Sunday, April 18, 2010

The saga continues -- still stranded in Belgium, the Perrys enjoy Belgian hospitality

Today, we went into Brussels town center (Grand Place, en francais) and just wandered the streets, taking it in. A much more cosmopolitan (and certainly more “discovered”) city than either Ghent or Brugges, it also claims stunning stonework of the kind I have never seen. Every street, every alley… everywhere… is a gem. But, today was Sunday, and it was filled with people... wall-to-wall people, and I actually looked forward to getting back to the pseudo-hangar with the International Red Cross we have been calling home the past several days.

We returned and had a lovely time talking with the Red Cross people – they were from many different places in Belgium and all touted their particular region as we asked for recommendations of places to go tomorrow (we’re stuck here until at least Tuesday morning, when the airport will, I HOPE, allow us to finally head for home). Tremendous hearts, all of these volunteers, and they brought excellent senses of humor with them to share with us today… I was so glad, because I must admit I was getting a little weary. If ever you consider charities, please consider ones who do work with people who are displaced for any reason… I cannot tell you the meaning of the IRC’s kindnesses the past several days.

Well, I finally decided to go do something about freshening up… and when I came back the Red Cross workers said, “Rapide! Rapide! You must go over to votre husband – something wonderful seems to be happening!”

I went over to our cots and found two pilots - a couple with two children – who are, as they are putting it, temporarily “ecologically unemployed” due to Mother Iceland - standing there asking if we would like to share the hospitality of their home. I nearly cried, took a chance and we said yes.

Well, we are at this moment in this lovely village outside Brussels. It is quiet, peaceful… there are goats in the field next to us… and sheep a few doors down. The fields are greening and undulating … and as I look out the bedroom window I can see a sliver of moonlight… which I suppose you will all see later tonight.

If you wonder where it is, just ask Napoleon. He met his Waterloo here.

I am *not* kidding. We are five minutes away from the surrender site and will be going there tomorrow.

Life takes many twists and turns, but this is surely the least of the ones I expected today. I am grateful.

Laura P.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Icelandic volcano does indeed strand Laura Perry in Belgium

We are being patiently and kindly cared for by the International Red Cross.

We were told by our airline to check out of our hotel in Ghent last night and “get to the airport as quickly as possible” in case the airport opened this morning, since the check-in and customs lines were likely to be very long this morning if our plane actually flew; inter-city trains in Belgium do not run overnight, arriving from Ghent to Brussels airport at 7 am, and making it potentially only a three-hour window to get our boarding passes, pass through customs AND get to the gate – not a good idea.

Well, we arrived at the airport last night to … desolation. And the International Red Cross. Once we knew where to go in the terminal, they greeted us with large smiles and fresh water and food – much appreciated all the way around. And, cots. Now, cots wouldn’t normally seem wonderful… but I am thrilled! And they have been bringing in more all night – the Brussels Fire and Rescue, International Red Cross… everyone – it’s a steady stream of cots, food and people.

All due to the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano.

We’ll make it home when we can; our flight this morning has already been canceled and it looks as though the airport will be closed yet another day. But, so far it’s not too bad – and tempers are not frayed at all – it’s very much the “comme ci, comme ca” attitude many here adopt anyway. Not a bad way to lower the blood pressure, I must admit. Who is to say what tomorrow will bring, but we’ll take it in stride as best we can.

Best of luck there where it sounds as though the only pressing issues are allergies and temperatures. And classes!

See you as soon as possible! Boy, is this more than I had planned on! I mean… really? A volcano?

Your International Red Cross “refugee,”
Laura P.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Icelandic volcano complicates Laura Perry's travel plans

FYI – we’re trying to get home tomorrow, but Brussels Luchthaven is closed until 10 a.m. tomorrow at this point… and our flight is scheduled out at 10:30 a.m. I’ll keep you up-to-date; hopefully we will get home tomorrow or Sunday.

