A Message from Dr. Sue Gronewold, Chair

Many thanks to all of you who participated in the first Southern Regional NJ History Day competition held at Kean on March 27.  It was such a success--we organized the judging of exhibitions, performances, and documentaries that day, with websites and papers done in advance. There were 392 registered junior and senior high students and their teachers, family, and friends, who by the time of the eagerly awaited awards ceremony had swelled to almost 800 visitors! More than 600 people visited the library that day, and several hundred took the trolley to Liberty Hall. Provost Lender and President Farahi were so impressed. Great going, all of you who took part. Plan to participate next year!
    And thank you also for attending the "Where in the World" Symposium held April 7 and 8 to launch our new world history course, HIST 1062, which fulfills the GE history requirement along with HIST 1000.  To help spread the word, on Thursday night we had a terrific lecture by "Mr. World History," Dr. Jerry Bentley, who came from the University of Hawaii to share his ideas about "Where and Why is World History" followed by a panel of those who have piloted the course: Dr. Klein, Dr. Regal, Dr. Hyde, and Dr. Gronewold. Then on Friday, we were wowed by Douglas Pritchard's computer graphics that showed how the project he directs in Scotland "digitally documents" historic sites in Scotland (like Rosslyn Chapel) and others around the world. He was followed by other speakers during the day: Bill Schroh and Susan Garino of Liberty Hall about the Kean family's international connections, Dr. Paul Mattingly of the Elizabeth Historical Society on Elizabeth and the world, and Dr. G herself talking about how to use local history, like Singer Sewing Machine in Elizabeth which spread over the whole world, to get a birds' eye view of global history and forces that act on it. Lots of good discussion--and food, of course. Thanks to all. 


Martin J. Siegel Prize Awarded to Christina Santoro

Congratulations to Christina Santoro who received the 2011 Martin A. Siegel Award for
Excellence in Research and Historical Scholarship for her senior seminar paper on the historiography of feminism.  She was presented the award by Dr. Adrienne Siegel and Dr. Jonathan Mercantini at the 2011 Phi Alpha Theta Initiation Reception on April 14, 2011.

Phi Alpha Theta Inducts New Members

The Omega Alpha Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society, inducted 90 new members this year at two receptions. 
Students at Kean Ocean were inducted on April 5, 2011.  At the reception, hosted by Dr. Frank Wetta, Dr. Christopher Bellitto, and Dr. Elizabeth Hyde, the evening included a guest lecture by Elizabeth Hyde.
Students at Kean University in Union were inducted on April 14, 2011 in a ceremony that included
the presentation of the 2011 Martin A. Siegel Award and a guest lecture by Jennifer M. Jones, Associate Professor of History at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, entitled "How to Read a Dress:  Fashion History as
Cultural History."


Research Days

On Tuesday, April 26 in the STEM Building and Wendesday, April 27 in Kean Hall, members of the Kean University faculty will present their research.  Representing the Department of History this year are Dr. Spaulding, Dr. Mercantini, Dr. Hyde, and Dr. Klein.  See the schedule below for details.
Tuesday, April 26: 
A Nubian Quattrocento?
Dr. Jay Spaulding

8:00 - 8:30 a.m., STEM, Room 401

This study combines archaeological, oral, and documentary evidence to propose a dramatic reinterpretation of the last century of what has hitherto been considered the Nubian "Dark Ages."

Of Monarchical Climates and Republican Soil:  Gardens and Botany in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World of William Livingston
Dr. Elizabeth Hyde

12:30 - 1:00 p.m., STEM, Lecture Hall

Using the Liberty Hall garden of Governor William Livingston as a case study, this paper explores the reciprocal trans-Atlantic trade in plants and trees in the eighteenth century.   

New Jersey in the New Nation: Key Themes in the Papers of Susan Livingston Kean Niemciewicz
Dr. Jonathan Mercantini

1:15 - 1:45 p.m., STEM, Lecture Hall

This presentation will use selected documents from the Papers of Susan Livingston Kean Niemciewicz to explore important themes in the history of New Jersey from 1788 to 1830.  Themes to be examined will include: the persistence of slavery, economic development, gender roles in the early republic and a discussion of a distinct political culture which began to emerge during this period. 

Wendesday, April 27

Neighbors: Social Trust and Its Discontents
Dr. Denis Klein and Dr. Monique Eckmann

12:30 p.m. - Kean Hall

Dr. Klein explores recent studies of "neightbors" in Nazi-era eastern Europe and in Rwanda to show how destruction and genocide are often a familiar process.

Dr. Eckmann, Kean University's 2010-11 Visiting Fulbright Scholar, examines contemporary circumstances of hate crimes to show how neighbors, residing on good terms and on a first-name basis, can turn against each other.


