As many of you may remember from one of our courses, World War I ended 100 years ago this month — at least, on its most famous front. On the eleventh hour of the eleventh hour of the eleventh month of 1918, the guns finally fell silent in Belgium and northern France.
If you’d like to take part in commemorating the centennial of that armistice, here are a few events coming up in the Twin Cities:
The Pulitzer Prize-winning opera about the Christmas Truce of 1914 comes home to the Minnesota Opera for a run at the Ordway Center in St. Paul. There are performances this weekend and next, plus the 13th and 15th. (I was part of a panel previewing the production last Monday; here’s a blog post inspired by one of the questions I received: “What misconceptions do we have about World War I?”)
The Veterans Memorial Community Center in Inver Grove Heights will host the state’s Veterans Day event on Sunday morning, 9:30-11:30. The keynote speaker will be Nancy O’Brien Wagner, editor of a new collection of WWI letters from her great-aunt, one of the many women who volunteered for service in the war.
Around the country on Sunday, there will be bell-ringing ceremonies to mark the centennial of the Armistice. In addition to local churches, there will be a state Bells of Peace event on the University of Minnesota campus at Northrup Auditorium. The ceremony will start at 10:45am, with 21 bells rung at 11am, and then the reading of the names of all 1,432 Minnesotan soldiers killed in the war. (Presumably including at least a couple of Bethel’s fallen alumni.)
Then at 4pm, Northrup will host the American debut of composer Patrick Hawes’ Great War Symphony (simultaneous with a production at Carnegie Hall in New York). While you’re at the Lest We Forget concert, you can also see David Geister’s mural, World War 1 America, which he painted during the run of that exhibition last year at the Minnesota History Center.
That mural now resides in the library of the Minnesota Military Museum at Camp Ripley, which is open Thursday-Saturday and has a special exhibit through next year, In the Fight: Minnesota and the World War.
We’re delighted to announce that the Minnesota Undergraduate History Symposium will return to Bethel on Saturday, April 27, 2019!
As always, MUHS gives our students and other undergraduate historians from Minnesota and neighboring states a chance to present their research to peers and professors from a variety of private religious colleges. But this time we’re also excited to welcome a keynote speaker from beyond our faculties: Kent Whitworth, the new director of the Minnesota Historical Society, will open our symposium by talking about the future of public history.
Kent came to MNHS this summer after serving as executive director of the Kentucky Historical Society for fourteen years. While in his previous position, he also helped to found and lead the national History Relevance campaign.
In an interview with the Star Tribune, Kent explained that his desire to be a historian started on a childhood tour of the Yorktown battlefield, where “it dawned on me… I could do that as a living.” He went on to earn a master’s degree in history and historic preservation from Middle Tennessee State University, then worked for a time at his undergraduate alma mater, Asbury University (one of our sister schools in the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities).
This week I talked with Bethel history alum Dana Morrison-Lorenz about combining her love of history and theatre. She graduated in 2012 and now coordinates historical interpreters at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at North Dakota’s Fort Mandan.
What led to your interest in history?
My parents (particularly my dad) had a big interest in history and during many family vacations we would stop at historically significant sites. I also have two older sisters that were very interested in history. (In fact, both sisters studied history at Bethel as well.) Being as I looked up to them I wanted to do as they did, and so I began getting into the same things they did and history was a big one. As I got older I always wanted the answers to “why” questions: Why do we do things a certain way? Why are things the way they are? etc. And I found that history was a fascinating way to answer those questions. Sometimes the answers were simple and sometimes they were heartbreaking, but finding out the truth (or at the very least facts presented whether truthful or not) led to a lot of fulfillment for me.
What was one of your favorite courses or memories from Bethel?
