Upcoming State History Conference

Information on the 2016 South Dakota History Conference in Pierre has been posted online, link here.  The conference theme is “Everyone Eats” on South Dakota food heritage.  There are links to the schedule and speakers, and to registration forms.  Early registration goes until April 8, and the conference itself is April 29-30.

The keynote speaker will be Susan Evans McClure, Director of Smithsonian Food History Programs at the National Museum of American History.  Other topics are on brewing history (by the state archives’ Ken Stewart), restaurants (by South Dakota Magazine editor Bernie Hunhoff), heirloom recipes, Germans-from-Russia foodways, the pioneer kitchen, harvesting food and medicine by Sioux tribes, Sioux Falls drive-ins, and SDSU ice cream.

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Days 2 & 3 of DOCOMOMO-US National Symposium in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Stopping for photos on the landscapes tour-- the reflection was too perfect.

Stopping for photos on the landscapes tour– the reflection was too perfect.

Now that I’ve had time to process the conference, have returned from subsequent trips, and have (sort of) caught up at work, the following is my brief run-down of days 2 and 3 of the DOCOMOMO-US national symposium.  Minnesota has a great deal of Modern treasures and a seemingly solid group of advocates who love Modernism.  An interesting theme was the impact of the world wars on the prominence of Modernism – there were the expressionists and Bauhaus after WWI, and at Mt. Zion Temple, Christ Church Lutheran, and at St. John’s Abbey, we learned that it was the end of WWII that pushed those communities to be willing to break with tradition and create a new order for their built environment.

On the second day, some of my first-day concerns were met when we spent more time on the modern vernacular – how Modernism played out across the many scales of our built environment.  A speaker from the MN State Historic Preservation Office talked on Modern preservation in greater Minnesota (outside the Twin Cities) and the author of Mid-Century Mundane spoke about that site and a newer project he worked on for Queens Modern.  Both were successful as glimpses into other places, as preliminary documentation and advocacy, but fell short of a bigger context that could provide a foundation for identification and evaluation elsewhere.  More work to do for all of us!  Another presentation promoted the need to look at urban renewal history, and evaluate its strongest architectural legacy that is worth preserving.  There’s a strong potential for such study in Sioux Falls I think…

On to the tours and photos and lessons-learned at the end of it all!

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Day 1 at the DOCOMOMO-US National Symposium

Beautiful light onto the altar.  Jehovah Lutheran Church, photograph by author.

Beautiful light onto the altar. Jehovah Lutheran Church, photograph by author.

Today has been a fascinating day.  Initial thoughts: The DOCOMOMO-US symposium is full of passionate, welcoming people with a wide breadth of knowledge on late-twentieth century and recent architecture, but it has also reinforced what a niche it still is.  Perhaps that’s largely a matter of its youth.  Like earlier time periods in architectural history, architects are the first major source of support.  Each era has taken time to be embraced by wider audiences and to extend beyond landmark buildings.  Many attendees are preservationists or preservation architects, but the masterworks are the focus of content – not vernacular/popular modernism or non-urban modernism (at least not in Day 1).  There was one presentation calling attention to the legacy of ‘forgotten’ local architects, which was a call that resonated with me.  The speaker encouraged the audience to go back to primary sources to fill in the gaps that have yet to be enshrined in monographs and textbooks.

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Hybrid Historians

I just read a post from Liz Covart on her experience going to her first NCPH (National Council on Public History) conference recently in Nashville.  Having been trained in a public history graduate program and gone to a few NCPH conferences myself, I really appreciated her perspective.  She writes about public history as a distinct discipline — Public history is about how we work, not just where.

She also uses the term “hybrid historian,” which I kinda love.  My BA is in history and my public history graduate program was housed in a history department which meant I had the great privilege of access to both communities.  Internships gave me access to museum exhibits, archive/collections, and visitor interpretation.  Conferences provided wide exposure to multiple sub-disciplines.  Fortunately, my professors and mentors also stressed this goal of flexibility and I also spent time studying oral history, cultural resource management, and historical archaeology.  From the perspective of a few years, there are even more subjects I wish I had been introduced to in college.  A Strengths Finder test I took recently listed ‘learner’ and ‘adaptability’ as two of my strengths, and my educational choices definitely supported that tendency.  I think I’m going to own the term “hybrid historian” because I do feel hybridized.  I feel conversant in multiple fields within history writ large without a firm allegiance to any.

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Upcoming SD History conference

To kick things off, I’m psyched about the South Dakota State Historical Society 2015 conference, “Prairie to Pines: People and their Environment in South Dakota.”  May 29-30, Ramkota RiverCenter, Pierre.

I’m really excited for the two keynotes: David Grettler (Northern State University) “Man and Nature: An Edible Introduction to Environmental History” and David Nesheim (Chadron State College, NE) “The Science of Dispossession: Black Bass, Fireweed, and the Yankton Sioux Reservation.”  There are also awesome field sessions planned for Saturday to get out and see environmental history in person at the Oahe Dam, an old CCC camp on Farm Island, and the Buffalo Interpretive Center.

Upcoming SDSHS History Conference, May 29-30, 2015, Pierre.  http://history.sd.gov/aboutus/HistoryConference/PrairieToPines/default.aspx

See full schedule and register at: http://history.sd.gov/aboutus/HistoryConference/PrairieToPines/default.aspx

See you there!