What Time Is This Place (Part 1)

I have a phobia of reading old books. It’s irrational as most phobia are, but nevertheless guides my actions to an embarrassing extent. As a result, it took a particular nudge from my buddy Kostis Kourelis (and a generous copy of the book) to will myself to read Kevin Lynch’s What Time Is This Place? (MIT 1972). 

This book blew my mind. To make everything about me: this book was like a cross section of my recent interest in time, ruins, urbanism, campus life, and even teaching. It’s like I was simply living in a world sketched out by Kevin Lynch. 

The book in broad strokes is a meditation on time and place. Lynch fearlessly traces the role of time in our daily lives, our building environments, and, as you’d expect, our lived experiences. In particular, Lynch is interested in the experience of time as change.

Here are some running notes chapter to chapter. 

1. Cities Transforming. The first chapter considers change on the level of the city and the way in which people’s experience and idea of the city shaped the transforming of cities. It made me think a good bit about my work on the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission and our efforts to document (and in some ways influence) the transformation of the city of Grand Forks. For example, my wife and I produced a massive study of mid-century housing in the city that traced its transformation from a city largely anchored in its pre-war pedestrian plan to one defined by cars, post-war prosperity, and the rise of the suburb. You can read the report here

2. The Presence of the Past. This chapter is even more relevant for my wok on the GFHPC. It focuses on the role of ruins and material evidence for the past in creating a sense of presence in a community. This is literally the mission of the Commission, but as Lynch points out, one that is not as straight forward as preservation for the sake of preservation might allow. Over the past five or six years, we’ve talked more and more about the value of attempting to preserve and document buildings and districts not limited to the obvious or even elite building which often carry the burden of the past for a community. Instead, we have shifted at least some of our attention to apartment buildings, schools, commercial spaces, and (if I had my way) neighborhood bars that preserve the workaday landscapes of the city. We’ve also talked more about how to make present a past that has disappeared as a result of the city’s floods, urban renewal, and social change. What do we do to inscribe the memory of these places into the urban fabric?   

3. Alive Now. Lynch’s brilliant contribution to urban planning is that he foregrounded the experience of the city and sought to create urban forms sensitive to the needs of an individual. In this book, he considers time as more than simply made manifest on a collective level (so that everything doesn’t happen at once), but also experienced individually. As readers of this blog might know, I am obsessed with time both personally through my modest collection of watches (or my collection of modest watches) and professionally through my work as an archaeologist. It is hardly surprising that I’ve been fixated on the concept of slow as not only an antidote to the sense of urgency that suffuses so much of our professional life, but also as way to make explicit the tension between clock time and the time of experience. 

4. The Future Preserved. When Kostis sent me this book, he made explicit reference to the world of Sun Ra who has become an obsession for me. For those of you unfamiliar with Sun Ra, he is one of the founders of mid-century Afro-futurism which he expertly grafted to afrocentric views of the Black past (as his name suggests). As Lynch recognizes in this chapter title, there is a crucial need to preserve the past not only as a way to remember past presents, but also to remember past futures. The growing interest in Afrofuturism reveals the potential of past futures to shape present futures and to make us aware of how we have and have not lived up to our aspirations (however well intended). It goes without saying that continued struggle for racial equality offers a sobering context for mid-century Afrofuturism. It is also a good reminder that as much as we cringe or even protest at pseudohistory, pseudoarchaeology, and other “false” views of the past, the line between false pasts and false futures is a fine one indeed and the goals of both projects tend to intersect in the messy politics of hope. 

5. The Time Inside. One of the more fascinating chapters of the book considers how our internal sense of time clashes with external constraints. Anyone whose body resists the tradition of eight continuous hours of sleep is familiar with this feeling. I’ve speculated on this as it applies to the length and rhythm of the academic semester. Lynch clearly recognizes that time is a factor in learning and how and when we learn, remember, and think various not only as individuals but also collectively. Last year, for example, I started to notice how student workloads, commitments, and time often doesn’t serve to advance student learning.  Instead, the time for student learning is a constantly negotiation of space, finances, and other commitments. This is inevitable, of course, but it nevertheless reinforces how the personal time of student experience is not entirely under their own control.  

I’ll come back with Part 2 tomorrow!

Three Things Thursday: Survey, Oil, and Mild Anarchism

Every now and then, life happens in threes and that makes me wonder whether I’m blogging about my life or I’m simply living out a series of blog posts. In some ways, I suppose, it doesn’t matter, but it sure makes three things Thursday a bit easier.