Crazy Icelandic volcano! But I have attached my favorite picture of it!

Laura P

Laura Perry reports on presentation at conference

It’s the last day of the conference, and I am already mourning leaving Flanders – what a lovely, lovely part of the world! However, we may get to see a little more than we had planned; the Icelandic volcano has shut down the Brussels airport for three days along with nearly every other airport in Europe. I hope to get our boarding passes for tomorrow this afternoon… but it could be dicey. We’re trying!

Gave my presentation yesterday and I think it went well. I had some very helpful feedback and was thrilled to have been on a panel with some people about whom I have been reading for years. Rather intimidating, though!

Need to run to my first roundtable of the day, but I thought I would leave you with a picture my husband took on Monday in de Markt in Brugges – another gorgeous, enchanting town.

A smitten traveler,
Laura P.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Laura Perry reports on second day in Belgium

Yesterday and today have been full of conference participation – and I am getting ready for the evening’s events at the Bijloke (pronounced Bay-loh-ke) School (the conference center), a sprawling complex of building originally begun in the 14th century as a hospital and now an enormous educational complex on the south side of old Ghent. It is about a 20-minute walk from the old city center where I am staying.

I could not be more blessed by the people here, both at the conference and in Flanders in general. They are open and generous with their time and energies and I am learning so much. There are more than 1500 people at the conference yet it is not overwhelming – it feels small and friendly, and everyone is exceedingly kind and excited about learning more and more and more. At the conference I am learning a vast amount of material, both theoretically and practically, and am stunned at the applications of geographic information systems to history – and how historians are applying history to make GIS make even more sense to the humanities.

As for the cultural things ? there is plenty of time to get around town in the evenings, and since we are in the old city center, everything is within short walking distance. The picture I have enclosed today is of our walk last night along the Graslei, the old houses of the richest of the rich in town from the 15th (?) century (I am sorry – I don’t have my literature with me here at the
conference center where I have internet access). They are right on one of the main canals and are some of the most beautiful buildings in town – though this city is blessed with beauty everywhere.

We also had dinner last night at a restaurant that backed one of these buildings, and had the best appeltaart I could ever have imagined (basically an apple pie… but made with different spices and served with home made ice cream, fresh whipped cream, and Belgian chocolate). The food is stunning verywhere – haven’t had a bad meal yet – even from the street vendors – but I
am not worrying about gaining pounds; I walk about 7 miles a day.

Oh – there appear to be few traffic laws here – pedestrians first, bicycles second, buses third and cars fourth … with no stop signs anywhere. You never look to cross the street, and simply rely on the fact that everyone else will fall back on those four cardinal rules! The politite (police) here re usually on foot and very friendly and helpful. I did smile, though, when I realized that the police station across from the hotel was housed in a building built in 1708. New, to Belgian standards.

More tomorrow, I hope!

Your happy learner and traveler,
Laura Perry

Laura Perry reports from Belgium

Laura Perry, doctoral candidate, is in Belgium, primarily to learn about Geographic Information Systems. Here is her first report on what she is doing:

It is a wondrous thing to be here in Belgium!

We arrived on Sunday and have had a busy schedule since then – hit the ground running. We arrived in Ghent at 11: 30 a.m., checked in at the hotel and immediately started sightseeing (the registration desk for the conference wasn’t scheduled to open until Monday), and we were out until dark, visiting cathedrals – some started in the 600s and finished in the 18th century – and
eating traditional Flemish food (the best beef stew I have ever had, among other things – especially Belgian frites with mayonnaise).

The next day was a whirlwind tour of Brugges, which is 23 minutes away from Ghent by express train, and it’s true – it truly is the Venice of the North. It is a stunning city with most of its medieval architecture intact. We arrived back in Ghent just in time to make the registration desk, and then continued the sightseeing – lots and lots of pictures.

