Hold on to your quills -- the Organization of American Historians descended on Washington D.C. today for its annual four-day meeting. The event is aimed at professional historians but open to anyone who would like to learn more about an exceptionally wide variety of subjects.
I'm using three vacation days to attend the meeting. After just one day, I'm already glad I did. A couple of quick highlights from sessions I attended:
- Eola Dance, sporting an always spiffy National Park Service ranger uniform, teamed with Heather Huyck of the College of William and Mary to talk about the service learning program work they're doing to connect student in Richmond, Virginia with the life of Maggie Lena Walker. Walker, who lived from 1864 to 1934, was the first African American woman to charter a bank. She also helped launch a store and a newspaper. She also dedicated her life to fighting against racial discrimination. Students are not just exploring the Maggie Walker National Historic Site, they're investigating it. They're walking the grounds, sifting through original documents about Walker's life, writing guides to the site, and more.
- Catherine Turton, also from the National Park Service, provided a look at the limited effort many of America's historic sites make to tell inclusive stories representing the full range of voices a site represents. She also pointed to a number that are getting it right, particularly as it relates to including women. Topping the list? The Otis House Museum in Boston, The Hermitage in Nashville, Tennessee, and Arizona's Sharlot Hall Museum.
- Professors Jonathan Den Hartog of Northwestern College, Michael Lee of Messiah College and Bentley University's Chris Beneke lead a discussion about "(Re)Interpreting the Bible in Early American Culture. The session looked at the way that the view of the Bible changed from the Colonial era through the Revolution and into the 1790s. Presenters noted that some people began to view the Bible more objectively, while ol' Thomas Paine took a literary beating after the publication of The Age of Reason.
OAH Part 2: Historian heroes in D.C.
OAH Part 3: Tom Hanks got it wrong