Exploring “The Star Spangled Banner” with Fourth Graders–And Having a Teacher Evaluation at the Same Time

By Suzanne Costner, School Library Media Specialist, Fairview Elementary School, Blount County, Tennessee

This year, Southern Rambles will publish occasional posts from the Center for Historic Preservation’s partners and former students. We are grateful to Suzanne Costner, last summer’s teacher-in-residence with our Teaching with Primary Sources–MTSU program, for being our first guest-blogger.

A sample of the displays that classes had created with our art teacher.

A sample of the displays that classes had created with our art teacher.

Over the summer, I had the privilege of working with the Teaching with Primary Sources–MTSU program as an educator-in-residence. For those who aren’t familiar with the program, MTSU’s Center for Historic Preservation is one of the TPS consortium members that helps provide training and support for teachers in using the digitized content of the Library of Congress. When an educator is chosen for the residency program, she or he works with the TPS–MTSU staff to explore the online content and develop lesson plans and resources for other educators to use. As part of that program, I wrote a lesson plan focusing on “The Star Spangled Banner.” My idea was to involve the art and music teachers as part of the learning experience. I included ideas for having the students sing the iconic song during music class and create patriotically themed artwork during art class.

When my principal scheduled my evaluation/observation for November, I decided to use “The Star-Spangled Banner” lesson, knowing it would coincide with Veterans Day. In this way, the song would relate to something happening in the students’ lives and have a meaningful connection.

Visitors to our Veterans Day program had the opportunity to view the students' artwork.

Visitors to our Veterans Day program had the opportunity to view the students’ artwork.

In preparation for the lesson, I made a few modifications since it would be taking place during library class and not in the regular classroom. That placed limitations on the length of the lesson because students would also need to choose and check out library books during a 40-minute period. Rather than having the students write out an essay describing their reaction to the song and identifying words and phrases that made the biggest impression on them, I used a die-cut machine and created red, white, and blue stars on which they could record the word or phrase that stood out to them. As an additional time-saver, I would have them jot down on the back of the star an occasion when they had heard the song performed, rather than having a discussion about it with the whole group. When my principal and I had our pre-observation conference, I explained my concerns about the time limits and the changes I had made to the lesson plan. We discussed my goals and objectives, and he told me that he was looking forward to his visit with the class.

On the day of the lesson, the students came in, dropped off their books at the circulation desk, and went to their seats. I explained that we would be looking at a famous document and talking about its meaning and importance. I asked them what they thought of when they heard the word “document.” One student said it was an important record like a driver’s license or a birth certificate. Another said it was something that has information in it, like a journal or even a computer file. I was very impressed that they all had a good grasp on the concept of a document.

Then I passed out copies of the original hand-written manuscript for the song and asked them to study it and look for clues about what it was, where and when it was written, etc. I wasn’t sure how many of them could actually read cursive, but one student looked at the first line and called out, “This is the Star Spangled Banner!” We talked about the events surrounding the creation of the song, and then I handed out the typed song sheet with all the lyrics on it. I remarked that this was a patriotic song, and asked them what “patriotic” meant. A student explained that it was something that showed pride in our country and had national ideas in it. Then I asked them to find phrases that fit that definition and share them with the class. Many of them focused on words from the chorus like “land of the free,” and “home of the brave.” But others looked through all the verses and pulled out phrases like “In God is our trust.” When we talked over their choices, they explained that it even says “In God We Trust” on our currency, so that was definitely a patriotic phrase.

I took the students' stars and mounted them on red, white, and blue poster board with a song sheet in the middle of each poster. These were then hung in the hallway.

I took the students’ stars and mounted them on red, white, and blue poster board with a song sheet in the middle of each poster. These were then hung in the hallway.

I handed out the precut stars and told them what kinds of things I wanted them to write on the front and on the back. We discussed a few examples of where they might have heard or seen a performance of the song. My principal was amused, and a little flattered, when several students said they had heard him sing it before a ball game at school. When they had finished with their writing, I asked if anyone had further thoughts to share about the lesson or about patriotic songs or documents. A student raised his hand and said, “When I hear ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ I can feel my heart start really pumping in my chest.” Another said, “My mom always gets tears in her eyes when they play it at the ball games.” A third said, “I like it when they play it at the track before the races and everyone stands up.” I told them we would listen to some performances of the song during their next library class, and they wanted to know why we couldn’t do that right away. I had to remind them that it was almost time for their homeroom teacher to come and get them.