I really enjoyed my Cold War class. Although I knew about the Cold War and the basics about what it involved, I learned so much through that course. I was born the year after the Berlin Wall came down and so it felt like a part of history that I had just missed out on, something that was so close to my lifetime but still seemed so foreign. Through the class it was interesting to dive deeper into what led up to the Cold War, what events occurred that aren’t as well known, and what ramifications from the Cold War are still felt today. Some of the standout things I remember from the class was on the first day Dr. Gehrz asked us what we think of when we hear “Cold War” and he wrote our answers on the board. We had a discussion about how that list has changed over the years that he has been teaching the course and how our perception of an event is shaped by the time we are living in. Dr. Gehrz would also play us songs from the Cold War era and would print out the lyrics so we could follow along. I still have those sheets nearly 10 years later.
What led you to your current career?
It wasn’t until late in my college career that I figured that working in a museum/historic site might be an interesting career. I was more so studying history out of a passion for it and thought that the skills from studying history could work well in any career I chose, not necessarily having anything to do with history. So when I realized that I may want to pursue a career in a museum setting I started looking at my options. I looked into going to grad school (and to be honest it’s still not off the table), but it didn’t seem like the right time to go back to school. Instead I began volunteering through the Minnesota Historical Society so that I could start to gain some experience. I worked with the MHS Press transcribing interviews for upcoming books and with the Event Volunteers, talking with visitors and performing behind-the-scenes tasks. All the while I was applying for jobs around the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Although I got a few interviews, none of these panned out. Then I heard about an interpreter position at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center/Fort Mandan from my sister’s former high school classmate and decided to apply for the position. I interviewed by phone a few weeks later and then the next week I had found out I got the position. Two weeks later I moved back to my home state of North Dakota and began my career as an historical interpreter. Three years later I applied for the Interpretive Coordinator position within the same museum and started my new role in July of this year.
What are some of the duties that come with your position?
Since we are a small staff at our location I have a lot of duties that I take care of. First and foremost, I interact with our visitors, whether that be giving a guided tour of Fort Mandan or answering questions within the museum. As the Coordinator I am also responsible for all of the interpreters. If they have questions or concerns, they can come to me. I will give them tasks and duties and guide them as they develop interpretive programming and tours. Other duties include planning events and temporary exhibits. This is usually done in the winter when visitation is slow. We will usually have 2-4 temporary exhibits throughout the year, with three available galleries for the exhibits. We also have events going year round that I have to plan and promote. I am also in charge of our social media presence so I make posts to Facebook and Instagram nearly every day. In recent years there has been a demand for site content to be available on social media, and we are trying to get information out there so even though people may not be able to visit our site we can give them interpretive content. Facebook has also been great to promote events and keep our followers up-to-date on what’s going on. Beyond these duties I go where I am needed so I will worked the register in the museum stores, help with maintenance, and occasionally even to off site if needed.
There are days where we will dress up in historical clothing while working at Fort Mandan. We don’t go so far as to reenact like it’s 1804 at the fort, but having the clothing gives a different feel to the fort that people really enjoy. Combining my passions for history and theatre has also helped in my presentations, whether it be a fort tour, demonstrating how to use a flintlock, or preparing presentations to give to the public. In a sense I play a bit of a role with my job. I wear a park uniform (a costume) and I stand in front of visitors (an audience) to deliver a tour (a performance). If you go deeper there are a lot of connections between history and theatre that have helped in my position. Both history and theatre rely on storytelling, both incorporate aspects of teamwork and critical thinking, and both allow you to overcome limitations. All of these skills are integral to my role as a historical interpreter.
Summer is winding down for our Social Studies Education alumni preparing to return to their teaching jobs this fall. Joining the numerous veterans will be Andrew Fort ’18, who has a full-time position at Greenway Public Schools in Coleridge, Minnesota. Christina Sibileva ’18 has also recently accepted a teaching job at Highview Middle School (part of the Mounds View Public School District) where she will be teaching Minnesota history.
