Student History Conference 2014 Highlights


The history department has been busy for the last couple of weeks.  Preparing for the Student History Conference (SHC), planning Immersive Learning, and setting up the Blog, Student Projects page, and social media.  (By the way, you can now also find us on Google+.)  This years SHC had a substantial number of exceptional presentations. Unfortunately, it was not possible to experience them all, so here are some highlights from this years presentations. Also make sure you read about our award winners.

Dean_MaggiottoDr. Kevin Smith and Dean Michael Maggiotto began the day by welcoming everyone and giving their opening remarks.  While Dean Maggiotto’s background is in political science, his account of author and historian, Doris Kearns Goodwin, demonstrated a keen appreciation of the study of history.  Growing up Dr. Kearns Goodwin’s father helped mold her into a lifelong fan of Baseball, and it was his influence that helped her transcend traditional gender roles of her time. As a historian, Dr. Kearns Goodwin delved into primary source documents for her Pulitzer Prize work No Ordinary Time.  Dean Maggiotto made the point that primary source documents are all around us from the Center for Middletown Studies at Ball State to data mining in the digital era.  History is all around us, if we are willing to go out and look for it. These opening remarks set the stage for the Conference.

Aly Caviness presented for one of the first panel sessions, “Social Outsiders and Outlaws: Sexuality, Warfare, and the High Seas.”  Her presentation, “The Imperfect Execution of Captain William Kidd” discussed how Captain Kidd did not see himself as a pirate but as a privateer.  The line between the two can be hard to distinguish, but since Captain Kidd was executed for piracy, the distinction was an important one.  The only time he admitted to piracy was when his crew forced it on him during one of his voyages.  During this period the English courts used capital punishment in cases where there was loss of property.  Ultimately Captain Kidd was unable to prove that he was a privateer rather than a pirate and executed for the crime.  In addition to this his remains were hung from a “gibbet,” covered in tar, and left on display for three years.  Rather than a pirate, he saw himself as a gentleman and a privateer working for businessmen and governments, which was very different than most pirates of his day.  It is his example that helped form the romanticized version of pirates today.

One of our guests from Western University, Ontario, Gordon Vance presented, “Democracy, Modernity, and Gordon_VanceTradition: The Queen’s Hall Promenade Concerts and British Society, 1895-1941.” He discussed the importance, history, and significance of the Queen’s Hall concerts in Britain until the hall was destroyed during the German bombing of Britain.  This concert hall employed the first permanent orchestra and changed the previous system of musicians employing deputies to replace them if they got a better offer.  At first many musicians refused to give up their right to hire deputies and 40 left to form the London Symphonic Orchestra.  It later became an industry standard to reject the usage of deputies by musicians.  The Queen’s Hall orchestra also was the first to employ women musicians.  The main significance of the Queen’s Hall Promenade Concerts was that it allowed the lower and middle classes to experience a more upper class world.  It also introduced new composers and music genres to a larger audience.  The concerts influenced musicians, music, and people of all classes of British society.

Ali_CavinessIn addition to individual student presentations there were three panels based on class projects.  In the “Family Perspectives on European Immigration to the U.S.” students discussed their family histories.  Hannah Merk talked about her family’s background in making and selling shoes.  Another panel presented, “Immersive Learning Projects in History.” The final class panel used modern technology to tell the stories of the past in, “Digital History Research Modules.”  Digital History projects included Aly Caviness’s, “An Unruly Freebooter” (Prezi presentation) and “An Unruly Freebooter” (Website), Ryan Frick’s, “Conflict and Despair: Mormon Missions in India 1849-1856,” and Victoria Smallegan’s, “Words and Actions: The Committee of Correspondence and the Global Cold War.”

There were also panels on “Problems at Home and Abroad: Diplomatic and Urban Tensions” and “The Irish at Home and Abroad,” the 24th annual Burkhardt Lecture, and the panels that included our student award winners.  This year’s conference was a great event.  See for yourself next year!

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