Making History: Undergrads Mount Exhibition at MHS

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December 14th, 2012

On December 13, the History Department welcomed students, faculty, and the community to an exhibition and presentation at the Massachusetts Historical Society mounted by students in HI 190– “Making History: Conflict and Community in Boston’s Past.”  The exhibition, “King Philip’s War in Artifacts and Ideas,” documents the culture of early Puritan settlers and Native Americans in the late seventeenth century.  At its center is the devastating war, which cost 9,000 lives and destroyed nearly half of all New England towns.  To create the exhibition students, transcribed documents, worked hands on with 400-year old manuscripts, and analyzed objects ranging from the cutlass of a colonial soldier to the bowl from which the Wampanoag sachem Metacom ate his meals.  Students researched the artifacts, wrote the museum labels, and made presentations on their research.

“Making History” is a freshman-level class designed by members of our department and supported by BU’s Redesigning the Undergraduate Learning Experience initiative.  It covers three critical moments in the history of Boston:  King Philip’s War; the late 19th-century, when European culture shaped the city through art, architecture, and music, as well as wave upon wave of immigrants; and the 1970s, when racial tensions boiled over with court-ordered busing.  Students work chiefly with primary sources in the course, whose assignments replicate the kinds of research and writing done by practicing historians. The MHS exhibit is researched, designed, and assembled by the members of the class, working with staff of the Historical Society.  It includes more than thirty letters, diaries, paintings, personal objects, weapons, and early printed sources from the time of King Philip’s War, encompassing private life, religious beliefs, uses of the land, and the course of the conflict.  Professor Johnson introduced the event (click here for excerpts).  Students offered brief remarks describing the content and organization of the exhibit.  Guests then circulated freely among students and view their work.