Interacting with students in a traditional classroom, however, is not the only way Bethel graduates have been involved in teaching history. As Dr. Gehrz has noted, one of our best resources for teaching (and learning) Minnesota history is the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS). In his post, Dr. Gehrz reviewed several of MNHS’s historic sites, including the Oliver Kelley Farm. The farm features several “costumed staff,” one of whom is Mikalah Pruss ’17. These individuals teach visitors about farming in the nineteenth century by way of “experiential” learning. Just as our newest teachers join the ranks of other Bethel veterans, we also have veterans working in the field of public history. Eve Burlingame ’08, for example, has spent the last several years working at the Eidem Homestead, a historical site maintained by the Brooklyn Park Recreation and Park’s Department. My hope is that we continue to facilitate the training of ever more teachers of history–both in “traditional” and “non-traditional” classrooms.
Prof. Magnuson is our resident expert on the subject, but as a Civil War buff, I had to take a couple hours out of my East Coast trip to visit the site of the single bloodiest day in American military history: the Antietam National Battlefield.
Two weeks after General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia crossed into Maryland in 1862, it met General George McClellan’s vastly larger Army of the Potomac near the village of Sharpsburg, along the banks of Antietam Creek. Combat began early on the morning of September 17th, near the church used by local German Baptists. By midday, the worst of the fighting turned a sunken road into “Bloody Lane,” with the Union forces suffering some 3,000 casualties in just over three hours, to 2,600 Confederate losses.
Known as the Dunkers for their mode of baptism, the German Baptists were pacifists
The Sunken Road, or “Bloody Lane” – All photos CC BY-NC 4.0 Chris Gehrz
View of the sunken road from an observation post built years later by the U.S. Army. The National Park Service visitor center is in the distance.
By the end of the day, nearly 23,000 men had been killed, wounded, taken prisoner, or gone missing at Antietam. Among those buried at the nearby military cemetery are 10 members of the 1st Minnesota, which suffered far worse losses ten months later at Gettysburg.
As in many battles of the Civil War, recent immigrants played a key role. Several Union unit memorials near Bloody Lane feature a clover leaf, including one honoring New York’s famous Irish Brigade, whose Catholic chaplain granted absolution from horseback as he rode along its lines. The same state’s 20th Regiment was called the Turner Rifles — for the German “Turner” (that is, gymnast) clubs that supplied most of its manpower. Its survivors dedicated a German-language memorial “to the memory of our fallen comrades.”
Thanks to late-arriving reinforcements from Harper’s Ferry, Lee’s army beat back the final Union assaults. But the Confederates were forced back into Virginia, and President Abraham Lincoln was emboldened to issue the Emancipation Proclamation several days later.
Nelson Menjivar ’19, a Bethel History major and Philosophy minor, was named to the 2018-2019 cohort of the INCE Museum Fellows at the Minnesota Historical Society. The program includes a fall course at MNHS, a site visit to museums in Chicago, a paid internship next spring, and ongoing mentoring after the program concludes.
In addition to letting students explore museum-related careers, the INCE program
is designed to engage students in studying the challenges related to the underrepresentation of communities of color and American Indian Nations in historical organizations and public history graduate programs. Communities need to “see themselves” in the work of cultural organizations in order to identify with their missions.
A native of West Saint Paul, MN, Nelson currently serves as a teaching assistant with Bethel’s Christianity and Western Culture program. He says that he was particularly excited about the INCE program because it offered “the chance to work with museums and professionals who not only study history, but also find a way to present it to the public… I’m excited to get the internship started and use the valuable tools I’ve picked up at the Bethel History department!”
Yesterday Prof. Gehrz joined Art professors Michelle Westmark Wingard and Ken Steinbach for a conversation about memorials and monuments moderated by Bethel digital librarian Kent Gerber. Entitled “The Significance of Public Memory,” it covered everything from debates over Confederate memorials and the memory of the U.S.-Dakota War to examples of European memorials from our World War I trip (coming again in January 2019).
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.
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!
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?
I 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.
Today we’re happy to share a photo essay by History major and department TA Connor Larson ’17, who spent Interim in Europe with Profs. Gehrz and Mulberry and nineteen other Bethel students.
The J-term trip through Europe studying World War I and its effects on society and culture was a resounding success. Here is a glimpse at some of what we did.
