Two, one-week courses, taught by members of the Smith College faculty, will introduce you to inquiry-based research that is meant to be both fun and challenging. Lively discussions, short writing assignments, and an end-of-course presentation you design allow you to be experimental and creative in how you demonstrate what you have learned.
Sleuthing New England’s Past Through Artifacts, July 4-8
Nan Wolverton, Museum and Decorative Arts Consultant and Lecturer in American Studies, Smith College
Put on your detective hat and learn how to use artifacts as clues to understanding New England history and culture. Did you know that the baskets that were used to store everyday household goods can tell us a surprising amount about the Native Americans who made them? It’s information we won’t find in written documents. Shards of pottery, too, can provide clues to a family’s social status, once we know how to decode them. And you might be surprised by what you can learn about a local African American from his probate record. Discover how early New Englanders viewed the world, and each other, as you examine some of the objects and buildings from their time. We will delve into the daily activities and social behavior of 18th- and 19th-century New Englanders by considering how objects were made and used. Through hands-on learning and insider access to area museums and historic sites, we’ll uncover a world utterly different from today, yet one that helps us understand our own time. Each student will choose and interpret “The Life of an Object” for her course project. Join us for an adventure in studying early New England!
About Your Professor
Nan Wolverton earned her Ph.D. in American Studies, with a focus on material culture, at the University of Iowa, and then served as curator of decorative arts at Old Sturbridge Village from 1996 to 2003. She has worked extensively in both the decorative arts and historic landscapes and is currently a museum and decorative arts consultant to museums in the region, specializing in collections research, exhibit planning, and historic furnishing plans. She recently completed furnishing plans for the two homes that comprise the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Mass. She has also prepared for the Houghton Library at Harvard University an online catalog of the objects and furniture in their Emily Dickinson Room. At Smith, she teaches The Material Culture of New England, 1630-1860 in the American Studies program, a course that meets weekly at Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, Mass. She has published articles in numerous books and magazines including The Magazine Antiques, the New England Antiques Journal, the Journal of the New England Garden History Society, Reinterpreting New England Indians and the Colonial Experience (Colin G. Calloway and Neal Salisbury, eds.) and Rural New England Furniture: People, Place, and Production (The Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife).
Smith Students Comments on The Material Culture of New England, 1630-1860
“I absolutely loved this class. I learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it.”
“Nan has a huge knowledge of all areas of material culture. She was always willing to take the time and answer questions that we sometimes peppered her with!”
“This is a great class, taught by someone who really knows the material.”
“Excellent class. I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in American history. Just what I expected/hoped for from a Smith seminar. What a good teacher—very well informed in her topics of expertise, pleasant and interesting lecturer.”
Making a Self, Making a History, July 11-15
Susan Van Dyne, Professor, Study of Women and Gender, Smith College
What was it like to be among the first girls to attend college more than a century ago? What if you could hear their voices through their diaries and figure out their favorite music and books, and what they did for fun, by looking at their scrapbooks? Through hands-on exploration of the treasures housed in the archives of Smith College, you can time travel to be with this remarkable group of 16–20 year olds as they put together a sense of themselves as “college girls” and made history in the process. Then, by visiting the renowned Smith College Museum of Art, you’ll discover how dramatically different lives co-existed in one valley in the late 1800s — the emerging culture of the college town and the changing agricultural villages only miles away. Through field trips to local sites and a close study of selected paintings, you’ll approach the making of the self in yet another way, looking at how landscape and portrait paintings helped New Englanders understand themselves in the context of their families and communities.
About Your Professor
Susan Van Dyne received her Ph.D. in English literature from Harvard University. She helped found the Program for the Study of Women and Gender at Smith and directs Smith’s new Archives Concentration as well as the new Poetry Concentration. She is an expert on Sylvia Plath and published a book called Revising Life: Sylvia Plath’s Ariel Poems. Prof. Van Dyne is also a leading educator, having traveled the country offering workshops to faculty on how to integrate the insights of women's studies and ethnic studies into traditional courses. That project led to the publication of an edited volume, Women’s Place in the Academy: Transforming the Liberal Arts. In 2000, she helped to launch a new feminist, interdisciplinary journal, Meridians, whose goal is to provide a forum for the finest scholarship and creative work by and about women of color in a U.S. and an international context for the new millennium. She teaches courses in contemporary American women poets, the Art and Business of Poetry (a gateway to the poetry concentration), and core courses in the archives concentration such as What I Found in the Archives, and Taking History Public (the capstone seminar).
Smith Student Comments on Prof. Van Dyne’s Classes
“I’ve never taken a class that stretched me more...Wish I had taped classes.”
“Better than clear and comprehensible, infused with passion and ways of thinking/strategies that transferred to all other work I am doing.”
“I feel a lot more comfortable about writing college papers because of this course and I think it was the exercises which focused on how to write that helped me so much.”
“I love spending time in the archives — it’s so different than reading primary sources online or secondary historical sources. It’s really cool to touch everything and to be able to sort through piles of papers, deciding what I think is important and interesting rather than having to read what some historian found the most intriguing. It’s so much more an adventure, a quest, than reading a book from an easy chair in Neilson.”
Covered Storage Basket With Legs, c. 1820, courtesy Old Sturbridge Village.