Public History

Gregor Interns at the Kennebec Historical Society

Last summer, Maria Gregor ’21 obtained an internship with the Kennebec Historical Society in Augusta, ME. One Thing after Another was intrigued and asked Maria to discuss her experiences.

Q: What inspired you to go to work for the Kennebec Historical Society? How did you end up in the position?

A: When I grew up in Augusta, Maine, the Kennebec Historical Society (KHS) was always an integral part of the community. I remember distinctly that when I was a child, its members and staff were constantly organizing public events and trying to generate community interest in the rich histories of Kennebec County and the general Augusta area. My grandfather has been a member of the society after moving to Maine many years ago, and he regularly attends programs that they hold. These include talks on a wide variety of New England topics and more specific discussions about local history. He suggested that I might apply there, as he understood how invested I am in history and its preservation for future generations. I applied for the position in the early spring of my sophomore year of college and interviewed for the job in early May. I was the last candidate to be interviewed, which meant that I started working almost immediately after I was hired. I met with the archival staff as well as the director and president of the establishment during the interview process, and they thought I was a good fit for their team!

Q: What sort of tasks were you assigned as an archival intern? Which of these was your favorite? Was there anything that was particularly challenging?

A: As an archival intern, I performed a wide variety of tasks that were important to the advancement of the organization. Much of my work had to do with the organization of books and documents in the Kennebec Historical Society Collection. Unfortunately, because so many years have elapsed since certain items were brought in, it was very difficult to figure out what to do with them or how to categorize them. One of my jobs was to completely take apart and reconstruct the entire Annex Library, book by book, which could get quite tedious. I then had to enter each item into the database individually. However, it was well worth it when the final shelf list was solidified and everything was finally findable. The rest of my work was mostly centered around document preservation and transcription. These tasks required a wealth of information (and manuals) which enabled me to place documents in the collection by appropriate time period and preserve them. This was some of my favorite work. There is nothing quite like the feeling of having saved an important piece of information from decay.

Q: What variety of skills would you say that you developed or refined during your time with KHS? Would you say that this internship helped you towards your career goals?

A: During my time at the KHS, I discovered a number of things about the documents that we so often read as primary sources during our time as history majors. I often think that we take the preservation of such documents for granted. I learned how to properly preserve documents in melinex and file them away as well as how to catalogue new items and books. This position also fine-tuned my skills as a team leader, negotiator, and critical thinker. Most of the new skills I gained were learned on the fly, and without careful thought and a willingness to work with my fellow intern, I would have been entirely lost. Once I learned these new tasks, I was then able to become a leader and work more closely with the head archivist. Despite the fact that I have decided to pursue law in the future, this internship opportunity gave me a chance to engage in an aspect of my major that I never would have investigated otherwise. I learned a great number of valuable skills in terms of working with people who might have a different work ethic than myself, and I also got to experience the collection of New England history behind the scenes.

Q: Are there any particularly interesting stories from your work, or any historical facts that you uncovered over the summer that you would be willing to share?

A: A particularly interesting story from my time at the KHS is one related to the house I currently live in. When my family moved to Maine, my father received a plaque from KHS stating that our house was historical and listing the original owners of the house. During my time as an intern, I asked about my house and searched the existing database for items linked to the property. There, I discovered a letter addressed to a descendant of the original owner and was able to transcribe it and scan it into the digital collection. It was fascinating to glimpse the life of someone who lived in my house centuries before I did!

Q: Why did you decide to declare a history major?

A: When I came into Saint Anselm College as a history major, I initially wanted to become a professor. Today, the idea of making a difference in law appeals more to me. History is a versatile major, though, and it promotes a variety of skills that can be useful in any number of areas. No matter what career I choose, I know that a history degree will strengthen my ability to do research, writing, and critical analysis. It is a major for those who are curious about the world and want to be immersed in it.

Hummel Reflects on Her Time at the NHIOP

As history major Sarah Hummel ’19 prepares to graduate, One Thing after Another wanted to ask her about her extensive experience at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) where she’s been working since 2017. Hummel obliged us in this thoughtful interview.

Q: What inspired you to work at the NHIOP? How did you get the job? When did you begin working there?