England: Jan. 3-11
Upon arriving in London and passing through customs we quickly unloaded our luggage at the lovely Wombats Hostel and began our journey.
Although jet-lagged and disoriented the walking tour went well, fast-walking tour guide and all.
Trafalgar Square was one of our first stops.
Despite the jet lag everyone was having a great time.
The Lion of the Midwest.
One of the amazing things about London is the vast amount of memorials and monuments for the numerous wars and events the country has been involved in throughout its history. Luckily for us that means there was no shortage of WWI-era memorials to examine.
Merchant Navy Memorial
Among the many ships and crews honored here the Lusitania is one of note for the American interest
Field Marshal Haig
Machine Gun Corp Memorial
Close up of the Machine Gun Corp Memorial
Artillery Corp Memorial
The opposite side of the Artillery Corp Memorial
For many of the memorials visited in London the students gave lessons on the importance of the memorial and influence of those honored both in the war and in the years after.
One of the highlights for many on the trip was a visit to the Imperial War Museum, and it was an experience many would never forget.
Our trip, while grounded in the First World War, spent an equal amount of time on the impact of war on society by looking at the arts (primarily fine art and poetry). Art and war are deeply connected, and through our museum visits we were able to see how the war affected society in a way that books and artifacts rarely have an ability to portray. I am omitting photos of this portion of the trip because I believe the impact of what we read and saw would be reduced in such a degree where it would be a disservice to attempt recreating it here.
On our free day many of us went and stormed Dover Castle. Here is our journey.
On the train to Dover, Brandon Sebey ’17, History and Social Studies Ed major, does reconnaissance to create a plan of attack.
On the bridge into the castle, we are surprised at the ease of entry.
The future queen overlooks her new domain. She is not impressed.
When I picture British landscapes this is what always came to mind; was not disappointed.
We have made it to the castle roof, victory!
Talking about the successful storming of Dover Castle.
The new leadership takes the throne of Dover Castle.
All joking aside, it was an amazing experience and a great opportunity to learn about both medieval and modern history, as the castle and town played an important role in both World Wars.
To wrap up our time in England here are some more photos that are neither educational nor related to World War I.
Belgium & Northern France: Jan. 11-13
The few days spent exploring the front lines of the war were the climax of the trip for most, if not all, of us. Despite our enthusiasm none of us were ready for the emotional toll this portion of the trip would have on us. Reading about casualties and statistics pales in comparison to seeing the hundreds of grave sites scattered around Belgium and Northern France, let alone the front lines throughout the rest of Europe. Here, for example, are some photos from the former military hospital near Poperinge, Belgium.
Langemark was the first German cemetery we visited. Where American deceased were sent back to the states and British troops given individual graves in the field where they fell, German soldiers were given a much different burial. German soldiers were soldiers for their fatherland first, individuals second. Individual graves were time consuming and costly to the war effort, meaning that mass graves were common behind the German front lines. This is not reducing the individual to nothing but rather putting the state in front of oneself, an important distinction to make.
As we went from one grave site to another many of us had trouble fighting off the inevitable desensitizing nature of witnessing the aftermath of so many lives. As difficult as it was to witness the amount of lives lost we would rather feel that weight than have those emotions watered down in the face of incomprehensible numbers.
The French military cemetery near Ablain-St-Nazaire includes a basilica known at Notre Dame de Lorette
Across from the cemetery is a newer memorial: the Ring of Remembrance, which includes the names of 576,606 fallen soldiers (listed alphabetically, rather than by nationality, rank, or unit)
We visited various memorials during our time in Belgium and Northern France as well, including one honoring the sacrifice of Canadian soldiers in the war, specifically at Vimy Ridge.
Along with the beautiful memorial pictured above, the Canadian government, when given the choice to do with this land what they wished, opted to preserve the landscape, keeping it in the same condition as it was immediately after the war. The only changes were in trees that had been transplanted and grass that has been grown there.
We were given the opportunity to walk through recreated trenches at Vimy Ridge, giving a feeling for the distance one would have had between the enemy and themselves.