My next few days will be focused (such as I can at all these days) on these three things:

Thing the First

My old survey buddy David Pettegrew has put together an article that offers a preliminary analysis of the Medieval material from the Eastern Korinthia Archaeological Survey. This is a pretty exciting piece for two reasons. First, at some point in the distant past, it was originally intended to be a chapter of his soon to be completed book on the material from EKAS. When it dropped out of that volume, it wandered a bit in the wilderness before he found a home for it. 

Because these are hectic times for all of us, and writing about archaeology in the best of situations often takes a village, I offered to help get this article into final shape. One of the things that I’m working on is adding hyperlinks to the EKAS data in Open Context. This will allow the reader to drill down into the data from the article text, validate David’s arguments, and ask new questions from the raw material. This could mean looking at the data spatially in new ways, aggregating new assemblages based on material fro the same survey unit, or even connecting this data to other publicly available data sets. 

With David’s permission, I’ll share some of the linked assemblages new week.

Thing the Second

Last year, I wrote a short piece on the archaeology of petroleum production. My buddy Kostis Kourelis is pretty sure that the archaeology of oil will be next big thing. Oil is not only the quintessential modern hyper object, but also represents a type fossil for supermodernity. My article mostly just scratched the surface of the potential of an archaeology of oil as a key component of archaeology of the contemporary world as well as the kind of critical archaeology that offers new ways of understanding the modern age.

Part of the reason for this is because the article is destined for some kind of handbook of the archaeology of plastics. In fact, the editors and reviewers patiently pointed out, my article needed to connect oil and petroleum production to plastic more explicitly throughout. This was a fair point and I’ve been nibbling away at their helpful comments. 

In many ways, their urging that I connect petroleum production to plastics was more than just appropriate for the volume, but also useful for reconsidering oil and petroleum production as the definitive phenomenon of the supermodern world. The ubiquity of plastics in our everyday life is just one example of oil’s central place in our contemporary society. That said, plastic manufacturing and petroleum production rely on shared spatial footprints. The profoundly toxic sites of petroleum refineries attract similarly toxic petrochemical manufacturing plants that churn out the stock from which most new plastics are made. These plastic pellets then find their way into the world through some of the same infrastructure as our gasoline, heating oil, and other forms of petroleum that we use as fuel. In other words, plastic and oil share more than chemical DNA, but also leverage the same infrastructure that allows both to be always at hand in the contemporary world. Stay tuned for a plasticized draft.

Thing the Third

The third thing that I’m working on with a mid-February deadline is the revision of an article on a class that I taught as the centerpiece of the Wesley College Documentation Project. The article celebrated (I admit) the prospects of a “mildly anarchist” pedagogy that undermined the increasingly bureaucratized nature of both the modern university and archaeology as an industry. It attempted to embrace many aspects of slow, punk, and anarchist archaeology. Unfortunately, it also appears to have captured some of the more traditional elements of writing about archaeology as well. Namely the congratulatory nature of so many fieldwork publications that elevates the archaeologist from the deeply collaborative space of archaeological knowledge making to the august heights of heroic truth teller. 

This, of course, was the opposite of what my paper was intending to accomplish. I was hoping to celebrate the remarkable creativity that occurred over the course of a spontaneous, place-based, research program freed from much of the administrative oversight that can stifle the simply joy of wandering an abandoned place, thinking about the past, and working together to make sense of a building and its history.

That all said, the reviewers were probably doing me a favor by telling me to temper my congratulatory tone and do what I can to ground my excitement for the project in the dusty and incomplete world of reality. The last thing I want to do is to alienate a reader or conform to some kind of stereotype of ego-driven, tenured, middle aged, truth teller. Stay tuned for an updated and tempered draft. 

Three Teaching Things Thursday

It’s the start of the semester and there are lots of things rattling around in my head right now. This makes today an appropriate day for a “Three Things Teaching Thursday”:

Thing the First

I’m very tired. 

One thing that I’ve learned from being an occasional runner (er… jogger… er bouncy walker?) is that how I feel moments before a run and how I feel on a run are completely unrelated. I can feel euphoric and energized and run about 10 steps and feel like something the dog found under the porch. Or I can be dragging my soul behind me as I staggered to the treadmill or out my backyard gate and within a couple of tenths of a mile start to click off reasonable times and settle in for a long cruise.

