Annual Meeting New Member Presentations

Library Albemarle Constantine cropped

Excerpts from the report in the Spring 2015 Newsletter:

Sue Mote is working on a novel, “An Ordinary Viking,” the story of an adventure-seeking youth who really doesn’t like the shedding of blood. When researching the Viking age for a work of fiction, Sue found many details elusive. The Norse had no written language beyond the runes with which they carved messages on memorial stones and personal belongings and on random walls and deck planking. For written accounts, all we have are the views of travelers, spectators, and victims, i.e., outsiders.  Archaeological evidence provides a limited and shifting view. Much of the Vikings’ material culture was of wool or wood, which easily decays. The interpretation of evidence shifts because new objects keep surfacing, and technology requires adjustment of the meanings of physical evidence. For example, bone scans have turned the Oseberg ship burial’s “crippled old servant” into a woman who ate what only royalty could afford.

Margaret Simmons, daughter of late Institute member Ann Marie Koller, presented her mother’s scholarly life and the dilemma she faces in the publication of her mother’s biography of dancer Tilly Losch. Ann Marie was born in 1913 in the suburbs of Plentywood, Montana. Her life was devoted to scholarship. It is all she ever wanted to do, and it is what she did while teaching high school. She was a happy member of the Institute. She taught herself German to work on a biography of the Duke of Meiningen while she was getting her PhD at Stanford. That research became The Theatre Duke. Along the way, she wrote a piece about Ira Aldrich, a black actor who had worked with the Duke of Meiningen in the 19th century. (See the collection Ira Aldridge: The African Roscius for Ann Marie’s essay).

Liz Vasile, a historical and cultural geographer,  spent most of her career outside academia, in program management and evaluation. She recently returned to Cal as an academic coordinator, a job that involves navigating the institutional bureaucracy of the university on behalf of faculty and members of an interdisciplinary research center. Part of the draw of returning to campus was to be able to focus on a little scholarship of her own.  Picking up the threads of her previous research and fieldwork, on urban peripheries and enclaves, counter cultural and oppositional movement, and migration in Latin America, North Africa, and the US, Liz is diving into the literature in search of a focal point for future work, and a good research question. One area of particular interest is Mediterranean or Southern Thought, as an alternative framework for examining the modern migration experience. Liz finds that a major challenge of independent scholarship is a lack of dialogue.

– Sue Bessmer

Edward Von der Porten described the Manila Galleon Project that has engaged him for the past sixteen or so years. Drawing on a wealth of experts from his career in marine archeology and history and support from various institutions, such as the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico, he has put together a research and excavation team that has explored the remains of the San Felipe, found on the coast of Baja California. What started as a few pieces of porcelain, believed to be Chinese, found by American tourists, is now a full-fledged project that has slowly revealed treasures and information about the Chinese-Spanish-Philippine trade that lasted 250 years.

          – Maria Sakovich


California and the West Events

Fall 2020: Revealing San Francisco’s Hidden 19th-Century Black History: A Tour of California Historical Society Artifacts, lecture by Susan D. Anderson, SF History Days (video here)

Summer 2020: Harlem of the West: The Fillmore Jazz Era and Redevelopment, online lecture by Elizabeth Pepin Silva

Fall 2019: An event-filled two-day excursion to Sacramento

Fall 2019:  Tour of Marin Civic Center and presentation by member Bonnie Portnoy on The Man Beneath the Paint: Tilden Daken

Summer 2019: Reading of Judith Offer's play, Scenes from the Life of Julia Morgan

Fall 2018: Public Program, "South Asians in the South Bay: The Privileged Immigrants"

Spring 2018: Excursion to Niles area of Fremont with historic train ride and silent film museum

Spring 2018: The California and the West study group initiated the two public programs on "The Future of the Past in the Digital Age" and Benjamin Madley's talk on An American GenocideThe United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846–1873.