When I had the follow-up conference for my observation, the principal told me he was very impressed with the lesson. He mentioned the comments the students had made and how on target they had been. He also said that he would have performed the song for us, if we had asked him, and then laughed. The results of the observation were all 4s and 5s on my ratings. Special strengths noted were making the lesson relevant, appealing to various learning styles, and addressing content-area standards. There were also points for promoting higher-order thinking, knowing my students and their ability levels, and my content-area knowledge. As we wrapped up, he said that he liked the way art and music had been included in the lesson and how it had all tied into the program for the holiday.

During our Veterans Day program, the entire school sang “The Star Spangled Banner” as a part of the program, and I saw quite a few teary-eyed adults in the audience.

During our Veterans Day program, the entire school sang “The Star Spangled Banner” as a part of the program, and I saw quite a few teary-eyed adults in the audience.

Teachers may feel intimidated by the idea of using primary sources in their lessons, but these documents and images promote higher-order thinking because students must use background knowledge to understand and analyze the sources. Students also respond well to firsthand accounts of historical events and are encouraged to look for other sources to corroborate or refute the information within those accounts. Analyzing primary sources encourages critical thinking and gives students a great opportunity to engage with history.

In addition, allowing students to interact with the material and approach it in their own ways makes the lesson flow much more smoothly. Since I gave my class the choice of sharing a word or a phrase from the song, they didn’t feel as if they might give a wrong answer–they could explain how it reflected their idea of a patriotic image. Giving them a chance to share a memory of a performance of the song validated their own experiences– whether it was at a Little League game, the 411 Race Track, or watching the Olympics. And they all had the shared experience of practicing and performing the song for the program.

In addition to viewing the students' artwork, visitors to the Veterans Day program listened to poems about the armed forces that students had written during language arts class; students then presented these to the veterans in attendance.

In addition to viewing the students’ artwork, visitors to the Veterans Day program listened to poems about the armed forces that students had written during language arts class; students then presented these to the veterans in attendance.

In the end, it was a positive experience for all the students, the 4th grade teachers were happy that I had covered those standards, the art and music teachers were excited to be involved, parents and visitors loved the display of students’ work, and my principal gave me an excellent rating on my observation. What more could you want out of a lesson?

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Ferry Landings, Fords, and Roads: Traveling the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail

By Amy Kostine, Trail of Tears Project Historian, Center for Historic Preservation

The Old Nashville Highway is part of the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears.

The Old Nashville Highway in Rutherford County, Tennessee, is part of the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears.

Over the last two years, I have had the opportunity to travel most of the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail while documenting buildings for the Trail of Tears Historic Building Survey, a partnership project with the National Trails Intermountain Region of the National Park Service. Before I began fieldwork for the survey project, I wondered what 175 years of development and improvements would mean for the roads that the Cherokee traveled on during their forced removal to Indian Territory. What would the roads look like today? Would any of them retain their early nineteenth-century characteristics? Armed with directions, maps, a sturdy vehicle, and my hiking boots, I began my journey to find out.

It is no secret that roads have changed over the last 175 years. An increase in population and the invention of the motor vehicle resulted in the modification of existing road networks. Many of the roads that the Cherokee traveled on during the Trail of Tears were paved and expanded over time, such as the Old Nashville Highway that bisects the Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Some roads have also been diverted from their original course. When traveling on these modified, historic roads, pay attention and look to your left and right. Intact segments of the Trail of Tears can often be seen paralleling the improved roads, particularly in Illinois and Kentucky.

An original roadbed of the Trail of Tears can be seen off U.S. Highway 70S in Cannon County, Tennessee.

An original roadbed of the Trail of Tears can be seen off U.S. Highway 70S in Cannon County, Tennessee.

Even after 175 years, though, there are many portions of the Trail that have changed little and remain dirt or gravel roads. On occasion, these roads still force you to ford creeks, while other times you can follow original roadbeds to the historic ferry landings where detachments crossed rivers. Some portions of the Trail of Tears are only accessible on foot, thus offering a chance to walk the Trail as many of the Cherokee did in 1838 and 1839. Almost untouched by time, places like these easily allow you to imagine the detachments of Cherokee making their way down the road.

Concrete slabs make fording this creek on the Trail of Tears in Missouri a much easier process today than it was in 1838.

Concrete slabs make fording this creek on the Trail of Tears in Missouri a much easier process today than it was in 1838.

Some of the most memorable, but solemn, parts of my fieldwork have taken place while I walked on these intact segments of the Trail. On a sunny day in November 2013, my colleague Leigh Ann Gardner and I found ourselves retracing the footsteps of the Cherokee on a well-preserved segment of the Trail of Tears in Warren County, Tennessee. It was almost 175 years later to the day that the Taylor detachment traveled down the very same road. As I walked, the November 9, 1838, journal entry of the Reverend Daniel Sabin Butrick, who traveled with Taylor’s detachment, echoed in my head:

We descended the mountain. The ground was frozen and the mountain steep, and the descent very long, so that I became alarmed, fearing I could scarcely get down with our carryall, though we had no load. It seemed to me almost impossible for heavy waggons [sic] to descend without damage, yet all came down safe, and we camped on Collin’s river in Warren County, Tenn.

A portion of the Taylor Route on private property in Warren County, Tennessee. Over the years, the weight of people, wagons, and horses compacted the earth, giving the roadbed a distinctive sunken appearance today.

A portion of the Taylor Route on private property in Warren County, Tennessee. Over the years, the weight of people, wagons, and horses compacted the earth, giving the roadbed a distinctive sunken appearance today.

Oftentimes, it is hard to comprehend people’s experiences from so long ago. Journals, letters, and newspaper articles written during the removal illuminate the Cherokee’s experiences, but physically retracing the Trail of Tears today is an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the journey to Indian Territory. The portions of the landscape that have changed little over the last 175 years (and there are many) offer glimpses of what it was like to travel these roads so long ago. While some of the roads have changed over time, their meaning and significance has not.

Special thanks to Gary Clendenon for taking the time to show Leigh Ann Gardner and me sites in Warren County, Tennessee.

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South Africa and New Insights into Shipping Container Architecture

By Abigail Gautreau, CHP Graduate Research Assistant

This past fall, I spent six weeks doing dissertation research in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. I’ve been writing about my observations on my personal blog, so here I’d like to discuss shipping container architecture, a subject I first learned about a few years ago in one of Dr. Van West’s historic preservation classes. While in South Africa, I encountered numerous examples of this type of architecture, which got me thinking about how it fits into our definitions of architectural styles.

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Shipping container used as a driving school near Pilanesburg National Park and Game Reserve.

One of the distinctions we often make in historic preservation is between high style and vernacular architecture. High style architecture is generally defined by an adherence to aesthetic principles, and high style buildings are designed to make a statement about the wealth and prominence of their inhabitants. Vernacular architecture places functionality above aesthetics, though of course aesthetics are still a concern. Most of us live our lives in vernacular buildings, and we see them around us: ranch houses, bungalows, public schools, government buildings, and strip malls, to name a few.

When historic preservation as a field got its start in the United States during the nineteenth century, much of the attention was on saving examples of high style architecture. It wasn’t until later in the twentieth century that the focus shifted to preserving vernacular architecture that better reflected how ordinary people interacted with the built environment.

My first brush with shipping container architecture came from Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built (1994). Brand argues that the best buildings are those that are most adaptable to meet the changing demands of their occupants and can thus be used over and over again. To this end, Brand describes how he converted a 40-foot shipping container into the office and research space he used to develop and write How Buildings Learn. Though Brand’s office was hardly the first example of a reused shipping container, the idea gained traction in the U.S. and Europe in the 2000s, as trade deficits meant that countries whose exports declined often had an overabundance of shipping containers.

