The Maymester Experience

Each year the Department of History welcomes students to a Maymester Experience, an intensive teaching session catalogued as the "Current Issues in Public History" seminar. Maymester Experiences typically feature a Distinguished Visiting Public Historian who tailors the seminar to his or her practice field, or an objective-driven project, for which students work with a variety of local and national experts. Please scroll down to read about past Maymester seminars.

 Maymester Experience 2013

From Education to Engagement

Dr. David Thelen Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Indiana University, was in residence Maymester 2013 to teach Current Issues in Public History Practice. Thelen took eleven doctoral and master's students on an exploration of engagement between "the public" (users, visitors, students, readers, amateurs, hobbyists, partners) and "history" (in all its products, presentations, and practices). Guest speakers included David Northrup of the Institute for Social Research at York University, Toronto, one of the principals of "Canadiens and Their Pasts," a study inspired byPresence of the Past (Rosenzweig and Thelen, 1998), and two of the top museum professionals in the United States: Ellen Rosenthal, president and CEO of Conner Prairie Interactive History Park, and Barbara Franco, founding director of Gettysburg Seminary Ridge Museum (and previously affiliated with the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Historical Society of Washington, D.C., and the Minnesota Historical Society). The class also conducted fieldwork at The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson, and the Country Music Hall of Fame. On May 29, Barbara and Ellen were the principal speakers at a public forum, "From Education to Engagement: Transforming Visitor Experiences."

Watch the full program here

Download complete transcripts of their talks and the hour-long Q&A period that followed.

Ellen Rosenthal presentation

Barbara Franco presentation

Question-and-Answer session

Past Maymester Exeriences

2012: Life in the Bottoms

LIB groupEfforts to understand the impact of urban renewal on Murfreesboro's African American community led to the topic of the 2012, during which students gathered evidence relating to the largely undocumented black residential and business districts known collectively as "The Bottoms." Changing community priorities precipitated the decision to raze The Bottoms to widen what is now portions of Broad Street and Civic Plaza in the 1960s. Working with Bradley Academy Historical Association, students conducted oral histories, digitized photographs, and collected documents that shed light on the local African American community on the eve of integration. Students and organizers also hosted "An Evening With Nikki Giovanni," a special program in which the world renowned poet and educator spoke about her career as a civil rights activist. 



2011: Finding Historic Cemetery Community wayside

In collaboration with Stones River National Battlefield and Bradley Academy Historical Association, the 2011 field school project documented the largest post-Emancipation African American settlement in Rutherford County. Acquisition of land to form what is now the Stones River National Battlefield (SRNB) displaced this community, referred to as "Cemetery" due to  its function as caretakers of the Civil War cemetery, in the 1930s. With the assistance of Dr. Alison Dorsey, Swarthmore, Dr. Susan Eva O'Donovan, University of Memphis, Dr. Miranda Fraley, Tennessee State Museum, Carla Jones, Matt Gardner Homestead, as well as representatives from SRNB, students performed an inventory of historic assets, conducted oral histories, and produced interpretative resources.  


2010: Stephanie Toothman
Stephanie Toothman
Dr . Stephanie Toothman is the Associate Director for Cultural Resources at the National Park Service. Prior to her present position, Dr. Toothman served as the Chief of Cultural Resource Programs for the Pacific West Region of the National Park Service. During her career with the National Park Service, she has served as a preservation planner in Washington, DC, as regional historian, as Acting Superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks and has worked with the National Register of Historic Places.

Dr. Toothman taught MTSU's graduate field school on cultural resource management at the Ft. Vancouver National Historic Site. The field school explored partnerships between the National Park Service, state park systems, and universities and held a publicforum in Murfreesboro.



2009: Spencer Crew
Spencer Crew Dr. Spencer Crew, widely recognized as one of the top public historians in the nation, is the former executive director of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History (NMAH) and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center . He is currently on the faculty of George Mason University .

Dr. Crew's seminar, "Issues of Conscience, Commemoration, and Memory in Museums and Historic Places,"; focused on ways that public historians are incorporating issues of freedom and justice into their work. Dr. Crew also moderated a panel discussion, "American Slavery and Its Impact on Universities, Past and Present,"; that included Dr. Jim Campbell of Stanford University, Dr. Alfred Brophy of the University of North Carolina, and MTSU's own Dr. Carroll Van West .


2008: Michael Tomlan
Michael Tomlan Dr. Michael Tomlan wears many hats, including director of the Historic Preservation Planning Program at Cornell University, project director for the National Council of Preservation Education , advisor to the Global Heritage Fund , and president of Historic Urban Plans Inc. He has also consulted on projects for the World Heritage Fund , the
J. Paul Getty Trust, and numerous other national and international projects.

Dr. Tomlan taught a graduate seminar on sacred places and preservation. He also presented "Why Historians and Preservationists Avoid Religion," a community lecture, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Murfreesboro.



2007: Trudy Huskamp Peterson

THP Dr. Trudy Huskamp Peterson is a consulting archivist and author of Final Acts: A Guide to Preserving the Records of Truth Commissions (Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005) . Her 30-year career as an archivist has included a stint as Acting Archivist of the United States, serving on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission , and appointment as a public policy scholar with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars .

In addition to teaching a summer graduate course on the power of records, Dr. Peterson was the featured speaker at a public forum during which she addressed topics related to her international work to connect the preservation of records to human rights.


2006: Dwight Pitcaithley
DP Dr. Dwight Pitcaithley, former Chief Historian of the National Park Service, and currently on the faculty of New Mexico State University, taught a course in summer 2006 on the topic of "Reinterpreting the Civil War."; The course examined the strategies that three National Historic Battlefields and two museums have adopted in recent years to interpret a broader history of the Civil War. As Chief Historian, he launched a sweeping Civil War reinterpretation initiative, articulated in Rally on the High Ground: The National Park Service Symposium on the Civil War (Eastern National, 2001).

Dr. Pitcaithley also co-moderated a community forum, "Rethinking the Civil War after 150 Years,"; with Dr. John Coski, Director of the Museum of the Confederacy, on opportunities and challenges with commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Civil War (2011-2015).