John Matthew Barlow
University of North Alabama
This project will examine the sense of place and belonging of minority students at the University of North Alabama. It will be a semester-long project conducted in my graduate Public History seminar in Fall 2016.
Oklahoma State University
This case study centers on my continuing involvement in the question of whether Murray Hall on the Oklahoma State University campus should be renamed since the namesake of the building was an avowed racist and anti-Semite. At the time of my 2007 NCPH presidential address, I expressed hesitancy in removing the name, and I continue to be hesitant. My position is partially based on the enigmatic history of William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray. In addition to being a racist and anti-Semite, he also contributed positively to the state’s history in a number of ways. For example, he was an intermarried member of the Chickasaw nation and fought to keep grafters from acquiring Indian lands. He also presided over a constitutional convention that produced a document heralded for the progressive reforms it embraced. These actions and other positive contributions, along with his racism and anti-Semitism, need to be part of the process of deciding whether his name should remain on the building. Also, advocates for removing his name rightfully argue that Murray’s racism and anti-Semitism do not represent the current values of the university. I agree, but I also believe using the question of Murray’s name on the building offers the opportunity for discussing just what has been the history of race and prejudice both in Oklahoma and on the campus. Such a discussion, it seems to me will generate greater understanding and reconciliation going forward than simply removing his name.
University of Minnesota
In October, 2015, Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota celebrated its 75th anniversary. Three years earlier, I was hired as a graduate assistant to research the history of student unions at the University of Minnesota in order to develop materials to be used in the celebration. Ultimately, I organized a collection of essays, developed content for a website and a short video, and curated an exhibition. The goal of the project was to tell our history in an engaging and concise manner that encompassed multiple aspects of the union and how students have used it over the years. As is the case with many other student unions across the United States, Coffman has served as a central gathering place for both social activities and protests. Working on this project involved learning to navigate writing institutional history for an institution.
University of South Carolina
The University of South Carolina has a rich and vibrant history of protest, student activism and countercultural thought which has been the underlying pulse of the campus for generations. Built largely by slaves, and expanded into low income African American neighborhoods, the Columbia campus also claims a much darker history of segregation, subjection and discrimination. However, to walk on the historic Horseshoe or to listen to a campus tour by the visitor’s center, this history become obsolete, granting privilege to a glorified antebellum past. In recent years numerous efforts have been launched through the public history program at USC to bring forgotten campus histories out of the margins. These efforts have included phone and IPad applications as well as memorialization projects to provide context to the built environment on campus, as well as to introduce the community to figures of the Columbia Civil Rights movement. Over the past year I have participated in designing a campus exhibit which showcased student and faculty protest, as well as led the charge to recognize a former slave cabin on campus through the university group History Advocates. Recent protests on campus have also incorporated public history into their list of goals and demands by seeking acknowledgement of the campus’s reliance on slave labor and complicated history of segregation. However, despite best efforts, these histories are still willfully ignored by both the visitor’s center and the administration and largely unknown to the student body. I would like to use this working group as a platform to discuss methods to best institutionalize ostracized histories into the university landscape and classroom while working with a predominantly uninterested administration. Given this past summer’s events in Columbia South Carolina, I would also like to raise questions of how public history practitioners can take advantage of the recent past and use it as a tool to engage the campus and community.
University of Virginia
Take Back the Archive is a new digital archive dedicated to the history of sexual violence at the University of Virginia. Inspired by the responses to a (later partially retracted) article in Rolling Stone in November 2014, the archive records, curates, and contextualizes the shifting discourse around rape and sexual assault at the University. The project incorporates decades of feminist scholarship on the relationship between power and representation, particularly research on designing digital archives that advocate for survivors of violence. As such it constitutes a site of feminist knowledge production and reconstitution.
TBTA operates at the intersection of campus activism, treasured beliefs about UVa’s historic identity, and public history, and if it is to succeed it needs to address a wide array of stakeholders, including administrators, faculty, students, and alumni. Or does it? Would “success,” in this instance, instead require taking a strong ideological stance that not only documents but may actually nurture conflict among these constituencies? If so, what is that stance, and how is it best achieved? Should we be an “objective” space, recruiting stories from multiple constituencies, or a resource that privileges survivors’ stories? More practically, how do we go about collecting primary sources for this archive—e.g., video interviews with students, faculty, and administrators involved in the aftermath of the Rolling Stone article—that meets scholarly criteria for archival research (and legal requirements of Title IX and the Clery Act), but also establishes a relationship with a much larger audience interested in the history of sexual assault on American campuses?
Bronx Community College of the City University of New York
In 2014, colleagues Dr. Prithi Kanakamedala and Dr. Ahmed Reid from the History Department at Bronx Community College of the City University of New York (BCC) launched a cross-campus commemorative project entitled: ‘We Must Stand United’: A History of Activism, Achievement, and Community at Bronx Community College. A physical exhibit was installed in BCC’s student cafeteria and the Library with a content-rich corresponding digital site. Research was conducted using BCC’s under utilized institutional archives in order to offer a lesser known, inspiring, grassroots, radical history of BCC. Located on NYU’s former uptown campus with landmark architecture by Stanford White, BCC serves a vibrant non-traditional student body. 94% of students are Black and Hispanic, many of them are first generation college students, over 50% speak English as a second language, and the college is based in one of the most underserved boroughs in New York City. While recent public history initiatives have necessarily disrupted traditional institutional histories e.g. ties of higher education to slavery and racism, my interest lies in how we can use best practices in public history to tell a more positive, nuanced history of people of color who mobilized and organized against their own inequality in higher education.
