Reflections on the National Council on Public History’s Annual Meeting

This past weekend I attended the National Council on Public History’s annual meeting in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference revolved around the theme of “Challenging the Exclusive Past”. This theme starts to scratch the surface on the multitude of complexities in doing public history work. Attending the NCPH conference allowed me to draw broad comparisons among a variety of public history institutions throughout the country. Following in line with the conference theme, the main sessions highlighted the need to fill in the gaps in the historic record and tell the stories that have been ignored in the past.

Working at the Women and Leadership Archives (WLA), I understand the need to expand the historical narrative to be more inclusive. The WLA first and foremost preserves documents related to women, a group often ignored in the historical record. While the main function of many archives is not necessarily to display or exhibit the collections, the WLA does host events, put on presentations, write weekly blog posts, and create tabletop displays and digital exhibits. These are ways of highlighting not only the WLA’s collections, but women’s history in general. The collections contained within the archives are also open for researchers and the public and they too may utilize the documents to fill in gaps and contribute to the study of women in history.

NCPHProgram

The program for the 2016 NCPH Annual Meeting

After attending the NCPH conference it became very clear to me how difficult it can be for some public history institutions to include materials, stories, and exhibits from marginalized groups. Many public history professionals spoke not just of the people, stories, and histories that have been left out of the historical record, but of the institutions in place to prevent them from telling those histories. The stories ranged from people working in small local museums to the National Park Service and other federal organizations. There were many current and former federal employees and their comments were not always very positive about their past and present work. They brought up limitations they have at current historical sites because of controversial topics and they also mentioned that they struggle with people in positions of power to recognize and promote new sites that would fill in the gaps in the historical record.

While hearing about these challenges and struggles can be disheartening, I choose to take a more positive stance on the matter by applauding all those working to change current attitudes. Many of these people have been working for years to have their work recognized and have yet to succeed, but what they are doing is making a difference. My time spent at NCPH was very valuable to me in terms of understanding how I might proceed in the future with public history work. I am also thankful for institutions like the WLA that are dedicated to preserving the history of marginalized groups. These institutions are necessary because they open their doors to people who will be part of researching and writing the histories that have yet to be told.


 

Megan Bordewyk
Megan is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is in the first year of her M.A in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She is an avid movie-goer and enjoys arts and crafts, live sporting events, and small Midwestern towns.

 

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Colors of the Season: Lent and Spring with the Art of Virginia Broderick

We are FINALLY beginning to see some sunny skies and warmer temperatures in Chicago and I’m sure everyone is ready to see green grass and blooming flowers again soon. Along with the spring also comes the season of Lent. Lent is a forty day period of time during which Christians devote themselves to prayer, fasting, and works of compassion as a way of preparing themselves to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection at Easter. This year, Lent began February 10 and ends with Easter Sunday on March 27.

What better way is there to celebrate the coming of beautiful spring and Easter than with the artwork of Virginia Gaertner Broderick? A Catholic convert, Virginia developed her own artistic style she called “cloisonism” and used traditional Christian symbolism to create vibrant and unique art. Her pieces were published in many forms of church publications and even converted into stained glass, mosaics, and other forms that can be found all over the world. Read more about her fascinating life and career in the finding aid for her collection.

In her collection, I found a variety of publications used in the Lenten season. I hope you enjoy the colorful art that Virginia created to honor the solemnity of lent and the beauty of Easter

This image is from the cover of a missalette, a booklet holding the prayers and songs used in that week’s mass. Although Virginia used traditional Christian imagery, we can definitely see the influence of the 1960s in this design.

This image is from the cover of a missalette, a booklet holding the prayers and songs used in that week’s mass. Although Virginia used traditional Christian imagery, we can definitely see the influence of the 1960s in this design.

This depiction of the last supper is very different than the classic works we are familiar with! This work was featured in a 1971 calendar and shows Virginia’s signature style of using both lined and unlined forms.

This depiction of the last supper is very different than the classic works we are familiar with! This work was featured in a 1971 calendar and shows Virginia’s signature style of using both lined and unlined forms.

In Virginia's collection, I also found this booklet featuring many of her illustrations. The booklet was used during Lenten services and for personal devotions.