Today I have been attending sessions all morning learning the neatest things about the meld of history with technology, geographic information systems, in particular. I have been meeting people about whom I have read for years and that is a marvelous thing… talking with these down-to-earth and terrific scholars is really invigorating, and I can’t wait to continue the conference this afternoon. By the way – the conference site started out in the 14th century as a hospital and has become a large university. It is a stunning, sprawling site and I am awed by the architecture. Will take lots of pictures here, too.

But for now, I am going to run and find some lunch – or even better, some Belgian chocolate – to sate my appetite. The sun is shining and it is a gorgeous day. Attached is a picture from early this morning; it was still very chilly, but as you can see, I am proudly wearing my Memphis Tiger shirt despite the cool temps. Now the weather has moderated and I am going to venture out.

Will send another e-mail tomorrow if I can.

Laura P.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dr F. Jack Hurley reports on family trip to England and Scotland, and on Emmy nomination

We are just back from a nearly three-week trip through England and Scotland. It was one of those things that just grew like topsy. Suzanne wanted to go to the Cameron Clan gathering, a once-per-decade affair (her maiden name was Cameron) up above Ft. William in the Scottish Highlands, and I wanted to go to the CLA Game Fair, a massive celebration of everything about the English countryside (including um, English shotguns), so we compromised and did both. The Game Fair was held at Belvoir Castle in the northern English countryside on the last full week-end in July; with the Cameron Gathering coming the next week-end.

We told our friends and relations about our plan and that is when things started gathering momentum. Suzanne's son, Jim Linder, decided that he wanted to see the Game Fair and attend the Clan Gathering as well, so he and his wife signed on.

Then our son-in-law, Robin Johnson, told his teenaged daughters, Erin (16) and Lachlan (14) that if they won at the state level in their respective catagories in High School History Day, he would send them to England and Scotland with us. Both girls really buckled down on their History Day projects. They had gotten interested in my books about documentary photography and both wound up doing Marion Post Wolcott. They interviewed me a couple of times and then went off and did their projects. I still have never seen Erin's, which was a monologue. I did see Lachlan's ten-minute film, and suggested one change, a word which was mispronounced, but that was all. Both girls won first place at the local level and also at the North Carolina History Day competition in Raleigh. Lachlan's film won the national gold medal for the best project relating to agriculture! How about that! Needless to say, we were delighted to have both girls with us for the trip.

Because the girls had not been to Great Britain before, we added a few days in London at the beginning and end of the journey. Erin loves the theatre, so we got tickets to see "Billy Elliot" (great fun, but the film is better). We also worked in short visits with my nieces and their families, as well as my sister and brother-in-law.

The three days between Game Fair and the Cameron Gathering were spent knocking around the Yorkshire Dales, so the girls got a good taste of the British countryside. We used the train system to do the long runs and rented cars when necessary to get out and about. It really worked nicely. Although there were challenges in getting six people moved around and housed and fed, I think this may well have been the best trip to the UK that I have had in many years. The girls were totally "gob smacked" (stunned) by London, the English countryside, and especially Scotland. It was really lovely seeing everything new again through their eyes.

It is good to be home now. I went to my blacksmith shop and worked yesterday and will be there again this afternoon. Good, hot, sweaty work. One other bit of news. "Documenting the Face of America," the PBS film I worked on, has been nominated for an Emmy. Pretty neat, eh?

I think that pretty well brings things up to date. You are welcome to share any or all of this massive missive with departmental folks.

Best regards to you and all,
Jack H.

Webmaster's note: The film that Dr Hurley refers to is "Documenting the Face of America: Roy Stryker and the FSA/OWI Photographers," which appeared on PBS stations in August 2008. Dr Hurley is the author of three books on FSA photographers: Portrait of a Decade, Roy Stryker and the FSA/OWI Photographers; Russell Lee: Photographer; and Marion Post Wolcott: A Photographic Journey. (For a fuller story about the film, visit the article on the Department of History Web site.)

