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, March 10, 1:30 pm, Writers Group, via Zoom. Pam Peirce 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, March  17, 2:00 pm, Monthly Program via Zoom.
Mendocino Refuge: A World Apart and A Part of the World"
A presentation by Dot Brovarney
Dot's book, Mendocino Refuge: Lake Leonard & Reeves Canyon, is a multifaceted story of the people, plants, and animals who inhabited the wild Reeves Canyon on California's North Coast. In this presentation, Dot takes us through the experiences of several of the book's characters in order to explore the interplay between the small world of an isolated North Coast canyon and the larger world outside. These include a Native Pomo who inherited the traditional role of singing doctor, and another who lobbied Congress to honor the government's 1851 peace treaty. Of the two homesteaders who settled the lake at the head of the canyon in 1874, one sold out to Eastern capitalists, while his partner refused to do the same. Other characters include the engineer who ran the canyon mill, logging its old growth redwood in the 1870s and 80s, and the women whose 20th century efforts saved the last of the canyon's original redwoods and Douglas fir.
Dot Brovarney lives in Northern California's Mendocino County, where she works as a historian and author. She holds an M.A. degree in History from the University of California, Santa Barbara (1998). Dot's background as a professional museum curator informs her continuing projects as an independent public historian and writer. Through her business, Landcestry, she has developed exhibits, walking tours, and books. Besides this book, her most recent, published in 2022, she has edited and published The Sweet Life: Cherry Stories from Butler Ranch (2016), and co-authored Remember Your Relations (1996), a book about Pomo basket weavers, which American Indian Art Magazine noted “set a standard of style, scholarly accuracy and compassion for the humanity of the subject matter to which future scholars should aspire.”
You are welcome to invite friends and colleagues to attend.
We need a volunteer to write a short report on the presentation for the newsletter. If you would like to volunteer, please contact the program coordinator (Dan Kohanski).
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:

Peter Stansky, professor emeritus at Stanford, received the Peter Davison Award from the Orwell Society in recognition of “outstanding ability and contribution to the study of George Orwell.” The judges considered Professor Stansky’s ground-breaking investigations and publications over fifty years, which have continued into the present day with the publication of The Socialist Patriot: George Orwell and War (Stanford University Press, 2023) and Twenty Years On: Views and Reviews of Modern Britain (Pinehill Humanities Press, 2020). “Virtual meetings have allowed Professor Stansky (who was 91 in 2023) to remain a major contributor to discussions and colloquia on Orwell, permitting readers and students from around the world to interact with him.” Peter notes that “the late Peter Davison was the editor of the 20 volumes of the collected Orwell which made it possible for me to continue to work on Orwell without going to archives.”
Dot Brovarney’s seminal research on noted California native plant expert, Ukiahan Carl Purdy, will inform the upcoming issue of Eden, the journal of the California Garden and Landscape History Society. “My access to both personal and business records held by Purdy’s descendants enabled me to flesh out much of a fifty-year career which also included his work as a horticulturalist, nurseryman, writer, and
landscape designer.” Dot’s book, Mendocino Refuge: Lake Leonard & Reeves Canyon, continues to sell well. Kirkus Reviews states “Brovarney deftly mixes regional history, ecology, and character studies of people who shaped and were shaped by the land, writing in lucid . . . prose dotted with flights of vivid
lyricism.” To read the complete review, see Mendocino Refuge at www.KirkusReviews.com.
Nathan Foxton reports that he is “showing work in the group show “The Big Softie” at Soft
Times Gallery, 905 Sutter Street, February 1 - 24. It opens February 1st, 6-9pm during the First
Thursday Art Walk of the lower Polk and Tenderloin neighborhoods. I am facilitating a professional practices group for artists at my studio in the 1890 Bryant Street Studios building in addition to organizing collector tours with studio visits and artist talks.”
Joe C. Miller will be teaching a class on women’s history in the College of Marin Community Education program, “Wild Women Suffragists—A Forgotten Side of Women’s History.” The class meets weekly, on Thursday evenings, 7:10 - 8:30, starting February 1 and ending on the 29th (no class on the 22nd). Joe
will also give a talk at the Merced branch of the San Francisco Public Library on Saturday, February 17. He reports that his recent talk on the subject at Mary’s Woods Retirement Community near Portland, Oregon was well received.
The discovery of a cabinet found on a San Francisco street containing hundreds of old Kodachrome slides of early Bart construction, city agencies, and family photos from the 1960s prompted Tim Welsh to add to his collection on his website “San Francisco Film Locations Then & Now.” Tim writes: “I took current photographs at the approximate location of some of the vintage slides of BART construction along Market Street in 1967 and 1968 for a comparison.” See the BART slides here; for the full story of the discovery of the Kodachrome slides see https://www.sfmemory.org/TiffanyCabinet/.Leslie Friedman reports that she has been writing reviews of historical works and poetry. “Several of the poetry collections have significant historical content. For Wind—Mountain—Oak: The Poems of Sappho, a new translation, I needed to get back to very early Greek history, the burning of the Alexandrian library, and cultural developments that led to 18th- and 19th-century translations. I also traced Sappho’s lines—of which there are so few—in Walt Whitman lines and a J.D. Salinger title. Another book of poetry, membery, grew out of a woman channeling the lives of her grandparents during the Partition of India and Pakistan. It was a valuable window into the experiences of the Sikhs. The fate of Punjab, its language, religion, and customs, is seldom included in Partition histories. I also wrote about a novel, What Start Bad a Mornin, following Jamaican families to the United States.
Anne MacLachlan, researcher at the Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE), organized and spoke at a symposium in honor of the late Carroll Brentano, a long-time Institute member. “University History Past, Present and Future,” took place at the UC Berkeley Women’s Faculty Club on October 5, 2023. She notes: “Carroll’s work made major contributions to the history of the University of California. She firmly believed that a university and all those in it should know its own history. To that end she was the moving force in creating the University History Project in 1989 and launching two periodicals documenting the history of the University of California. ‘The purpose of creating the new series’ she wrote in the introduction to the Chronicles of the University of California was ‘to increase the store of institutional memory and thereby to revitalize institutional identity and enhance community.’ Now more than ever as documenting the history of the university seems to be on the decline, her purpose is even more significant. Several symposium speakers commemorated Carroll’s contributions. The program was concluded by Gia White, who spoke about the first African American students at Cal, based on an article she wrote for the campus project celebrating 150 years of women at Berkeley. Her article represents the mix of reflection and painstaking research which Carroll Brentano fostered during her lifetime.” A recording of the symposium is available at the CSHE website; find Gia White’s article here.

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

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