Summer of Postcolonial Literature

Hello all!

I hope all is well, and that everyone is having a nice summer vacation thus far. My name is Josh, I’m a rising senior, and for the past 6-7 wretchedweeks, I have been working with Professor Raji Mohan. Professor Mohan is currently working on a book that analyzes narratives of female militancy in the postcolonial world, and this summer I have been helping her generate annotated bibliographies for a chapter that will read Franz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth alongside Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers, Assia Djebar’s Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade, and Fanon’s essay, “Algeria Unveiled.” Though Wretched is often written off as a polemical critique of the West, as well as fetishization of violence aimed at the colonizer—and, in a way, it is—this chapter, we hope, will  complicate Fanon’s assessment of postcolonial violence.

More recently, though, she has been working on a paper that theorizes the importance of riot scenes in Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses (1988), Zadie

rushdieSmith’s White Teeth (2000), and Hanif Kureishi’s Sammy and Rosie Get Laid (1988) – a paper that Professor Mohan will present at this summer’s Literary London conference. In each of these three works (all of which are definitely worth reading/watching if you have the time), physical space (in this context, the London cityscape) becomes invested with cultural  narratives that then work on – and, according to some, shape the identity of – the space’s inhabitants. If, for instance, a city becomes tied to narratives of national identity, the city’s occupants might then think themselves characters within this story, doing all they can to bring about its projected “end” (i.e. “national unity”), marginalizing those who don’t fit the mold. But what would it mean to trouble the narrative of national unity? What would we stake to gain and/or lose by contextualizing national identity as a cultural–an artificial–fiction, though naturalized through repetition? What happens when immigrants occupy a foreign land, bringing with them stories that do not fit tidily alongside those of the nationalist?

With these questions as pivot-points, Professor Mohan’s paper uses these 3 texts to think through the emancipatory potential of riot scenes–scenes whose violence, confusion, and instability make visible the unstable ground on which concepts like national and personal identity stand. If the riot is a site of contending significance–where one can no longer articulate what it means to be English, what it means to be an immigrant–what new roles are available for the English? What new roles are available for the immigrant?

But more on this to come!

For now, I would like to thank both Professor Mohan and the Hurford Center for giving me a project that has allowed me to explore the exciting potentials of a research project, as well as the real-world “stakes” of narrative.

‘Till next time,

Josh

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And Pig Iron Came Tumbling After

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The PITC administrative offices in Kensington during a brief respite in a thunderstorm.

Hey world,

I’ve been waiting for this to be unclassified: my much-anticipated PAY UP 2013 tumblr has finally gone public:

payup2013.tumblr.com

I mentioned last time that I’ve been doing publicity and social media for this fall’s production of PAY UP, an interactive market place of a show that touches on value, commerce, capuchin monkeys etc.  Well, this tumblr is a repository for all media PAY UP related, be it academic, pop-culture, or theatrical.  I’ve amassed a huge quantity of content so far and am working on assembling it into themed units, or collections of posts.  This week, it’s all about capuchin monkeys and Justin Bieber.  Next week, we’re gonna make it rain ($$).  So far, this has been a very nerdy and rewarding experience, a chance to explore the corners of a fascinating show and a gigantic internet.  There’s a link for submissions under the tumblr’s heading–if you have any ideas for future content, please let me know!  At two posts a day, there are going to be hundreds of posts by the time the show is over.  Feedback is always welcome.

This week, I’ve also spent a lot of time coordinating Pig Iron’s various social media accounts (@pigirontheatre and Facebook), focusing on promoting the tumblr and the ramping up of the PAY UP production process.  I am really not a social media maven (I don’t use Facebook and can’t really figure out LinkedIn), so this has been a new, and probably very marketable, skill for me.  Surprisingly, I like it a lot–it’s really interesting to see which posts attract the most attention and how I can alter our content to increase our reach (this week, I’m focusing on attracting Justin Bieber fans).

