Category Archives: Academics

Tales of the academic prowess of MAPH alumni

Archivist as Gatekeeper: Liisa Freeh (’13) on the MAPH Internship at the Newberry Library

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From the Newberry’s CB&Q Collection

My experience in MAPH taught me the relevance of archival work and the way it breathes life into the arguments I want to make in my field. My MAPH internship made me a participant, a gatekeeper, in that archival work. As an intern in the Department of Special Collections at the Newberry Library, I have been working on the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad Collection. My internship coincided with the last few months of the multi-year project of processing this large collection. My primary responsibility was the processing and arrangement of correspondence between land agents, and various parties involved in land transactions. CB&Q land agents wrote to businessmen, firms that sold land to other individuals, lawyers, small businesses, and countless hopeful farmers. These thousands of letters all deal with land transactions, but they also track a living history. In reading and processing these letters, I have been able to form a picture of CB&Q’s part in American corporate growth, as well as the development of countless small towns across the United States.

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Blurred Lines*: A Critical Examination of the Trans/Cis Dichotomy

a guest post by Nicole Rea, MAPH’s 2013 recipient of the Rafael Torch Memorial Fellowship

What makes you interested in transgender issues?” “So then, are you cis or are you trans?” As a woman perceived to be “cis” doing work that centers on issues faced by the transgender community, these are questions that I’m asked regularly. And, while they annoy me at times (okay, nearly all of the times), I understand their impetus. “Trans issues” are still viewed marginally, if at all, as serious problems in American society. Despite continued barriers to healthcare, housing, and legal resources as well as alarmingly high rates of suicide and drug use, America continues to casually misunderstand the term “transgender” and consequentially dismiss individuals who identify as such. Such dismissal has in turn created a dangerously prejudicial and at times outright violent environment in which trans folk are forced to live.  Beyond all of this, I also realized first-hand in a recent medical advocacy training session that transgender persons are often unfortunately pushed to the outskirts of even the LGBTQ purview, as well. Continue reading

Molly Foltyn (’13) on the Browne & Miller Internship: Book People

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Browne & Miller is located in the historic and lovely Fine Arts building on Michigan Avenue.

When I was an undergrad, I interned at a production company in Los Angeles.  I answered phones, made sure the coffee pot was always full, battled daily with the copy machine, and was once awarded the great responsibility of driving to Saks Fifth Avenue to pick up not one, but three pairs of pants for Samuel L. Jackson.  I mention this not to brag (although if you’re impressed, who could blame you?), but to demonstrate that what has really distinguished my experience as an intern at Browne & Miller Literary Associates is the fact that my summer here has been more rewarding, informative and valuable than I ever believed was possible in an internship. Continue reading

Jeff Gilliland (’13) on his MAPH Internship: “Life Lessons from the Illinois Humanities Council”

A Guest Post by MAPH’s 2013 IHC Intern

Lesson #1: If you don’t have time, make time.

Well, bombed that interview, I thought as I hurried out of the office. After twenty minutes with the Illinois Humanities Council’s garrulous Director of Programs & Partnerships, I felt that I had made less of an impression than a footprint on granite. Oh well, can’t worry about that now. One Quarter Pounder with Cheese and an overlong 6-bus ride later, I sprinted to the classroom where my precept group was meeting to deliver thesis presentations. It was late May, 2013, and I just did not have the time. Continue reading

Bart Pushaw (’13) on Fulbright in Estonia

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Estonia!

Below is an update from recent MAPH Alum Bart Pushaw (’13) on his Fulbright in Estonia. For graduate students interested in applying for Fulbright, the deadline for the 2014-15 year is September 30th, 2013. You can find more information on the University of Chicago’s Graduate Affairs website

In his book Estonia: A Ramble Through the Periphery, Alexander Theroux devotes an entire chapter to why he abhors the small Baltic country. The first two pages of the last chapter are filled exclusively with sentences beginning with, “I hated…” While his disgust for Estonia, accrued while accompanying his wife during her Fulbright fellowship in Tallinn, treats banal facets of quotidian life in the country, it is all too easy to fall into his trap and blindly agree with him. Estonia is obscure, the proper names are strange in comparison with Anglo-American standards (take, for example, the names Tiit, Ene, Aat, Epp, etc.), and beating your naked self with birch branches in a 80°C (172°F)  sauna before rolling (your still naked body) in the snow to only jump in a freezing lake might seem a little extreme. But, such a nation would be obscure to Americans growing up in the Cold War era, where Estonia did not exist until it emerged among a plethora of so-called “random” post-Soviet states in 1991 (actually, the Republic of Estonia was also sovereign entity from 1918-1940). And Estonian names are, in fact, normal to Finns—of course a result of Estonians and Finns descent from a singular ancient Finno-Ugric, and notably non-Indo-European, culture. Besides, beating yourself in a sauna is something that really should be experienced before it is written off!

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Greg Langen on The Odyssey Project Internship: Freedom and its Discontents

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The cover page for In Medias Res, the Odyssey Project’s publication.

Check out MAPH Alumnus Greg Langen’s (’13) reflections on his internship at the Odyssey Project. Also be sure to see the Odyssey Project’s latest issue of In Medias Res, edited by Greg Langen. 

 

A liberal arts education is, on the graduation speech level, freedom granting. With the powers of critical thinking and a strong (passable) handle on the English language, no area of culture is barred to those with BAs and the like. MAPH free since June ‘13, I know this notion well. As a humanities masters student I am free to read, free to write, free to deconstruct the laden societal assumptions perpetuated by YouTube commercials, free to know that my notion of the obviousness of my liberal subjecthood is much more complicated than I know or can escape (Althusser fans?), free to alienate nearly everyone around me at one (multiple) point(s) in our relationship (Feel free to skip this section). However, a thing that nobody tells you while you are in the process of freeing your mind (but that all creatures of institutions secretly know) is that freedom can be suffocating. I discovered this on my first day at the Odyssey Project when my boss, the lovely and impassioned Amy Thomas Elder, sat down with me to talk about my class for the upcoming summer. “You are free to do whatever you want,” she told me. “I don’t want to get in your way.” Continue reading

The Odyssey Project’s In Medias Res: New Issue!