Since his retirement in 2004 after 38 years of teaching, during which he twice served as chair of the department, Dr Hurley has lived in Davidson, North Carolina. His wife, Dr Suzanne Linder Hurley, is also a historian.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Drs Dennis Laumann and Daniel Unowsky report on Spring Break study-tour of Europe by students in their course on genocide

Dr Dennis Laumann and Dr Daniel Unowsky, associate professors in the Department of History, led a group of 16 Memphis students to Germany, Poland, and the Czech Republic over Spring Break in March. The study tour was part of their Spring 2009 course entitled “Genocide in German History” offered through the university’s Helen Hardin Honors Program.

In the first half of the semester, the class met on Friday afternoons for lectures and discussions on topics related to the course theme, including German colonialism, the genocide of the Herero in German Southwest Africa, the Holocaust, and history and memory in today’s Germany.

The students and professors flew to Berlin on 6 March and on arrival visited the new Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe located in the heart of the reunited German capital. Dr Laumann is shown here in the Memorial.

Over the following nine days, the Memphis group attended lectures by German scholars (shown here is Heike Wieters of Humboldt University),

toured Berlin’s Jewish Museum

and Olympic Stadium,

traveled on an overnight train to Cracow, and walked through Cracow’s medieval town center and Kazimierz, the city’s historic Jewish quarter.

The class also took a guided tour of the Nazis’ largest concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau, just outside Cracow. The following photographs show the fences at Auschwitz, the train entrance to the camp, and barracks inside Auschwitz.

The trip ended in Prague with a walking tour of the Jewish quarter and a final day in Europe spent as tourists. Dr Unowsky is shown in front of his favorite Art Deco hotel, in Prague.

The study-tour was the first trip abroad for many of the students, who focused on the very serious subject of the course but were also able to take advantage of this opportunity to see and learn about three great European cities.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Donald and Caroline Ellis settle into new house, visit England

We seem to have settled into our house in Russellville, KY, after 7 months of bathroom renovations (a triple job that was estimated to take "a long month"--a very long month indeed).

We are getting acclimated to small town life and have made some very interesting friends tucked away in this rural backwater, but thank heavens for Nashville and Louisville with their symphonies and museums which are both easy drives from here. We have had lots of visitors and have scoped out some points of local interest to show them.

We had a good trip to England, leaving the USA at the end of September and returning at the beginning of November (just in time to vote) and were thus ideally placed to watch the collapse of capitalism spread to Europe (hope you didn't throw away your copy of Das Kapital), including the fall of the pound sterling which lost 25% during the course of the month, thereby greatly increasing our purchasing power.

We spent two weeks in London concert- and museum-going as well as researching the history of the last of the German WWI zeppelins (LZ113)--even going so far as to acquire the onboard anemometer of same at auction--wow, the pearl of great price! and spent another two weeks in the west country, shopping real estate.

Since we flew out of and into Washington DC and then drove back to KY, we experienced one of the most dazzling fall displays in memory.

Our next trip will be in a few weeks time to Oklahoma, returning via our favorite Arkansas state park lodge where we will spend 3 days with friends, followed by a trip to New York City in the spring to see our latest grandson.

We would be delighted to see anyone heading in this direction. Call us on: 270.726.6567

Donald and Caroline Ellis

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Scott Marler visits the United Nations while recruiting for the Department of History

Dr Scott Marler and Dr Aram Goudsouzian were in New York during the first week of January 2009 attending the convention of the American Historical Association and interviewing applicants for the department's position in southern history.

Dr Marler had been in New York on several occasions, sometimes for several weeks in a row, but he realized that he had never seen the United Nations. During a break he remedied that deficiency by going with his wife Candice, who, as it happens, lived only a few blocks away some years ago. He remarked that given the current crisis over Gaza, he was a little surprised that there were no demonstrators in evidence when he was there on Friday.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Julie Elb presents historical paper and sings in Opera Memphis production

Julie Elb, currently the history department chair at Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, attended the GEMCS (Group for Early Modern Cultural Studies) conference in Philadelphia this past weekend. She presented a paper, "The Taming of the Stew: Food and Feminine Identity in Early Victorian England." The paper was part of a larger project which involved her new class, Women and Power in Europe 1100-1900, a new elective she designed at Lausanne this year.