In other news, I wrote a grant last week.  The grant is from the Pennsylvania Humanities Council and will provide funding for PITC to host Keith Chen, the Yale economist whose work inspired PAY UP, and sponsor an after-show discussion open to the public.  I mailed the grant in last Friday with minimal supervision from the rest of the office, so we’ll see how it goes.  I refrained from making any puns or jokes in the application, so I’m hopeful.

–Alice

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From “Trust, Concern, and Respect” to Trafficking Antiquities

Hello! I’m Jenna McKinley, a rising junior. I’m spending the summer working with Haverford’s collection of Ancient Greek vases, in preparation for an exhibition in the fall of 2014.

An alum from the Class of 1940 donated the vases to us upon his death in 1989. Some of them, he bought at estate sales, auctions, and the like, but most of them were bought from Robert Hecht, Class of 1941, an infamous and influential antiquities dealer. In the early 1970s, Hecht sold a vase (the “Euphronios krater”) to the Metropolitan for $1 million–almost ten times more than any other object of its type had ever sold for. The high price drew attention, and it was soon discovered that the vase had been allegedly looted from a tomb in Italy, though his trial ended on a technicality and he was declared neither guilty nor innocent. Do our vases have a similar history?

Later investigation unearthed a complex network of conspirators ranging from Italian grave-robbers to curators at the most prominent museums, with Robert Hecht at the top.

A piece of paper, seized in a 1995 raid, which depicts the organization of the trade in looted antiquities. Note the prominence of Robert Hecht's name at the top.

A piece of paper, seized in a 1995 raid, which depicts the organization of the trade in looted antiquities. Note the prominence of Robert Hecht’s name at the top.

Hecht had a reputation within the field as a dangerous man. He earned the nickname “Mr. Percentage,” because even people who sold objects directly to museums, without using him as an agent, would give him a cut of the profits. He supposedly would threaten his rivals with exposure if they upset him, and there have been a number of anonymous “tip-off” calls to the police which many attribute to Hecht.

I can’t help but find it incredibly ironic that of all the people to achieve infamy and become the kingpin in an international looting conspiracy, it just HAD to be a Haverford grad.

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Witches & Weather

CJ1
This is an illustration of a famous English witch hunter, Matthew Hopkins. The creepy animals are ‘Imps’ or ‘Familiars,’ spirits/ embodiments of the devil that witches would send off to attack people and livestock! (Photo from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Hopkins)
Hi! I’m CJ Morrison, a rising junior at Haverford majoring in English/Anthro. Through the HCAH’s Student Research Assistantship Program, I’m helping out history professor Darin Hayton with his research on witchcraft and prodigious weather in early modern Europe, specifically England. I spend my days in the library reading trials and weather reports in Old English, which is both challenging and extremely entertaining. Here’s a taste of the type of texts I’ve been reading, with a funny quote (at least it was funny to me after reading hundreds of other trials!).

CJ2
From eebo.chadwyck.com, see here: gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&res_id=xri:eebo&rft_id=xri:eebo:image:110845:105
The past few weeks I’ve been accumulating sources for Professor Hayton’s class next semester, Geographies of Witchcraft and the Occult in Early Modern Europe. Recently, however, I’ve been researching one trial in particular about a French priest named Louis Gaufridi that was translated “faithfully” into English. After reading some scandalous books about the occult sciences, Gaufridi gave his soul to the devil and then bewitched and took advantage of several nuns, for which he was tortured and burned at the stake. I’m researching how the English translation frames its depiction of Catholicism in terms of excess and monstrosity in order to reinforce the English-Protestant identities of the readers. So, instead of conducting my usual Early English Books database digging, I’ve been reading some secondary sources about English/French relations and witch trials, with some background materials on English print culture. My research will serve as an mini-example for the projects his students will be working on next semester.
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Philadelphia Orchestra Music Business Internship

The desk at my office in the Philadelphia Orchestra Administrative Building

The desk at my office in the Philadelphia Orchestra Administrative Building

Hi everyone!

