Doing Women’s History in Public: Using Tangible Resources to Enliven our Understanding

Tangible resources-- the landscapes, architecture and objects-- that fill the world provide us powerful experiences and insights into past women's lives. We can use them to appreciate American History with students, visitors and ourselves, whether a faded bonnet, elegant parlor, or a kitchen garden.

Lecture Description

Women’s history scholarship which initially researched letters and diaries now incorporates oral and visual sources, and increasingly includes the tangible resources of objects, landscapes and architecture found in museums, parks and historic houses. Drawing on her recent Doing Women’s History in Public: A Handbook for Interpretation at Museums and Historic Sites (2020), Dr. Huyck will provide examples and insights gained through her intensive study of these diverse research and interpretive resources that together better tell the American women’s history. It will provide basic analytical tools and additional ways to take advantage of all these sources to enliven our understanding, provide other venues for learning, and thwart hoary misunderstandings and stereotypes. There are numerous examples that center on all the women who built our nation. For example, careful study of the Narbonne House in Salem, Massachusetts, reveals a Cent Shop only yards away from where Nathaniel Hawthorne worked and which he referenced in The House of Seven Gables. Such shops provided tenuous income for impoverished women. Inspection of its altered doorway reveals a female commercial establishment. Close examination of baleen provides insights into the control and support that corsets once provided; lifting “sad irons” instills appreciation for the literally heavy work African American women washerwomen did. This lecture can be tailored for different regions and for a primarily faculty, mixed faculty-student or a mixed academic-public audience.


Public History and Memory Women

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