In Virginia’s collection, I also found this booklet featuring many of her illustrations. The booklet was used during Lenten services and for personal devotions.

Broderick Lent booklet 1982002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Look at those colors! Many Christians use offering folders like this one during Lent to make a small daily offering as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and their faith.

Look at those colors! Many Christians use offering folders like this one during Lent to make a small daily offering as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and their faith.

Broderick Lenten offering folder 003

Here is another bright missalette cover for Easter Sunday.

Here is another bright missalette cover for Easter Sunday.

 


 

Caroline blog photo
Caroline Lynd Giannakopoulos is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She spends her spare time exploring Chicago, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies with her husband.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


Women’s History Month Kick-off

The theme of Women's History Month for 2015 is Weaving the Stories of Women's Lives.

The 2015 theme of Women’s History Month is Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives. Photo from the National Women’s History Project.

As I pondered the task before me, writing the blog post to introduce March as Women’s History Month, I found myself wondering…what is the history of Women’s History Month? When did it start and what were the reasons? There is irony and humor in the history of Women’s History Month but that aside, how did it all start?

An International Women’s Day began in the early 20th century, first at the end of February than later, in March. The more recent history of celebrating women’s history started in 1978 when the school district of Sonoma, CA, participated in Women’s History Week, an event designed around the week of March 8th, International Women’s Day. The idea began to take off in 1979 at a summer conference on women’s history at Sarah Lawrence College. There participants heard of the success of the Sonoma County’s Women History Week celebration, wanted to carry it to their own organizations, communities, and schools, and agreed to work to secure a National Women’s History Week.

In February 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation declaring the week of March 8, 1980, as National Women’s History Week. Also in 1980, the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) was founded in Santa Rosa, California by Molly Murphy MacGregor, Mary Ruthsdotter, Maria Cuevas, Paula Hammett and Bette Morgan to broadcast women’s historical achievements.

Barbara_Mikulski

Representative (now Senator) Barbara Mikulski.

Responding to the growing popularity of Women’s History Week, in 1981, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) co-sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution proclaiming a Women’s History Week. Congress passed their resolution as Pub. L. 97-28, which authorized and requested the President to proclaim the week beginning March 7, 1982 as “Women’s History Week. The Week took off in popularity and by 1986, fourteen states had declared March as Women’s History Month.

In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed Pub. L. 100-9 which designated the month of March 1987 as Women’s History Month. Various Congressional resolutions and presidential proclamations later, March is clearly cemented as Women’s History Month.

I’ve been interested in women’s history since my college days in the 1980s. I knew some of the history of Women’s History Month but not all of it. My first surprise was learning that the month had roots in International Women’s Day that started at the turn of the 20th Century.

Fast forward to the late 1970s and early 1980s and we come to my next surprise. Who knew Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland) sponsored anything together? For readers who don’t know who Hatch and Mikulski are, Google them to totally understand the magnitude of this cooperation. Their joint legislation only goes to show the tremendous bi-partisan support for a month to honor women and their contributions throughout history.

A photo of Mundelein College students from the WLA's collection.

A photo of Mundelein College students in the Marksmanship Club, circa 1940, from the WLA’s collection.

Here we are in 2015 celebrating Women’s History Month. I’ve taken to joking that Women’s History Month is made for the WLA. To celebrate the Month, there will be a feature every week on the WLA website highlighting a woman or organization from our collections.

In addition, for those on Loyola’s campus, a display in Cudahy Library will feature artists from the WLA collections. Very different artists, I might add. If you’re in the Loyola neighborhood stop by Cudahy and take a look.

Enjoy Women’s History Month!
IMG_0021-149x110Nancy Freeman became Director of the WLA in spring, 2013. Prior to that, Nancy worked as an archivist and records manager at a wildlife research facility for the USDA in Colorado. Nancy has worked in the archival field since 1999. When not working on all things archival, Nancy enjoys spending time with her family and knitting.


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.


 

A Story in a Box

My main task the last few weeks has been preparing for Women’s History Month in March. Women’s History Month is an opportunity to celebrate some of the unique women in our collections through weekly posts on our website. My first step in writing these posts was to peruse our finding aids and find four collections I wanted to share. Among the many fascinating individuals and organizations, one woman’s story stood out to me and begged to be shared. Her collection consisted of only one small box, but in that box I found many cool things that represented a life of leadership and spirit.