My name is Bruce Leto and I am currently a rising senior at Haverford College. I am a Music Major with a concentration in Piano Performance. I play classical piano and have performed in many competitions and performances in my time as a musician. However, I am hoping to go to graduate school for an Arts Management Administration (AMA) or Music Business Administration (MBA) after my time at Haverford. The Philadelphia Orchestra Music Business Summer Internship is exactly what I needed this summer to learn more about the Music Industry and to get more experience in Music Development – the field that I am specializing in.

Music Development is a fancy name for fundraising – Corporate and Individual. The Philadelphia Orchestra Association (POA) is a large and incredibly reputable non-profit. They operate on a $44 million budget each year and have a plethora of fans and concert-goers. The world’s BEST conductors and performers have and continued to perform with them each year including (past and present): Lang Lang, Arthur Rubinstein, Rudolf Serkin, Maurizio Pollini, David Kim, Yefim Bronfman, Yannick Nezet-Seguin, and more! Both large corporate benefactors AND individual patrons contribute to the orchestra each year. Without these private and public donations, the orchestra would not be able to flourish and provide consummate musicianship to audiences around the world each year.

My job is to help in the Development Department at the POA, and my supervisor is Linda Miller (Senior Director of Development). So far, I have done research on corporate funding trends from 2009-2012 and patron/partner relationships with the POA. In addition, I have conducted research and taken notes on different orchestras’ Corporate Funding/Philanthropy policies in comparison to that of the Philadelphia Orchestra. I have also gathered the logos of different corporations in preparation for the new PlayBill that will be published for the POA. Currently I am working on making revisions to the Board of Directors Handbook for 2013-2014.

The Board of Directors are essentially the “overseers” of the POA. Many of them contribute large gifts to the Philadelphia Orchestra, and some are even musicians in the orchestra itself. The Board of Directors Handbook is an important contact list because it not only provides contact information about the Board of Directors and helps establish trans-departmental policies, but it also is a source of Stability for the Philadelphia Orchestra. The POA recently emerged from a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, and is looking to revivify their legacy with the help of new CEO Allison Vulgamore and youthful conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin. Hopefully, my help with the Board of Directors Handbook can implicitly aid in the Orchestra’s recovery.

Getting into Philadelphia can be a hassle each day, but overall it is nice to be in the heart of the city and I am appreciative for this opportunity to intern with this prestigious organization!

-Bruce

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Bringing History to Life: W.E.B. Du Bois and Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward

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Children playing the Du Bois inspired board game, depicting life in Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward in the late 1800s.

 

Hi all! My name is Alexandra Wolkoff, and I am a rising senior (yikes!) here at Haverford. With the support of the Philadelphia Partners Internships program sponsored by the John B. Hurford Humanities Center, I am spending this summer working with Dr. Amy Hillier on her project, “The Ward: Race and Class in Du Bois’ Seventh Ward.” ‘The Ward’ is a research, teaching, and public history project that seeks to continue Du Bois’ work of promoting the full humanity of all people. It works to promote social justice by engaging in conversations about the continuing effects of race and racial inequality today. She runs the project through the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design.

The project is based on W.E.B. Du Bois’ study and book, The Philadelphia Negro. In 1896, The University of Pennsylvania commissioned Du Bois to come and study the city’s Seventh Ward, the heart of black Philadelphia at the time. (The Seventh Ward stretches from 7th Street to the Schuylkill River and from Spruce to South Streets). Du Bois went door to door interviewing residents and collecting information about all areas of their lives. His work is now regarded as the country’s first quantitative sociological study and revealed the diversity of the then overlooked yet thriving black community.

‘The Ward’ project began with Dr. Hillier using GIS technology to bring Du Bois’ work to life again. She first created an interactive map of the then Seventh Ward, using both Du Bois’ study and census data to show how residents were distributed spatially by race, class, and national origin. Now, the project has many components, including a city walking tour of the original ward, a board game, a community-painted mural, and a documentary.

