Our first week with the summer 2015 Student Historians has come and gone! We accomplished a lot—ranging from icebreakers and getting to know each other to meeting N-YHS staff members who helped us get to know the institution and how each of our roles contribute to the institutional goal of “making history matter.” We definitely have some interesting Student Historians we can’t wait to learn more about (and from) this summer!
Icebreakers revealed lots of fun facts, including these highlights: Leila has read 13 Shakespeare plays, Adenike does not like turkeys but loves unicorns (honestly, who doesn’t), and Tristan doesn’t live in a tree (but was born in Philly). We also learned Steven has no ties to General Custard, everyone in Melissa’s family has an ‘M’ name, Fariha once shot her Uncle in the leg (don’t worry, he’s okay) and we have a future Astronaut Firefighter on our hands: Rob!
Another icebreaker was a team building challenge: the Student Historians received a simple prompt to build the tallest structure that can stand on its own for 10 seconds using just one roll of tape and an AM New York newspaper. They had 10 minutes to brainstorm and complete the challenge.
And our winning group included, Ben, Riley, Eleni, Jonathan, Micaela, and Florence! We had some creative attempts but this structure really held its own.
The Student Historians first met with Stephen Edidin, Chief Curator of the Museum Division, who introduced us to Art as Activism. This exhibition will play an important role for the Student Historian program this summer, as we will be exploring social activism from the 1930s–1970s in New York City and placing it within the larger context of American history.
The Student Historians also met with Valerie Paley, who is the Senior Historian and Vice President for Scholarly Programs at the New-York Historical Society and the curator of the N-YHS’ permanent installations in the Robert H. and Clarice Smith New York Gallery of American History. We learned about her career and also how the institution has changed over the years. She shared some surprising facts about the N-YHS collection, notably that it includes the tail from the original statue of King George III (torn down in Bowling Green Park in 1776). Most of the statue was melted down to make bullets for the Continental Army during the American Revolution, but the tail was found years later in a swamp in Connecticut before it came to us.
The Student Historians also traveled to the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library where we met with Ted O’Reilly, Head of Manuscripts. We got to see some incredible items from the collection up close and personal. We learned that not all primary sources are what they claim to be. To be a true historian requires a lot of research (often using more than one primary or secondary source.)
The Student Historians will use all this training and more to complete exciting projects up ahead (including creating and leading tours of Art as Activism). Stay tuned to hear more about the Student Historian program and to hear from the Student Historians themselves!