A History Nerd Changes a Non-Believer in Charleston, South Carolina — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information. 

By Triona Fihaley

Tuesday, November 6, 2018 was a day unlike any other: this was a day that I went to Charleston, South Carolina with a mission. That mission in question was to turn my roommate, who finds history to be one the most boring subjects, into a woman who finds it interesting.

Read more via A History Nerd Changes a Non-Believer in Charleston, South Carolina — CCU Public History Fall 2018

The Palmetto State’s Gem — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information. 

By John Hagelin

In 2008 my family and I moved to Charleston, South Carolina and I have been in love with the city ever since. When I was in eighth grade, I had to take a South Carolina history course just like everyone else in my school. I had no interest in history at all, and it had always been my worst subject in school and was the cause for many headaches. Like many kids my age, I was focused on two things when I walked into school every day, those two things were lunch and recess. After a few weeks of taking this course, I realized that I lived in one of the richest cities in America (in a historical sense). In this course, my teacher told us a countless number of times that South Carolina was one of the most troublesome states in the union. Since it was founded as one of the original thirteen colonies, South Carolina has been an economic powerhouse and for an extended period was the United States agricultural backbone.

Since its founding in 1670, South Carolina has been in the middle of some very important American Historical events. For instance, it was the epicenter for the world’s rice production and other agriculture for several decades, it split the country in two when it seceded from the nation in 1861, it is home to the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, also holds some of the most traumatic militaristic events in US history. For instance, a good majority of the state burned to the ground in 1861 and its rebuild made it one of the most beautiful places in the entire civilized world.

Charleston is full of plenty opportunities for public history, for instance, there are horse and buggy tours that run daily, and describe the history of the great city. The city is also home to the famous Rainbow Row, which is an assortment of homes all next to one another and are all painted to look like a rainbow and can be traced back to the early nineteenth century.

You can also find the Historic Charleston City Market, which for decades served as one of the biggest slave ports/trading ports in all of America. The area around and in Charleston for many years was used for agriculture, to this date you can still see the outlines of a majority of different plantation systems in this area. These are just a few different historical landmarks that the city of Charleston has to offer, this is not counting the vast number of different monuments that are spread all over the city. In conclusion, the city of Charleston has been, and continues to be one of the most historically rich cities in all of America. It also offers a good range of different historical opportunities for the public to participate in, which helps the city gain more money for preservation and helps to inform the public on how historic the city really is.

via The Palmetto State’s Gem — CCU Public History Fall 2018

“It was so worth the stairs…” — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information. 

By Kira Hamilton

Since before I can even remember, my dad – who raised me to appreciate and love history, traveling, and nature as much as himself – had always gone on a white-water-rafting trip in West Virginia with his best friend aka my “uncle” Randy. He hasn’t been on a rafting trip since my younger sister was born, but he always talks about those trips just like old people talk about “the good ol’ days.”


I had always seen the kick-ass pictures and videos of my dad rafting (and also not-so kick ass pictures of people pulling him back in the boat after falling in the water…) and I had always heard the stories that my dad always told about the rafting trails, the waterfalls, the breath-taking sceneries, and of course, the famous bridge day. Bridge day Takes place in Fayetteville, West Virginia and it might as well be as big a holiday as Christmas. It is an annual festival that takes place every third Saturday in October where people from all over the country travel to parachute, bungie jump, and do other unthinkable activities off of The New River Gorge Bridge. The New River Gorge Bridge is “the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States.” And let me tell you…that sucker is no joke!

This story starts post-hurricane Florence when my eldest sister, Elizabeth, was getting married on September twentieth of this year (2018). And so – come hell or high water (literally) – my dad, my younger sister, Emma, and myself all packed up and headed to West Virginia (where my sister currently resides) to attend the wedding, praying that our travel arrangements would not resort to any detours due to flooded roads, and road closures. Fortunately, we never ran into any of those obstacles.