I try to keep this in mind at the start of the spring semester as I feel as tired as I’ve ever been out of the gate. I’m sure some of it is that I’m a wee bit over extended and my bad habit of making early semester “to do” lists has a tendency to elevate other people’s priorities over my own health and wellbeing.

That said, I’m very tired.

IMG 8387

Thing the Second

One thing that I’ve realized over the year is that the number of classes that I’m teaching (or projects that I’m supervising) is more important than the number of students that I’m teaching. Some of this is the simple math of contact hours. Even if the class only has one or two students, it needs to operate on a consistent (if not always regular) schedule and this eats into time that I might spend doing other things (especially on my teaching days: e.g. grading, class prep, staring into the void).

I’ve also discovered that as I’ve gotten older my brain is less capable of switching gears quickly. I am teaching Historical Methods and Roman History back-to-back and on the first day, I found it a bit hard to switch gears from a smaller seminar style class (methods has 15 students and is more ideas based) to a larger content oriented class (Roman history has 25+ students). I’m sure that I’ll become more adept at this switch in the next couple of weeks, but right now, it feels quite unnatural.  

Thing the Third

For the last decade I have generally taught two classes: methods and survey. I’ve taught the former to every history major and minor and the latter to whoever has the misfortune of signing up (and very few majors). These classes have made it so that I rarely teach the same student twice in their academic career. As a result, students have remained pleasantly anonymous to me and I’ve remained a bit anonymous to my students (after all, you can get away with not knowing your professor’s (or you students’) name if you only have them in one class, but after two it just become awkward). 

This semester, I’ve found that I not only have students who I’ve taught before (in a few cases multiple times) but also who are taking methods and Roman history from me back to back. This is a very strange thing for me. It also creates a sense of familiarity both among my students and for me.

This is generally good, but even after just one class, the students who know me have already begun to assert their familiarity in the classroom. They not only are more at ease “cracking wise,” but sit together, answer questions that I pose to the class, and generally seem comfortable in the classroom.

I don’t mind this, of course, but I worry about students who don’t know me as well and who are new to my sometimes casual classroom demeanor (which many students embrace).

I think that I’m going to implement a kind of “reverse stack” policy in this class. To do this, I’m going to ask students who have had me before to wait 20 seconds before chiming in on questions that I’m posing to the group or interrupting what I’m saying with a follow up question. Ideally, after a few weeks, this kind of thing won’t be necessary as I have created enough space for students who don’t know me as well to feel comfortable.  

Teaching Thursday: Practicum Priorities

Once again, this semester I’m lucky enough to be allowed to teach a practicum in editing and publishing for my friends in the English Department. Since I’m not faculty in that department (and haven’t had an English class since high school, as this blog undoubtedly attests), it’s always a privilege to be able to teach there. 

This privilege comes at a bit of a cost, though, in that I need to plan something for the class, and this means establishing some priorities for students who will work on North Dakota Quarterly as well as some projects associated with The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota

This semester we have a range of projects and priorities that might appeal to the students who want to get some experience in both the editing and publishing aspects of “the industry.” Here’s what I proposed last semester. I think my priorities this semester are a bit more clear and well developed.

Some priorities are more pressing than others. 

1. NDQ 90.1/2. On March 1, NDQ 90.1/2 is due to our publisher. This means that we need to send essays, reviews, and poems to the copy editor. Collect the accepted fiction from the fiction editor. Identify cover art. And most importantly, put the issue in order. This latter step is as much of an art as a science and involves understanding which works we must publish in 90.1/2 (and which works can wait until 90.3/4) and how various works fit together to provide a well-considered experience for the reader.

2. NDQat90. This spring we also plan to start our celebrations of the 90th volume of NDQ. Last semester the practicum in editing and publishing prepared a manuscript for an innovative window into the Quarterly archive. This class produced reflections on a collection of 90 works from the last 90 issues of NDQ. This winter and spring our goal is to turn this into a digital and paper book that invites readers to return to the archive through a fresh set of eyes.

There are a couple of mid-range projects that need consistent attention.

3. The Blog. As part of our effort to increase readers, subscribers, and contributors to NDQ, we post weekly to the NDQ Blog. Usually after we publish an issue, we feature content from that issue on the blog. Now, for example, we’re featuring content from 89.3/4. This means that we need to identify content that might attract readers to the issue and reflects the kind of content that we want to encourage in NDQ submissions. This isn’t a lot of work, but is constant work. 

