I am Violet Sun, MA graduate in Cultural Management from the Chinese University of Hong Kong—though I myself am actually from Beijing, mainland China. Over the course of this summer, I have gotten to know the lovely city of Providence, working as an intern at Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and staying at the Carriage House apartment in the 200+ year old Nightingale Brown House, right next door to the historic John Brown House.
Background “Oral History and Community Memory,” co-taught by Anne Valk and Holly Ewald, teaches both theory and practice. Students research the history of an area, interviewing people who spent time there. And then they use the archive of interviews to teach others, creating interactive exhibits and tours that reveal Providence’s history and spaces through the stories of those who lived here.
"The area is not there for me to remember . . . It's almost like losing one of your peers."
June Simmons-McRae spoke in reverent tones of her childhood neighborhood of West Elmwood during a recent oral history interview. Once a vibrant neighborhood, West Elmwood was demolished in the early 1960s as part of Providence’s urban renewal movement. The Huntington Industrial Park was built in its place. Today, the neighborhood only lives on in the memories of former residents and the bonds that many friends still share.
Mapping Arts Project: Providence maps the city by locating the black artists who worked in the city. It combines digital technology, university archives, and community partnerships to make historical knowledge accessible and interesting.
Keila Davis: Presenting at the Mapping Arts Event on April 16.
The Westport (Massachusetts) Historical Society asked for our help with their newly acquired 1710 Cadman-White-Handy House. How might they use it as “a cultural hub around which the community can reconnect to its heritage”?
Students in the “Shrine, House, or Home: Rethinking the House Museum Paradigm” course took on the challenge. Molly Kerker, a student in the Public Humanities MA program, was a member of that class. I asked her about this experience.
What was the most challenging aspect of coming up with a plan to interpret the Handy House?
Archivists, arts administrators, art teachers, communications managers, consultants, cultural planners, curators, development writers, interpretive guides, marketing coordinators, museum curators and educators, nonprofit business managers, oyster farmers.
Education, interpretation, research, and administration.
Cities, historic sites, museums, parks, and universities.
"If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it.” - Isadora Duncan... I like to think of myself as culturally literate. I work in the arts, I can drop the odd Shakespeare quote in conversation, and I can tell abstract expressionism from Dadaism. But when I began working with American Dance Legacy Initiative (ADLI) I realized how illiterate I was when it came to dance.
Claims of authenticity or ownership relate to power and impact all of the work we do in the public humanities. Who owns what? Who gets to speak for whom, and when? Commemoration and representation, the use of social media, heritage, sites of conscience, public art: all of these areas of work are classed, raced and gendered and they all rely on claims to power and the propagation of dominant stories. Yet it is important to understand that even working to tell the hidden, invisible or resistance narratives can be troubled.
As part of the university’s 250th anniversary, a group of Public Humanities students, faculty, and collaborators are giving new life to a piece of Brown’s history. Christened ‘The Jenks Society for Lost Museums’, the group is tracking down remaining objects, remaking specimens, and researching the Jenks Museum of Natural History and Anthropology’s history.