A: The opportunity to work at the NHIOP arose while I was taking HI363: Public History with Professor Salerno during the fall of 2017. One aspect of this class was curatorial work, and our project was to curate displays at the Institute. We had the opportunity to go through the Institute’s archives, choose materials, and collaborate with our partners and classmates to tell a story through a museum display. It was a neat experience! I had been interested in museum work for a few months at that point, and that project got me even more interested. After that project was complete, there was still a fair amount of curatorial work to be done at the NHIOP. At the same time, it is my understanding that Ann Camann, my boss, wanted to embrace the historical and archival aspect of the Institute and make exhibits, like the ones that our class created, a regular part of the Institute’s offerings. In October, I was offered the job to be a part of this process, and I started working at the NHIOP that same month.

Q: What do you believe that you have gained from your time at NHIOP? Are there any history related skills or pieces of knowledge that you have particularly enjoyed?

A: I have gained so much from my time at the NHIOP! First, the experience of having a job in which I contributed to a larger goal, vision, and project—that has been rewarding. The job has taught me discipline, but it has also taught me creativity and critical thinking. In particular, brainstorming ideas for exhibits is a fun process, but it can be challenging to tailor those ideas to the specific materials in the archives. It is a way of thinking that takes practice, but it has been good training for my brain. The job has definitely taught me the value of communication and collaboration—none of these exhibits would exist without teamwork! I have been blessed with wonderful coworkers and a great boss, and we are able to work together, provide constructive feedback, and work off of each other’s’ ideas to propel ourselves to success. In terms of history-related skills or pieces of knowledge, I have enjoyed being able to explore the archives. There is a lot of fascinating material in the NHIOP collection, and I hope even a fraction of it gets its day in the sun.

Q: Why do you believe the projects you have worked on are important?

A: The projects we have worked on are important for several reasons. First, they are a teaching tool. Museum exhibits and other kinds of curated displays are alternative educational materials, and, following the mission of the Institute, we are committed to keeping our exhibits nonpartisan. This way, guests can visit and learn from our exhibits, but the material they are consuming is not biased or partisan. It is just information presented in a pleasing and thought-provoking way. This form of learning can be harder to find in today’s world, but unbiased information about the past and present is crucial in order to reach informed conclusions and decisions. Additionally, the projects we are working on are significant because they are a jumping-off point for a larger conversation. That is what we hope to inspire in every visitor – a desire to think more about what he/she has seen and read, and ideally discuss this material with others. For example, our most recent exhibit is about the concept of equality, both during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln and in the modern historical context of social movements. We want people to ask questions about what they have seen: What is equality? Does it exist? How are conditions different now compared to 150 years ago? To 50 years ago? 25 years ago? What can equality look like in the future? If we can spark a conversation about topics such as this one, then we are encouraging civic engagement, and civic engagement is the heart and soul of democracy. People can become personally involved in their history, in their present, and, consequently, in their future. In this way, critical thinking and conversation are empowering.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about the “Perspectives on Equality” exhibit? What story or stories do the displays tell? Please describe the experiences of and the methods used in your work.

A: “Perspectives on Equality” is the newest installment in the American Ideals series that we started at the beginning of the year. The “American ideal” that we are examining in this exhibit is equality. The exhibit is contained within a two-sided glass display case, so my co-curators and I divided our story into two segments. The first segment revolves around the understanding of and debate over equality, particularly racial equality, during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. The Institute recently received a large collection of Lincoln-related objects, and we were eager to use as many of these as we could. The second segment studies equality in the context of the social movements of the latter half of the twentieth century, with a spotlight on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It might seem that these two segments have little in common, but what pulls them together is the concept of equality: how was it interpreted and handled by different groups throughout the course of American history. Equality is seen as a concept that is fundamentally “American,” and we are trying to explore what that means, exactly, and how that definition has panned out at various points in history and for various groups. The timing of the exhibit was also convenient, as it corresponded with Presidents’ Day and Black History Month.