4. Prairie Voices. I had a crazy idea a few weeks ago to re-publish some early-20th century prairie poetry. I was motivated in part by reading Molly Rozum’s Grasslands Grown: Creating Place on the U.S. Northern Plains and Canadian Prairie (Nebraska 2021) and reading a bit of Clell Gannon’s poetry and, in particular, his Songs of the Bunch Grass Acres (1924) which entered the public domain this year. Maybe the students would be interested in republishing this book with some expanded content (say a biographic introduction and some critical commentary from someone versed in prairie poetry)?

5. Building Campus. This spring The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota will publish a book marking the renovation of Merrifield Hall. The book is almost complete, but will require a bit of copy editing, production, and marketing work. It would be fantastic to get the students involved in this book’s “end game,” in part because it emerged from another class that I taught for the English Department in the spring of 2022.

There are some longer-range projects that also would benefit from attention.

6. Tartar Utopia. Some time this semester, I should receive a manuscript that is the translation of Ismail Gaspıralı’s Darürrahat Müslümanlanı (Muslims of the Peaceful Country) by Ciğdem Pala Mull. It will include essays by a number of scholars exploring the potential of this text to invite new ways of utopian thinking some 100 years after its publication. You can read excerpts of it that appeared in NDQ 84.1/2 here. The plan is to desk review this book and then circulate it for peer review this spring.

7. The Archive. Last semester, we completed digitizing the back issues of NDQ and have made all but the last 5 years available in our archive. The issues live at both the HathiTrust and (gulp) WordPress. We certainly need to migrate all this content to our institutional repository. The downside of this is that our institutional repository does not allow us to link to a specific page within the PDF and because of various permission issues, we can’t separate out specific articles from their respective issues. We can do this with PDFs served via WordPress and HathiTrust. That said, we can at least separate out the issues from the scanned volumes in HathiTrust and upload those volumes to the NDQ pages in our institutional repository

This feels like a hectic semester for the practicum class and it is unlikely that all these things get completed, but it will give the students a sense for all the moving parts that involve editing and publishing even at a relatively small scale!

Teaching Thursday: Syllabus Writing

There is something very rewarding about syllabus writing and while I don’t know as if it is my favorite thing to do each semester, it is certainly more interesting than many of the more mechanical aspects of academic life that the semester brings. At its best, writing a syllabus is a utopian exercise that seeks to align the requirements (and expectations) of a particular class with the students who are enrolled. 

This semester I’m teaching a lot and have a new class — Roman History — that is occupying most of my syllabus time in the break between semesters. I’m building my syllabus for this class around three key expectations.

First, while my students are history majors, most of them have precious little experience with premodern texts and the premodern world more broadly. They are unlikely to want to go on to graduate school in ancient history (or Classics) and almost as unlikely to want to continue in history. As a result, this class is not situated in a sequence which develops period specific expertise or methods. Rather the class is part of a broad humanities education with less of an emphasis on particular periods and content and more of an emphasis on reading and writing skills as well as the ability to adapt these skills to a range of texts and situations.

Second, my institution has a 16-week semester and in the spring, this means that my students get tired. When they get tired, they really struggle to learn. I’ve blogged about this here. As a result, a syllabus that requires 16 weeks to cover content, methods, or material is not a syllabus grounded in real educational outcomes, but one that is grounded in some other set of professional dictates (most plausibly the alternate reality created by accreditation standards). 

It also means that we have an obligation to find a way to mitigate the length of the semester by creating pockets of recovery time during the semester to mitigate student fatigue.

Third, my student generally take too many classes and work too many hours outside of school. This is not meant to be a criticism of student decision making, but a description of the current economic situation of most college students. They are pressured to get done as quickly and to avoid the potentially crippling burden of student loan debt as much as possible. As I’ve blogged about before, the maths simply don’t work in these situations. Students who attempt to work 20-30 hours per week outside of class time and who take 15-18 credits per semester would have to spend 50-60 per week just to keep their head above water. As a result, students are often drowning. 

These three fundamental situations has encouraged me to approach syllabus building in two ways:

First, instead of producing a syllabus that has a lots of small assignments that requires constant engagement with the class, I’m creating a syllabus with fewer larger reading and writing assignments. This should allow students to negotiate the class at a less consistent rate and to take advantage of the irregular ebbs and flows of their own schedules and complicated daily lives. 

Thus, my Roman history class will have five big readings scaffolded by five three-week modules. Students will have at very least three weeks to do the readings and each module comes with some kind of assignment the final draft of which will be due at the end of the semester. 