While on the road, my dad suggested that we make a couple of stops in North Carolina to see the mountains, and then he suggested that we stop at the New River Gorge Bridge. Little did I know that this was the very bridge in which the famous stories about Bridge Day that my dad had always told me about took place. After about ten hours into our trip we finally approached the bridge. We proceeded to park at the visitors’ center and make our way to the “look-out” where people are able to view the bridge at a safe distance (away from the road).

OH MY STAIRS! Boy, was it a pain in the you-know-what to get there! I swear there was about 15 flights of stairs leading down to the viewing point. However, when I finally reached the final platform, my breath was taken and I was speechless. I was moved to tears by how beautiful the scenery was, but also because I was finally able to see and experience what my dad had been telling me about since I was a little girl. I know, I’m a sap but, honestly, it was truly amazing how my dad’s oral (hi)stories translated so effortlessly into the real-life depiction of the New River Gorge, in which he would white-water raft in, and the bridge that he always talked about.

Works Cited

“Info.” Bridge Day, officialbridgeday.com/bridge-day-info/.

McLaughlin, Louise. “New River Gorge Bridge.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, http://www.nps.gov/neri/planyourvisit/nrgbridge.htm

via “It was so worth the stairs…” — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Infographic Syllabi: Fun, Easy (no really!), and Engaging

A poster I whipped up in Canva to advertise a new class

Last fall we had a natural disaster that shut down our school for almost the entire month of September. I did not step foot on campus for the entire month, since for part of it I was in England for DaCNet and research. Once the immediate danger of Hurricane Florence was past us, the real waiting began for flood waters that creeped up and up into our town and over our roads for weeks after. Obviously, this was totally nerve-wracking, and I was unable to focus on any heavy research or writing, because I was constantly refreshing the NOAA flood table charts.

I decided to do something a bit more fun, relaxing (to me), and creative instead: I turned my Spring semester syllabi into info graphs. I had wanted to do this for a while and wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it, so I headed to the Google. I found this article, and this, which gave some overall tips and ideas. I am most familiar with the website Canva, so that is what I decided to use for this project. I started with a completely blank page on Canva, and just added the elements as I needed them.

Canva is great for making posters to advertise your classes online or in print, social media images to advertise conferences or workshops, syllabi, documents, resumes, whatever you want to design. It is also incredibly use friendly with drag and drop functions. You can download as PDFs, JPGs, PNGs, and more. I plan to use the syllabi I have already made in the future, and copy them to make a new document, to update and change information easily. To get started, open canva in your browser and create an account.

Now, I know the syllabus is the contract the drives the semester and needs to have all the pertinent information for a successful semester. We want to get every rule, regulation, policy, and code in there to avoid any issues we have had in the past. This leads to syllabus creep, and eventually a 14 page document of blocks and blocks of texts that I don’t want to revise every semester, and students certainly don’t want to read each semester. Paring things down was hard, but I managed to go from 6 pages of text, to 3 pages of syllabus, with a supplemental calendar on another page, and for my upper division class, a packet of readings information. I also make extensive use of our online platform, Moodle, which made paring the syllabus down a lot easier, too. In the digital version of the syllabus, you can also embed links, so students can easily access the full text of an attendance policy or find information about counseling or health services, or the writing and tutoring centers (also linked on Moodle).

Ok, so how did I actually do this? Basically I opened Canva, opened a new document, and just started dragging elements around to where I needed them. I knew I had to have the course description and SLOs per university rules, and I wanted my contact information to be easily accessible for students to find. Once I had those in place, I focused on what else I thought would be the most important: how they earn their grades, course requirements, and rules/policies (condensed and pared down). I think my favorite part is the academic misconduct section, with the little skull and cross bones. Canva also has charts you can insert that will do percentages and labels, for grading or other charts you want to include.

Within canva I was also able to create an “icon” of sorts for each class, based on the themes in that class. For the museums class, I used a museum emoji with a bunch of people, for Museums and Communities. For Great Debates in Public History, I chose icons that represented our topics: a mummy, historic buildings, and a park ranger.  The icons are on each page of the syllabus along with the course name, and one cool thing about these graphics is I was able to take the icons I made for each class and use on other platforms, like our Slack page, or for different sections of moodle for a “branding” technique. This way the class was always recognizable, even across the different websites we use.