While Anna’s early artwork included watercolors and sculpture, she made her later work on the computer as her condition increasingly affected her coordination.

While Anna’s early artwork included watercolors and sculpture, she made her later work on the computer as her condition increasingly affected her coordination.

Anna Stonum’s finding aid described her as an activist and artist, two categories the WLA has many of, but this woman’s story was different. She is a great example of the diversity of our collections.

Anna Stonum, born October 14, 1958, moved to Chicago in 1980 to attend Mundelein College. Anna suffered from Friedrich’s Ataxia, a degenerative condition that affects coordination and caused her to spend most of her adult life in a wheelchair. Anna was a passionate artist who worked with different media as her coordination worsened, but never quit creating. In the 1980s, she joined the movement fighting for rights for the disabled and demonstrated her leadership and courage. She picked fights with the CTA, Wrigley Field, and Jerry Lewis, all in the name of accessibility and respect for those with disabilities.

Anna’s papers don’t contain any photos of her, other than a couple tiny, grainy images from news articles. I was concerned that I wouldn’t have a picture to accompany her web feature, and then I found this.

Anna Stonum and Mike Ervin, 1998

Anna Stonum and Mike Ervin, 1998

Pretty cool, huh? OK, maybe it seems a little dramatic at first, but Anna and her husband Mike Ervin were cool enough to pull it off. And don’t you kind of want someone to paint you looking like you’re ready to conquer the world in the middle of a lightning storm?

The portrait was done by artist Riva Lehrer for her series Circle Stories. Before creating this portrait, Lehrer interviewed her subjects to learn about their lives and find imagery that represented their experience. This powerful image illustrates Anna and Mike’s determination and strength as a team.

So why does this couple deserve such an intense tribute?

Designs for All created this sticker for the disabled to remind drivers why handicap parking spots existed.

Designs for All created this sticker for the disabled to remind drivers why handicap parking spots existed.

As a woman who just recently moved to the big city, I am fascinated by Chicago’s public transportation and have been amazed by the technology that allows buses to lower and lift wheelchairs so that everyone can take advantage of these vehicles. Today, every CTA bus you ride is accessible because of Anna, who helped found the Chicago chapter of Americans Disabled for Accessible Public Transit. The organization spent years fighting for CTA to install lifts before the company committed to ordering 700 accessible buses in 1989, influencing similar cases across the nation.

Designs for All created this sticker for the disabled to remind drivers why handicap parking spots existed.

Designs for All created this sticker for the disabled to remind drivers why handicap parking spots existed.

Anna’s strength and spirit can also be seen in her refusal to let challenges get in the way of her creativity. In 1994, Anna started her own graphic design company, Designs for All. She mostly did work for newsletters, but she also created some cool logos and designs that were used nationally by disability activists.

Anna Stonum passed away suddenly at the age of 40 due to a heart attack. As sad as this was to learn, it was from the writings of her friends and family after her death that I learned the most about who Anna was as a person. Her collection contains her obituary, where a friend describes how she inspired others who saw how much she enjoyed living. There is also a copy of New Mobility magazine that includes an article her husband wrote after her death. He tells stories about how he spontaneously proposed after a couple of cocktails in New Orleans and about one of the many times they were arrested for “raising hell with ADAPT” and spent three days in a Canadian jail.

When you jump into a collection, you never know what you might find. Sometimes, it’s hard to understand a person through documents and articles. But with Anna Stonum, her passion and strength could be found in every folder.

Caroline blog photoCaroline Lynd is a Graduate Assistant at the WLA and is working on her Master’s in Public History at Loyola University Chicago. She spends her spare time caring for her pufferfish, interpreting dreams, and watching cheesy movies.

 


Loyola University Chicago’s Women and Leadership Archives Blog is designed to provide a positive environment for the Loyola community to discuss important issues and ideas. Differences of opinion are encouraged. We invite comments in response to posts and ask that you write in a civil and respectful manner. All comments will be screened for tone and content and must include the first and last name of the author and a valid email address. The appearance of comments on the blog does not imply the University’s endorsement or acceptance of views expressed.