Recommendations for History-Related Summer Travel

If you’re like our faculty, you’ll spend at least some of your summer traveling the United States. If you’d like to indulge your love of history during those journeys, some historians have been doubling as travel writers in recent weeks.

At The Anxious Bench, our own Chris Gehrz and his co-bloggers shared nine favorite historic sites, five to the east of the Mississippi and four to the west. In addition to Minnesota’s own Grand Portage National Monument, Prof. Gehrz recalled his family’s visits to two important sites in Virginia on their Fall 2016 sabbatical:

If you find Colonial Williamsburg overcrowded or overpriced, then brave much smaller crowds for many fewer dollars by touring the two sites on either end of the beautiful Colonial Parkway: Jamestown and Yorktown. One admission fee covers both, and everyone under 16 enters for free. When our family visited them last fall, we reversed the chronology and started with the Yorktown battlefield. (And yes, we sang along to the Hamilton soundtrack as we pulled into the visitor center parking lot.) Even if you bike or drive the full route, the Yorktown site is remarkably small, reminding those of us accustomed to battlefields like Gettysburg or Verdun of the relatively short ranges of 18th century weaponry. And our kids got a kick out of emulating America’s “ten-dollar Founding Father” and storming a not-exactly-impenetrable British redoubt. (“We will fight up close, seize the moment and stay in it / It’s either that or meet the business end of a bayonet!”) But the real highlight was Historic Jamestowne, where the kids roamed the ruins, posed with a statue of Pocahontas (apocryphally a distant ancestor on my dad’s side), sifted through bits and pieces from the archeological dig, and learned about slavery and cannibalism at the Archaearium. All that plus the glass blower just up the road.

The Gehrz children at Jamestown
Prof. Gehrz’s kids at Jamestown last October

Then Time magazine asked ten nationally-known experts to share their favorite historic sites. Several were well-established Civil War sites, but historian Eric Foner recommended a newer landmark dedicated to the aftermath of that conflict:

In the waning days of his presidency, Barack Obama designated Beaufort [South Carolina] a National Landmark devoted to the history of Reconstruction, the pivotal era that followed the Civil War. It was in Reconstruction that the laws and Constitution were rewritten to try to create a society based on equal rights regardless of race, and when interracial democracy for the first time flourished in this country. The emancipated slaves took important steps toward enjoying genuine freedom, but eventually progress was thwarted and reversed by terrorist groups like the Ku Klux Klan. In the Beaufort area, buildings and monuments still stand that exemplify the history of Reconstruction — the Penn Center, where northern women set up a school to educate the freed people; the home of Robert Smalls, the area’s longtime black political leader; plantations where African-Americans acquired land; and other sites. In Beaufort, visitors can learn about what might be called the first civil rights era, a period of our history most Americans know little about but whose struggles over equality and freedom resonate today.

If you do visit a historic site over the summer and would like to share your experience with other students, alumni, and friends of the Bethel History Department, let us know. We’d love to revive our occasional AC 2nd Travelogue series!

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What Do Bethel History Professors Do on Their Summer Breaks? (part 2)

Part two of our brief series sharing summer plans from Bethel’s history professors. (Read part one here.)

This summer, Sam Mulberry be working at Bethel on three major projects. First, he’ll help build academic schedules for incoming students who will be new to Bethel in the Fall. This includes both building their initial schedules as well as meeting with students throughout the summer to make changes and adjustments to their schedules. Secondly, Prof. Mulberry will be teaching Christianity and Western Culture (CWC) online with Chris Gehrz and Amy Poppinga — his fifth straight summer teaching this class. Finally, Prof. Mulberry will be working on several major video production projects: a series of digital study skills workshops; a new online Tutor Training for Bethel’s Academic Enrichment and Support Center; a video archive of exit interviews with students of color who have recently graduated from Bethel; and a short interview film with faculty who were on Sabbatical during the 2016-17 academic year.

Sunset at Glacier National Park in Montana
Sunset at Glacier National Park – Creative Commons (B D)

Amy Poppinga is off to Montana in early June with her family for ten days of touring, horseback riding, fishing, and white water rafting in Glacier National Park. Upon her return she will be working to implement a grant she and colleagues Marion Larson and Sara Shady received along with faculty from the University of St. Thomas and Augsburg. The campuses will be working together to host an interfaith leadership conference for students in February 2018 at St. Thomas. In the meantime, Poppinga, Larson, and Shady are waiting to hear news regarding another grant for interfaith competency training for faculty and staff at Bethel. They are also working to submit a proposal for the CCCU International Forum in 2018. She will also be resuming edits on her dissertation, and teaching online Summer CWC with her colleagues, Sam Mulberry and Chris Gehrz. When she’s not working on any of the following, she can be found watching her sons play baseball or spending time on her paddleboard at the family cabin in Alexandria, Minnesota.