I have since seen or read about shipping container apartments and shipping container malls. When I thought about shipping container homes, I tended to think of places like these. I never really considered shipping container architecture as part of the high style/vernacular spectrum, which was shortsighted on my part. Though they are highly utilitarian, these structures feature the sophisticated engineering and the focus on an aesthetically-pleasing outcome that clearly characterize high style architecture.

South Africa, of course, boasts high style shipping container architecture (like this amazing student housing and this trendy coffeeshop), but it is also home to an incredible variety of vernacular shipping container architecture. As I visited townships, I saw shipping containers everywhere, reused for all sorts of purposes: restaurants, shops, beauty salons, bus stops, and homes, just to name a few. The containers weren’t grouped together artfully to create larger spaces. Instead, individual containers were used to address a shortage of both space and building materials, providing watertight, easily modified spaces where people of few means could live and work.

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Seeing the resourcefulness with which these containers are reused and the impact they have on the built environment was an important reminder for me that while there is certainly value in high style architecture, vernacular architecture continues to convey a great deal more about how most people live.

 

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Reconstruction: The Time That Shaped the Tennessee of Today

By Leigh Ann Gardner, Interpretive Specialist, Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area

For more than a decade, the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area (TCWNHA) has been telling the “whole story” of the Civil War in Tennessee. We have worked with multiple partners across the state to interpret and preserve Tennessee’s abundant Civil War resources so as to help tell a richer, fuller story of the Civil War and its impact. The 150th commemoration of the war has led to new partnerships and programs, and as we move toward the anniversary of the war’s end, we find ourselves working on more projects related to Reconstruction.

The first page of the Tennessee Constitution, ratified during Reconstruction in 1870 and still in force today. Image courtesy of the Tennessee Virtual Archive, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

The first page of the Tennessee Constitution. Courtesy of the Tennessee Virtual Archive, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Reconstruction, a time of national political and social rebuilding that lasted until 1877, is the period that shaped the Tennessee we live in today. Milestones include the abolition of slavery, the development of citizenship among African Americans, the succession of Tennessean Andrew Johnson to the presidency and his subsequent impeachment, and the ratification of a new state constitution (1870), which is still in effect today. Twelve of our ninety-five counties were formed during Reconstruction, and many of the churches and cemeteries that dot our landscape date to the period. Educational institutions such as Fisk University, Knoxville College, and Vanderbilt University also date to Reconstruction. Groups such as the Swiss in Grundy County, German Catholics in Lawrence County, and English settlers in Rugby all came to Tennessee during this time, enriching our cultural landscape.

As we transition out of the sesquicentennial of the war, we have several projects that highlight the importance of Reconstruction to our state’s history. Dr. Antoinette van Zelm has added four new panels to the “Free at Last! Emancipation and Reconstruction in Tennessee” traveling exhibition. The additions discuss the transition from slavery to freedom in East Tennessee and in Middle Tennessee. If you would like to bring the entire exhibition (eight bannerstands), or the portion pertaining to your region, to your museum or historic site, please contact Dr. van Zelm (antoinette.vanzelm@mtsu.edu).

McLemore House, Franklin. This home was built by Harvey McLemore, a former slave, in 1880.

The McLemore House, Franklin. This home was built by Harvey McLemore, a former slave, in 1880.

We have also begun a statewide driving tour of Reconstruction, which should be published by the summer of 2015. This driving tour will cover the entire state and highlight some of the rich resources related to Reconstruction that are still a part of the landscape. The tour will include churches, cemeteries, schools, historic houses, and a number of other sites that tell the story of Reconstruction. Although not every site associated with Reconstruction can be included, many of the more compelling stories and sites will be featured. Topics and places covered include the Rogersville Riot of 1867, Glenmore Mansion in Jefferson City, Anderson Hall at Maryville College, Cravens House in Chattanooga, the McLemore House Museum in Franklin, the Promise Land Community near Dickson, the Freed House in Trenton, and Gray’s Creek Cemetery in Eads.

Grays Creek Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery, Shelby County. The congregation dates to before the Civil War.

Gray’s Creek Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery, Shelby County. The congregation dates to before the Civil War.