Fall 2017: Martinez Adobe Fandango; Public Program: “Siberia and California: Connections During the Russian Revolution and Civil War”

Fall 2016: Amador County

Summer 2016: San Francisco Presidio

Winter 2016: Berkeley History Center

Spring 2015: Sonoma Plaza

Winter 2015: San Francisco Public Library

Summer 2014:  Red Oak Victory and World War II Homefront National Historic Park, Richmond

Spring 2014:  Los Gatos History Museum, "American Bohemia: The Cats Estate in Los Gatos”

Winter 2014:  Tour of California Historical Society exhibition on Juana Briones, January 25

Summer 2013:  Green Gulch Farm Zen Center visit, August 15

Spring 2013: Visits to Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum and the McCune Collection at the Vallejo Public Library, April 13

Play Readers Upcoming Meeting

In the abundance of caution recommended by heath authorities, the group has decided to take a break from regular meetings.

The group welcomes new members.  If you wish to be placed on our email list and receive announcements, contact Joanne Lafler.

Writers Group Upcoming Meetings

Sunday, September 11, 1:30 pm, via Zoom. Jim Gasperini will present.

Public Programs

Sunday, August 21, 2:00 pm, Public Program via Zoom.
Writing and Revising Narrative History
A Presentation by Megan Kate Nelson
Join the Mechanics' Institute and the Institute for Historical Study for this exciting talk about writing with historian Megan Kate Nelson who left academia in 2014 to become a full-time writer. During this Zoom event, she will offer advice for writers who want to publish trade history books and other pieces for general readers. Dr. Nelson will talk about how to make the transition from academic to narrative history writing, how to revise manuscripts for trade publication, and how to pitch articles and Op-eds to newspapers and magazines.
Megan Kate Nelson is a historian and writer, with a BA from Harvard and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa. She is the author of four books: Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America (Scribner 2022); The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West (Scribner 2020; a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History); Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (Georgia, 2012); and Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (Georgia, 2005). She writes about the Civil War, the U.S. West, and American culture for The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine, and TIME. Before leaving academia to write full-time in 2014, she taught U.S. history and American Studies at Texas Tech University, Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, and Brown. She grew up in Colorado but now lives in Boston with her husband and two cats.

Next Monthly Program

Sunday, September 18, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.
How to Create Your Own Legacy Book
A Presentation by Margaretta Mitchell
Margaretta is both photographer and writer, who always brings research and history into her books. Since 2015, she has been producing a legacy series of books that serve as catalogues of bodies of work. She is currently working on a book about a year living in Spain in 1959-60. In her talk, Margaretta will use her publications to help those of you who want to create your own legacy book, including how to self-publish your work.
“My legacy series began with Iconographies in 2015 when I had an exhibition of 20x24 Polacolor prints at Photo Gallery in Oakland, California. The meaning of a work of art can penetrate many layers. For me, pursuing meaning in this 20x24 series involved research, a kind of playful exploration of themes from the past that matched my thinking at that time. Influenced by the writing of Panofsky, I believe that the study of the humanities, especially art, is profoundly useful because the past is a reality that shapes us even if we do not realize it. Thus, we can say that the past is part of everything we do or think—or even reject.”
Margaretta K. Mitchell is a well-established artist, photographer, writer and educator. Besides photographic commissions and portraiture, she exhibits her fine art photography nationally. She is the author of five books, including Recollections: Ten Women of Photography, Ruth Bernhard: Between Art and Life, and The Face of Poetry. Since 2015 she has been publishing a series of legacy books that focuses on her 50 years of work in photography. She is a contributor of both text and images to many more books and publications. Her latest book, Dreamscapes and Destinations, grew out of the period of pandemic lockdown. Margaretta has taught at UC Berkeley and UC and UCSC Extension. Her website is margarettamitchell.com.
The presentation will be recorded, and the question-and-answer part will be posted on YouTube for IHS members only. If you don’t want to be on the recording, just make sure your video is off. And please remember to mute your microphone!

About Us

The Institute for Historical Study is a community of researchers, writers, and artists. Our common bond is a devotion to history in its many forms. Through wide-ranging programs, we share research, ideas, and practical advice and provide a public forum for the discussion of history. 