LaQuanda Walters Cooper
University of Maryland, Baltimore County
As the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) approaches its fiftieth anniversary in September, 2016, public history students have embarked on a variety of projects tracing the university’s development. This case statement reflects on my work as a graduate student researching and developing content for a digital tour of the UMBC campus, issues with archival research, and how this experience is now informing future #campushistories projects.
Johns Hopkins University
In the Spring of 2014, students from the Johns Hopkins University Program in Museums and Society explored the power of site-based interpretation and public history as they developed “A Sense of Place” – a series of ten interpretive signs highlighting locations around the Homewood campus. With the help of museum workers, faculty and staff from the University Archives, students researched each location, carefully selecting images, documents, quotes and narratives that would illuminate stories of the people who lived and worked there in the past. After testing their text for accuracy and accessibility, they partnered with environmental design students at the Maryland Institute College of Art to produce the signs. In addition to interpreting the landscape for those who encounter them, these student-generated signs sparked community dialog, additional classes related to historical interpretation and public programming at the historic house on campus. For additional information and images of the project see this blog post or contact course instructor Beth Maloney.
University of Richmond
In March 2014, a group of faculty, staff, and students at the University of Richmond participated in a discussion on the topic of “Race, Space, and Place.” One outcome was the student-initiated idea to develop a project that excavates the history of race and racism at the University, following the lead from many of our neighboring and peer institutions. The Race and Racism at the University of Richmond Project has since taken shape, centering around the creation of a digital archive that will serve as a site for the documentation, preservation, and interpretation of documents illuminating the history of race and racism at the University. In the wake of the Project’s soft launch in December 2015, the Project now faces important questions about its future direction and place within curricular and extra-curricular dimensions of University life.
Bryn Mawr College
In September 2014, Bryn Mawr College drew national media attention when 550 students, staff, and faculty gathered to protest the Confederate flag, displayed by two College students in the window of their campus dormitory. In response, Bryn Mawr College student Emma Kioko imagined the research project that would become Black at Bryn Mawr, modeled on the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s long running “Black and Blue” campus history walking tour. Joining forces with fellow student Grace Pusey, Emma proposed that together, we investigate the histories of Black students, staff, and faculty at Bryn Mawr College from its founding in 1885 to the present day. Together, we decided on a goal for the 2014-15 academic year: to create a Bryn Mawr campus history walking tour and digital map, returning these invisible histories of race and racism to the landscape. Since April 2015, more than 300 community members have taken the tour; many thousands more have engaged with our digital resources online. Upon the students’ College graduation in May 2015, I have been working to expand upon the project, while continue to offer the walking tour at College events. As I approach the end of my time at Bryn Mawr, I remain committed to the project and the possibilities of campus history as public history, interested in how we can best plan for campus history projects, and invite our campus publics to participate in them, especially in the residential liberal arts school setting, where we ask our community to reimagine the place they call home and confront challenging histories.
Indiana University-Perdue University Indianapolis
In 2003 faculty and staff members at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI) established an IUPUI History Committee. This informal committee was not an official IUPUI committee, and its membership was not appointed by or its activities dictated by the IUPUI administration. The committee’s most successful project was a series of historical markers relating to the history of IUPUI and of the neighborhoods that had been displaced by the growth of the campus. After the completion of this project, the committee lost its momentum and became moribund in 2009. With IUPUI’s 50th anniversary occurring in 2019 and Indiana University celebrating its bicentennial in 2020, the archives staff is preparing a proposal to revive the committee. Based on the lessons learned from the first committee, the proposal will recommend that the new committee be an official IUPUI committee and that the committee broadens the scope of the projects it takes on, place more emphasis in including students, and be a more vocal advocate for preserving the history of the campus.
In spring 2016, I will be teaching a black history course at Kean University, during which students will work in the recently catalogued university archives to develop a tour of the campus that will focus on the history of black life at Kean. When the course was originally conceived, it was meant to develop alongside a campus-wide initiative to commemorate the 55th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s visit to Kean and the beginnings of a state-wide remembrance of the 1967 uprisings in Newark – home of the original university (then Newark Teachers College) and only six miles from the current campus – on the eve of their 50th anniversary. The tour, then, was meant to be an opportunity to reflect on the story of black life at the university because of these historical events that impacted the current racial landscape. In the months between developing the course and the start of the semester, there were targeted threats of mass violence against black students at Kean, following a student-led demonstration in solidarity with #blacksoncampus protests around the country. Two weeks later, a Kean alumnus who had been involved in organizing the demonstration was arrested and charged with making the threats. This spring 2016 black history course is now taking place amidst a new contemporary reality on campus.