In terms of methods that we used, I would like to emphasize the collaborative nature of this process. For every exhibit that we curate, my co-curators and I start by meeting to brainstorm a theme. For this exhibit, I believe we actually went back and forth a few times to come up with the exact theme that we wanted to convey, and our planning started, if I am not mistaken, before Christmas break. After devising a theme, we divide and conquer the curatorial tasks. I worked on the Lincoln segment, while my co-curator, Matt Solomon, worked on the social movements segment. After a few weeks, we sent our written “storyboards” to Lexie Soucy, who works at the NHIOP, to read, edit, and send out for printing. The “storyboards” are essentially long, detailed labels that we have professionally printed on high-quality poster board. Within about a week, we had the case put together and the storyboards installed. During this time, I was also working on the Reach display, which is a set of curated quotations and photographs related to the exhibit theme that appear on the televisions in the Institute. I was also putting together the book display in the NHIOP Political Library, again related to equality and social movements. The three parts of the exhibit – our three forums for storytelling, if you will – opened in February

Q: What have you been working on since the end of this project?

A: Since the end of the “Perspectives on Equality” exhibit and the coordinated Reach and library displays, I have been working on two projects. The first is a written guide to curating exhibits at NHIOP, which I wrote in preparation for a meeting with my co-curators, including next year’s curatorial team. The main emphasis since the new exhibit opened has been the transition to the new curators; there are two graduating seniors among the curatorial staff. In writing the guide and having this meeting, we are trying to make the transition as seamless as possible. I have also been compiling a portfolio of all of the written work that I have done at the NHIOP for the last two years. It is nice to have all of the text in one location, and I hope to be able to use this as a writing sample or as an example of an extensive project when applying for jobs. It is also incredible to see how much curatorial work we have done at NHIOP in the past two years! I am on page twenty-five so far…

Q: We understand that as you near the end of your graduating year, you have been compiling a portfolio of the work you have done for NHIOP over the years. What other projects or special tasks have you been a part of? Do you have a favorite? If so, what makes it your favorite?

A: The portfolio is dedicated to the exhibit work, which includes the Reach and library displays. I also included a description of the curation process, as well as some photographs of the displays for good measure. In terms of other projects that I have been a part of at the NHIOP, I am honored to have been a member of the Kevin B. Harrington Student Ambassador Program since January of my freshman year. Through this program, I have met some of the biggest names in politics, heard some incredible speakers, and attended some great events. For example, I had the opportunity to work at the Republican Presidential Debate in February 2016. It was an experience I will never forget. I have also met many wonderful people in the program! I applied for and was accepted as Community Outreach Committee co-chair early in my junior year, and I have cherished the opportunity to take a leadership role in this program.

Q: Do you have any post-graduation plans? How does it feel to nearly be finished with your time at Saint Anselm’s?

A: That’s a great question! At the moment, I am trying to keep my options open. I am planning on getting a job after graduation, then I am probably going back to graduate school next spring. There are so many career options, it is hard to choose just one! I cannot believe that my four years are almost over. They truly flew by. It feels like just yesterday I was walking into my World History class with Professor Hardin . . . and that was the beginning of my freshman year! I am nervous to be moving out of my comfort zone, but excited to be starting the next chapter of my life.

“So, what are you doing on your sabbatical?”

Professor Masur is on sabbatical this semester. Some of you may be wondering: what exactly does a history professor do while on sabbatical? This is the first entry in what may be a regular series of posts from Professor Masur about how he is spending his time.

Sabbaticals are often used for research, and I do have some research projects that I’m working on this semester. But I am also trying to update and improve some of my classes. And I want to take advantage of a schedule that is much more flexible than it is during a regular semester. To that end, I decided to head down to the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts to check out an exhibit on Chinese Empresses. I thought that the exhibit might give me some specific ideas for my classes, and it would help me to learn a bit more about a topic that is part of my general teaching area.

Apparently Professor Masur thinks that he doesn’t have to look presentable while on sabbatical.

So, what did I take away from the exhibit? Here were my main impressions:

1) Empresses have often been dismissed or overlooked in accounts of Qing Dynasty China. However, the exhibit illustrated that Empresses were actually figures of great importance during this period. For one thing, they had to produce a male heir to succeed the Emperor—no small task. In a society imbued with the Confucian principle of filial piety, Empresses were granted considerable respect as mothers and wives of Emperors, and therefore symbolic mothers of all of China. Conditions in the imperial court reflected on China as a whole, so it was important that Empresses oversaw a harmonious and well-functioning household. While Empresses were generally not expected to participate in the affairs of state, their activities were central to harmony and stability in China as a whole.