The topography of Vimy Ridge gives a stunning picture of what war-torn Europe would have looked like in 1918
Our guide, Carl Ooghe, giving the class a very animated lecture on the importance of mortars during the war.
Straight Outta’ Belgium
The cement structure in the foreground is the “enemy” trench, a distance much shorter than one may think.
Another image showing the distance between trenches
Brandon keeps a keen lookout from his fortified bunker.
While we visited numerous other memorials and cemeteries in our time we had to move on, visiting somewhere completely different, both physically and mentally.
Paris, France: Jan. 13-18
To say that Paris was a shock after travelling the French and Belgium countryside for the past few days would be an understatement. On top of the new city and transportation system to learn, we struggled with a language barrier, general travel fatigue, and the mental drain of visiting and seeing all that we had in the past few days.
Much like our time in London, Paris occupied our time with walking tours of famous monuments and visiting various museums located throughout the city. Our museum and transit passes (included in the trip) filled our stay with fine art and exploration.
The Louvre was an incredible journey of art, history, and architecture.
Business and Poli Sci double-major Noah Fedje ’17 giving a presentation on the Palace of Versaille
Do you hear the people sing?
While the English may have created the first Tank, the French gave us the turreted top-gun.
Yet again, not all of our time was devoted to the history of Europe. Much of our time was also spent enjoying the city.
There is one last thing that we did which has a special place in the hearts of everyone who was on this trip: The Handball Tournament.
Both Dr. Gehrz and Prof. Mulberry mentioned this optional outing while we were touring Belgium and Northern France. After everyone decided to go, they feared that an overstatement was made in how great it would be. If their visions of grandeur were anything, it would be understated. Handball is easily one of the most fun sports to watch, and although the stadium was mostly empty we certainly made enough noise for everyone who was absent.
We had no ties to either team playing, confusing those around us as we cheered for everything that happened. Many came out without a voice and the events that went down in that stadium will never be forgotten.
Munich, Germany: Jan. 18-23
If one thing prepared us for coming home during our last week in Europe it was the weather. Munich was by far the coldest location we visited, although not as cold as the Twin Cities while we were away. Our standard walking tour, while cold and windy, gave our tired feet a brief respite; snow is much softer to walk on than cement.
Despite the weather Munich was a beautiful way to end our time in Europe. The food was delicious and cheap, people were nice (generally speaking), and our free day was a blast. Many of us decided to take a train to Salzburg, Austria and witness hills alive with the sound of music (spoiler alert; the hills were, unfortunately, not alive regardless of the state of music in said hills). We explored yet another castle and came closer to grasping the true meaning of the term “winter wonderland.”
The train to Salzburg was a whimsical affair.
The top of the castle, overlooking Salzburg
As the trip progressed my photography effort declined due to a combination of fatigue, overload, and a desire to be more fully enveloped in the experiences of the trip. As great as documenting a journey such as this can be you end up focusing more on getting the right shot rather than enjoying the right moments. There is a balance that I have yet to discover, but for now I am glad I can look back at everything we had been through and all that we had learned.
The flight home seemed to take twice as long as the journey taken a few weeks prior. As with all ends to great adventures the homecoming was bittersweet. I think we all were glad to be home, thankful for the experience, and sad to have it be over. I hope that as many people as possible get the chance to travel and expand their thoughts and horizons, and this trip was a great opportunity to do just that. We were able to learn more about ourselves, new cultures, and a pivotal moment in history that affected nearly every nation in the world.
One of the great things about studying history at a university in the Twin Cities is that you have access to the Minnesota Historical Society (MNHS), one of the largest and best organizations of its type in the country. For example, MNHS runs a significant internship program for college students and recent graduates, with cohorts recruited for the fall, spring, and summer.
If you’re interested in pursuing an MNHS internship for the summer, applications are being accepted all throughout the month of March, with intern orientation in May and jobs starting on June 1st. As usual, the program encompasses a wide variety of fields, with over twenty positions available in everything from digitization to web design, oral history to textile conservation, youth camps to special events.