Our First Week

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On the trail of Boston history after our Italian dinner in the North End.

The Boston Summer Seminar has begun!  Our teams from Denison University, Oberlin College, and Albion College arrived in Boston last weekend.  After gathering for a breakfast orientation on Monday morning at the Massachusetts Historical Society (MHS), we’ve begun the pursuit of our research topics:  Atlantic world trade, spiritualism and mourning, and the lives of northern African Americans after the Civil War. What a varied and talented group of faculty members and students!


Sabina and Amreen from Oberlin College at the MHS

“Archives are there for anyone who has curiosity,” said Sarah Hutcheon, archivist at the Schlesinger Library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, this morning during a tour of the archive for a group of our students and faculty.  “Archives are there to serve this curiosity; they are places to explore and question; they are centers of intellectual discovery.”

This week has been about getting to know each other and getting to know the archives. Last night we gathered in the North End for dinner, then took walked through downtown Boston on a blustery evening to learn about key events and people in Boston’s history, provided by the tour company, Boston By Foot.  Reading the city is an extension of reading historical documents in the archives.  By next Monday, we’ll have had tours of all five of our BSS participating archives:  the MHS, Northeastern University Archives, and three archives at Harvard University:  Countway Library, Schlesinger Library, and Houghton Library.   We can’t wait to share with each other all of our discoveries in the days and weeks ahead.

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Behind the scenes with Julia Child’s cookbooks at the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study, Harvard University.



Elijah Bean from Albion College and Anna Clutterbuck-Cook, MHS liaison librarian, on the way to lunch.


Our Speakers Next Week

We are delighted to welcome Kimberly Hamlin and Steve Berry next week to the Boston Summer Seminar, both gifted scholars and writers.

Hamlin hi resAssociate Professor Kimberly Hamlin is a cultural historian who focuses on the intersections of gender and science in the U.S.  Her book, From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America (University of Chicago Press, 2014) is the first monograph to focus on women’s responses to evolutionary theory and to analyze the US reception of Darwin through the lens of gender.   Her article “The Case of a Bearded Woman’: Hypertrichosis and the Construction of Gender in the Age of Darwin” (2011) earned the 2014 Margaret Rossiter Prize for outstanding research on women and science from the History of Science Society and the 2012 Emerging Scholar Award from the Nineteenth Century Studies Society.  She is currently working on a book about the life and times of freethinking feminist and suffragist Helen Hamilton Gardener, who, as the highest ranking woman in federal government, donated her brain to science in 1925 to prove women’s intellectual equality.  She co-chairs the History of Science Society’s Women’s Caucus and is past chair of the American Studies Association’s Science and Technology Caucus, which she co-founded in 2006.  She is an associate professor of American Studies and History at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where she also Directs the Program in American Studies and co-chairs the Gender, Science, and Technology working group.

Steve BerryOriginally from Nashville, Tennessee,
Stephen Russell Berry attended Vanderbilt University where he double majored in History and Fine Arts. He also holds a Masters of Divinity from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He earned his doctoral degree in the Graduate Program in Religion of Duke University under the supervision of Grant Wacker and Peter H. Wood. A 2003-2004 Boston Marine Society Fellowship and 2004-2005 New England Research Consortium Fellowship introduced him to the rich research collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, including his first foray into ships’ logbooks. He is an Associate Professor of History at Simmons College in Boston where he teaches courses in Early American and Atlantic World history. His first book A Path in the Mighty Waters: Shipboard Life and Atlantic Crossings to the New World examines the religious culture and experiences of passengers aboard eighteenth-century sailing ships was published by Yale University Press in 2015. He and his wife Dana live in Maynard, Massachusetts with their two teenage children Ann Rees and Stephen, Jr.  He loves sailing, although he knows just enough about boats to be a danger to himself and others.

~ Natalie Dykstra, Seminar Director