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History Department News & Updates

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Max Goldenberg ’21 speaks with Professor Robinson about upcoming book

By History Department on January 23, 2019

Professor Robinson’s upcoming book is featured in a Colgate News article by Max Goldenberg ’21.

A half-buried funerary figurine from the tomb of the Ming Prince of Qin, outside today’s Xi’an, the provincial seat of Shaanxi Province (Photo by David Robinson)

Graduate Assists Historical Society in Maine

By History Department on December 21, 2018
A view from the neighborhood in Brooksville, Maine

When I accepted my professor’s offer to put me in contact with a representative from the Brooksville Historical Society, my own readiness shocked me. I knew I would be living and working among strangers and tackling a formidable project, yet I was eager to pack up my car and drive 26 hours from Miami, Florida to a land far, far away (in every sense). After in May with my Bachelor’s Degree in History I had not imagined I could be working in the field I was so passionate about, so quickly. I am thrilled to share some of the progress I have made. 

The change begun here at the Historical Society before my arrival in late August has only accelerated over the past few months. The office space on the display floor was demolished on September 22nd. After the room was thoroughly cleaned (a project that involved the removal of numerous bird nests previously nestled amid the pink insulation), it became clear the freed-up space would be a huge asset to future exhibit plans. Indeed the existing exhibits are getting a much-needed facelift and a temporary exhibit space will soon be available for rotating “themes.” These changes should allow the historical society to showcase more it its collection and engage with a wide range of historical subjects and time periods.    

Throughout my time here I have also maintained a focus on collections management. After a long, frustrating battle with Microsoft Access, the database was transferred to an Excel spreadsheet. This switch has allowed us to manipulate the layout and get a handle on our collections; I have been able to remove duplicate entries and mark objects for potential deaccession, while organizing each object into an exhibit category. The spreadsheet has been uploaded to a new laptop computer and I have spearheaded a tutorial, held during the monthly meeting in November, to familiarize the board members with the updated system. 

I have also been involved in a number of smaller projects. Two weeks ago, Connie Henkel donated a collection of birth, death, and marriage certificates from the early 20thcentury. I wrote worksheets for each certificate – in an attempt to transcribe the valuable genealogical information contained – and organized them into three separate binders. I then made alphabetical indices for each collection. The binders are now ready to go up onto shelves in our new archive room, a project making great strides as winter approaches – our last step is simply to paint the walls! Looking forward, my next project will involve labelling each object in the collection. I have conducted a significant amount of research on the proper labelling techniques for different materials like wood, fabric, and paper, and I have experimented with the use of Acryloid B-72 lacquer, a clear and reversible coating that can allow us to number objects without damaging them. This November, I began labeling boxes of material with their proper accession number and I certainly have a long road ahead of me. 

The Historical Society Museum

Brooksville’s collection is full of wonderful surprises, from finely preserved letters featuring beautiful (and nearly impossible to read) handwriting, to unique early 19thc. refrigerators posing as unassuming blanket chests, and I am certain current changes will allow the museum to become the community resource and the “hidden gem” it should be. I sincerely thank everyone on the board for allowing me to fiddle around with the Society’s artifacts and welcoming a youngster from Florida with open arms.  

Written by Lauren Fairman ’18, pictured above. 

Professor Graham Hodges Publishes a New Book

By History Department on December 12, 2018
Sarah Vaughan

Black New Jersey, 1664 to the present day uncovers 350 years of slavery and its legacies among the fifth largest black population in the United States. Slavery existed in New Jersey from the origins of the colony, through gradual emancipation starting in 1804, and was not extinguished in the state until national passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. During the American Revolution and after, hundreds of black Jerseyans fled to the British lines or to port cities seeking freedom. Their actions, more than the Gradual Emancipation of 1804, hastened the end of slavery in the state. New Jersey slave masters were notorious for illegal sales of free black people to the slave South; in Bergen County, across the Hudson River from New York City, masters held tight to enslaved people for decades. After the Civil War, Jim Crow segregation curtailed black freedoms into the 1960s. 