2) As I made my way through the exhibit, it occurred to me that I could name every Emperor from the Qing Dynasty, but only one Empress: the Empress Dowager Cixi (more on her later). The exhibit used techniques both overt and subtle to fill this gap. Upon entering the exhibit, an audio recording played the names of the Empresses who were featured in the exhibit. Exhibit cards included the names by which the Empresses were known, including a phonetic pronunciation guide. Names of Emperors did not include pronunciation, reversing the common habit of ensuring that Emperors’ names are known while leaving Empresses out of the story.

3) The exhibit displayed the wealth, craftsmanship, and artistry of Qing China. The exhibit included robes, paintings, and other objects created by imperial artists, some of whom were European Jesuits. The robes—brightly colored and filled with various adornments—were particularly striking. Another impressive object—a silk screen from the 18th century—covered an entire wall.

Court vest (top) and wall hanging (bottom), both 1700s.

4) The final section explored Cixi, mother of the Tongzhi Emperor and eventually Empress Dowager and power behind the throne in the years before the end of the Dynasty. Cixi is an interesting figure because she managed to gain considerable power in the imperial court through alliance-building and other machinations. By the late 1800s, she had orchestrated a palace coup and was arguably the most powerful figure in the imperial court—more powerful than her nephew, whom she had installed as Emperor in 1871. She is often depicted quite negatively in historical and popular accounts of the Qing Dynasty. But the exhibit made her out to be a more complex figure. It also explored the various representations of Cixi, including photographic images, depictions of her in film, and an enormous portrait by American artist Katharine A. Carl in 1903. Carl’s nine-foot-tall painting was displayed at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904 and given as a gift to Theodore Roosevelt. It was an important tool in crafting an international image of the Empress Dowager as a public figure—unusual for China’s Empresses.

Katharine A. Carl’s Portrait of Cixi, 1903.

Enjoying an afternoon at a museum was nice, but I do feel a certain amount of pressure to do something “useful” with my time on sabbatical. In this case, some of the key themes from the exhibit, and the images I took while I was there, will make their way into my courses on Modern China and Asian Civilizations.

Hummel Puts on a Display at the NHIOP

Fans of the History Department will be happy to know that Sarah Hummel ’19 has made some news down at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics. Hummel used Institute memorabilia to construct two displays, including one that appears in the New Hampshire Political Library. For more information, check out the press release on the Saint Anselm College web site.

Furthermore, I consider that the myth of the unemployable History major must be destroyed.

History Majors Make the Civil War “Legible and Searchable” for the Future

“What is a gabion?”

“Where are the Bolivar Heights?”

“What does ‘N. f. r. A. G. O.’ stand for?

“Is that word ‘gout’?”

These kinds of questions were asked every Friday afternoon around 2:30 in Professor Hugh Dubrulle’s office this semester. Why? Four student research assistants—history majors Caitlin Williamson ‘19, Gregory Valcourt ‘19Lauren Batchelder ‘18, and William Bearce ‘19 (from left to right in the photo above)—prepared materials for the research project that will be assigned in History 352: The American Civil War and Reconstruction which Dubrulle will teach next semester (Spring 2018). This project will require students in the course to do research on the 5th New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry and write papers explaining the degree to which the regiment’s experiences match up with what current Civil War historiography claims about a variety of topics. These topics will include studies of the regiment’s participation in various battles and biographies of its leading officers. Other papers will look at topics such as desertion, politics, discipline, leadership, recruitment, medicine, and so on.

Why choose the 5th New Hampshire? Dubrulle says there are several reasons: “First, it lost more combat fatalities over the course of the Civil War than any other unit in Federal service. We ought to remember and honor this distinction, but it also raises the following question: what made it possible for this regiment, which was a typical product of its time and place, to compile such an outstanding service record? Second, much primary source material is easily available in local archives or online. Third, there are some excellent secondary sources about the unit in print, particularly Mike Pride and Mark Travis’ My Brave Boys: To War with Colonel Cross & the Fighting Fifth (2001).”

