The Elephant in the Room

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From the Western Observer, April 23, 1831.

I stumbled across this ad from the Western Observer, a Jacksonville newspaper, dated April 1831. It throws a wrench into everything we think we know about the frontier.

It is the literal elephant in the room that brings together various threads questioning standard historical narratives that privilege patriarchy, whiteness, and Americans’ obsession with manifest destiny. Continue reading “The Elephant in the Room”

Keeping a Writing Journal

A good writer must do two things every day: read a little and write a little. Today we’ll discuss the writing a little and why my writing this blog is worthwhile. It takes time to sit down every week and type up a few thoughts on my research, but that in and of itself is very much a part of the research and writing process.Continue reading “Keeping a Writing Journal”

Exploring Equality and Difference

A year ago today, we dedicated the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives and welcomed President Jimmy Carter as our very special guest. The Archives at Illinois College are dedicated to promoting peace and social justice through our collections. As a researcher, I share that commitment and want my work to promote social justice.Continue reading “Exploring Equality and Difference”

Researching the Taboo

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The historical marker along Michagan Ave. in Jacksonville showing the location of the North Immanuel Cemetery, the burial grounds for the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane. Note that the first patient and the first person to buried here were both female.

What we know of history is heavily edited. Edited by memory, shame, pride, or one’s right to privacy. In American Athena, I’m not just interested to know what happened to educated women, I’m interested to know what happened to an entire community where women were educated. There’s a big difference. Simply educating women is not enough to overcome deeply engrained patriarchal systems. But does it help?

Continue reading “Researching the Taboo”

Anonymous Was a Woman #NEHturns50

First, a very happy 50th birthday to the National Endowment for the Humanities today! If you want to participate in their celebrations, tell them why you love the humanities on Twitter @NEHgov, with #NEHturns50. We are celebrating here at IC because in 2014, an NEH Challenge Grant made the Khalaf Al Habtoor Archives into a reality.

I personally love the humanities because through art, literature, history, and many other fields, we can communicate complex feelings and ideas to a wide audience. During the early 19th century, a highly literate generation of women began publishing in unprecedented numbers. The women of Jacksonville were no exception, joining the trend with gusto and adding their own “frontier flair” to poetry and the short story. Women rarely show up in official government documents, so without the humanities, and their drive to share their ideas, they would otherwise be lost to history.

Continue reading “Anonymous Was a Woman #NEHturns50”

Finding American Athena

DSC_0994The cover photo for Americanathena.com comes from one of Jacksonville’s key landmarks, a memorial to Morgan County residents who served in the Civil War. Dedicated in 1920, the monument provides some clues about how Jacksonville residents of the early twentieth century perceived men’s and women’s civic responsibilities. Continue reading “Finding American Athena”

Writing a Book in a Digital Age

With American Athena, I want to write a new kind of book – one that exists in a dynamic and living space, responsive to readers and as instructive in design as it is in content.  This new kind of book acknowledges the reader as an active participant in producing new knowledge. A kind of crowdsourcing.Continue reading “Writing a Book in a Digital Age”

My Favorite Research Tools: eBbay

With itScreen Shot 2015-07-31 at 9.40.03 AMs ever changing stock of artifacts and vibrant community of collectors, eBay is a wonderland of material culture waiting to be discovered. Most of the items related to the history of Jacksonville hint at popular culture, like this vintage leather postcard from the Illinois Women’s College (now MacMurray):Continue reading “My Favorite Research Tools: eBbay”

Tour the JFA – Part 2 – Photograph Edition

ICM 1907-1908l_Page_01Awhile back, I posted interior sketches of Academy Hall (home of the Jacksonville Female Academy), ca. 1890. Lamenting the lack of photographs and the ability to see what these rooms really looked like, I remained hopeful that one day photos would surface. The wait is over. And yes, there are photos of women’s dorm rooms.Continue reading “Tour the JFA – Part 2 – Photograph Edition”