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The Odyssey Project‘s summer class just released the new issue of In Medias Res. Filled with original content by Odyssey Project students and alumni, the new issue features artist profiles, original fiction, restaurant reviews, interviews, poetry, photography and more. All work was produced during this summer’s seminar, In Media Res: Arts & Literary Publications,  led by Greg Langen (MAPH ’13). Continue reading

Public History & Public Humanities: A tale of two MAs

The following post is an essay written by Lara Kelland (AM’02) and her doctoral colleague Anne Parsons. Lara and Anne are frequent contributors to the National Council on Pubic History’s “History @Work” blog. Public history is a professional field that engages the tools of academic history towards the creation of public projects such as museums, historic houses, digital projects, documentaries, and the like.

” ‘MUSEI WORMIANI HISTORIA’, THE FRONTISPIECE FROM THE MUSEUM WORMIANUM DEPICTING OLE WORM’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES.”

In our last History@Work post, we charted the recent burst of academic public history jobs in the past few years. This year’s job market has continued the trend, with thirty jobs seeking either major or minor public history specialties posted on the Academic Wiki. It is yet to be seen whether this increase in job postings reflects a sustainable boom or a short-lived bubble. Regardless, this growth of public history jobs signals a visible interest in the field in dozens of history departments across the country, raising significant questions regarding the overproduction of undergraduate and graduate students in public history.

One of the major concerns of expanding public history training is that many museums and historic institutions are currently facing major budget cuts, and so we are training new public historians for a field which is under siege. As the NCPH and the wider profession continue to discuss longstanding issues of graduate training in public history, we want to suggest a broadening of public history training. Public history already trains students in research and writing, preservation, and project management among other things. By incorporating more of a public humanities approach, we could train students even more broadly for a wider array of fields. At this moment of growth, public historians have an opportunity to think about new directions, including broadening the definitions of what public history is and what it encompasses.

Some universities have begun to re-imagine graduate training more expansively in the public humanities, which are broadly defined as projects that engage the public in the humanist fields of “history, philosophy, popular culture and the arts.” Public humanities programs such as those at the BrownNYU and University of Chicago infuse students with the belief that they can bring the specialized ideas of academic debate into the public sphere and inspire new visions about a more flexible curriculum and broad training. The growth of these programs demonstrates the expansive possibility of training the next generation of public historians not as possessors of a bound set of skills, but rather as flexible professionals who can work in a variety of cultural and non-profit settings. The majority of public history job listings call for experience in museum studies, historic preservation, and archival training. But the research, writing and public engagement skills of public historian would also work well in teaching, journalism, the arts and non-profit organizations.

As young public history professionals we come to this discussion mindful of our own experiences at the master’s level, one of us in public history and the other in public humanities. Anne received her MA in public history at New York University, a program that resides largely in the history department. The program provided her with a strong skill set for museum work and public history scholarship. In contrast, Lara trained at the University of Chicago in its Master of Arts Program in Humanities, designing an interdisciplinary degree that brought together different skill sets to her museum studies inquiry. The public humanities degree at University of Chicago, for instance, allowed students to design their own degree in various disciplines, enabling students to train themselves in ways that would be useful for their intended profession. A similar sentiment was expressed at the meeting of this past year’s NCPH Working Group on Imagining New Careers in Public History, where discussion about training MAs with business skills flourished. We might greatly benefit from looking to public humanities programs as a model for teaching students transferrable skills and broad cultural approaches. In one example, the University of Chicago’s MAPH program consistently places students in publishing, journalism, and teaching jobs, as well as other cultural sector jobs in visual and dramatic arts and public humanities organizations. According to one administrator of the program, graduates of broad humanities training are well-positioned to connect ideas generated within the academy to public spaces, events, and projects.

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Teaching the Body – Naomi Slipp (MAPH ’09) on her upcoming exhibit

Naomi Slipp (MAPH ’09) is a current PhD candidate in the Department of History of Art & Architecture at Boston University. As a facet of her studies, she has been planning an exhibition on American art and artistic anatomy, the topic of her dissertation research, since the spring of 2010. Directly inspired by her MAPH thesis written on the bronze anatomical casts of Thomas Eakins at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the two-month long exhibition Teaching the Body: Artistic Anatomy in the American Academy from Copley, Rimmer, and Eakins to Contemporary Artists, opens January 31, 2013 at the Boston University Art Gallery and includes over eighty works of art (many never exhibited before), extensive public programming, and an illustrated catalogue with scholarly essays.

She says of the project: “I feel inspired by artistic anatomy because these works of art visualize the uncharted and wondrous terrain of the human body, not some distant volcano or historical event, but the miraculous, complex mechanisms operating within ourselves. The study of anatomy also, historically, has brought together doctors and artists who sought to explore this corporeal space together.”

Because of this, she is also very excited about the opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration around the exhibition topic. She says: “I want to create a dialogue between these two commonly polarized fields (art and science). To that end, we are initiating collaborative programming with Massachusetts General Hospital, the College of Fine Arts, the BU Medical College & the Center for Science & Medical Journalism at Boston University, and the Massachusetts College of Art & Design. I hope to unite this diverse audience, bringing together people who are interested in art and those who are interested in medicine for a rich, shared conversation about what it means to occupy, treat, & picture our own bodies.”

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