Sweet Briar College
Lynn Rainville is a research professor in the humanities and director of an institute for public history at Sweet Briar College. Although her PhD is in Near Eastern Archaeology, she has spent the last 15 years studying enslaved communities on Virginian plantations and their burial patterns. In ancient Assyria Lynn studied the domestic life of ordinary people. In Virginia, she continued this focus by studying the daily lives, labors, and deaths of African Americans on large plantations. During this same period she has worked at an all female college that was formerly a plantation with over 145 enslaved laborers on the eve of the Civil War.
As one of the oldest and most selective private high schools in the US, Phillips Academy (founded 1778) has a history rife with complicated issues of class, race and gender. In 1973 it merged with Abbot Academy, a girls’ school established in 1829 on adjacent land in Andover, Massachusetts. With this project, I explore how gender plays out at the most elite of “old boys'” schools, helping peers to consider how they might use their school archives to empower female students and reconnect with alumnae through curricular integration, formal classroom work and rigorous independent projects. My recent work as Director of Archives and Special Collections focuses on the alumnae-initiated Abbot Academy Project to organize coeducation anniversary events, support students’ oral history interviews with alumnae, collect historical materials from alumnae, catalog recent donations and administrative records in order to make the school’s history more accessible to students and other researchers.
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point is a regional comprehensive institution located in a rural part of central Wisconsin. Like many campuses, UWSP is seeking to demonstrate its relevance to the greater community. Our recent budget crisis has only further demonstrated our need to engage in public dialogue regarding the importance of the university to the public good. The Historic Preservation Subcommittee is tasked with preserving culturally significant landscapes, facilities, and artifacts across campus. After a few years of inactivity, the committee is trying to redefine its purpose and garner both institutional and community support. What are effective goals and strategies of historic preservation initiatives on campus? How could those efforts coincide with broader historic preservation initiatives in the community? Do campus historical committee have an obligation to address difficult subject matters? And what does success (or failure) look like?
University of West Georgia
Newnan hospital was closed several years ago and then sold to the University of West Georgia and opened as UWG’s Newnan Center in the summer of 2015. I am currently creating an interpretation of the original 1925 building and the history associated with it. Part of the interpretation for the Newnan Hospital is racial segregation. The hospital, when opened in 1925, did not allow African Americans. It was not until 1979 when civil rights activists picketed the hospital and they were forced to change their policies. In 1929, the hospital contributed funds to create an African American hospital which was in operation until 1962 when Coweta General was opened. The issue I would like to raise is how do you tactfully include this in the interpretation of the history?
University of Mississippi
Jodi Skipper has a joint appointment in Anthropology and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi. She more specifically explores the intersections of public archaeology and cultural heritage tourism, through the Behind the Big House program, a grassroots education program, which interprets antebellum slavery in Holly Springs, Mississippi. In 2014, Skipper’s interests led her to join the University of Mississippi’s Slavery and the University Working Group (UMSUWG). It developed out of a faculty reading group interested in exploring new scholarship on the institution of slavery in the U.S. The group’s more specific goal is to carefully recover, preserve, explore, and understand slavery and its legacies at the University of Mississippi, through ongoing campus-‐wide interdisciplinary research, teaching, and community outreach. It is Skipper’s hope that this NCPH ‘s Campus History as Public History working group process can help her to assist the UMSUWG with better thinking through its process as a faculty working group, while negotiating its relationships to university students and administrators and local descendant communities.
After the murder of nine African American parishioners at the Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the subsequent removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds in the summer of 2015, the Clemson University Board of Trustees appointed a Task Force on the History of Clemson to devise new means of presenting the institution’s complete history. This case statement presents an overview of my own research—which preceded the development of the task force—that seeks to document the lives and labors of five generations of African Americans in Clemson history prior to 1963 when African American student Harvey Gantt integrated the University.
Anne Mitchell Whisnant
University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill
I will discuss issues arising from a historic, comprehensive initiative now underway at my university (UNC-Chapel Hill) to more fully interpret our history to students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other publics. The campus initiative was formalized by a set of resolutions adopted by our Board of Trustees in May of 2015 and will be coordinated by a campus History Task Force. It was sparked by activism spearheaded the Real Silent Sam Coalition. Led by students of color, the movement has focused on the legacies of white supremacy embodied in the former Saunders Hall and the Memorial to Civil War Soldiers of the University (a.k.a. “Silent Sam”) and has developed a long list of demands to make UNC more inclusive and equitable.
As the instructor for our Introduction to Public History course and a member of the campus’s University History Council, I have reoriented my public history course’s central project to focus on university history. In fall 2015, my class studied campus building histories and constructed a new website, Names in Brick and Stone: Histories from the University’s Built Landscape. It employs deeply researched long-form illustrated essays and a flexible visualization about the over 250 structures that UNC classifies as “major buildings”. The website and visualizations argue that Carolina’s landscape embodies the operations of power in North Carolina and silences many pasts.
My questions for the working group include concerns about how public historians (especially those in non-tenure-track positions) on a public university campus can best work within a conflicted environment that includes many deeply committed external and internal stakeholders with divergent views, passionate student justice activists, and a campus administration eager to make change but constrained by a conservative political climate.