My main work for the summer is to design a curriculum that we can use in the city’s public high schools to open discussion around race and inequality today. The project already has a 5 day curriculum, and the first 4 days deal with the historical aspects – teaching about Du Bois’ life and the importance of his work; skills for interpreting primary historical documents; understanding Philadelphia’s Seventh Ward. I am focusing on the last day of this curriculum, in which we want to connect this historical knowledge with modern times and peoples’ present experiences in Philadelphia. During my first week, I went to the Urban Archives at Temple University to see the work of artist, Samuel Joyner. Joyner, a Philadelphia native, is one of the few African-American cartoonists in the country to achieve popular recognition and regularly contributed his work to the country’s newspapers, mainly The Philadelphia Tribune.  His work stems from his own experiences with discrimination and deals with all manners of social injustice, including poverty, racial stereotyping, and voting rights.  Now, I am working to incorporate his political cartoons in to my curriculum design.

‘The Ward’ also includes an oral history component, in which the project team interviews older members of the city’s historic black churches, such as Tindley Temple. Next week, I will be able to actually help conduct some of the new interviews, myself! (Joyner’s story is also part of this oral history component).

**Here is a link to the project’s website, please check it out! **                      http://www.dubois-theward.org

More updates to come, keep checking back!

Thanks for reading, alexandra.

 

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Knights in Shining Armor: Internship at the Higgins Armory Museum

I’m Elizabeth Peters, a linguistics major having just finished my sophomore year, and this summer I’m interning in the curatorial department at the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts. I first visited the museum this past January, when a friend and I were looking for things to do in Worcester on a cold, rainy day. My mother suggested the Higgins, and was surprised to realize she had never taken me. Worcester is a city still recovering from deindustrialization, and, alongside some really fantastic restaurants, the Higgins museum is its shining star. It is among the largest and best arms and armor collections in the United States, and the only one with is own museum.

The entryway of the Higgins Armory Museum. (photo from www.higgins.org)

The entryway of the Higgins Armory Museum. (photo from www.higgins.org)

John Woodman Higgins, the founder of the museum, was the owner of Worcester Pressteel. He had been fascinated by stories of knights and ancient battles since he was a child, and so when he and his wife would go traveling in Europe, he would buy suits of armor, swords, and other iron forged objects as mementos of the castles he visited. Towards the late 1920s, the collecting of arms and armor became a pursuit in and of itself. In 1929, he established the museum, and began constructing the impressive five-story steel-and-glass building that still houses the collection. The building was completed in 1931. The museum was originally conceived as an industrial museum, with one wing of historical arms and armor and the other of modern marvels of steel working. When the Pressteel factory finally closed, the museum decided to focus on the strongest parts of its collection, the arms and armor. All in all, the collection is comprised of nearly 4000 pieces, from ancient Greek and Roman pieces to modern Gothic Revival replicas.

Since starting at the Higgins two weeks ago, I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with this history in much greater depth. My very first day, I was handed a full two-inch binder of material covering the history of the museum, of armor, and of metalworking to read. This being a somewhat daunting task, I was told that if I needed a break I was to go explore the archives. Go explore the archives. No directives, no goals other than go find out what’s in there. Needless to say, this was one of the most enjoyable afternoons I have ever had (closely rivaled by this past Friday, but I’ll get to that). The archives is small, filling a room only about 10 feet square, but it is a treasure trove of old and fascinating books, newspapers, pictures, and ideas. One highlight: tucked into the back of a scrapbook of castles Mr. Higgins visited to procure armor, I found the magazine of the National Cathedral in Washington, DC, from June 1941. The last page was a story about four St. Alban’s School boys who had graduated with particular honors. These included two boys who had received scholarships to go to – yes – Haverford College the next year! Another, more recent find were two books each marked in the finding aid, descriptively, “Massive Scrapbook.” It turned out that these had been purchased by Mr. Higgins to help his collecting, and had been compiled by someone who wrote notes in Italian, but didn’t shy from diagrams in French. I am certainly pleased to work in an environment where a request to borrow your supervisor’s Italian dictionary is met simply with “Enjoy! There’s lots of good words in there!”