She also just finished singing in Opera Memphis' La Traviata, which ran in late October. Her next project will be Faust this coming April. The first photograph below is from her performance in La Traviata; the second is from her performance as one of the witches in last season's production of Macbeth.

Julie received her Ph.D. in history from The University of Memphis in 2003, writing her dissertation on food and feminine identity in England during the period 1750-1850, under the direction of Dr Walter R. Brown.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cathy Ginn's class has a project on ancestors and family trees

Cathy Ginn, a candidate for the M.A. degree in history, is currently teaching American History 280 (the first-half of the 20th century) at the National College of Business and Technology in Bartlett. Following the class trip to Alex Haley’s house which was reported on 9 October 2008, continuing the theme “My History is American History,” the class had a project in which the members could either write an essay about one significant ancestor or make a poster that displayed his or her family tree, using his or her choice of creative ways to display the information.

The posters were placed on display at the college. Here are some of them:

Ms Ginn, in reporting this project, remarked on how the students displayed creativity, imagination, and, in some cases, significant courage in asking lineage questions that had long been understood to be “off limits” in family conversation. In the photos displayed, the students showed their knowledge of culture, events, and fashions, including such things as military uniforms, hairstyles, automobiles, big bands, night life, and Jim Crow laws. Ms Ginn felt that this project reinforced in a practical and hands-on way what the class had learned from the textbook about the first half of the 20th century, and that the students began to realize more deeply that their ancestors played a significant part in building this country.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Cathy Ginn and her class visit Alex Haley's home

Cathy Ginn, master's candidate in history, teaches history at the National College of Business and Technology in Bartlett. On 26 September she took her class to visit Alex Haley's home in Henning, Tennessee. The class is pictured here sitting on the same porch that Mr Haley, the author of Roots, sat on when he heard his great-grandmother tell stories from Africa that sparked his famous search for his own roots.

Before the visit, Ms Ginn had asked Dr Louis Gates to write to her students about his friend. The reply was presented to the museum in Henning when the students visited. (Dr Gates and Ms Ginn both come from the same town in West Virginia, she noted.) Dr Gates is now Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University, where he is Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. He is well known for his work in identity politics, which includes work with DNA to establish ancestry. His note to the students follows:

I met Alex Haley through his friend, Quincy Jones. Quincy, one of my closest friends, scored the music for "Roots" when it aired in 1977. At that time, Quincy became obsessed with tracing his roots. And he introduced me to Alex, a small, warm, gentle, and open man. Alex always went out of his way to be kind to me, to say a good word. He was one of our generation's greatest myth makers, inventing a concept of reversing the Middle Passage by finding the source of one's tribal ancestors. Now, of course, we can do this through DNA. And when I conceived of my series, "African American Lives," it was because I had developed one very serious case of "Roots Envy" since I watched Alex's gripping television mini-series! And that is what we have done: "Roots" for the twenty-first century, "Roots" in a test-tube. I loved Alex, and his farm reflects his sense of peaceful reflection and a profound love of the world.

Ms Ginn remarked on how well the visit fit the theme of her history class: "My History is American History." About the class's sitting on Haley's porch, she said, "It was a poignant moment, needless to say, for each of us."

Friday, September 12, 2008

Dr. Doug Cupples's class tours sites of river war in Memphis during the Civil War

Students of Dr. Doug Cupples’s Civil War Navy History class recently toured sites related to the river war in Memphis. They began the tour at the war-time Mississippi River Landing between Poplar Avenue and Jefferson Avenue on Riverside Drive. The class next visited the South Bluff site of Fort Pickering. Confederates used this location as camps of induction in early 1861. The fort was later fortified by the Union Army under Major General W. T. Sherman and was manned by several units of heavy artillery composed of former slaves . On the batture below the fort, the Confederate government constructed two ironclad rams in late 1861-1862, the CSS Tennessee and the CSS Arkansas.

