Peabody, MA.

Among many historians genealogy is not seen as a useful too for historical research. This session looks to challenge that assumption by looking at how genealogy can be used to help explain relationships in connection with historical events and how genealogy can be used to along with material culture to establish the provenance of an object among other topics.

Researching Enslaved & Recently Free Northerners

Liz Loveland (@lizl_genealogy and lovelandfamilyhistory@gmail.com). Blog transcribing a Victorian diary: addiessojourn.wordpress.com/. Genealogy & history blog: adventuresingenealogy.wordpress.com/.

View the Slides from this Presentation >

Learn about some of the myths around Northern slavery and many of the sources that can be used to research the lives of enslaved people in Northern colonies/states, the lives of freemen and freewomen there, and the world which they inhabited. Many of my examples are from New England but I also use some examples from other Northern areas.

Digital Archive of Massachusetts Anti-Slavery and Anti-Segregation Petitions

The Digital Archive of Massachusetts Anti-Slavery and Anti-Segregation Petitions  consists of 3,500 legislative documents from the Massachusetts state archives that were cataloged and digitized through the generous funding of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant under Harvard University Professor Daniel Carpenter.

These documents were sent to the Massachusetts state government from the years 1649 to 1870 and include almost 282,000 signatures, of which at least 81,500 signatures are from women.

This collaboration has allowed many hidden collections to be revealed, including documentation of black and Native American activism and evidence of organizing, canvassing, and other forms of political participation and interactions with the government not only from legal voters, but also minors and women. These digitized documents and extensive metadata allow users to explore perspectives across class, race, gender, space, and time for many people who have been traditionally less studied and documented.In addition to mass-petitioning efforts, extensive details and text are sometimes provided within the petitions. By March of 2016, a mapping interface and additional documents on anti-discrimination efforts into the 20th century will have been added to the database, which will also be discussed at History Camp.

The Jigsaw Puzzle of Reconstructing Enslaved Family Stories in Rural Colonial Massachusetts

Jeanne Pickering (j_pickering@salemstate.edu), Graduate student, History, Salem State University

In the eighteenth century, Topsfield was a small inland rural town 25 miles north of Salem. Although few in number, enslaved individuals and families lived there throughout much of the eighteenth century. Documentation of their lives lies in fragmented pieces spread across church records, probated wills and inventory, genealogical records and a few sparse archival documents. Reconstructing their stories means assembling these pieces much like assembling a jigsaw puzzle using only a few broken pieces from other puzzles and no guide to follow.

I’ll show the reconstruction of the stories of three enslaved families, each struggling through the death of a household patriarch to keep the family together, only one of whom managed to survive through the waning days of legalized slavery in Massachusetts.

Do You Know Who I Am? The history of Americans on postage stamps

Henry Lukas (henryjlukas@hotmail.com), Education Director at Spellman Museum of Stamps & Postal History in Weston, Massachusetts, spellmanmuseum.org

Do you recognize any of these Americans who have been commemorated on United States postage stamps: Blanche Scott, Percy Julian, Bernard Revel, William Dickson, Moina Michael, Chester Carlson, Dr. T. von Karman or Phoebe Pember? Learn why these men and women plus other lesser known Americans have been honored by the United States Post Office over the years. Also discover how the Post Office selects what people and events are to be pictured on a commemorative stamp from the over 30,000 suggestions submitted each year by the public. Learn about controversies involving nominees including Freda Kahlo and Mother Teresa as well as about those Americans featured on some of the most popular stamps ever issued. Stamps of some of the people discussed will be available to take home.

Discovering the Connections Between Lewis and Clark Expedition’s Corps of Discovery and the War of 1812

Lorna Hainesworth (lornament@comcast.netindependent.academia.edu/LornaHainesworth)

The Corps and the War of 1812: Discover the many connections between the War of 1812 and members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s Corps of Discovery. This presentation discuss a dozen members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition’s Corps of Discovery who had significant life experiences during the period of the War of 1812, defined as beginning with the 1807 Embargo Act and ending with the Treaties at Portage des Sioux.  It will also cover persons closely associated with Lewis and Clark who had significant War of 1812 experiences and whose service in the War of 1812 is fairly well documented.  The slides will include modern day photos of some of the places where they served.