Alongside the organization of the archives (Yes, I have to more than just explore) I am also working on organizing and digitizing the museum’s audio-visual archives. This has been unusually frustrating, as I have had computers work in the strangest and most unexplainable of ways. For instance, there was one day I would play one DVD and save the content, but when I tried to put in a different DVD, the computer would play the content from the previous one for the duration of the current. I tried the same thing the next day and nothing odd happened. Go figure. I have had the fun of getting to watch all the videocassettes as I transfer them onto DVD, including one entertaining Modern Marvels episode featuring my supervisor. Apparently, he is not very fond of seeing pictures of himself, and so would hurry by the television as I was watching, refusing to look.

As I mentioned a bit earlier, this past Friday is a strong contender for best day. Another project I will be working on over the summer is going through the museum’s library to decide which books are essential to the collection and which could easily be found elsewhere. The Higgins announced in April that it will be closing its doors at the end of this year, and transferring the core of its collections to the Worcester Art Museum. In preparation, much of the work being done at the museum currently, including my work in the library, involves finding that core. Now, to explain why I found this day so exciting, it is important to know that I love books, especially old history books, and that I love languages. It’s an inherited obsession: last summer on vacation in Maine, my family found a tiny antique book shop. An hour and a half later, my mother had to ask the owner to go find my dad and me, because the dog was getting anxious sitting with just her outside and my brother had gotten bored a while ago. The Higgins library, covering mostly topics of armor, weaponry, metalwork, and the people and battles surrounding them, is chock full of really old history books, as well as many in German, French, and other languages. In order to decide which books stayed and which went, I needed to know what was in them. I took liberally the instruction to look through each book “enough to make a call.” Initially, I felt a little bad about getting distracted, until my supervisor came in to check on me, started reading through a book, and then abruptly handed it to me saying, “I wish I had time to get distracted. You get distracted for me.” I gladly complied.

A view of one of the wings of the Great Hall, showing a jouster and (in the background) two tournament fighters on foot. (photo from www.higgins.org)

A view of one of the wings of the Great Hall, showing a jouster, two tournament fighters on foot, and one of the Hall’s Rose windows. (photo from www.higgins.org)

My work hasn’t been all books, however. I got to look on one day as the curatorial and conservation staff looked over a full suit of armor to weigh its merits as part of the “core” collection. (It passed, despite having mismatched gauntlets, because of a relatively rare type of pauldron, or shoulder piece.) I was also invited this Saturday to practice with some students of rapier and dagger fighting at the Higgins. I had hoped that my experience fencing would be helpful, as the modern sport is descended from historical rapier and smallsword techniques, but quickly discovered that it only gave me a starting idea of how to stand. First off, the rapier is much heavier than a fencing sword. This means both that it must be held differently, and that the small, quick movements I am used to relying on simply were not feasible. In addition, the dagger means that the non-dominant hand, which is only used for balance in modern fencing, now must be used for defensive blocks, and even for attacking. Still, I highly enjoyed spending the morning working at trying to work against my instincts.

In the next few weeks, I look forward to continuing work in the library (I’ve only finished one bookcase), and with the archives and audio-visual files. In addition, I will be working on the photographic documentation of the museum and its exhibits in their last incarnation as the Higgins Armory Museum.

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Living the Pig Iron Life

Pay Up, 2008

Pay Up, 2008

Hey world,

My name is Alice Thatcher and I’m a super-senior working at Pig Iron Theatre Company in Kensington, Philadelphia. As is the life of an intern, I’ll be working on several different projects this summer, including grant writing, social media and research for Pig Iron’s fall line-up.

