The Massachusetts Historical Society’s latest exhibit, “Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in the First World War,” tells of the Great War from a lesser-known perspective: that of American women. Featuring photographs, letters, diaries, and memorabilia, this exhibit captures the experiences of Margaret Hall and Eleanor “Nora” Saltonstall, two women from Massachusetts who served in France and Belgium as volunteers for the Red Cross.
The exhibit is simple and sparse, but the poignant voices of these women shine through. Both women witnessed some of the most climactic months of the Great War and both documented their experiences in great detail. Margaret Hall’s photographs serve as powerful images of battered and war-torn Europe. Hall’s large-format photographs, which are on loan from the Cohasset Historical Society, strikingly hang on the gallery walls. She captured various subjects with her camera lens, from the crumbling ruins of Reims, France, to candid moments between Italian soldiers outside of battle.
Eleanor Saltonstall wrote many letters home to her family while she was a nurse in France. It is through her words that we get a more vivid and complete understanding of what the experience as a volunteer nurse was like during World War I. In one letter dating from 1918 that is on display, Saltonstall explains why she is serving abroad. She writes, “Don’t look upon me as headstrong and seeking excitement; I’m not, but I have been hunting for a job which is real work and which is a direct help, even if it is the tiniest drop in the bucket, to the ultimate close of war.”
Accompanying this exhibition are powerful World War I propaganda posters heralding American patriotism and service. In “Persuasive Images,” the visitor gets a more broad sense of the war effort at home.
“Letters and Photographs from the Battle Country: Massachusetts Women in the First World War” is open at the Massachusetts Historical Society until January 24th, 2015. The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm.
Tufts Instructor Ken Turino passed along this article he published last month on Public History Commons.
Public History Commons Editor’s Note: In “What I’ve Learned Along the Way: A Public Historian’s Intellectual Odyssey,” outgoing NCPH President Bob Weyeneth issued a call to action to public historians to include the public more fully in our work by “pulling back the curtain” on our interpretive process-how we choose the stories we tell. In this series of posts, we’ve invited several public historians to reflect on projects that do exactly that, assessing their successes and examining the challenges we face when we let the public in through the door usually reserved for staff.
As a public historian working in a museum, Robert R. Weyeneth’s call to “lift the veil” and bring the public into the interpretive process is welcome–and necessary if we want to broaden the kinds of stories we tell. As Jennifer Pustz writes in Voices from the Back Stairs, “the influx of academically trained historians on museum staffs and the subsequent influence of social history on exhibitions and interpretation have resulted in a broader definition of authenticity that can encompass the whole truth, warts and all, and the history of all Americans.” 
Why, then, are many museums and historic sites so reticent to explore diverse stories? Do they fear the public’s reaction? If so, why aren’t we involving the visitor more in the process of historical interpretation?
– Read the full article at http://publichistorycommons.org/behind-the-velvet-rope/#sthash.OmXhPsHs.dpuf
Do you have a few minutes to spare to help with the data behind a NEMA 2014 conference panel?
Tufts Alum Amanda Gustin is chairing a panel titled “The Graduate School Conundrum.” The panel will open with analysis of trends in museum graduate education, and in order to do that analysis we need your help!
Whether or not you have a degree, whether or not you currently have a museum job, we are hoping you’ll fill out the survey and tell us a little bit about your background and your thoughts.
Survey link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1JPVHLvpoh_oJX5vh6xEHgtia7W4qVk0_ViyY70grjKU/viewform
The data will be followed by a conversational debate between Tufts program director Cynthia Robinson and museum consultant Linda Norris (of The Uncataloged Museum blog).
Here’s the official session description:
As the museum field has continued to professionalize, museum studies, public history, and other similar graduate programs seem to multiply at an exponential rate. What’s going on? We’ll present information from a 2014 survey of museum graduates & museum programs, and then continue with a conversational debate between panelists about the state, practicality, diversity, value, and future of museum studies. We will also invite questions and feedback from the audience.
Look for the results and panel discussion at the 2014 NEMA Annual Conference in Cambridge this fall! (More info on the conference at http://www.nemanet.org/conference-events/conference/2014-conference/main/.
Here’s the call from Campus & Community Outreach Coordinator Courtney Klemens for volunteers to help with the List Art Center’s School Vacation Week programs. Their biggest need is Wednesday morning, but the full schedule of activities is below. If you’d like to volunteer, contact Courtney at email@example.com.
Tuesday, February 18 through Friday, February 21
Full shifts: 11 to 4 pm, or, Half-shifts: 11:30 am to 1:30 pm and 1:30 to 4:30 pm)
- Facilitate hands-on artmaking projects with children
- Create example artworks
- Help with clean up and set up
- Looking for an engaging storyteller for Wednesday Feb 19
- Free lunch!