News Archive 2008
Phi Alpha Theta Photos
Added: December 12, 2008
Dr. Selby addressing the group
Dr. Hudson with his former pupil Dr. Selby
The new inductees after being given their
Austin reading the Future Age passage
KSU history department represented at the Stan Hywet Symposium
Added: November 22, 2008
From left to right: KSU students Kaytlin Sumner, Heather Putt with Mary Ogle, a graduate student in Historic Preservation at Ursuline College, and Megan Clark, Curator of the Museums of Oglebay Institute.
Kaytlin Sumner's Recollection:
As a second-year Master’s student at Kent State University, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to attend the first annual Stan Hywet Symposium. The event’s theme, which centered on the era of industry and the museum specialist’s role in interpreting the Gilded Age’s citizenry, proved quite beneficial for both practical and theoretical knowledge of current issues concerning public historians. One issue that I found to be particularly appealing addressed the ways in which historic house museums can successfully interpret the stories of domestic servants. In one session, Jennifer Pustz, the current museum historian for Historic New England in Boston, presented her dissertation research regarding the domestic staff at Brucemore, located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Pustz offered advice for creating exhibits and first-person interpretations of domestic staff members of particular households even when limited resources are available.
The type of methodology Pustz employed was of interest because of its relevance to my current work at the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Clubhouse, a National Park Service site in St. Michael, Pennsylvania. The building dates back to the 1880s when it served as the central meeting place on a resort owned by wealthy businessmen such as Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick, and Andrew Mellon. Many facts about the Clubhouse are yet to be discovered, including the stories of the families’ domestic staff which traveled from Pittsburgh to work during special trips and vacations. As a seasonal Park Ranger, part of my job entails the planning and implementation of summer programs to educate guests interested in the role of servants in prominent Gilded Age households. I have gained insight which will work to supplement my knowledge for the future programs in St. Michael and elsewhere.
Another topic which concerns many museum professionals today is the future of the historic house museum. Ronald M. Potvin, the assistant director and curator at the John Nicholas Brown Center of Brown University, presented his Prescription Plan meant to ensure the survival of the small historic house museum. In the midst of a crisis brought on by a dramatic decline in visitation and the inability to keep up with rising standards and costs, historic house museums are in need of programs which keep visitors interested and wanting to return often. Interactive exhibits, self-guided tours, and varied programs were a few of the many suggestions Potvin had for revamping the historic house museum’s role in its local community and surrounding regions.
Many museum specialists have already been rather successful in the execution of programs and exhibits meant to draw visitors back into their sites. While Potvin mentioned the Lower East Side Tenement Museum as a prime example, Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens is also a success story. The museum’s many programs and events, as well as its volunteer base, have all contributed to its ability to maintain its place as a stronghold within Akron society and community heritage.
In addition, Potvin suggested that historians abandon the phrase historic house museum and replace it with historic home museum. With this minor change, Potvin argued that the theme of these sites could be altered to provide a means of which to narrate multiple stories within the house. Though Stan Hywet may still be considered a house museum, it is quite successful in its ability to interpret the stories of many of the manor house’s previous residents. Of the three different tours offered at the manor house, the “Nooks and Crannies” tour is of interest to many second-time visitors because it allows them to peek into the behind the scenes components of the house where the domestic staff worked. The main focal point of the tour is the female domestic quarters, which contains four bedrooms, two of which recently received a face-lift. I had the pleasure of working in collaboration with a fellow graduate student this past spring to transform these areas into an exhibit. One room describes the servants’ household duties while the other presents visitors with information and materials to illustrate the women’s leisure experiences. The benefits of having this type of exhibit in a historic house museum are many, as Potvin pointed out in his lecture. Visitors are able to learn more about the house’s residents in a new and memorable way without a tour guide interpreting for them.
While the symposium offered many other intriguing sessions, the most thought-provoking was the keynote address. Jerry L. Rogers, a member of the National Parks Second Century Commission and key figure within the National Park Service’s Preservation and Cultural Resources groups, presented his vision for the future of the National Park Service. Rogers encouraged his audience to look forward to a time when the nation’s natural environment and sites of cultural and historical importance are merged into one, with a common goal. Rogers did not claim to have all the answers, though his statements themselves were ground-breaking.
How exactly will historians join forces with the environmental aspects of their surroundings in order to help to create a broadened interpretation of preservation? This is one of many questions that will circulate within museum studies circles for years to come.
Heather Putt's Recollection:
As a public history graduate student at Kent State, the Stan Hywet Symposium was an ideal opportunity for me to attend my first professional conference. Through funding from the Department of History and the College of Arts and Sciences, this desire became a reality.
The theme for this inaugural symposium – which was a collaboration among Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens, Kent State University, and the University of Akron – was On Display: Historic Homes and Great Estates. Having spent the summer prior to my first year at Kent interning at Fair Lane – The Henry Ford Estate, this topic was of particular interest to me. The two day symposium sessions covered a range of subjects, from the management and preservation of historic homes, to first person interpretation, architectural landscaping, and even the future of the historic home museum. This provided me with the opportunity to learn from experts in the field in which one day I hope to work. It was a great supplement to the knowledge I am gaining from my classroom experience here at Kent.
The information I took home with me was not the sole benefit of attending the symposium. I also had the opportunity to meet, network, and discuss ideas with other students, professors, and museum professionals – both from this area as well as from around the country. I even had a chance to chat with the symposiums keynote speaker, Jerry M. Rogers. Mr. Rogers gave a very passionate discourse about his vision for the future of the National Park Service, as well as his role on the National Park Service Second Century Committee. To be able to meet and talk with a person who has done, and is doing so much for our national historic sites was very exciting.
Overall, it was a wonderful event, at a beautiful venue. I was able to build upon the knowledge that I already had, and gain some direction for my future studies as well as career. I am very glad that the Department of History and the College of Arts and Sciences provided me with the opportunity to attend the symposium.
Updated: November 7, 2008
Dr. Thomas Sosnowski was recently named as a recipient of the 2008 Kent
State University Distinguished Teaching Award from the Kent Campus
Alumni Department. An associate professor of history, Dr. Sosnowski has
been a very active member of the Kent State Stark History Department
since August 1976. He is an expert on French history, specifically, the
French Revolution, and has been a participating faculty member of the
campus' Williamsburg course and trip for more than 30 years.
Dr. Kate Kellner was recognized with a Graduate's Applause Certificate
of Achievement as a teacher who made a difference in the life of a KSU
History majors Audrey Wolfe and Stephanie Vincent were awarded the Fall
2008 Distinguished Student Leadership Award in Arts & Science.
Dr. Timothy Scarnecchia's The Urban Roots of Democracy and Political
Violence in Zimbabwe was published by the University of Rochester Press
The Kent Historical Society announces "Kent and the Great War" exhibit opening
Updated: November 7, 2008
The exhibit will open November 15, 2008 at 11am. Gathered together are a collection of local artifacts, photographs, and information regarding Kent during the years of 1917-1919.