            The alternative history of Black New Jerseyresides in the courage and resilience of its people. A few examples: during the American Revolution Colonel Tye, a self-emancipated slave from Shrewsbury, left his master in 1775 and later returned to command bands of blacks and whites against Patriots. The famous Underground Railroad operator Harriet Tubman started her Underground Railroad career in Cape May, New Jersey. Cape May was one of numerous “black towns” along the southern Jersey shore that acted as places of succor and transport for self-emancipated slaves from the South. Paul Robeson – actor, singer, athlete, activist – was perhaps the greatest person born and raised in New Jersey. He came from a distinguished family in Princeton. Marion Thompson Wright from Newark rose from poverty to become in 1940 the first black woman to earn a doctorate in the field of history. She then had a distinguished career in the Education Department at Howard University. Amiri Baraka, a playwright and poet from Newark, epitomized recent black activist/artists. After gaining fame in New York City as a beat poet, Baraka returned to Newark and embraced a fierce black nationalism. Today, Corey Booker, a Rhodes Scholar and former Mayor of Newark, is now New Jersey’s U.S. Senator. He may run for president in 2020. Theirs are but a few of the great human accounts in Black New Jersey

In addition to his new book, Professor Hodges has received a National Endowment for the Humanities research grant to support his next major book project, “Black Flight from Slavery in the Americas, 1500-1856.”

Written by Graham Hodges, Professor of History


History Club Visits the Erie Canal

By History Department on October 31, 2018

On September 29th, the Colgate History Club took an excursion to cruise the Erie Canal, in Herkimer, NY. We boarded our Colgate transportation on a Saturday, all excited to explore and learn about the Erie Canal and its long history.

We were all first timers on the Erie Canal and didn’t know too much about the canal before the trip, except for the basics, such as its transportation function, the economic prosperity it brought, and also its impact on indigenous people living around the canal. Although we all had different reasons to go on this trip, everyone greatly enjoyed this experience, combining our love of learning history with a nice boat ride on a beautiful fall day.

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Marcy Norton Delivers Reading Lecture

By History Department on October 10, 2018

On October 3, the Colgate History Department welcomed special guest Marcy Norton for the annual Douglas K. Reading Lecture.. Persson Auditorium was packed for the occasion. The subject of Norton’s lecture, “Taming the Wild: Animal Familiarization in Greater Amazonia, 1492-1700,” was human-animal relations, colonialism, and science. She will soon publish a book on this topic with Harvard University Press.

Norton began by introducing animal familiarization, or taming. She first came across this topic 10 years ago when she decided to write a book about humans and animals after 1492. She started by reading treatises about hunting in Europe and began to notice a discrepancy between the way animals were objectified through livestock husbandry, and the way they were viewed as fellow subjects in the aristocratic hunt.

Finding this difference intriguing, Norton moved on to studying Read more


The London History Study Group

By History Department on October 2, 2018
Last week the History Department celebrated student research by awarding the London Study Group Work-inProgress prizes.  As the description of the prizes has it: “The three papers all demonstrate energetic archival work, spritely imagination, and a willingness to be wrong and re-assess, whilst remaining (in our profession’s favourite expression) ‘very much works in progress’.”  The three papers were:
  • Emily Kahn, “‘A Right to an Opinion’: Post-Blitz Planning Exhibitions and Public Participation in Reconstructing London, 1943–1951”
  • Mara Stein, “‘A Most Extraordinary Variety of the Human Race’: the Ethnic Show in Victorian Britain, 1840–1900.”  
  • Annie Zhanling Wang, “Defining Black Theatre—Racial Discourse in the Early Life of Talawa Theatre Company, from 1986 to 1996.”  

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Congratulations to the History Club!

By History Department on August 30, 2018

The History Department is pleased to announce the second volume of the History Club’s The Historical Journal of Colgate. This journal is full of wonderful articles. Many discuss the past, present, and future plans of the department and History Club. Several bicentennial articles explore how Colgate will mark this milestone. In others, faculty and students share their research. If anyone would like to read a printed version, please contact the history department at history@colgate.edu. And last year’s volume is also available. Enjoy!