Canva has a lot of icons to choose from in the free version, like the skull and crossbones and the museum; however, you can also upload any icons or images you have downloaded on your own device to use within the program. All of the circles, starbursts, boxes, and so on are available in the sidebar of the program.

My favorite page – POLICIES!! Just look at those sweet little skulls showing the doom that awaits plagiarizers.

I taught this style of syllabus design recently at a CeTeal professional development workshop on my campus, and some of the instructors there have really run with it! One of the theater professors is planning to make hers as a Playbill, for instance, and a literature syllabus could be designed as an old book. A geography or map class could be done in a series of maps… the possibilities are endless, really. Maybe in the future I will redesign my museum one to look like an exhibit in a room! The most important thing is to be creative and have fun.

I did not do any kind of official assessment on use of the syllabus this past semester, but it did seem that students asked less questions that were answered on the syllabus. I’m sticking with it, and will post my fall syllabi at the end of summer!

 

André 3000 and Ment Nelson: Case Studies in Shared Authority and Public History in Southern Culture — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information. 

by N. Valerie McLaurin

At the Source Awards in New York City in 1995, Southern rap duo Outkast took the stage to accept their award for New Artist of the Year (Group). Met with boos from the Northern audience, André 3000, half of the now iconic duo, appeared unphased and informed the crowd that whether or not the greater hip-hop community wanted to accept it: “The South got somethin’ to say.” This prophetic moment from my childhood came to mind when I started thinking more deeply about the definition of public history.

Image Course: CNN

As a young person aware of the criticisms and stigma attached to identifying as Southern, hearing André 3000 express that the Southern US has a story to tell the rest of the world, and that whether or not that message is immediately recognized as valuable has no bearing on its inherent importance, would stick with me for the rest of my life. Later, the concept of “shared authority” that I learned in my Intro to Public History class reiterated the gut feeling I got from André 3000’s speech. In the rap community, and in the realm of academic history, there are gatekeepers. But this does not take away from the fact that those on the “outside” should also be listened to, respected, and recognized for owning their own histories and their own experiences.

Image Source: Instagram: MentNelson

In “Defining Public History: Is it Possible? Is it Necessary?” Robert Weible grapples with the various definitions of what exactly “public history” means. He writes, “when all is said and done, public history may even be like jazz or pornography: easier to describe than define, and you know it when you hear it or see it.” He goes on to write that “the discipline’s practitioners are educators who neither deny their expertise nor keep it to themselves.” To me, this definition is reminiscent of André 3000’s proclamation at the Source Awards. He was an expert in his own lived experience as a Southerner and asserted that, and as a musician he shared his narrative storytelling perspective on Southern life with whoever picked up a copy of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.

There are many nuanced stereotypes that follow Southerners, like being less formally educated and living a slower (often interpreted as duller) pace of life. Public history helps us to navigate such clichés, because it breaks through the barriers of formal academia and opens the doors of historical knowledge and knowledge production to the greater public. This brings me to the next artist I would like to discuss from the South, Ment Nelson.

Nelson was born and raised in South Carolina and was even a hip-hop artist himself before he began to focus on visual art through drawings and paintings. His art is sometimes realistic and sometimes abstract, but always inspired by his Lowcountry surroundings that hold generations of history and imagery. Arguably his most iconic piece of art is taken from an illustration of his grandmother fishing, which has been made into hatsthat are often sold out on his website. His simple Twitter bio echoes a sentiment that André 3000 established decades ago: “I make it cool to be from South Carolina.”

Both André 3000 and Ment Nelson are self-taught artists, and in the spirit of shared authority, public historians in their own right. They both identify and claim their self-taught/learned expertise over the history that surrounds them and share their unique interpretations and perspectives rooted in Southern culture with the world, and we are all better for it.