Using the Library of Congress’s collection of political cartoons to gain insights into historical periods

Josue D. Sakata (jsakata@bostonpublicschools.org), Assistant Director for History and Social Studies for Boston Public Schools

Political cartoons often capture a more nuanced understanding of current events than written editorials. The Library of Congress has a large collection of political cartoons, and in this talk we’ll discuss how to locate the right collection and how cartoons from one of these collections have been used to teach about the Cold War.

The Talk of the Town: An 18th-Century Town Meeting

Patricia Violette (governorshirley@gmail.com) is the executive director, curator, and CEO of the The Shirley-Eustis House Association in Roxbury, shirleyeustishouse.org.

The authority and responsibilities of local and federal government have always been a central topic in our society. As our world changes and the lives of people change with it, our demands and expectations of our government reflect that change.

The New England states have had a town meeting system of local government since the early days of settlement. These towns were always concerned with the construction and repair of roads, employing school masters, caring for their poor and disabled, and even whether or not pigs would be allowed to run amok throughout their communities. The townspeople were the ones who decided to raise and appropriate funds for these issues. The town was the preeminent unit … every town answered for itself not only in civic but also in religious affairs.

Join this session as we take a trip back in time with Executive Director Patricia Violette, of the Shirley-Eustis House, to discuss some of these basic common issues important to the inhabitants of 18th-century Boston. In this interactive presentation, you will be the town and responsible for making these important decisions that will not only affect you but your fellow town folk.

Flying High: Mining the Pan Am Airways Archives to help students understand history

Josue D. Sakata (jsakata@bostonpublicschools.org), Assistant Director for History and Social Studies for Boston Public Schools

Pan Am was the largest international airline in the US from 1927 until it went out of business in 1991. It started by flying mail and passengers between Key West and Havana, and as it grew became a leader in aviation and innovation. Josue Sakata was awarded the The Pan Am Historical Foundation’s Eight Annual Dave Abrams and Gene Banning Pan Am Research Grant. The grant is awarded to support scholarly research using the Pan American World Airways, Inc. Records held by the University of Miami Libraries’ Special Collections, and it honors two of Pan Am’s most avid historians, Dave Abrams and completed by Sakata, which deals with the creation of primary source sets that will use the Pan Am archive records to help students learn about US History.

Planting the Roots of STEM: How your history museum or historic site can use the “living” history of science as a portal to STEM

Dean Howarth (d.e.howarth@hotmail.com), living history interpreter/instructor and veteran science teacher

History shows us that STEM is not a new idea.  The history of science can be a vehicle by which almost any site can tap into STEM without becoming a “science museum.” Twenty years ago, as a high school science teacher in McLean, Virginia, Howarth founded a student living history program as an extracurricular community-service club and a unique Living History course. The course incorporates the tenets of historical interpretation as a vehicle for learning and life skills, such as research, service, communication, and an investment in teaching our common historical legacy.

Howarth will appear as the Yankee-born, Benjamin Thompson, who was a loyalist spy, soldier, and renowned scientist whose body of work led to a knighthood and the title, Count Rumford.  He will also demonstrate replica instruments and displays of 18th century science.

Steam Punk History: Low-Tech Storytelling in the Digital Age

Steve Thornton (stephen.thornton1199@gmail.com), retired union organizer and writer for The Shoeleather History Project (ShoeleatherHistoryProject.com)

Uncovering history is one thing; presenting it effectively is another. Even in the digital age, there are “low tech” methods that can be used to aid greater public understanding of important people, places, and events.

The Shoeleather History Project uses “clothesline” presentations, ViewMaster, trading cards, participatory walking tours, comics and other forms to teach “history from below.” This session will include examples of all of the above, using stories of abolitionists, suffragists, civil rights activists and union organizers.

Effective First Person Interpretation in the Classroom and at Historic Sites

Kyle Jenks (jaktar773@aol.com), writer, producer, and director, “Drums Along the Mohawk Outdoor Drama” (www.datmod.com);
Dean Howarth (d.e.howarth@hotmail.com), living history interpreter/instructor and veteran science teacher (www.livinghistoriesofscience.com);
Barry Stevens, interpreter (www.benfranklinprinter.com); and
Tom Pitz, interpreter (www.mr-jefferson.com)

An effective first person performance can make a powerful impression. Its academic precedent is labeled Process Drama; sometimes called Applied Theater or Educational Theater.  And it’s far more than dressing up, memorizing a few facts, and copying an accent.

This session will cover . . .