The students then examined the two Indian mounds used to mount heavy artillery that regularly shelled the wooded area across the river in Arkansas during the war.

One of the most popular stops of the day was the Mississippi River Museum on Mud Island with its replicas of a Union ironclad gunboat and a Confederate bluff fortification mounting large bore cannon. Scale models of Mississippi River steamers and warships also were on display. Several class members were visiting the museum for the first time and they expressed appreciation for the educational experience it offers. The day ended with more discussion about the war over lunch at a downtown restaurant.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mark Miller (B.A. 2005) reports on studies since graduating; will seek Ph.D. at Cambridge

I attended the University of Memphis from 2001 to 2005 and earned a BA in History, Summa Cum Laude, in December 2005. My historical studies during that period were focused mostly on the twentieth century, and I covered a wide range of areas including America, Europe, the Soviet Union, Vietnam, and South Africa. Under the guidance of history professors Dr. Daniel Unowsky, Dr. Dennis Laumann, and Dr. D'Ann Penner I matured in the field and decided to continue my academic career in the study of history.

I spent my final semester studying in an intensive German language course in Heidelberg, Germany, which I arranged through the international office at the University of Memphis. During this time I traveled extensively throughout Europe and decided to focus my studies on German history.

In 2006 I moved to England to begin a Masters in German History at University College London under the supervision of Dr. Mark Hewitson. In the summer of 2007 I lived in Berlin, Germany to attend another intensive language course and carry out research for my MA dissertation, which looked at public reaction to Joseph Goebbels' 1943 'Total War' campaign after the German defeat at Stalingrad.

After finishing the MA and working one year in London for a small corporate language-training provider, I will begin studies for a PhD in History at Jesus College, University of Cambridge under the supervision of Professor Richard Evans. My proposed thesis focuses on East German media propaganda.

--Mark Miller

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Don Ellis and Caroline Getaz report on latest travels and discoveries

Since our last report we were married (in Hot Springs, AK on January 17 of this year) and are happily ensconced in our new old house in Russellville, KY which we have almost finished renovating. We actually moved here in April and since then have done quite a bit of traveling.

In June we drove to Virginia to see Caroline's new grandaughter, Maria Eduarda--the daughter of Chris who graduated MSU History Dept and is now living in Alexandria, VA. Maria's mom is from Brazil. We also drove north from Roanoake along the Blue Ridge Parkway, something Donald had always wanted to do. We spent some time in Rihmond with Caroline's daughter and grandaughter, Molly.

At the beginning of August we drove to Kansas City by way of St Louis and visited friends--old colleagues of Donald's before his MSU days. From there we drove west to Boulder, CO, stopping en route at a small place named the City of Ellis, KS which turns out to be the world headquarters of the Bukovina Society--we know you always wondered where that was!--(see pictures). In Boulder we met with old friends/former colleagues, with whom we drove on to Aspen to attend the music festival there, spending five glorious days of music, cool and rain. Fortunately we just missed a piano recital by Condeleeza (Condi to her very few friends) Rice. Leaving Aspen we headed for Oklahoma City via Pueblo, CO and miles of relentless Oklahoma panhandle. After crossing the whole of Missouri, the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, we finally arrived home to Kentucky, having driven almost 3,000 miles in 2 weeks.

We are planning to spend the month of October in England, both in London, getting a bit of culture, and in North Devon looking for a house to buy with Caroline's brother, Clive. The plan also included a visit to Caroline's new grandson, Arthur, in London but, since he and his parents have been transfered to New York City, this will have to wait until Christmas when all the Getaz offspring--and their offspring--together with Donald's son, Adam and his family will visit the Ellis household.

Since we now have 6 grandchildren between us, Donald refers to the situation as a Malthusian nightmare.