Tennessee’s final Sesquicentennial “Signature Event” will be held in Knoxville from April 30 – May 1, 2015. Titled “Reconstruction Tennessee,” this event will feature several distinguished speakers, including Dr. Caroline E. Janney, Dr. Bobby L. Lovett, Dr. Todd Groce, Dr. Tracy McKenzie, and Dr. Luke Harlow, and will focus on how Tennessee rebuilt itself following the Civil War. Make plans to join us there!

Andrew Johnson was the third Tennessean to become president. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Andrew Johnson was the third Tennessean to become president. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

See Also:

If you would like to know more about Reconstruction in Tennessee, please read Dr. Tracy McKenzie’s entry on Reconstruction in the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture at http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entry.php?rec=1112.

 

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A Preservation Epiphany: African American Schools in Gibson County

By Amanda Barry, CHP Graduate Research Assistant

Graduate students, be they M.A.s or Ph.D.s, often find themselves experiencing a full range of emotions throughout their studies. There’s the frustration when tackling projects, and the elation when they’re finally complete. This semester, I found myself filled with an uncharacteristic emotion: hate. Yes, I hated my thesis topic. I had chosen to focus on the progressive efforts that historic plantation sites were taking to interpret slavery within the landscape. It was a topic I was familiar with, and it was safe. It lacked passion and purpose, however, and I quickly found myself dreading the impending research necessary to complete a lengthy paper. So, in what I have come to call a “preservation epiphany,” I changed my thesis topic with one semester of my studies remaining. Why such a daring move? As has happened to many students at the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP), I was inspired by a community.

Over the CHP’s thirty years, students and staff have worked with many historic southern schools: schools big and small, rural and urban, black and white. The history of education in the United States often falls along the color line, especially in the South where state laws often prohibited integrated schools. Segregation is an uncomfortable history to grapple with, but one that must be tackled in order to appropriately contextualize a given school.

African American schools built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries represent a storied history of education in the United States. African American communities viewed education as a path to equal citizenship. Access to an education, denied for so long, became a precious commodity. After the Civil War, African American children and adults alike flocked to schools in droves to learn to read, write, learn, study, and receive industrial training. The physical structure and curriculum of these schools were often influenced by outside forces, including the Freedmen’s Bureau, the Julius Rosenwald Fund, and white school board members intent on keeping African Americans in their place. Indeed, the effects of Plessy v. Ferguson can be seen in the physical construction of African American schools across the South during the period of “separate but equal.”

In the face of racial oppression and adversity, African American communities remained resilient. Their strength can be felt today in the lives and work of “desegregation-era” community members in Gibson County, Tennessee, many of whom lived through the transition that took place after Brown v. Board of Education declared “separate but equal” unconstitutional. Specifically, recent CHP work has brought us to Sitka School, a rural Rosenwald school situated eight miles from Polk-Clark School (the site of another CHP partnership) in Milan, Tennessee. Engaging with the community is essential for this type of preservation work.

A day of fieldwork at Sitka School with African American community members who attended the school as children.

A day of fieldwork at Sitka School with African American community members who attended the school as children.

Many of these preservation projects have grown out of a sense of nostalgia that African American communities have for their schools built under segregation. The influence of desegregation on these communities and schools was monumental, ranging from the loss of community fabric and identity to closure and abandonment. Despite the problems of underfunding and overcrowding, schools like Sitka were a testament to self-reliance and perseverance. There was a collective energy invested in achieving a common goal.

Originally called the Industrial Training School for Negroes and later named the Gibson County Training School, Polk-Clark School was the first four-year high school for African Americans in Gibson County.  It is now a community center with exhibits about its history.

Originally called the Industrial Training School for Negroes and later named the Gibson County Training School, Polk-Clark School was the first four-year high school for African Americans in Gibson County. It is now a community center with exhibits about its history.

Preservation of segregation-era African American schools helps communities reverse the sense of loss of their educational heritage. It allows for a new platform to highlight African American leadership, culture, and traditions embodied in these institutions. The passion of Gibson County community members for preservation and re-use of their schools inspired my change of course. I’m eager to learn from these community members as I research community-based preservation of segregation-era African American schools for my “preservation epiphany” Master’s thesis.

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Getting to Know Harding Cabin at Belle Meade Plantation

By Noel Harris, CHP Graduate Research Assistant

This semester, Heritage Area interpretive specialist Leigh Ann Gardner and I have been thinking a lot about Harding Cabin, the oldest structure still standing at Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville. Not only was it probably the first home of the Harding family at the site, but it was also the home of talented horse trainer Bob Green and his family for many years. We are working to create a historic structure report (HSR) on the cabin. There are many stories that have been passed down about the building that Belle Meade’s curatorial staff question. For instance, was the cabin really built in the late 1700s? Were the two chambers of the cabin erected at the same time? With the historic structure report, we hope to answer these questions.

Historic structure reports are comprehensive collections of data describing the appearance, construction, and history of a building. HSRs begin with a written history of the site. This section features stories about the past owners and occupants of the building, as well as significant events that have occurred at the site. HSRs also include historic photographs or artwork depicting the building in the past. Another chapter records the physical details of the building through descriptions, elevations, room maps, and other detailed drawings.

The family of Bob Greene, renowned horse trainer at Belle Meade, at Harding Cabin at about the turn of the twentieth century. Courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

The family of Bob Green, renowned horse trainer at Belle Meade and the highest paid worker there after the Civil War, at Harding Cabin at about the turn of the century. Courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

In order to gather information, we searched the Tennessee State Library and Archives (TSLA) collections and the Belle Meade Plantation records, as well as the architecture library at the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP). The TSLA materials were the most time-consuming because the Harding-Jackson Papers cover almost one hundred years of the property’s history. These records include family letters, newspaper clippings, and business ledgers, all helpful in piecing together a more complete history of the cabin.

While Leigh Ann and I were doing our library research, the curatorial staff at Belle Meade was conducting its own investigation. They hired tree-dating specialists, or dendrochronologists, to date the trees the cabin was constructed from. The final report has not come back yet, but so far, indications are that elm, ash, and poplar were all used in the construction of the cabin. The cabin’s two pens (a pen is a structurally separate room of a cabin) were constructed from different types of trees, but the preliminary findings reflect that the pens were erected in the same year. The Harding family’s business ledgers held at TSLA reveal that the family forested trees, milled wood, and sold it to local builders. Each entry shows the type of tree milled and the purchaser. When that information is compared to the final dendrochronology report, we hope to learn something about who may have helped in erecting the cabin.

It has long been thought that the cabin’s pens were erected at different times because they were constructed by two different methods. One chamber has half-dovetail notches cut on the corners. These logs were worked with an adze or an axe, creating relatively smooth, flat sides. Because the logs fit pretty snugly, the chinking used to fill the spaces between the logs is minimal. The other chamber of the cabin has round log v-notching, and the logs are less squared off, and less straight.

Half dovetail joints on one pen of Harding Cabin. Note the cut marks in the logs. The shape and regularity of the marks reflect the possibility that the logs were split using a wedge and mallet.

Half-dovetail joints on one pen of Harding Cabin. Note the cut marks in the logs. The shape and regularity of the marks reflect the possibility that the logs were split using a wedge and mallet.

The Hardings also quarried stone from the property. The cabin’s fireplaces and chimneys are both made from hand-cut stone. In the future, we will look for records identifying the stone and compare them to the ledger showing the quarrying records.

Stone chimney and squared-off log wall at Harding Cabin

Stone chimney and squared-off log wall at Harding Cabin.

The more time we spend at the site, the more we feel like we know the people who constructed the building. This important cabin’s two-century lifetime will take some time to record, but the outcome will certainly give us a better understanding of its history.

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‘Tis the Season for Conferences: Sharing Stories of Asheville and Jekyll Island

By Jenna Stout, CHP Graduate Research Assistant

Fall is always a busy time at the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP). New projects, an incoming group of graduate assistants, fieldwork, and conferences make for bustling schedules. Although the prospect of missing class for a few days is overwhelming (and exciting), conferences are a vital way for CHPers to present their scholarship, receive useful feedback, and learn about other developments in the field.

Jenna at Conference

I co-presented my exhibition work in the “Spotlight on Student Research” category at SEMC.

At the end of October, I had the privilege of presenting at back-to-back conferences, the Ohio Valley History Conference (OVHC) and the Southeastern Museum Conference (SEMC). My OVHC presentation, entitled “Sanitizing the Consumptive Past: Asheville’s Tubercular Legacy in the Early 20th Century,” focused on Asheville’s paradoxical relationship with tubercular patients and showcased some of my ongoing dissertation research.

Following my presentation at OVHC in Clarksville, I was off to East Tennessee with a group of graduate students to present at SEMC. This year’s annual meeting, advertised as “Appalachian Renaissance: Renewing Tradition, Rethinking Approaches,” took place at the Holiday Inn at World’s Fair Park in scenic Knoxville. While the OVHC is very much an academic history conference, SEMC is a professional conference that spotlights innovative ideas being implemented at museums throughout the Southeast. During the three-day conference, I had the privilege of sitting in on the “Historic Homes of Knoxville” session and hearing Dr. Katie Stringer, a graduate of MTSU’s Public History Program and now executive director of Blount Mansion, discuss collaborative efforts among historic house museums in the Knoxville area.

For my SEMC session, I joined three of my colleagues from the 2014 MTSU Field School at Jekyll Island to give an overview of the exhibitions we created during our stay. The presentation, entitled “Interpreting ‘Others’ on Jekyll Island: A Voice for Servants and Children,” highlighted our three-week immersive experience on Jekyll Island, Georgia, last May.

Jenna and Fellow Presenters

Four of the Jekyll Island Field School participants who presented on their exhibitions: L to R, Lane Tilner, Caleb Knies, Rachel Lewis, and Jenna Stout.

The Jekyll Island Club (1886 – 1942) was once considered the playground for America’s elite. Yet, in order for Club members to enjoy the “simple” life that Jekyll offered, more than 200 employees worked at the height of the season each winter. From cooks to golf caddies, servants made life as easy as possible for members and guests. No longer an exclusive club, Jekyll Island is now a state park, and many of the former Club buildings are operated as part of a museum.

Mistletoe Cottage, constructed in about 1900, is located in the Jekyll Island Historic District.

Mistletoe Cottage, constructed in about 1900, is located in the Jekyll Island Historic District.

A group of thirteen graduate students participated in the field school on Jekyll Island. In coordination with the Jekyll Island Museum and Authority, fellow doctoral student Rachel Lewis and I developed an interactive exhibition on servant life. Completed in just three weeks, our exhibition sought to bring to light the other half of the Jekyll Island Club’s history. The kitchen is one of the most common spaces to interpret servant life at house museums. We used two warming kitchens at Mistletoe Cottage as a springboard to interpret servant life, as well as work beyond the confines of that space.

Due to the limited time allotted in the space during tours, we chose to present “chunks” of information throughout the two rooms. These vignettes provided visitors with easily digestible facts and anecdotes intended to provoke larger discussions with the museum’s tour guides. In addition, our interactive components aimed to reinforce both the physicality and mental dexterity required of servants during the Club era. Our exhibition’s emphasis on servants reflects trends in house museums to provide more inclusive narratives.

One of the interactive components, "Knowing Their Place," invited visitors to try their hand at arranging a place setting using period instructions.

One of the interactive components, “Knowing Their Place,” invited visitors to arrange a place setting using period instructions.

During the SEMC presentation, Lewis and I focused on how we used a traditional servant space (the kitchen) to highlight servant life throughout the Club property. We also addressed challenges faced in our exhibition space and how our exhibition can be used as a model for interpreting servant life at other institutions. Audience members responded positively to the Jekyll Island Field School as a model for other universities and museums to use.

The installation of scrim on the large kitchen windows enlivened the space and allowed for some of the museum's collection of photographs to be showcased.

The installation of scrim on the large kitchen windows enlivened the space and allowed for some of the museum’s collection of photographs to be showcased.

Although my two conference presentations were vastly different in topic, both highlighted sectors of the population often lost in traditional accounts of history. At the turn of the twentieth century, tubercular patients and working servants were often hidden from view, one in sanitariums and the other “below stairs.” Public history allows for previously ignored groups to gain a voice, and I appreciate the opportunity to tell a more inclusive story through my studies at MTSU and my work at the CHP.

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