Sources:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJu40C0vE3g

https://kulturehub.com/tbt-1995-source-awards/

https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/andre-3000-said-the-south-got-something-to-say-aque-1829402260
Lyon, Cherstin, Nix, Elizabeth, and Shrum, Rebecca. Introduction to Public History: Interpreting the Past, Engaging Audiences. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/march-2008/defining-public-history-is-it-possible-is-it-necessary

https://www.postandcourier.com/news/straight-out-of-varnville-artist-ment-nelson-makes-it-cool/article_ea4b7268-44a2-11e8-a529-8f6d6876e0ff.html

https://www.thestate.com/entertainment/article221835760.html

https://twitter.com/mentnelson

http://www.mentnelson.com

via André 3000 and Ment Nelson: Case Studies in Shared Authority and Public History in Southern Culture — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Pseudoarchaeology and History in Media: The Danger of Inaccuracy in Pop Culture — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information. 

By Sydney James

Channels such as the Travel Channel and the History Channel are notorious for creating shows that appear to be historical in nature, but are often filled with inaccuracies for the purpose of raising public interest and viewer counts. These shows include some form of historical or archaeological background, an amateur “expert” in the field, a celebrity for show, and a whole lot of wild speculation. For good measure, some wandering through the woods or crawling through “undiscovered” tunnels is included. Magic or aliens are probably mentioned somewhere as well. (For more laughable but infuriating examples, give@DSAArchaeologya follow on Twitter – he talks about this quite a bit!)

This, of course, raises an important question: why are television shows so insistent on spinning archaeological and historical fact into wildly inaccurate tales? Is it because archaeology or history are not interesting enough on their own (obviously false)? Could it be that people are skeptical when it comes to believing in science and reason? Were ancient civilizations really incapable of creating megalithic structures without the help of extraterrestrial beings (probably not)? Most likely, maybe these media forms find it necessary to alter the facts to gain more viewers?

Whatever the reason, pseudoarchaeology has been detrimental to how much of the general public views the history of ancient civilizations. (For these purposes, wikipedia actually provides a great definition of the term – “Pseudoarchaeology- also known as alternative archaeology, fringe archaeology, fantastic archaeology, or cult archaeology – refers to interpretations of the past from outside of the archaeological science community, which reject the accepted data gathering and analytical methods of the discipline.”)[1]Some of the more popular claims, for example, are blatantly racist. As an example, we can look at Ancient Aliens (a show on the “History” Channel). This show looks most primarily at large scale structures erected by the ancient Egyptians or Mayans, for example. The show claims that because we do not know how structures such as the pyramids were built, alien beings must have been involved in the creation of these monuments. In a recent article[2], Sarah Bond (@SarahEBond) talks more in detail about the shows racist implications, discussing how people have gone so far as to remove parts of Khufu’s pyramid in an attempt to validate their claims of alien origins.

Not only does this discount the accomplishments of these civilizations, the focus of the show on regions of minority ancestry also paints a picture that depicts ancient people of color as incompetent and incapable of applying science or mathematics to their architecture. And, as Bond points out, it is not the British that stand to lose anything in these claims – rather, it is non-European cultures that are subject to have their abilities questioned as a result.

Despite this, people continue to consume television that feeds into wild fantasies about magic, aliens, folklore, spirits, and so on. More often than not, some of these shows are based on the fears and legends that have appeared throughout time. More people believe in the extraterrestrial and paranormal than one might initially think, and feeding into those beliefs is a sure way to make profits. Of course, it is not surprising that people are fascinated by that sort of subject matter. Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones are all classic examples of extremely popular stories that involve fantasy to capture and mesmerize an audience. The issue here is not with fantasy itself – on its own, fantasy can be an excellent break from reality. The issue is when these beliefs are spun into historical and archaeological fact, where the twisting of history demeans ancient civilizations and peoples and provides an unknowing public with false information – information which then spreads rapidly and becomes a regular part of public understanding.

[1]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoarchaeology

[2]Bond, S. E. (2018, November 13). Pseudoarchaeology and the Racism Behind Ancient Aliens. https://hyperallergic.com/470795/pseudoarchaeology-and-the-racism-behind-ancient-aliens/

via Pseudoarchaeology and History in Media: The Danger of Inaccuracy in Pop Culture — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Repost: Welcome to MMM!

This post is from one of my new ventures with fellow museum/death colleague, Dr. Trish Biers. Read more about our work in public engagement, museums, human remains, and death at MorsMortisMuse.wordpress.com, and on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @MorsMortisMuse

Welcome to Mors Mortis Museum!

Screen Shot 2019-03-02 at 12.11.27 PMMors Mortis Museum began as an international collaboration between Drs. Trish Biers and Katie Clary in 2017. In 2019 we launched a social media presence, and we plan to continue to grow our collective with blogs, interviews, meet-ups, and workshops or a conference. One of the main purposes of the group is to foster conversation that will lead to better practice and protocol for how museums and institutions do public engagement with human remains. Additionally, we hope to help create conversation with new narratives about collecting and acquisition along with evaluating how museums are responding to increasing transparency about their collections.

Please feel free to contact us with questions, comments, pitches for blogs, more information, or just for a chat. You can also read more about us, our motives, and the people behind MMM on our About Us page.

We are compiling a working list of Information and Resources about death, museums, human remains, and more.  Please contact us or comment to let us know about resources we should include. This is a growing and evolving list that is no where near comprehensive (yet!).

Find us on Twitter @MorsMortisMuse, and on Facebook and don’t forget to subscribe or follow our our blog.

Looking forward to many conversations, workshops, and more in the future,
Trish + Katie

via Welcome to MMM! — Mors Mortis Museum

2018-2019 Academic Year in Review

Iceland is amazing! Go there!

As usual, the academic year caught up with me and threw me for a whirl. After a wild hurricane-riddled fall semester (one month away from campus!), and intense experiential learning semester in spring, and a well-earned holiday to Iceland, I am back again and ready to do this (at least until August).

Fall 2018

The fall semester was bizarre in many ways. The semester started out fine, with my usual Pre-Modern World survey, Intro to Public History, and a capstone for the MA in Liberal Studies. I headed off to DacNet and England the first week of September, and on the way home heard a hurricane was brewing. Hurricane Florence hit, and school was closed for 3 weeks. We came back the first week of October to try to recover some semblance of a normal semester. It went as well as it could, and everyone adapted, but it was far from a normal semester.

My Intro to Public History class went well, and I tried out a new project idea from Dr. Jamie Goodall which worked without a hitch. I was happy to have a couple of graduate students in that class. The class website included a space for blogs, which I will share over the coming weeks.

Yay Mandy! Enjoy MTSU!!

My MALS capstone student, Mandy Hamilton, worked on a very cool digital reconstruction project, which you can find here: https://amanda9917.wordpress.com. A very incredible piece of news, totally surreal for me, Mandy will attend MTSU in the Fall semester to pursue her Ph.D. in Public History with my dissertation advisor!

Spring 2019

The Spring semester was probably the best I’ve had yet as a professor.

I developed a new course on Great Debates in Public History and Cultural Heritage. This course was developed completely around Reacting to the Past pedagogy, in class debates, group presentations, and other in class activities. As part of this module in the course, I invited Chief Harold Hatcher of the Waccamaw people to visit the class and talk about his experiences as a Native American in our community. The “flipped classroom” nature of this course was challenging for me as an instructor, but many students seem to do more research and push themselves to see all sides of our historical debate topics in this class.

The most time consuming and impactful work I did in Spring 2019 was in my HIST392: Museums and Communities course.  HIST392 serves to introduce students to the museum world, museum theory and history, as well as museum work through a hands-on community project. For Spring 2019, I partnered with Dr. Carolyn Dillian’s ANTH432: Cultural Resource Management class, as a natural complement to our project.

