One of the challenges I face with my dissertation is keeping event and exhibition dates in mind so that I have a clear sense of simultaneity as well as sequence. I have lists in Microsoft Word and Excel spreadsheets to help me keep track, but I wanted something with visual cues. After reading Amy Cavender’s “Easy Timelines with Timeline JS,” I decided to see if this open-source tool was indeed “As easy as 1-2-3.”
In June, I will be presenting a dissertation-related paper at Material Cultures in the Space Between, 1914-1945, the 14th Annual Conference of the Space Between Society. My abstract follows below.
“Materializing the Good Neighborhood:
Exhibitions and the Promotion of Hemispheric Relations during World War II”
In recent decades, scholars have increasingly made museums and their exhibitions the subject of study. However, little work has been done to explicate how museums wield their cultural power during times of war. This paper addresses the role of exhibitions during World War II in re-constructing a hemispheric supra-national community of “Good Neighbors” united by shared cultural, political and economic interests. Specifically, it examines the Newark Museum’s Three Southern Neighbors: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia (1941) in comparison to R.H. Macy and Co.’s Latin American Fair (1942), an exhibition-cum-bazaar.
Both exhibits sought to materialize Latin America within US borders so that visitors could—in body and, it was hoped, in allegiance—become members of the imagined community that government agencies backing these efforts hoped to create. The Department of State, which encouraged the Newark show, and the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs, which advised Macy’s effort, saw such cultural initiatives as achieving two aims. On the domestic front, they would inculcate US citizens. When regarded from abroad, the exhibitions would prove to potential allies wary of US imperialism that investment and intervention now came in the spirit of mutuality.
Drawing on material culture and affect studies as well as narrative theory, this paper situates the embodied ways of knowing constructed by museums within the matrix of intersecting exhibitionary practices also undertaken by government agencies and corporations during the war. This case study argues for the necessity of treating exhibitions not only as visual experiences or as “texts” to be read but as multisensory, material phenomena that demand interdisciplinary analytical tools. The larger questions that this paper will raise for discussion include: how do materialized narratives differ from primarily textual ones, how must one account for these differences, and what difficulties does the study of past embodied experiences present for scholars?
If you are curious to know more about this topic, see Lisa Crossman’s paper, “Macy’s Taste in Latino Art: Selling the Latin American Fair’s Aesthetics,” as well as the research report that I prepared for the Rockefeller Archive Center on my work in their collections related to museums’ participation, at home and abroad, in hemispheric cultural relations.
I would love to hear from others doing related work and welcome input on collections of relevant material or scholarship that might have bearing on this project.
This is just one of many questions that my fellow panelists and I invite you to explore with us on our “War & the Visceral Imagination” blog—and in Baltimore during the annual meeting of the American Studies Association (ASA) on October 23rd.
We called our blog and ASA panel “War and the Visceral Imagination” because we are interested in how embodied experiences of the material shape wartime notions of citizenship, obligation, and the national imaginary.
For more about the session–and to tell us about the work you’re doing, interesting material in your institution’s collections, readings you find useful, etc.–click on through. We’d love to hear from you.
Here it is November already, and it’s obvious that, if nothing else, attending THATCamp un-conferences compels me to update my often neglected blog. My experience at the upcoming THATCAMP New England promises to be quite different than my first un-conference encounter back in May at the Center for History and New Media. That first exposure felt like a dizzying plunge off the deep end into a freewheeling yet purposeful culture of conversation, creative energy and camaraderie.
Yes, “more hack, less yack” emerged as the unofficial theme for the weekend but, for a relative newcomer like me, who has plenty of yack but very little hack, talking about ideas, projects and the issues confronting digital humanities seemed within reach whereas hacking did not. (This said, I still sat in on a few of the programming-oriented sessions, if only to absorb the spirit of things while the content soared over my head.) Overall, I observed much, contributed a little and came away inspired by the different models of digital scholarship that I’d encountered—in both human and project form.
My lack of technical know-how continued to nag at me, however. For this reason, I kept thinking back to a session on BootCamp organizing that I sat in on briefly. How great would it be, I thought, if I could attend a series of workshops designed to help folks like me build some of the basic technical skills needed not only to do the work of digital humanities but also to collaborate more effectively with the technical experts who support and partner with us? Well, I’ll soon be reporting back to you on exactly what it is like to attend such workshops. The chief reason my THATCamp New England experience promises to be different than my first un-conference is that I will be participating in all the BootCamp sessions being offered.
Now, if I can only decide on the appropriate footwear. Boots at Bootcamp too last season?
Tags: digital humanities, teaching
Among the many subjects this year’s THATCampers are buzzing about are the ways in which we can use technology and collaborative approaches to enhance student learning. Here’s one of the ideas that I outlined in my application to the unconference:
I’m interested in adapting or developing an annotation tool for collaborative critical reading. Existing software such as CommentPress or Adobe Buzzword provide some but not all the features that I envision for this project. The aim is to leverage the reciprocal relationship between reading and writing by fostering critical reading skills that encourage students to examine how scholars structure and develop their arguments and, in turn, to think more critically about their own writing. The difference between this idea and, say, having students blog about what they are reading is that the tool would make students’ observations about the text–and the text itself–visible in the same shared space, inviting close re-examination of the text. Goals include:
- Help students to strengthen their critical reading skills: understand how arguments are structured, use of rhetoric, conception of audience, etc. Transfer this knowledge to creation of students’ own written work. Peer-learning: shift from many-to-one to a many-to-many model, create space for low-risk participation and carry momentum over to classroom discussion.
- Transform reading from a solitary activity with no feedback mechanisms to a collaborative learning activity.
AMCV 0190M From P.T. Barnum to Second Life: American Identities in the Museum
This is a freshman/sophomore seminar with an emphasis on interdisciplinary methods that is intended to introduce students to American Studies. Toward this end students will work with textual, visual, material, and web-based forms of evidence. Emphasis is placed on how to conduct question-based inquiries, assess evidence, formulate a thesis, and argue it coherently in writing. In-class free-writing exercises, peer critiques of drafts, and evidence-specific workshops (e.g., two class sessions working with objects from the John Nicholas Brown Center’s Nightingale-Brown House Collections) will support skills-building needed for assignments. To aid students in thinking about rhetoric and the craft of writing, course readings expose them to materials written for varied audiences and purposes.
I am now the proud collective owner of the recent Man Bartlett performance “24h Best non-Buy.” More thoughts on this later as I get the site up and running. Until then here is the artist’s summary of his recent endeavor: