December 6, 2023
The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, CT, has just launched a new program called “It Happened in Your Town,” which coincides with their 2024 digital and city-wide exhibit “It Happened in Hartford” and celebrates the 150th birthday of the house. The program asks: “But what was happening in the rest of the state in 1874?” They are inviting Connecticut teachers and students (grades 6-12) and local historical societies to team up and select 3 objects, documents, buildings, or other historical sources from that year that tell us more about their town. With guidance from the museum’s interpretive and curatorial staff, they’ll prepare and submit a full description for each item, including images, and answer questions like, “How were the communities and neighborhoods in your town changing?” and “What jobs did people have in your town?” etc.
Associate Director for Education Dr. Erin Bartram invites SHGAPE members to put this research in a broader context for the public through a series of short (500-1000 word) essays responding to the specific sources the students have highlighted in their submissions, reinforcing the value of what the students found, emphasizing what there is to learn from the most “ordinary” of sources, highlighting the local historical societies that have the objects/documents, and creating a new set of historical resources for the museum’s outreach and educational programming. The entire exhibit, including student submissions and historian essays, will be hosted on a standalone website built on the CollectionBuilder platform, and as the student submissions will be received on a rolling basis throughout the year, so will the companion essays.
For SHGAPE members interested in public history this is a perfect opportunity to write for a new audience, sharing your work with them directly in an accessible format and helping them understand their own communities in a new way. Dr. Bartram is also hoping to have a series of in-person and virtual guest lectures (contingent on funding) that dovetail with the program and intends to select the speakers from those who have contributed essays to the broader project.
If you’re interested in participating, please send Erin an email with the subject line “SHGAPE,” letting her know what thematic areas you’d be interested in writing about. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The setting sun on the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, CT, 2014. Trig Photography. Wikimedia Commons.
Laura Crossley is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the SHGAPE Blog. She is a history PhD candidate at George Mason University, specializing in digital history and Indigenous histories. Her dissertation examines how political debates over land, statehood, and Native sovereignty in the American West played out at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition.