History students are actively engaged in the learning enterprise in a variety of ways. The methods of exploration and discovery, such as honors research and internships, have proven to be personally enriching and practically helpful. A sampling of those currently or recently pursuing these forms of study are listed below along with brief descriptions of their projects.
Vibrant Lives Behind the Fences: A Social History of the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee by Heather McGowan
Throughout the 2013-2014 school year, Heather McGowan conducted independent honors research for the History Department under the supervision of Dr. Anita Gustafson. Her research centered on the agency of the workers who built the atomic bombs deep in the hills of eastern Tennessee.
‘The year I spent doing my independent research project was one of the most fulfilling and enriching years I had while at PC. I completed an internship at the National Archives and Records Administration in the summer of 2013 and after this experience working with national records, I was set on fire about the Manhattan Project files. I quickly became invested in investigating the social history, the lives of those who lived and worked at Oak Ridge, because of the extremely high levels of censorship and government secrecy that surrounded the secret World War II project. I dedicated a large portion of my research to listening and transcribing interviews with those who worked at Oak Ridge and to my surprise, I found my preconceived notions challenged. These challenges to my thinking, and the changes in my viewpoints, made my project all the more fulfilling. My undergraduate experience was beautifully rounded out by the year I dedicated to this project. Dr. Gustafson pushed me to become a much stronger scholar, writer, and critical thinker. Any student who yearns for more in their history degree should take full advantage of independent research.’
Organized Chaos: The Developmental Response of Palestinian Nationalism to Immediate and External Factors (1948-1987) by Justin Conklin
In the fall of 2010, Justin Conklin conducted independent honors research for the History Department under the supervision of Dr. Roy Campbell. His research centered on an investigation of the Palestinian situation since the war of 1948 and aimed to assess the causal mechanisms involved in the development of extreme nationalism among this marginalized group of people.
‘As I begin my first year of graduate studies at George Washington University, I look back upon this research project as the highlight of my undergraduate work. The amount of dedication and work that went into it was only surmounted by my undying interest in the subject on which I was writing. As a double major in history and political science, the topic of the Palestinian question was often a part of class discussion, and it quickly became my obsession. Upon completing my capstone in history on the topic of the British mandate in Palestine, I wanted to move further into the subject and to understand the complexities behind such extreme political behavior. This project allowed me to do so, and I learned vastly from it. Aside from this, the experience has also equipped me with the tools for success as I proceed to attain my M.A. in international affairs. This is an opportunity of which more students should take advantage. The rewards are quite amazing.’
A Dream of Comfort: Working-Class Women and the Corset by Anna Lee Walden
In the summer of 2010, Anna Lee conducted summer research under the supervision of Dr. Brett Bebber. As such she was a participant in PC’s Summer Fellows Program which links faculty and student together for a summer of intense research.
Anna Lee’s Reflections:
‘PC Summer Fellows was a great opportunity to research an individual topic that I was deeply interested in. I was able to integrate my differing interests of fashion, women’s studies, and 20th century history into one project. Summer Fellows also allowed me to further my knowledge of the research process, and especially my ability to analyze and integrate primary sources into my research. However, most importantly it allowed me to attempt to give a voice to a marginalized and often silent group in historiography: the working class women. Through this research program it was also made clear to me that I want to continue my historical studies at the graduate school level. Overall, my time spent researching was a great experience that I would strongly encourage any History student to participate in!’
Smithsonian National Museum of American History by Laura May
In the summer of 2010 Laura interned at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, working under a curator in the Home and Community Life division. Her main project revolved around planning an exhibit that is scheduled to open in spring 2012. She also helped with a collections move and assisted curators in moving the lighting collection to a new storage spot, which gave her experience in object handling.
‘My summer at National Museum of American History was an incredibly enriching experience. I had no idea what to expect on my first day or what sort of things I would be doing. I could have never imagined I would become as involved as I did. I was on an exhibit planning team and my opinions where actually asked for and appreciated. My main job was to find and organize potential objects for the exhibit, which gave me the opportunity to see some incredible objects that the museum houses. I was able to see objects related to significant moments in American history that I have studied about in my PC history courses. For example, taking Dr. Gustafson’s “Women in America” class last spring enabled me to have a greater appreciation for objects such as the table that Elizabeth Cady Stanton used while drafting the Declaration of Sentiments or Susan B. Anthony’s shawl. Though I am not sure that I will pursue a career in museums, my time at NMAH solidified my interest and respect for history and all that it can offer.’