Second, after a productive conversation with my colleague and friend David Pettegrew yesterday, I’ve decided to build “lab days” into classes where we shift from focusing on specific content and toward more technical aspects of writing about history. Each module then, will have a lab day and I’m tempted to make them optional to give the students a little breathing room during the semester. 

I’ll post the syllabus when I’m done with it!

Teaching Thursday: Listening, ChatGTP, and Teaching More

I’m hunkered down by the fire with a hot cup of coffee as we brace for the second winter storm in as many days, but this has also given me a bit more time to think my past semester, listen to the current buzz, and to look forward a bit to the spring (semester, but also to spring in general!).

In the spirit of Three Things Thursday, here are three gentle thoughts about teaching inspired by last semester, the moment, and the future.

Thing the First

One of the things that I’m really trying to work on in the classroom is unrelated to teaching goals, pedagogical methods, or even content. I’m trying to listen to my students more. This involves not just listening to how the students are doing in my class or in the classroom, but also how students are faring outside the classroom. 

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that I have any interest in becoming involved in my student’s lives when their not in class, but it has helped me come to recognize that the greatest variable in student performance often has nothing to do with what I am doing in the classroom. I think as an early career instructor, I assumed that if I got everything right in the classroom, then learning would happen and I would achieve whatever outcomes that I had set out. As I’ve spend more time in the classroom and had the good fortune to teach students at multiple levels and in a wider range of settings, I’ve come to appreciate that my planning for any given lesson or class, is only one variable in the complicated matrix that has to exist for a positive student learning outcome.

Listening to my students talk about their weeks, being flexible with my demands, and trying to anticipate patterns in their off campus lives that impact classroom performance should, ideally, make me a better instructor and help me cater my class to the students that I have in my classes rather than the students who I imagine when I construct my syllabus.

Thing the Second

I’m very much enjoying the current conversation about the impact of the AI large language model driven chat and writing programs. ChatGPT3.5, which was launched in November, is the most prominent of these programs and it has a remarkable ability to engage in conversations and produce plausible blocks of texts based on certain prompts.

Any number of teachers have pointed out that despite the uncanny ability of this software to produce plausible sounding text, they are rarely accurate or insightful. At the same time, the very plausibility of the text that this software generates has caused some alarm among faculty responsible for teaching writing. The ability to write well (or at least plausibly) has long been a hallmark of an educated individual and a foundational element of a college education. The seemingly sudden appearance of a computer program to perform a task that has long represented a key element of social differentiation in our society has (once again) remind us that the markers of social status are often not especially difficult to attain or at very least mimic.

This should cause us to reconsider (or at least reflect upon) what we think education is doing, the role of writing (or speaking) well as an indicator of clear and critical thinking, and the status afforded to individuals with so-called “expertise” in contemporary society. It may be that ChatGPT could not have arrived at a better time in our development as a society. I’m not ready to say that it will reveal that the emperor has no clothes, but I hope that it at least supports continued reflection on why we afford some individuals more respect, prestige, and status than others.

Thing the Third

I’m teaching a lot in the spring and despite some lingering anxieties about workload and such, I’m pretty excited. I’m teaching an internship in public history, another semester of a practicum in writing, editing, and publishing for our English Department, Roman History, our department’s methods course called The Historians’ Craft, and at the introductory level Western Civilization I.  

It should be hectic, but I often find that these hectic teaching semesters help me refine what I’m doing in the classroom, build the kind of intellectual stamina necessary to manage a range of subjects in a range of classes at once, and contribute to me becoming a better teacher in the future. Even now, as I look ahead to next semester, I’m starting to think about ways to cut out unnecessary or distracting content, assignments, and exercises, and focus my courses on a small number of neatly defined educational outcomes. 

It’ll also remind me that when students take 15 credits a semester (and are expected to work, have personal and family lives, and negotiate all the little things that we all do every day to survive in the world), their lives are busy and the margin for error is slim.

At the risk of sounding privileged, I’m excited about the spring and the opportunity to teach five classes on five very different topics. 

Teaching Thursday: A Draft Syllabus for a Public History Internship

I know my post is late today, but I’ve been working on a syllabus for a public history internship that I’m supervising next semester. This internship will be partly an opportunity for student to look behind the scenes on the working of a small town historic preservation office and commission and partly a chance to understand “big tent” public history (including heritage studies and public archaeology). 