Williamson, Batchelder, Valcourt, and Bearce assisted Dubrulle with a number of important tasks, including transcribing letters and entering information from regimental service records into a searchable database. As Valcourt put it, their job consisted of making “the past legible and searchable for the future.” Williamson and Batchelder first transcribed the letters (34 of them) of Pvt. Miles Peabody (born and raised in Antrim, NH) who enlisted in Co. K of the 5th New Hampshire in 1861 at the age of 21. Williamson and Batchelder then moved on to transcribe selected portions of Lieut.-Col. James E. Larkin’s correspondence. A coach painter from Concord, NH, Larkin was mustered in as a 1st Lieut. when the regiment was organized in October 1861. He eventually became the commander of the unit in June 1864.

Both Batchelder and Williamson enjoyed getting to know Peabody and Larkin through their letters. Williamson commented that “I became really attached to the soldiers while reading their correspondence! I felt for them and found myself really invested in their stories that were told over a century ago.” Batchelder also felt an affinity for the men whose letters she read. On occasion, however, she was startled by what they wrote: “A lot of people assume that the Northerners were ‘the good guys,’ but there were times when I transcribed the letters and I would see these people fighting for the Union making a racist comment or saying something completely unexpected.” Such moments made her realize that while she shared a common humanity with these soldiers, they lived in a very different world.

Although Batchelder noted that “some people have the messiest handwriting,” Williamson pointed out that reading handwriting was actually affecting: “There is a lot of emotion in these letters, and much of it is expressed in the handwriting.” Not only that, Williamson felt that reading the letters helped illuminate Civil War history in a striking way that other sources could not. As she put it, the correspondence allowed her to study the conflict more broadly than one might have thought. The letters show “what they [the soldiers] were eating, what they were doing with their time, how they slept, what the weather was like, their experience on the battlefield—along with other important moments, all seen from different perspectives.”

Meanwhile, Bearce and Valcourt scoured Augustus D. Ayling’s Revised Register of the Soldiers and Sailors of New Hampshire in the War of the Rebellion 1861-1866 (1895) for the abbreviated service records of all the men who served in the 5th New Hampshire during the war. They then transferred this information to an Excel spreadsheet that is both searchable and sortable. Arrayed in this fashion, the data can yield all sorts of interesting patterns. For instance, Bearce quickly noticed that substitutes and foreign-born soldiers seemed much more likely to desert than volunteers and the native-born. Valcourt was stunned by the large number of casualties the regiment lost in the last days of the war at the Battle of Farmville (otherwise known as the Battle of High Bridge)—a fight he’d never heard of. Both research assistants recognized that intriguing trends in the data could prove very useful to students writing papers on any number of topics. At the same time, Bearce also saw that the “the quantitative information [from the database] complements the qualitative data from the transcription of letters.” Among other things, “one can use the service records to contextualize the letters and vice versa.” Valcourt was struck by the strange stories “and colorful cast of characters” that seemed to emerge from the spare notes of the abbreviated service records. His favorite person was Oliver Grapes, an original volunteer in the regiment who deserted in July 1863 and, using the alias Oliver Vine, volunteered the next month as a Wagoner in the 3rd Maryland Volunteer Infantry. As Valcourt explained it, “you learn about the ‘small’ people in order to understand ‘big’ people and events.” At the end of the day, though, through the exercise of data entry, Bearce learned how “quantitative history can be, and how the quantitative aspects of history comes to be.” And, of course, both Bearce and Valcourt brushed up on their Excel skills.

Throughout the semester, all of the research assistants were intrigued with finding out “the rest of the story.” Batchelder and Williamson were crushed to learn that Peabody died of illness in November 1864 near Alexandria, VA. They were relieved to learn, however, that Larkin survived the war. Unfortunately, as a result of his military service, he suffered from ill-health, particularly rheumatism, for the rest of his life. Larkin floated between a number of jobs before dying in 1911. From his very different perspective of having dealt with the service records, Bearce was interested in finding out what happened after the war to the soldiers he studied. Noting that Ayling’s Revised Register had addresses for many veterans who had survived to 1895, Bearce stated, “I would really like someone to take on the challenge of doing research using the post office addresses listed in the registry for some purpose. These just seem absolutely tantalizing to me, and I think a paper trying to find out how people adjusted after the war would be very interesting.” One can only hope that future students working with these sources will take on that challenge as well as some of the others presented by the material.