I’ve been hired particularly to focus on Pig Iron’s restaging of Pay Up, a Pig Iron original which premiered in 2005. Pay Up is based on the work of economist and behavioral psychologist Dr. Keith Chen, current Associate Professor at Yale School of Management. Dr. Chen’s 2006 study on the behavior of capuchin monkeys trained to conduct basic economic transactions found that capuchins exhibit many of the same behaviors we do, implying that these behaviors are innate rather than taught or learned. Pay Up takes this laboratory set-up and invites audience members to choose and pay for the scenes of their choosing, using dollar bills handed out in the beginning of the show. There isn’t enough time, money, or space for audience members to see every scene, which places the audience in a competitive market environment where there are real consequences to their actions. Pay Up is currently be reworked to take into account current events and the input of the new acting ensemble (the show was last staged in 2008), but it’s shaping up to be an exciting, creative summer here. Working with John Frisbee, Managing Director of Pig Iron and HC ’03, I’m in the midst of assembling a grant to bring Dr. Chen down for a weekend matinee of Pay Up and a discussion section afterwards. Dr. Chen is highly regarded in his field and this is a great opportunity for Pig Iron audiences to engage with the issues Pay Up raises and hear Dr. Chen’s perspective on the show, which features scenes about his imagined personal life, as well as his academic pursuits. I’m really enjoying working on Pay Up; I think its blend of science and the humanities is a great example of what makes Pig Iron such an innovative theatre company. Pay Up has been widely acclaimed in the past, which makes me think it might be a good FAB event this fall…

Best,

Alice
p.s. – for all you nerds out there, here’s a copy of Dr. Chen’s study.

Chen_BehavioralBiases

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On the Stereo[graph]: Internship at the Library Company of Philadelphia

This is a mural called Women of Progress by Cesar Viveros and Larissa Preston. I pass it every day on my way to the Library Company (it is located on the side of a building at 1317 Locust Street). It's my favorite site on my walking tours of Philly.

This is a mural called Women of Progress by Cesar Viveros and Larissa Preston. I pass it every day on my way to the Library Company (it is located on the side of a building at 1317 Locust Street). It’s my favorite site on my daily walking tours of Philly.

Returning my Tri-Pod ordered tomes on medieval medicine to Magill, clearing my computer of the multiple drafts of papers and paragraphs cluttering Word doc folders, and having taken my last trip to Haverford’s Special Collections, I felt a deep sense of relief. My spring semester’s research paper finals were finally done, and my bookshelves could once again house novels, not just dense historical studies.

There is a poetic quality to the fact that now finished with freshman year research

scholarship, I begin working on the other side- with those who make such research possible.

My name is Kat Poje (’16) and with the support of the John B. Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities, I am interning at the Print Department at the Library Company of Philadelphia (LCP). Founded in the early eighteenth century by Benjamin Franklin and other literary-minded Philadelphians and functioning as the first Library of Congress, the Company now serves as an archive and research center. Anyone can visit its exhibits and view its extensive collections of rare books, manuscripts, images and print ephemera at no cost. Each day, researchers both local and international visit LCP for access to this wealth of primary source materials.

My work involves making these primary source materials available, a facet of research I had not previously spent much time considering. LCP recently acquired about 2,000 stereographs, known as the Raymond Holstein Stereograph Collection. (In case, like me, you were previously unaware that a stereo was something other than a music amplification system, I note that a stereograph is a photographic compilation. A photographer creates two images of the same object/scene, taking each one at a slightly different angle, and then mounts them next to one another on a mat. When viewed in a stereoscope, a binocular-like contraption, the photographs seem to meld together as one, three-dimensional image). The Holstein Collection contains nineteenth and early twentieth century images of Philadelphia: its cathedrals and hospitals, Fairmount Park, the Schuylkill River, the Centennial Exhibition of 1876. Through my work with the Collection, I am gaining new insight into the history of the City of Brotherly Love, my home-metropolis for the next three years.