The following syllabus is not great, but it offers a sampling of some recent books on big tent public history topics. It lacks case studies and articles, which is partly by design: the student will be expected to ferret some of those things out himself. 

Otherwise, it is what it is as a draft. I’m open to suggestions and would love to know what I missed and should include!

Public History Internship

This syllabus is a companion to an internship program with the Grand Forks Historic Preservation Commission. The goal of this class and the internship is to provide a broad foundation in the work and scholarship of public history, heritage studies, and public and historical archaeology.

The bibliography here is not meant in any way to be exhaustive or even authoritative, but a sample of some general works on public history, historical archaeology, and heritage. In fact the bibliography below tends toward the general and builds on any

Four short papers.

1. Article Review.

In a 500-word review, evaluate the argument, sources, and historiography present in an article following the guidelines in the attached handout.

2. Critical Book Review.

In a 1000-1500-word critical book review, evaluate a contemporary (last 10 years) historical monograph focusing on issues of public history, archaeology, or heritage. Follow the guidelines on the attached handout.

3. Case Study.

In a 1000-1500-word case study, examine a public history, archaeology, or heritage project either first-hand, on the interwebs, or through published scholarship. Describe and critique the case study from the perspective of recent public history scholarship.

4. Reflection.

In a 1000-1500 word essay, reflect on your time at the Historic Preservation Commission and consider it in the context of recent trends in public history, archaeology and heritage.


Introduction to Public History

“What is Public History?”: https://ncph.org/what-is-public-history/about-the-field/

Paul Ashton and Alex Trapeznik, eds. What Is Public History Globally?: Working With the Past in the Present. Bloomsbury Academic 2019.

Thomas Cauvin, Public History: A Textbook of Practice. Routledge, 2016.

Cherstin M. Lyon, Elizabeth M. Nix, Rebecca K. Shrum, Introduction to Public History: Interpreting the Past, Engaging Audiences. Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

Denise D. Meringolo, Museums, Monuments, and National Parks: Toward a New Genealogy of Pubic History. University of Massachusetts Press, 2012.

Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life. Columbia 1998.


Historic Preservation and Historical Archaeology

National Register of Historic Places Bulletins: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/nationalregister/publications.htm

Andrew Hurley, Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities. Temple 2010.

Charles E. Orser Jr., Historical Archaeology, 3rd ed., Routledge, 2017.

Max Page and Randal Mason, eds. Giving Preservation a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States. Routledge 2004.

John H. Sprinkle, Jr., Crafting Preservation Criteria: The National Register of Historic Places and American Historic Preservation. Routledge 2014.

Michael A. Tomlan, Historic Preservation: Caring for Our Expanding Legacy. Springer 2015.


Inclusive Heritage

Sonya Atalay, Jen Shannon and John G. Swogger, Journeys to Complete the Work: And Changing the Way that We Bring Native American Ancestors Home. 2017.

Sangita Chari & Jaime M.N. Lavallee eds. Accomplishing NAGPRA: Perspectives on the Intent, Impact, and Future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Oregon State University Press 2013.

Katherine Crawford-Lackey and Megan E. Springate, Preservation and Place: Historic Preservation by and of LGBTQ Communities in the United States. Berghahn Books 2019.

D. Rae Gould, Holly Herbster, Heather Law Pezzarossi, Stephen A. Mrozowski, eds. Historical Archaeology and Indigenous Collaboration: Discovering Histories That Have Futures. University Press of Florida 2020.

Heather A. Huyck, Doing Women’s History in Public. Rowman & Littlefield 2020.

Leah Worthington, Rachel Clare Donaldson, and John W. White, Challenging History: Race, Equity, and the Practice of Public History. South Carolina 2021.

Some websites:
Digital Harrisburg: https://digitalharrisburg.com/
Digital Cleveland: https://wrhs.saas.dgicloud.com/
Rosewood Heritage & VR Project: https://www.virtualrosewood.com/

Contested Heritage

Christopher N. Matthews, A Struggle for Heritage: Archaeology and Civil Rights in a Long Island Community. University Press of Florida 2020.

Susan Sleeper-Smith, ed. Contested Knowledge: Museums and Indigenous Perspectives. University of Nebraska Press.

Cynthia Culver Prescott, Pioneer Mother Monuments : Constructing Cultural Memory. University of Oklahoma Press 2019.

Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers Kneeling Slaves : Race War and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America. Princeton University Press 1997.

Erin L. Thompson, Smashing Statues : The Rise and Fall of America’s Public Monuments. W. W. Norton & Company 2022.