In addition to co-teaching online CWC with Profs. Mulberry and Poppinga, Chris Gehrz will be developing a fall section of Bethel’s new Inquiry Seminar, a first-year gen ed course that introduces students to the Christian liberal arts and helps them develop critical thinking, research, writing, and speaking skills. His section will focus on how Christians strive for unity in the midst of a polarized society. Then he’s also excited to get started on a new research project: a “spiritual but not religious” biography of Charles Lindbergh. (Look for the finished product sometime in 2021, on whatever new platform has taken the place of Amazon.) In his spare time, he’ll chauffeur seven-year old twins kept busy with a schedule full of baseball practices/games and Roseville parks and rec programming. Then there’s an August road trip to Colorado — during which Prof. Gehrz will (finally!) see Mount Rushmore. (Unless his wife decides that they’ll fly. In which case his childhood wish will remain unmet for another year.)

What Do Bethel History Professors Do on Their Summer Breaks? (part 1)

The calendar has turned from May to June. Spring grades are (almost) in. The Bethel campus is quiet, and even the Upper Midwest is starting to warm up.

So what will our faculty do this summer? Three share their plans today; look for the rest next week.

Charlie Goldberg is reflecting on a fruitful if frenetic Year One as a Bethel History professor. Even though his time with the History Department’s ’17 grads was relatively short in comparison with other faculty, he will cherish the memory of his first graduating class, and looks forward to continuing the relationships he’s forged with younger students next year. His summer will be a busy one, mostly spent designing two new courses for the fall: an upper level History course on Medieval Europe, and Intro to Digital Humanities, part of the new Digital Humanities major at Bethel, which the History Department has spearheaded. Prof. Goldberg is also traveling to British Columbia in early June for a week-long Digital Humanities workshop on big data textual analysis. Later, in July, he will guest lecture in a graduate course on the Digital Humanities and material culture at the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Library, where he will share his experience from the major online project on Roman coins he conducted with his Roman Civ students. Prof. Goldberg will spend any remaining free time with his daughter, Nora, growing vegetables in their garden plot in Blaine, which will either lead to a successful August harvest or else a forthcoming self-help book, entitled, Gardening with Toddlers: A Survival Guide.

Throughout the summer months Diana Magnuson will continue working at the History Center, Archive of Bethel University and Converge.  This work consists of accessioning materials, serving patrons, digitization projects with the Bethel Digital Library, and updating the HC website. Prof. Magnuson is also engaged in several collaborative research projects with colleagues from the University of Minnesota, with deadlines for two paper submissions in July and one conference paper accepted for presentation in November. She is the archivist for the Minnesota Population Center (at the U of MN) and over the summer will continue to curate their collection and exhibit space. For a little added summer spice, Prof. Magnuson has jury duty, but on most summer evenings you can find her at a soccer field somewhere in the state of Minnesota.

Huntington Library
The Huntington Library in Pasadena, CA – Creative Commons (Aaron Logan)

AnneMarie Kooistra‘s plan for the summer includes a research trip to the Huntington Library and Gardens. The bulk of here research will be on Los Angeles criminal court records ranging in dates from 1862-1893.  Most of the cases involve individuals arrested under the charge of “keeping a house of ill fame.” She hopes to spend the rest of the summer writing, gardening, cooking, reading, and hanging out with family.

Glimpses of Graduation, May 2017

This past weekend Bethel University celebrated hundreds of new graduates, including thirteen History and Social Studies Education majors. Thanks to our in-house photographer, Prof. Sam Mulberry, we’ve got a few glimpses of graduation to look back at:

Congratulations again to all of our 2016-2017 graduates. And to the rest of our returning and incoming students: we’ll see you in the fall!

Prof. Gehrz on Memorial Day

For some historical and theological reflections on Memorial Day, Christianity Today this year turned to our own Chris Gehrz, who teaches courses on World War I and World War II and has written extensively about commemoration.

Fort Snelling National Cemetery
Fort Snelling National Cemetery, where Prof. Gehrz’s cousin Mike (d. 2014) is buried alongside over 220,000 other veterans – CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Chris Gehrz

On one hand, Prof. Gehrz emphasized that “every day is a memorial day for Christians, heirs of Moses’ exhortation to the assembly of Israel: “Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past” (Deut. 32:7)” and suggested that Christians might embrace today’s call to remembrance as one more “way of loving our (temporal) neighbors and proclaiming that the grave has won no lasting victory.”

But he also wrestled with the fact that Memorial Day is “a festival of our nation’s civil religion… approached heedlessly, it will tempt us to pledge to the nation-state the ‘total allegiance‘ that we owe to nothing and no one but God.”

To read the full essay and learn how Prof. Gehrz found something potentially redemptive in American civil religion, click here.

Michael Beschloss Coming to St. Paul

If you’re a presidential history buff — or if current events have you interested in the development of the presidency — consider attending a free lecture by presidential historian and NBC/PBS contributor Michael Beschloss: Sunday, May 21st, 2pm in the sanctuary of House of Hope Presbyterian Church, on Summit Avenue in St. Paul. Most recently the author of the American Heritage History of the PresidentsBeschloss will appear at part of the church’s Sunday Series of talks.