Our project was to  create an exhibit for people with disabilities and sensory differences through 3D scanning and printing of artifacts in the Horry County Museum collection. The students created the exhibit from the ground up in conjunction with HCM, local community organizations and partners, and other stakeholders. Students were at the The South Carolina Federation of Museums annual conference in March to present their work, and also to attend the conference and meet museum professionals from the state and region. Additionally, a panel on our work has been accepted for the SouthEastern Museums Conference in Charleston in October, 2019.

Best partner in crime ever

Dr. Dillian and I applied for an received 2 grants for this project, a South Carolina Humanities MiniGrant of $2,000 and South Eastern Archaeology Conference $2,000. We received both grants to complete this project.

The exhibit, titled Printing the Past: SC in 3D opened April 30, 2019 at the Horry County Museum.  The course website and digital exhibit is online available at: www.printingthepastscin3d.com. More on this in the coming months, I am sure. 

Just look at these amazing colleagues and students!

Somehow this seems to be turning into a rehashing of my year-end eval for the school… I guess you can just check my updated CV if you really want the details on everything else I’ve been up to. There were publications, conference presentations, a book proposal, and so much more.

I’ll give more updates on all of this and that over this summer, I hope.

In the meantime, brace yourself for student blogs from the Fall semester, coming soon!

Leicester and Richard III

Saturday began our last full day in England, and we caught the train to Leicester on the way back to London so I could see my favorite monarch of English/British history: Richard III. If you follow my Instagram you may have seen my epic r3 Halloween costume, and if you’re on Twitter, you’ll know fake r3chard has retweeted me like 3 times now. We’re basically best internet friends.

Mom and I got into Leicester and decided to try to find a place to leave our luggage. If anyone is looking for a lucrative business to open: start a found luggage in Leicester. We carried our giant bags all over the town with no luck. The Visitors Center couldn’t help us; the museum couldn’t store bags for insurance reasons (fair). We had already bought our tickets, I was tired and hangry, and nothing was going our way. My mom, saint that she is, decided to hole up in a café with tea and cake and babysit our bags while I went to the museum. Not ideal, but at least I got to see what there was to see.

The Richard III Visitor Center is built around the archaeological site where in 2012, archaeologists found the remains of the last Plantagenet. The archaeological story itself is fascinating, because it is not at all usual for an archaeological investigation to find exactly what it is looking for on the first try; but that’s just what happened in this case. There is a Smithsonian documentary all about the discovery available on YouTube here.

The visitor begins in a display about the history of the War of the Roses, family lines, and the reasons for the turmoil that surrounded Richard III’s reign. From there, you travel through the War of the Roses, RIII’s short reign, and his burial at Grey Friar’s Priory. Heading upstairs, visitors encounter a display that discusses the portrayals of Richard as a villain throughout popular culture, from Shakespeare to the recent Benedict Cumberbatch portrayal.

Next, the display walks the visitor through the entire story of the dig from its beginning through to the discovery and analysis of the Richard’s remains. This was great! The timeline included artifacts from the dig, video interviews with the archaeologists and others involved in the venture, and diagrams. The exhibit then represents scientists’ analysis of Richard’s bones through medical testing and forensic recreations. One controversy was that of Richard’s scoliosis; many proponents of R3 have relegated the story of the hunchback king to a tale made up by Shakespeare and other detractors to vilify and lessen the monarch in some way.  When the skeleton was uncovered, it was obvious that the scoliosis was a fact after all.

The visitor center experience ends with a visit to the site where the bones were found in the parking lot that used to house the church. The websitedescribes it as, “the site of King Richard’s burial, preserved in a quiet, respectful setting and with a contemplative atmosphere, fitting for the last resting place of a slain warrior and anointed monarch.” The room is quiet and simple, and a hologram shows where the bones were found within the unit. The volunteer in the room when I visited was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, pointing out features in the dig that helped to date the remains.

Across the courtyard from the visitor center stand Leicester Cathedral, where the remains of Richard are interred. The church also has a display about Richard and his discovery and subsequent reburial (and a giftshop, too!).