Amy M. Tyson, The Wages of History: Emotional Labor on Public History’s Front Lines. University of Minnesota Press 2013.

Renewing Inequality: https://dsl.richmond.edu/panorama/renewal/#view=0/0/1&viz=cartogram

Natural and Environmental Heritage

Caitlin DeSilvey, Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving. University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

Rodney Harrison, Heritage: Critical Approaches. Routledge 2013.

Lynn Meskell, The Nature of Heritage: The New South Africa. Wiley-Blackwell 2012.

Robyn Sloggett and Marcelle Scott, eds. Climatic and Environmental Threats to Cultural Heritage. Routledge 2023.

Marcos André Torres de Souza and Diogo M. Costa, eds. Historical Archaeology and Environment. Springer 2018.

Fernando Vidal and Nélia Dias eds. Endangerment, Biodiversity and Culture. Routledge 2016.

Heritage Futures

Lynn Meskell, A Future in Ruins: UNESCO, World Heritage, and the Dream of Peace. Oxford 2018.

Rosemary Joyce, The Future of Nuclear Waste: What Art and Archaeology Can Tell Us about Securing the World’s Most Hazardous Material. Oxford 2020.

Bjørnar Olsen, Þóra Pétursdóttir, eds. Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past. Routledge 2014.

Three Things Thursday: Flow, Sun Ra, and NDQ

I feel like I haven’t done a Three Things Thursday for a while and at this point of the semester, I feel like I’m doing all I can just to keep various balls in the air.

So here goes:

Thing the First

This week, my students in my introductory level World Civilizations class are working to revise the papers that they’ve been writing all semester. As they prepare to revise their latest drafts, I asked them to make a list of things to work on in their final draft. The top thing on their list was working on FLOW. 

I love the idea of flow especially when it refers to that state of semi-consciousness when things just seem to come easily. I see it used when describing musicians who are improvising and athletes who are immersed in a performance. But I don’t think that the students are referring to that. Instead, they see flow as something that they can inject into their writing. For many of these students, flow is something that exists at the level of the sentence or the paragraph and that smooths transitions between ideas, statements, and phrases. It makes a text easier to read.

It’s been interesting to try to convince them that flow isn’t something to be added at the end, like a sprinkling of salt or a garnish on a bowl of soup, but something that is inherent in how we organize our ideas. Flow comes from the synchronization of our ideas and arguments with the language that we use to express them.   

Thing the Second

The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota works closely with its authors to promote their work, but we also acknowledge that we don’t have a marketing budget, we don’t have resources to run the flag up at conference, and we don’t advertise much if at all. 

As a result, we work to amplify the efforts of our authors to promote their work. Here’s a great example of this.

You can can get a copy of Sun Ra Sundays here.

Thing the Third

As readers of this blog know, we’ve been working on the pulling together the North Dakota Quarterly archive. Building an archive is always a work in progress (it would seem) and we discovered that we missed a volume of the journal during our first round of scanning.

My student collaborators on this remain relentless and they scanned this volume to add to the collection of archived North Dakota Quarterly.

Here’s a link to a story by Michelle Disler (who is also contributing to the most recent volume of NDQ some 15 years on!).

NDQ 75 3 4 OCR pdf 2022 12 01 09 56 00

Teaching Thursday: Reimagining my Roman History Class

Next semester, I am going to teach Roman History for the first time since 2005 (I think). My Roman historian friends have assured me repeatedly that not much has changed. (I’m probably kidding here.) 

That said, I still need to teach the class and it is clear that the traditional lecture+discussion format of my original, early-21st century class, is no longer an acceptable (or even familiar) approach to teaching for most of our students. In other words, not only is my content woefully out of date, but so is my pedagogy when it comes to this class.

I told myself this fall that I need to have the basic organization of this class together by November 15th. It’s an artificial deadline, to be sure, but I needed something to motivate me to figure out whether I need to order some books and, as likely, read some things.

Here are my tentative learning goals for the class:

1. Become familiar broadly with Roman history and culture. 

2. Improve our capacity to read and analyze a range of unfamiliar primary and secondary sources. 

3. Continue to develop the ability to write about the past effectively.

These are sufficiently broad to allow me to approach Roman history is a wide range of ways. I have two other things on my agenda.

First, I want to be more deliberate about “workload management” in this class. As I’ve said any number of times on this blog, a 16-week semester is too damn long.