Chris Gehrz on Teaching as Wondering

Earlier this spring Prof. Chris Gehrz joined two other winners of Bethel’s Faculty Excellence Award in Teaching to reflect on “habits of the mind” for effective teachers. While Joey Horstman (English) took noticing and Sara Shady (Philosophy) reflected on persisting, Prof. Gehrz described teaching as an act of wondering. You can watch that presentation here:

My Internship with… The Minnesota Historical Society

Today we revive our occasional series of interviews with Bethel History majors who have interned with local organizations. Last fall Lauren Gannon ’17 helped the Minnesota Historical Society prepare for this year’s World War I centenary. Lauren was part of the 2015 edition of our WWI travel course with Prof. Gehrz, who will be taking a group of 25 Bethel students to the Minnesota History Center this Saturday for the grand opening of the new “WW1 America” exhibit.

WW1 America exhibit logo

Only about half of our students actually come to Bethel declaring a History major, but you made that change a little later than most. Can you tell us about your decision to double-major in Media Production and History?

I became a History major by happy accident. I came to Bethel as a Media Communication major, hoping to minor in history, and other subjects if I had room. I didn’t necessarily intentionally take History courses at first; I just took classes I was interested in, and they just happened to be history courses. I have always liked history, so it wasn’t a huge surprise that these classes interested me, but I was surprised spring of my junior year, when I realized that I only needed three more to have a History major. I was ecstatic when I discovered this because I felt that I had made great relationships with professors and students in the History Department, and it felt nice to belong there. I also like the challenge of mixing my two majors in different projects, like making films on a historic topic or adding a film aspect to my history projects and research.

How did you become an intern with the Minnesota Historical Society? Any advice for students applying for that kind of program?

To incorporate both my Media Production and History skills, I thought the museum environment would be ideal. I could incorporate visual storytelling with my love for learning and studying history. I had been encouraged by my parents, mentors, and friends to look at the Minnesota History Center since they have a great and organized internship program. Their positions are posted online and it is a relatively easy application process, albeit incredibly competitive. I applied in the summer of 2016 for about five position for the fall and was thrilled to be offered one of them: WWI Daybook Research Assistant!

Lauren in Trafalgar Square
Lauren (2nd from r.) in Trafalgar Square, the starting point of the 2015 WWI trip

I think what set me apart was my previous experience. I had studied WWI abroad with the History Department in 2015, and the memoir I wrote for the trip was published here at AC 2nd, so I had some experience writing and studying the topic. I provided a link to my memoir and described the trip in my resume and cover letter for the application, and my supervisor asked me about it in the interview.

So my advice for students applying for something like this is to not be afraid to show and elaborate on your personal interest and give examples of your work. This will set you apart from other applicants who are just simply “interested.”

What kind of work did you do for MNHS? What was most exciting or enjoyable about it? What was challenging?

As a WWI Daybook Research Assistant, I digitized historical documents and artifacts, and wrote short, descriptive blogposts for the WWI Daybook blog, commemorating the centennial of the event, that will publish every day that United States was in the war. I really loved handling the documents and getting to explore the collections of the MNHS. I especially enjoyed reading personal letters and accounts, learning the stories of these individuals from all over Minnesota and how they were impacted by the war.

Like all internships, there is an element of monotony. Finding and scanning a document, then writing a short blogpost, and repeating this day in and day out did get a little old sometimes. However, every time I felt my work getting redundant, I would remember that I am handling documents that were written by people who lived unique lives 100 years ago, and I would get excited again. If you are someone who loves that personal part of history, you know what I am talking about.

What did you take away from your experience as an intern?

MNHS logoI learned a lot about the museum as an institution and place of employment. If not the biggest, Minnesota Historical Society is one of the biggest organizations of its kind in the United States. People in Minnesota love their history. However, some Minnesotans’ stories are not often told by the museum. Therefore, I was also challenged to advocate for and tell the story of the people and communities that may not be represented by the museum, as well as challenged to make relationships with and gain the trust of communities that had been hurt by the museum. I am also encouraged by the effort that MNHS is putting towards doing these exact things.

Do I think I will work in the museum field one day? Perhaps. It was definitely worth exploring.

For another student’s reflection on a different kind of MNHS internship, click here.

Now Hiring: History Department TAs for 2017-2018

While our students are getting set to register for fall courses, our faculty are also looking ahead to next year and preparing to hire teaching assistants (TAs). Typically, each of our professors works with one or two TAs. While several current TAs will returning, we will need some new TAs for part or all of the 2017-18 academic year.

Students: if you’re interested in serving for the first time as a TA, start by clicking here to read the job description and requirements. Then to be considered for a TA position, complete this Google Form no later than April 18th.

To get some personal insight into what it’s like being a TA, skip ahead to 12:45 of this video for a 2016 interview with then-TAs Micayla Moore and Julia Muckenhirn.

Next Tuesday: Learn More about Digital Humanities at Bethel

We’re happy to report that our much-anticipated Digital Humanities program is moving forward, with the new DIG200 Intro to DH course debuting next fall. It’s being taught by Prof. Charlie Goldberg, who coordinates the DH program.

To learn more, plan to join us next Tuesday (April 4) at 10:20am in the Bethel Library. Charlie and digital librarian Kent Gerber will give an overview of DH, DIG200, and the new program. Bring a laptop or tablet to take part in a hands-on demonstration of one digital tool from the new course!