Internship Presentations

Come see what Kean University History students have done as Interns.  Learn more about Liberty Hall, Ellis Island and other internship locations.  Scheduled for Tuesday May 3 at 3PM in the Liberty Hall Wagon Shed.

KUHS Women's History Month Meeting

The April 26 meeting of the Kean University Historical Society will be devoted to a discussion of women in recent American history.  In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created a Presidential Commission on the status of women.  Chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt until her death, the commission eventually produced a report of its findings, available by clicking here.  No similar committee was convened until President Obama created the White House Council of Women and Girls.  In March 2011, the Council released a similar report entitled "Women in America:  Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being," available by clicking here.   Explore the two reports, compare, contrast, and come discuss them at the KUHS meeting, Tuesday, April 26, 3:15 PM in Townsend 117.  All are welcome!



Still need to take GE 2023?

The history department will now offer its own sections of the required GE 2023 Research Methods course.  To be taught in Fall 2011 by Dr. Mercantini and Dr. Perkiss, these sections (07 and 08) are open only to history majors and will provide an introduction into the methods of historical research and writing.  Having completed this course, you will possess a stronger foundation in historical approaches and be better prepared for upper-level history courses and especially senior seminar.  Register for GE 2023 Section 07 or 08.

Pre-Law Society at Kean

Thinking about going to law school?  Want to learn about the law school experience and legal career opportunities?  Kean University is revamping its pre-law society!  Come out to Townsend 117 on Monday, April 18, at 2:00 PM to add your voice to the planning process and learn about the exciting resources Kean and the surrounding community have to offer.  If you're unable to attend but would like more information, please email aperkiss@kean.edu or mamchugh@kean.edu.

Gerry Geraci on Interning at Ellis Island

          During this past fall semester, I was allowed the great opportunity to intern at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum.  I can remember going over my class selections for fall 2010 with Dr. Gronewold when she noticed that since I was already taking Public History, what better way to apply what I learned from the class than by taking an internship.  My mind shot immediately to Ellis Island because in the months before, I had begun researching my own genealogy.

            In the weeks that followed, I was able to get in contact with Diana Pardue, chief of the Museum Services Division, who in turn requested that I fill out their online application.   From that point I waited to hear from one of the archivists to provide more information about their internship programs.  The application process moved so smoothly that I am not sure if it was a matter of serendipity or that the powers that be are extremely efficient.

By late August I was on my way to Ellis Island for the first time.  I remember crossing the bridge over to Ellis Island for the first time.  (Yes, there is a bridge for deliveries and employees on the New Jersey side.)  I saw an Ellis Island that I had never seen before--not from the Ferry!  With the Statue of Liberty to my far right, as I parked in their back lot, I finally made it.

My first few days of the internship were a little slow.  I watched several videos on the National Park Services and the history of Ellis Island.  I was also told to take a full walk around the museum and to pay particular attention to any exhibit that had what looked like a pay-phone next to it. These devices had recorded oral histories from immigrants or an immigrant’s families that added context to the material exhibit.  Throughout my own tour of the museum, I noticed that a strong majority of visitors would passively stroll through the exhibits without truly experiencing and connecting with them.

After reviewing the museum’s format for transcribing oral histories, I was given my first task:  to transcribe an interview with a Greek immigrant who came to America in 1945.  I must say that the transcription process is one that is quite tedious and, at times, frustrating.  However, the stories told in this interview and the following interviews that I worked on made this task well worth the time and patience.   At one part of this interview, the gentleman spoke of his childhood during the Nazi-occupation of Greece. One of his stories described going to town with his father.  Upon their arrival, he noticed ten or twelve men lined up on a wall. While the gentleman asked his father what was happening, a German officer told the father to take his son and leave. As they started to leave the interviewee looked back and noticed that same German officer take a man, according to the interview, who was about eighteen or nineteen years old and put him where him and his father were standing. At about twenty paces, this gentleman recalls turning around and seeing all of the men be executed by firing squad. As it turns out, executions like this were fairly common in Greece as a way to thwart further rebellions.

In addition to having to transcribe oral histories, I was also called upon to review the first draft of a transcript. This task was a welcome challenge as it allowed me to focus more on the story and decipher the words or phrases that were not understood by the primary transcriber.  In addition I checked and edited the document as need with regards to proper format, as well as a sentence flow, that best complimented the audio interview.

As I look back at the tasks that I performed while on Ellis Island, I can safely say that this experience has not only allowed me to see not only that it is possible to pursue a career in history outside of the classroom, but also that my desire and interest in historical research has increased. I can only hope to gain employment at a place that allowed me to enjoy practically every hour spent there.  The numerous stories I heard while transcribing and reviewing the oral histories give insights and first-hand accounts of historical events that make even the best textbooks seem to fall short.  I certainly would recommend this site as well as the internship program to any and all history majors.

Gerard M. Geraci