Behind the church another gem is hidden: The Guildhouse. This is a medieval timbered building dating back to 1390 in its oldest part. The architecture and features throughout are gorgeous, from the soaring timbered ceiling to the mantels to the upstairs library. The site is also supposed to be one of the most haunted buildings in Britain, as the helpful museum employee told me as I walked through the building on my own. I managed to scare myself nearly to death when I looked into an old jail cell and saw a mannequin in the darkness.

Through hordes of football fans on their way to a match, we made our way back to the train station and headed back to London, content with our few days in Yorkshire and our day in Leciester. We were back to London for one more night, a classy McDonald’s dinner, and a trip to the Sainsbury for a literal duffel bag full of candies and presents (yet I still managed to forget a can of treacle). Mom and I made it back to South Carolina with no issues, and are already planning our next trip together!

DaCNet 2: Day 2

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Day 2 opened with, “Corpses in Cabinets,” my own panel, which included fantastic women scholars from around the world, but also FROM MY HOME STATE!

Imagine my surprise when I realized the first speaker, Melissa Schrift, was from East Tennessee State University, 2 hours from my hometown. How cool to travel all the way to England to meet someone from home who is doing super cool, and in some ways similar work, to my own. Melissa spoke on, “Race, bodies and spectacle in 19th century living exhibitions,” which was super exciting for me, since a large part of my dissertation and previous work was on freakshows and exhibitions of people with disabilities or difference. One of her case studies was that of Charles Byrne, “The Irish Giant,” whose body is still on display and causing controversy at the Hunterian in London. I spoke next on human remains in museums, then Jenny Bergman and Kicki Eldh presented “Death –a concern?” about human remains in Swedish museums.

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Last, but certainly not least, curators Katherine Baxter and Ruth Martin from Leeds Museums and Galleries presented, “Displaying the dead: public reactions to human skeletons in museums.” I loved this one! They shared the museum’s human remains policy as well as photography policies. Leeds Museums have also integrated these big questions of museums displaying and photographing the dead into their exhibitions to involve the museum stakeholders and visitors in the process. Note to self: I have GOT to get myself to the Leeds Museums and want to chat more with Katherine and Ruth on their work.

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I am not exaggerating when I say this conference was basically made for me. The next session I attended was “Bodies on View,” which included a paper on TLC and other television programming (which I’ve written about before as the modern freakshow) and reliquaries and “bone churches.” First up, Agata Korecka tackled “Death, dying and light entertainment” through medical reality television. Shows in the UK like Embarassing Bodies, or US-based shows like My 600 Pound Life, and a variety of other programs depict people with medical issues for entertainment or education. Sometimes, the subjects of those shows die, such as in the case of Robert Buchel, who died soon after filming. Korecka examined public reactions to the show during the airing, and then after the announcement of his death during the program. Kelsey Perreault ended the session with, “The Church of Bones and the human rights of the dead.” She explored a church in that displays the bones of various individuals in patterns across the chapel, and the treatment of these bones as a dark tourist destination. One audience question was about the gift shop offerings and commodification of the dead. Perreault also addressed questions about “protecting the dignity of the dead.” So good!!

20180907_161715My last session of the day was “Digital Reimaginings” with Kelly Richards and Matt Coward. Kelly did an amazing job discussing “Reimagining the personification of Death in popular culture” with a talk that included comics, movies, and other popular culture and their depictions of death. Her multimedia presentation included some fantastic video clips (Bill and Ted! Mighty Boosh!!) and she even finished the session with a great rebuttal of some quite strange questions.. Wonderful job, Kelly! Matt ended the conference with a bang, discussing death and video games. I learned about some new games I want to play (Graveyard Keeper!) and now have a different perspective of seeing death spaces in video games, as well (not cool to ransack graves, God of War).

And just like that, DaCNet 2 was done. I hope to see a lot of the same folks at the14th International Conference on the Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal in Bath next year. Until then…