On the day-to-day level, I am helping to make the Collection accessible to researchers. As it stands now, the Collection cannot be fully utilized, as it is still not completely alphabetized or named (given a call number), and still needs housing (a standardized mat, with ID information, and an acid-free sleeve to protect it from the hands that will handle it). Under the supervision of the Print Department, particularly Associate Curator Erika Piola (a Haverford alumna), I organize and house the stereographs. This occasionally involves a bit of sleuthing, especially when the image has no title, is missing a date or seems to have a twin image under another title. I also digitize some of them, so that they can be viewed online. To take a look at some of these stereographs, you can check out the Library Company’s Flickr page:  www.flickr.com/photos/library-company-of-philadelphia/. More will be coming soon, so check back! You might just discover Philly, wandering through time and space from your desk, as did stereograph viewers more than one hundred years before.

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Pennsylvania Humanities Council: 2014 Conference Committee

My name is Ellen Reinhart, and I am a rising junior at Haverford College. Thanks to the Philadelphia Partners Internships program sponsored by the John B. Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities I am working in Philadelphia this summer as a communications intern for the Pennsylvania Humanities Council (PHC). The Pennsylvania Humanities Council is a small non-profit that is dedicated to promoting the humanities through grant funding and original programming. As a PHC communications intern I work closely with the development and communications department, programming staff, and our executive director.

So far I have helped re-design the newsletter format which was adopted for the June issue. I also co-authored an article for the website about four new members who were recently elected to PHC’s Board of Directors and learned how to send out the article as a press release. Additionally, I help with every-day tasks around the office, such as calling legislators, researching online, and sending many, many e-mails. I also have the opportunity to attend the various meetings that occur daily at PHC. Topics of discussion include PHC’s grant policies, legislative outreach, new communications initiatives, program development, and logistical planning for a conference at the end of June. PHC is definitely keeping me busy, but the various projects are so interesting and exciting that it doesn’t feel like work!

Earlier this week I had the privileged of attending the 2014 Conference Committee meeting hosted by PHC and the Federation of State Humanities Councils. The Federation hosts an annual conference that draws hundreds of humanities advocates, including members from humanities councils all over the country. In 2014 the conference will be held right here in Philadelphia, which is very exciting for the city as well as for PHC.

This meeting is the first of many sessions that are dedicated to planning the conference. The committee includes members of PHC, the Federation of State Humanities Councils, and other Humanities Councils across the country.

Members from PHC's staff and Board of Directors with Esther Mackintosh, President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

Members from PHC’s staff and Board of Directors with Esther Mackintosh, President of the Federation of State Humanities Councils.

What surprised me the most is the degree to which the committee embraced change. After reviewing the evaluations of last year’s conference, many members of the committee had new, exciting ideas to propose. I assumed that a national conference would stay the same year after year. However, I was proven wrong when the committee approved many changes to the structure and schedule of the conference in response to the evaluations. For example, many evaluations noted that the closing reception was rather dull leading to low attendance. The committee felt it was important to have a sense of closure to the conference but recognized the need to make the event more exciting. The solution? The new closing reception will take place at a local brewery. No speakers or panels, just drinks and the opportunity to network with fellow humanities advocates and reflect on the past few days. This lets-give-it-a-try attitude is responsible for many exciting changes to the conference. Our Executive Director, Laurie Zierer, joked that the slogan of the conference should be “Come party in Philly!” All humor aside, it was an interesting conversation to consider how to structure a conference that provides important content while also being an enjoyable experience for those who attend.

While some of the conversation focused on logistics, a large portion of the meeting centered on “big picture” ideas. For example, deciding the theme of the conference proved to be a very interesting conversation. Members were asking questions such as “What information will be most valuable to the humanities community?” “What is the value of the humanities?” and “How can we inspire humanities advocates?”There I was, sitting among extremely intelligent, accomplished humanities advocates considering how to best communicate the value of the humanities. Needless to say, it was definitely a wonderful, inspiring experience!

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