Take a look at what goes on in and out of our history classrooms...
Demonstration and Q&A with the 153rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment
After reading Tony Horwitz’s amusing journalistic account of civil war reenacting titled Confederates in the Attic, the “Politics and Practice of History” class spoke with some actual reenactors to see if the book squared with local conditions. Neil Coddington, Kathleen Coddington, and Marrianne Phifer, are reenactors with “Northampton county’s own” 153rd Volunteer Regiment. Their unit visits schools, participates in battle reenactments, and does various forms of educational outreach. Most of their activity, to the class’s surprise, is not related to guns, battles, or nostalgia, but to education about the everyday lives, subjectivity, and material culture of Americans who lived through the Civil War–even non-combatants. The class learned about the foods soldiers ate (condensed milk, canned pork & beans, hard-tack, and other goodies). We were also informed that, by the standards of the 1860s, class members were immodestly attired for our session. Marrianne, Kathleen, and Neil answered questions about the current state of reenacting, queries about life way back then, and discussed the legacy of the Civil War and race relations today. Many of us arrived, based on our reading of Confederates in the Attic, expecting to meet gun fanciers and trivia buffs. Instead, we found out that reenactors also engage in serious historical research and share our own commitments to evidence-based research and trying to understand the present by exploring the past.
Trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Professors Kanjwal and Goshgarian took three history classes (The Crusades History 115, Early Modern South Asia History 267 and FYS 44 Multiculturalism in the Medieval Mediterranean ) on a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The tour began with the ‘Armenia!’ exhibit where the students were led around the artefacts by Professor Goshgarian, who has been involved in putting together the exhibit. She talked about individual objects and their relevance to the Armenian community’s image of itself, as well as it’s connection across the world to various Christian and Muslim communities. Next, the students headed up to the Islamic Galleries to discuss representations of Muslim cultures and nationalism being ‘read back’ in various histories. Students found the trip fascinating, in that it focused on connections between communities and how we imagine our cultures as bounded despite plentiful evidence proving otherwise. Further, the discussions on the Met’s position and acquisition of various objects, despite having a fraught relationship with the ‘Islamic Galleries’, was pertinent to the time at which the students went and the ways in which all the classes discuss issues of de/colonization and representations of various groups.
History 206: Trip to The Sigal Museum
This October, around 13 students of Professor Barclay’s ‘Politics and Practices of History’ class visited the Sigal Museum in downtown Easton. The Sigal Museum is “Northampton County, Pennsylvania’s leading institution of local history, and home to significant collections of pre-European settlement artifacts, decorative arts and textiles, farming implements and colonial furniture.”
The students were given a tour around the museum by its curator Brittany Schrum Merriam, who skillfully explained the exhibits on display and their importance to Northampton County. She was later joined by Andrew Glovas, Director of Operations, to answer the many questions the students had about the daily running of the museum, the importance of preserving artifacts, difficulties with funding the museum, how they cater to the right audiences and many other aspects of museum life. The trip to the museum greatly complimented the work the students have been doing in their class as it helped them understand the real life politics and practices of presenting history to the public.