And by the way, what are the answers to the questions above? A gabion is a wicker basket filled with earth and used to shore up fortifications. Bolivar Heights overlooks the town of Harper’s Ferry in what is now West Virginia. “N. f. r. A. G. O.” stands for “No further record Adjutant General’s Office, Washington DC.” And yes, the word in the letter was “gout.”

Furthermore, I consider that the myth of the unemployable History major must be destroyed.

Labbe and Miller Transcribe the Kimball Diaries

Psychology major and History minor Lisette Labbé ’18 (left) and History major Dena Miller ’20 (right) spent part of their semester in the Saint Anselm College Archives transcribing the 1891-1892 diary of Edwin C.H. Kimball.  One Thing After Another caught up with them to learn more about this campus history project.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about the project and how you got involved?

Dena and Lisette:  We are working on producing a literal transcription of the Edwin C.H. Kimball Diaries. Kimball recorded his day-to-day activities from January 1891 to December 1894. For our class project, we are focusing on the 1891-1892 diary. The ultimate goal of the project is to transcribe and digitally scan both diaries to have original pages of the dairies aligned with their transcriptions for viewing on the web.  We were both interested in being involved with the history of Saint Anselm College. So we chose this project as the final project in our History 363: Public History course.

Q: So, what did you know about Edwin C.H. Kimball when you started, or what have you learned about him?

Lisette: I did not even know he was a young farmer of 23 until about 20 pages into the diary. I assumed that he was much older and a parent based on how serious he was and his involvement in local and national politics. After reading further into the diary, it appears that he had a mother, a father, and a sister named Ethel. He was also unmarried. He was very interested in politics and would report voting rankings of political candidates from local and national elections. He would also report events that happened nationally which made me wonder if this was information he learned from his visitors who would stay at his family’s inn. He did not seem to deal much with the inn, focusing most of his efforts on the farm. It was interesting to see him interact with the Monks of the college as he was not Catholic but perhaps Baptist.

Dena:  I get the impression that Kimball was a very intelligent man. So much so that I did not even realize how young he was when I started reading his diary. I would have sworn that the diary was written by someone in his 40’s until he mentioned celebrating his 23rd birthday. Despite this initial confusion, I feel that as the project progressed I got a clear picture of who Kimball was. Kimball seemed to be a very family-oriented young man, judging by the amount of work he did for his family on their farm and in their house. Along that same line, he also seemed to care deeply about his community and his neighbors, since he spent hours a day working on their behalf, especially for Rev. Fr. Hugo Paff, O.S.B. Kimball also seemed to be very interested in politics, both local and national. Overall, my impression of Kimball is positive and I think that, judging by his political interests and community sensibilities, he would fit right in on the Saint Anselm College campus today.

Q: So, no juicy details in these diaries?

Lisette:  The psychology major in me wants to know more about the man behind the diary. But I have learned from this project that his diary was more of a journal or a records book than what we view as a diary in the 21st century.

Dena:  The Kimball family owned the property on Shirley Hill Road that was once used as an entrance to the College. Kimball recorded in his diaries the comings and goings of friends, family, and guests at his family’s inn and boarding house, the Maplewood Farm. Kimball also recorded his economic exchanges with the Monks of the college, usually days spent plowing or haying the monastic fields.  These diaries are essential to the school’s history because they are the only primary documents that recorded the fire that burned down the only college building where Alumni Hall is located in 1892.  But we only got through 1891, so we did not get to read that part!

Q: What does an average day of transcription look like?

Dena and Lisette:  So one of us will go into the Archives and typically Keith has printed out the other person’s transcriptions for us to edit. We will edit them by looking at the original document to check for errors, like a missed or an accidently capitalized letter. Afterwards, there may be edits on our own transcriptions for us to review and fix in the transcription document. So we would have to look at our partner’s edits and the diary to cross-compare before fixing the errors on the transcription document. There is also a working log where we post comments, questions and concerns for our partner, such as “what do you think this word is on page 54 line 4?” After all these steps are done we start transcribing again. If we have any questions, we typically ask Keith, or just text each other.

Q:  That is a lot of detail work! What skills do you think you have acquired through this work?