  • The academic relevance of this style of teaching and learning
  • How First Person Interpretation attracts visitation
  • How to find quality historical interpreters
  • How to decide if you want to add First Person interpretation to your own dossier
  • How to go about researching a historical figure
  • How to properly prepare your persona
  • How to maximize your impact as a historical interpreter
  • How to market yourself as a historical interpreter

Southern New England’s Evolving Agricultural Landscapes c. 1500 to Present

Mark Kenneth Gardner (@HistoryGardner) is an educator and public historian who serves on the board of trustees for the Center for South County History and Culture in Kingston RI, and is the archivist for the Western Rhode Island Civic Historical Society (ahistorygarden.blogspot.com).

From Verrazano’s observations of Native American farming settlements along Narragansett Bay to today’s Community Supported Agriculture and farmer’s markets, agricultural landscapes—in Southern New England in general and in Rhode Island in particular — have been in constantly evolution in response to economic transformations, industrial revolutions, political chicanery, military conflict and technological innovation. Ever-resourceful and seemingly impossible to kill, farmers continue to make their mark on southern New England’s physical and economic landscape.

Five Myths about the Puritans

Lori Stokes, PhD (lori.stokes@comcast.net), Independent Scholar; and Dr. Will Holton, Partnership for the Historic Bostons (www.historicbostons.org).

People love to hate the Puritans. In the popular imagination, the Puritans were killjoys who banned dancing, singing, sex, alcohol, and smiling, and put people in the stocks for sneezing on Sunday. The truth, however, is very different—and much more interesting. In this session, we’ll take on the five most damaging myths about the Puritans: they came to America to establish freedom of religion; they hated sex; they were constantly executing and persecuting people as witches; they banished Anne Hutchinson because she was a woman who dared to hold religious meetings; and they established a theocracy.

Design review: Exhibit design for Plymouth: 1620–2020

Ed Malouf and Carrie Brown, PhD of Content•Design Collaborative (781-378-1484 or contentdesign@me.com), an interpretive design firm in Scituate, MA, develops and implements exhibit programs for history and natural history institutions.

Our firm has been hired to create a traveling exhibit for Plymouth 400, Inc. commemorating the upcoming 400th anniversary and we would like your critical input.

Our design provides a parallel narrative of both Wampanoag and English points of view. This approach asks the visitor to consider the events of 1620-21 in context and to reconsider their perceptions of this historic event.

We will present our work to-date and then ask for your feedback on what you have just seen, including the  the split entry experience, unforeseen aspects of the Mayflower immersion exhibit, and evaluating “How Many Survived” in the “Watching and Waiting” exhibit.  Our presentation will take about 15 minutes, which will leave plenty of time to discuss these questions and others.  We look forward to hearing the reactions and ideas from History Camp Boston attendees. If we can get people to ponder the question, “Would the Wampanoag Nation have issued William Bradford a visa?” after seeing this new exhibit, it will have succeeded.

The Gloucester Museum You Don’t Know: Slavery and the Sargent House

Lise Breen (lbreen@billbreen.net) is an independent researcher from Gloucester. She is developing a trail that focuses on the history of slavery and anti-slavery on Cape Ann.

The Sargent House Museum advertises its Gloucester mansion as the home of “sea captains, merchants, patriots and community leaders.” For the past few years, in an effort to increase interest, the struggling House has focused on Judith Sargent Murray’s legacy as a brilliant, early advocate for women. But there are other accounts that could be told.

Here, I explain that Judith Sargent (Murray)—and her Gloucester relatives—owned slaves. I comment on her play, The African, and review some of her few remarks about slavery. I discuss her Mississippi relatives’ slave ownership and connect them to the Natchez furniture and portraits on display. Then, I show that a subsequent House inhabitant -whose portraits are displayed – is the owner of 1840s slave ships.

Does it behoove the Sargent House to complicate its story of the ambitious writer who proclaimed women’s inherent equality? Will tenuous support for the House evaporate once the House reveals that its “gentlemen planters,” ship captains, church leaders, and merchants kept slaves or engaged in the slave trade? Does the House have an obligation to the historical record and to the public to reframe its narrative?

New and Overlooked Resources for Researching Individuals from the Revolutionary War and Civil War

Michelle D. Novak is President of [MND] (www.mnd.nyc), a NYC Brand-Design agency and a graduate of RISD and BU Genealogical Research. She is a Trustee of the Genealogical Society of New Jersey; the Genealogical Society of Bergen County, NJ; and is Editor of the GSBC’s ISFHWE award-winning newsletter, The Archivist. (Michelle also created the fabulous History Camp logo.)

