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Renowned scholars grace MTSU history seminar from ...

Renowned scholars grace MTSU history seminar from afar for free

An MTSU professor has assembled a lineup of outstanding local, state and national historians to speak to her fall 2020 graduate seminar.

Martha Norkunas, professor of oral and public history in MTSU’s Public History Program, convinced these professionals to speak via videoconferencing from all over the country without charging a fee. 

Dr. Martha Norkunas

They are generously giving of their time to talk about their careers as public historians or public folklorists and about some of the most interesting projects they have worked on,” Norkunas said. “They have worked on beautiful projects across the country and the world.”

Public History Program logo webNorkunas said the guests choose the topics on which to speak, and the class does not know what particular topics the guests will select.

“The talks are informal,” Norkunas said. “I’ve asked them to talk about their careers and some of the projects they have been involved with that they thought were most dynamic. They will also take questions from the students.”

The first guest scholar was John Lodl, director of the Rutherford County Archives, who spoke on Sept. 9. The remaining schedule is as follows:

• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, Betty Belanus, education specialist, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, Washington, D.C.;

Sharon Babaian, curator of transportation, Canada Science and Technology Museums Corp. in Ottawa, Ontario, is one of several guest lecturers who will speak virtually to students in the public history course taught by MTSU professor Martha Norkunas. (Submitted photo)

Sharon Babaian, curator of transportation, Canada Science and Technology Museums Corp. in Ottawa, Ontario, is one of several guest lecturers who will speak virtually to students in the public history course taught by MTSU professor Martha Norkunas. (Submitted photo)

• 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 16, Dallas Hanbury, archivist, Montgomery County, Alabama;

• 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25, Robert Weible, past president of the National Council on Public History and retired state historian of New York and chief curator of the New York State Museum;

• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29, Sharon Babaian, curator of transportation, Canada Science and Technology Museums Corp., Ottawa, Ontario;

• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 13, Will Walker, associate professor, Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-Oneonta;

• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 20, Marty Blatt, affiliate professor of history and former director, Public History Program, Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts;

• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 27, Lisa Mighetto, environmental historian and member, Northwest Regional Council of the National Parks Conservation Association, Seattle, Washington;

• 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, Yolanda Leyva, Chicana historian and professor of history, University of Texas at El Paso;

• 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28 (tentative date), Aleia Brown (MTSU alumna), assistant director of the African-American History, Culture and Digital Humanities Initiative, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland;

• 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4 (tentative date), Paula Hamilton, co-director, Australian Centre for Public History, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

Dr. Yolanda Leyva, guest lecturer

Dr. Yolanda Leyva

Dr. Marty Blatt (Photo by Mariah Tauger/Northeastern University)

Dr. Marty Blatt

“I know each of them personally,” Norkunas said. “I have worked with them or been on panels with them over the years. I have a great national and international network of scholars in public history, folklore and oral history. This is one of the great advantages of going to national and international conferences.”

Blatt, for example, is working with colleagues on renaming Faneuil Hall, the historic meeting place in Boston, which was named for a slave trader. Leyva has been involved in community-based public history projects in El Paso and on the Texas-Mexico border. Babaian has developed educational programs about understanding the past through material culture.

The Murfreesboro branch of the NAACP, St. Rose of Lima Church and various members of the Murfreesboro City Council are community partners in the lecture series, providing Norkunas with informal advice. She said she intends to involve her students in projects with the partners after learning their particular needs.

“In an earlier year, our community partner was a refugee nonprofit in Nashville, and we produced research for them to assist in their outreach to refugees and immigrants working on community gardens,” Norkunas said.

For more information, contact Norkunas at martha.norkunas@mtsu.edu.

— Gina Logue (gina.logue@mtsu.edu)


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