Dena and Lisette:  We learned how to transcribe exactly from a handwritten source to a digital file, which requires careful detail orientation, an understanding of cursive, and specialized knowledge of Microsoft Word. We also learned many other work-flow and project management skills. The diaries needed to stay in the College Archives, and digital pictures and copies could not be made. Hence, we had to go into the archives to do the transcriptions with the College Archivist, Keith Chevalier. Unfortunately, we could not go in at the same time because we were both working on the same diary and the same transcription document. As a result, we had to learn to schedule shifts around our three different schedules. Because of this problem, we learned how to collaborate as a team, even when the team was never in the same place at the same time. We also learned how to create a transcription and editing log to track our work as well as a style and process guide to help those who come after us maintain a consistent transcribing process.

Q:  You make it sound pretty easy. What obstacles did you encounter?

Dena and Lisette:  One of the major obstacle we have is his handwriting. Kimball forms his letters in very confusing way, where letters could look very different on different pages or pieces of the letters could look like punctuation. For example, when he writes an “a”, it often looks like “,a” because he connects the beginning of the letter to the line on the paper. This has caused confusion and in some cases has made punctuation a judgement call. Other obstacles that we’ve found is that he misspells words and we often find ourselves writing the correct word instead of the literal transcription of his misspelled word.

Q:  What do you think is important about your project? 

Dena and Lisette:  This project is important to the college’s history because we are preserving essential parts of the early life of the college. We are also working towards having the diaries online for the public to view. This initial process is to have the metadata of each page image. Metadata is data that describes and gives information about other data. We have created a catalogue record of each page. Ultimately, when each page of the diary is uploaded, typing keywords will cause all relevant pages and items to appear. These transcriptions are just the first step towards this major archival project.

Q:  So what are possible next steps for continuing this project?

Dena and Lisette: There are many ways in which future students could expand upon the work we have done. First they could continue the transcription—there are three more years to go!  After that, they could create annotations within the text of the diary. Annotations could be used to give context for the people and the situations that he describes in the diary. For example, annotations could shine a light on the political importance of James G. Blaine [a congressman and senator from Maine who was the Republican nominee for president in 1884; he served as secretary of state under President Benjamin Harrison from 1889 to 1892], who was mentioned many times. Another way that the project could be expanded upon would be the creation of a searchable index. If a future researcher wants to find all the times that a name or a term is mentioned in the diary (for example, Ethel), the index would refer the researcher to every mention of her name. This index could be expanded even further to include the misspelled versions of common words that would typically be left out of a common search because it was misspelled.

Furthermore, I consider that the myth of the unemployable History major must be destroyed.

History in the Age of Trump: Immigration (Part I)

Part I

Note: The Donald Trump presidency has already caused historians and other observers to look to the past for parallels and guidance. Some commentators have emphasized that Trump’s policies bear striking similarity to earlier periods in American and European history. Others have emphasized that Trump’s administration has broken with longstanding traditions in American political life. This series will attempt to place Trump’s presidency in a historical perspective in a way that contributes both to our understanding of past events and current affairs.

**Links in this essay will open PDF copies of New York Times articles from the 1920s. Links should open in a new window.

The images are striking: immigrants stuck in limbo, having arrived in the New York but detained and denied entry due to new, stricter immigration regulations. Those affected include men who risked their lives fighting for the United States who now find that they are unwelcome in the country they defended. In one case, a woman from the Middle East arrives in the U.S. to be reunited with her husband, a religious cleric who had come to the country legally more than a year earlier. The woman and their young daughter are taken into custody and then ordered to return home, prompting a frantic legal battle over their future.


Holding area at Ellis Island.

These stories do not describe events that took place in the past week—they describe conditions in 1924, just after Congress passed legislation that dramatically reduced the number of immigrants eligible for entry into the United States. The new law created bottlenecks at American ports, including Ellis Island. Critics of the law were dismayed to note that soldiers who had fought in World War I but later left the country found themselves stranded, uncertain of when they could return. Other opponents complained that the law unfairly targeted certain ethnic groups. Italians, who had made up a large percentage of immigrants to the United States since the early 1900s, saw their numbers slow to a trickle. Religious minorities also suffered under the new law; the family mentioned in the opening paragraph were Jews from Palestine.