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We Promote:

  •  the study and discussion of history outside the traditional classroom setting
  •  research, writing, performances, exhibitions, and other expressions of historical study
  •  non-traditional and interdisciplinary areas of study as well as traditional approaches to history

 

 

Member News

Members' Recent Activities:

Sometime in Africa by Neil Dukas was published in May. “Convinced his college education was incomplete,” the nicely printed announcement reads, “Neil set out on an illconsidered 14,000 mile journey on the cheap across the length of Africa determined to address the shortcomings in his schooling and to experience, first-hand, some fragment of the developing world. The year was 1983, when Africa hovered between post-war decolonization and the advent of the internet. The author, dogged by a variety of ailments, stumbles from one self-inflicted near-death experience to the next. Yet surviving by the grace of the people he chances upon he filled three journals of priceless memories.” Neil’s third book can be ordered through Amazon.
Bonfire Saloon is Steve Levi’s latest publication. “I collected authentic names, events, cases, and incidents of the Alaska Gold Rush and condensed them into a single night, 3 December 1903, in a saloon in Nome. The book, which is history disguised as literature, in this case narrative poetry, gives a street level snap shot, an in-the-weeds look at the grit, grime and actual events in the middle of winter during the gold rush. (Winter lasts from mid-September to the first of June.) Historic photos illustrate this colorful period in Alaska’s history. For a glimpse of the contents see my short YouTube videos Connie the Wiggler and Marshal Jew Bob.” Bonfire Saloon is available for purchase at www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi. Steve adds that a spoken-word overview of the Alaska Gold Rush, which he wrote and was funded by the Alaska Humanities Forum, can be found on YouTube .

 

After a seven-year sojourn researching and writing about a canyon in the wilds of Mendocino County,” Dot Brovarney reports, “I am now working with a Ukiah designer to produce a visually beautiful book. Mendocino Refuge: Lake Leonard & Reeves Canyon is a cultural and natural history of an upper Russian
River watershed—home to hardy folk, ancient redwoods, a variety of wildlife, and the county’s largest lake, which Pomo peoples likely held as sacred space. The discovery of a trunk filled with family memorabilia led me down a number of fascinating and winding paths, including Native medicine traditions, two centuries of logging practices, and current conservation efforts in two watersheds. The 186-page book, with 200 images and maps, will be published through my business, Landcestry, in December of this year.

Welcome to our newest members.

Vince Emery created Vince Emery Productions http://www.emerybooks.com/
where he combines his skills as writer, literary detective, editor, and publisher, producing books and videos by and about established writers. “Our goal,” he writes, “is to give readers a deeper, closer connection with their favorite authors.” Dashiell Hammett, Harvey Milk, Jack London, and George Sterling are among the featured authors. Vince is currently working on “George Sterling's Greatest Hits,” “The Harvey Milk Letters,” and soon, “Writers of Carmel: An Anthology.”

Nathan Alexander Foxton is an artist living in San Francisco. Before moving here last year he had been working in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Harrison Center for the Arts (curator), at Ivy Tech Community College, University of Indianapolis, and Herron School of Art + Design (adjunct instructor). He’s a figurative painter, constructing space from a two-dimensional perspective. Nathan is interested in telling stories through his art about the soul of place and has a background teaching art history among other subjects. He has exhibited his work in group and solo shows.

John Hyde Barnard is a musician, writer, historian, and a retired Los Angeles City Librarian. He recently signed a publishing contract for “The Creole Incident: The Beginning of the End of Slavery,” a runner-up in the San Francisco Writers Conference Adult Non-Fiction Category (2021). “This historical narrative,” he writes, “details how the Union and the Constitution were saved, twenty years before the Civil War, by the actions of a few select members of the House of Representatives, led by the venerable John Quincy Adams, along with a handful of radical abolitionists and 19 enslaved individuals. The book is slated for release in late 2022.” John is still active as a musical arranger, director, publisher and performer and divides his time between Sausalito, Los Angeles and New York.

Members:  Please submit news of your history-related publications, lectures, awards, research finds, etc. to info@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org.

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We welcome all men and women who have a commitment to historical study, which may be demonstrated in one or more of the following ways...

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Institute for Historical Study
1399 Queens Road
Berkeley, CA 94708
info@instituteforhistoricalstudy.org

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