Secondly, I want the class to offer a wider range of assessments than my standard: midterm + book review + primary source paper. I’m considering, for example, a paper written collectively by the class (but perhaps turned in individually?), oral presentations on a particular source, and perhaps more creative assignments that involve engagement with news media, fiction, films, or video games. My goal is to have 5 assessments in the class, each worth 20% of the final grade. 

Finally, I want to build the class on five, five-week modules, each with a primary source, but I want the first module to introduce students to the “grand narrative” of Roman history which we will proceed to question, ignore, and subvert over the course of the rest of the class.

So here goes:


Module One

Class 1: The Roman Republic

Class 2: The Republic to Empire

Class 3: The Principate

Class 4: Late Roman World

Class 5-6: Livy, Book 1

Assessment: Rome, America, and Popular Culture: In a 1000 word essay discuss three examples of how Rome appears in popular culture and the media. Each example must be from a different medium (e.g. news, video game, feature film, television, fiction, music, and so on).


Module Two: The Fall of the Roman Republic

Class 7: The Gracchi

Class 8: Pompeii and Cicero

Class 9: Caesar and Civil War

Class 10: Octavian to Augustus

Class 11-12: Sallust, The Conspiracy of Catiline.

Optional Book: Ed Watts, The Mortal Republic: How Rome Fell into Tyranny. 2020.

Assessment: Write a critical book review of one of the four optional books.


Module Three: The Empire and its Discontents

Class 13: The High Empire

Class 14: The Provinces during the High Empire

Class 15: Roman Religion and the Second Sophistic

Class 16-17: Apuleius, Metamorphosis.

Class 18: Writing a Primary Source Paper 

Optional Book: Sarah Bond, Trade and Taboo: Disreputable Professions in the Roman Mediterranean. 2016.

Assessment: Work together to produce a primary source paper. 


Module Four: The Fall of Rome?

Class 19: The Crisis of the Third Century

Class 20: The Rise of Christianity 

Class 21: The Age of Constantine

Class 22-23: Augustine, Confessions.

Class 24: Writing Day

Optional Book: Giusto Traina, 428 AD: An Ordinary Year at the End of the Roman Empire. 2009.


Module Five: Rome after Rome

Class 25: The World of Late Antiquity 

Class 26: The Age of Justinian

Class 27: Christology and Controversy

Class 28: The Seventh Century

Class 29-30: Corippus, In laudem lustini Augusti minoris.

Optional Book: John Haldon, The Empire that Would not Die: the Paradox of Eastern Roman Survival, 640-740. 2016.


As always, I’m open to suggestions, observations, or outright attacks on my character (hacks, somebody’s gotta put me in my place). 

Teaching Thursday: NDQ Editor’s Note

In general, I try to keep what I do in the classroom and what I do as a researcher (and as a member of the university community more broadly) loosely divided. It ensures that teaching, service, and research retain an element of freshness and my days don’t get too bogged down in doing the same kind of thing over and over. For example, I don’t teach archaeology or do much with Late Roman Cyprus in the classroom. And I rarely allow my work at NDQ or The Digital Press to cross pollinate too fully with what I do as a researcher or in the classroom. I like to think of it as keeping a healthy set of boundaries and diversifying my portfolio.

This semester, though, I let this division slip a bit and I’m teaching a class in editing and publishing which focuses mainly on working with various aspects of North Dakota Quarterly. As part of that, I asked my students to help me craft an “editor’s note” that celebrated their contribution to NDQ. Here it is:

This semester I’ve had the good fortune of being joined by five undergraduates from the University of North Dakota’s English Department’s program in a practicum in editing and publishing. Nicholas Ramos, Aubrey Roemmich, Emily Shank, Elena Uhlenkamp, and Karissa Wehri have talked with me about the content in the issue, put the articles in order, and have happily helped me organize NDQ‘s new office on campus.

As they organized the issue they discussed the themes in the poetry, stories, and essays. They observed how much of work embodied the power of everyday experiences where commonplace settings of offices, shops, schools, and homes give rise to religious, spiritual and even magical encounters. Parenthood, relationships, chance encounters, a book store, and even a cup of coffee create occasions for something special to occur. 

In some ways, the work in this volume reflects the character of North Dakota. As Aubrey Roemmich noted: “Growing up a North Dakota native, I always thought that it was a boring place. It was not until I was much older that I started to appreciate its beauty and intrigue. Many of the poems in this issue perfectly capture the beauty that is inherent in these places.”