On this blog, we try not to overstate the link between past and present. Immigration restrictions in 2017 are not the same as in 1924; America now is very different from America then. Nevertheless, President Trump’s executive order has drawn attention to America’s historic position as a beacon for immigrants, along with its equally long history of trying to exclude “undesirables.” Trump’s critics are right: his executive order is un-American, a betrayal of our core principles. At the same time, it is also quintessentially American, a modern manifestation of the nativist tendencies that have always existed in this country.

Part II of this post explores the fears that immigrants in the 1920s were violent radicals who threatened the American way of life. It will also consider how that history relates to current attitudes, and provide another illustration of how past events can be misconstrued in a modern context.

Van Uden Walks Us through Manchester’s Past

Kristen van Uden and Benedict

Those of you who read the Union Leader might have seen the following article:

Kristen Van Uden ’16 is a History major and Russian Area Studies minor from Manchester, NH. Recently, while working with the Manchester Historic Association (MHA), Van Uden produced a booklet entitled “Manchester Remembers” that maps out a walking tour of 20 sites in the city that are associated with public commemoration. The MHA will be selling the booklet at the Millyard Museum. One Thing after Another had some questions for Kristen who is spending the summer working at the Office of Admission.

Q: One Thing after Another understands that this booklet originated in your public history course at Saint Anselm College, but where did you get the idea for this particular project?

A: Having grown up in Manchester, I had always walked by these historic sites without much background information concerning their significance.  I had always wanted to learn more but was unsure of where to start.  I imagine that many Manchester natives are faced with the same problem.  My project is designed to provide a quick and interesting introduction to these sites, with the ultimate hope of prompting further research.  With so many demands on our time, I knew that not many people would put forth a great deal of effort toward educating themselves about seemingly obscure sites throughout the city.  Therefore, I developed something that can be read in less than an hour that will hopefully give people finding themselves in Manchester a better understanding of their surroundings.

Q: How did you go about finding these historic sites?

A: I started with sites I knew of already, such as the John Stark House and Pulaski Monument.  The Manchester Historic Association then suggested that I focus on monuments.  This is when I really developed my criteria for including sites in the booklet.  I chose to focus on remembrance and commemoration.  The booklet is not designed to give a comprehensive history of Manchester, but rather to highlight those sites or events that citizens have made efforts to preserve and honor. I then researched sites that would fit the theme of commemoration.  The Manchester Historic Association allowed me to use a comprehensive survey of Manchester’s monuments as a starting point.  Much of the important logistical information can be found on the monuments themselves.

Q: Did you have to leave anything off? What was it? Why did you leave it out?

A: I left out many historic buildings that are privately owned or still functioning, such as the Palace Theatre or historic homes.  These structures are certainly interesting and possess historic and cultural importance, but they did not fit the overall theme of public commemoration.  I also did not include historic churches for the same reasons.  However, this would be a great subject for another tour/booklet.

Q: Surely you must have encountered some interesting stories as you did research on all of these sites. Which site had the most interesting story?

A: The Merci Train Boxcar was the most unique item I featured.  I had never known about the story of this distinctive gift from France to the U.S. until I explored it for the project.  I also really liked learning about the monument dedication ceremonies of the first half of the twentieth century. The dedication of Victory Park’s WWI Memorial on Memorial Day in 1929 was quite a celebration, including an entire day of parades and festivities. There was even a flyover by a small plane dropping bouquets of roses.  That fascinating post-WWI culture is not preserved so much in the monument itself, but the patriotic spirit it resembles is present in the monument’s timeless message.

Q: One Thing after Another hates to sound like your parents, but what are your plans after graduation? Do you plan to go into public history at all?

A: I’ve always loved public history as I have experienced it, mostly through living history sites such as Colonial Williamsburg.  It was great to be able to study the many aspects of public history, especially material culture and its connection to archaeology.  I’m not quite sure what my plans are after graduation.  I know I would enjoy a job in public history.  I am definitely planning on attending grad school in Russian Studies if I can afford it!

Professor Salerno and Putting the Public Back in History

Several days ago, Professor Salerno published a short essay entitled “Recasting History: The Public Option” on the web site of The New England Journal of Higher Education:

This piece provides a nice summary of what public history is about, describes what kinds of graduate programs are available in public history, refers to public history on the undergraduate level, and mentions Professor Salerno’s own course in public history. Check it out!