View the Slides from this Presentation >

Believe it or not, researching your Revolutionary and Civil War ancestors has just gotten a lot more interesting. In this talk, we’ll look at some under-used resources at the State level, a whole new collection at the NYPL, and the digital changes happening at NARA—which brings more access at the same time that records are being retired to deep storage.

Presenting the Past: Living History in Newport

Elizabeth Sulock (esulock@newporthistory.org) is the Manager of Public Outreach & Living History at the Newport Historical Society (newporthistory.org).

The Newport Historical Society has developed a unique approach to living history as part of its overall goal of offering innovative public history programming. Grounded in historic research and using a team of dedicated volunteer first person interpreters, the Society has received a growing amount of attention for its engaging interpretation. What is the process for planning site specific civilian-based living history events? Join Elizabeth Sulock, from the NHS, along with several of the Society’s seasoned interpreters, Renee Walker-Tuttle, Elizabeth Mees and Matthew Mees, to discuss the NHS method behind costumed interpretation. Themes include balancing first and third person interpretation, marketing strategies, historical inspiration, public interaction and place-based interpretation.

History in Fact and Fiction: From noted autobiography to young adult fiction

Dr. Sam Forman (@DrSamForman, drjosephwarren.com/) is the author of Dr. Joseph Warren: The Boston Tea Party, Bunker Hill, and the Birth of American Liberty and 21 Heroes.  Sam will have a table and be signing books.

After spending six years researching and writing the definitive account of one of the Revolution’s most important figures, Dr. Joseph Warren, Sam Forman pitched the highly unlikely idea of a young adult novel centered on the Revolution. Much to his surprise, his publisher went for it–with an energy and enthusiasm they’d never exhibited for non-fiction works.   This talk will consider the role of non-fiction and fictional works in bringing to life historical characters and eras.  When the truth of historical events is so compelling, why do authors feel compelled to write fiction, and why do notable works find a large readership? Can the two approaches become muddled, where fiction is passed as fact, and truth dismissed as fancy? Drawing on a wide range of historical fiction written over centuries, we will explore enduring as well as abandoned themes and tropes. Can fiction sometimes convey larger truths that formal histories cannot?

From Private Collection to World Class Museum: Building the Museum of WWII

Travis Roland, Docent, Museum of WWII (http://museumofworldwarii.org)

Although the Museum of WWII in Natick may not yet be well-known locally, it is held in very high regard internationally.  London’s Imperial War Museum, for example, described it as ” containing the most comprehensive display of original World War II artifacts on exhibit anywhere in the world.” Formed over a period of more than 50 years by Ken Rendell, a dealer in autographs, letters and manuscripts, the Museum’s collections of 8,000 artifacts and 500,000 documents and photographs show in detail the events of the war, from the signing of the Versailles Treaty, which ended World War I, to the Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials that brought the war to a close.  Housed in a non-descript building and open by appointment only, the museum is undergoing a transformation with the addition of staff and plans for a major expansion that will create a much more public institution.  In addition to this journey, Travis will discuss some of the remarkable items in the collection, including a new acquisition of Rudolf Hess’s personal archives.

Roman Legionary

Andy Volpe (palusbuteo@hotmail.com, www.andyvolpe.comAndy Volpe: Art & History.

Discusses the ancient Roman Legionary soldier, including a brief history of the evolution of the soldier, aspects of his daily life, and details on his arms and armor utilizing replicas of archaeological artifacts. He will also discuss what we know and how we know it from the archaeology, drawing the line between “Historical Accuracy” and Hollywood as well as touch on aspects of Reenacting the Roman period. Andy has presented on the Romans since 2002 through the former Higgins Armory Museum, which closed in 2013 and whose arms and armor collection and programs moved to Worcester Art Museum.

Preserving Historic Gravestones

Ta Mara Conde (tamara@historicgravestone.com) is the founder of Historic Gravestone Services (www.historicgravestone.com).

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Cemeteries are outdoor museums dedicated to memories of average people, the famous and lifestyles of long ago. Ta Mara Conde, a gravestone and monument conservator has worked to preserve gravestones for over 16 years in New England and across the nation. Preservation of these historical “documents” is important to preserving the history which is sometimes only found on the gravestones. The history of cemeteries in America, burial customs and the symbolism used on headstones will be discussed while she describes the process and importance of conservation.