American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

September 2011

Thirty Years! Already?

This month, and this issue of our newsletter, marks the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the American Social History Project. This seems the appropriate moment to thank all of you for your years—decades!—of support, collaboration, and good will.

Thirty. Such a full, round, and venerable number leaves us amazed, proud, and a little chastened. Our achievements are based on a long, long, long list of talented and farsighted staff members and collaborators the combined number of which would fill a good-sized auditorium. And our numbers continue to grow as each new effort and project adds more names to the ASHP/CML roster.

Looking back after so many years and so many projects, we are happy to admit that we learned from all of them; indeed, during our prolonged march through decades of successive “cutting edge” media, we’ve accumulated  a good deal of knowledge as well as a fair amount of humility. But, overall, it’s been a good and fruitful journey and we are excited by the newest resources we’ve created (our extensive and growing HERB! database) and latest initiatives we’ve started (our 2012 NEH Summer Institute—see below). As we enter our fourth decade, these and other activities herald new approaches as they also remain true to our long-term commitment to democratize and enhance learning about the U.S. past.

July 2012 ASHP/CML Institute for College and University Teachers

“In the Trenches”The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded ASHP/CML a grant to host a two-week institute in July 2012 on the visual media—including the fine arts, photography, and ephemera—that helped define the American Civil War. “The Visual Culture of the American Civil War” will assess how information and opinion about the war and its impact were recorded and disseminated, and the ways visual media expressed and shaped Americans’ understanding on both sides of the conflict. Institute participants will attend seminars led by noted historians, art historians, and archivists; take part in hands-on sessions in museums and archives; and take part in new media lab workshops. Guided by a faculty team that represents the range of work in the field, these institute activities will introduce the rich body of scholarship that addresses or incorporates Civil War era visual culture, prompt exploration for further research in the field, and assist in devising approaches that use visual evidence to enhance teaching and researching the history of the war. Click here for further information about the Institute–and check back later this fall to apply!

The Civil War @ 150: A Public Program on Civil War Photography

Civil War photographersMark your calendars for Thursday, November 3, 2011, 6:00 to 8:00 pm and join ASHP/CML in the Martin Segal Theatre at the CUNY Graduate Center for the third of our public seminars marking the sesquicentennial of the start of the U.S. Civil War. Supported by a grant from the New York Council for the Humanities, previous programs in the series brought together leading scholars and educators to discuss recent trends in the study of the conflict and the gap between scholarly and popular understanding of the war.

At the November 3rd event, entitled “Is There Anything More to See? Civil War Photography and History,” Anthony Lee (Mount Holyoke College), Mary Niall Mitchell (University of New Orleans), Martha Sandweiss (Princeton University), and Deborah Willis (Tisch School of the Arts, New York University) will discuss the persistence of photography’s influence over the vision of the Civil War, and what remains to be learned from the medium and the war’s visual record. Among other questions, the panelists will discuss photography’s impact on Americans’ perceptions of the conflict in the past and how the meanings and uses of the visualization of the war have changed over time.

The event is free of charge and organized in collaboration with the Ph.D. Program in History, the Ph.D. Program in Art History, and the Center for the Humanities at The Graduate Center. Click here for more on the event and the Civil War @ 150 series. And for if you can’t attend the event, podcasts of the three programs will be available on the ASHP/CML by the end of the year.

Defending Public Higher Education: A Graduate Center Conference

The Thinker protestsOver the course of the past three decades investment in public higher education has declined dramatically. Most American public university systems, such as California, Wisconsin, and Illinois, have experienced serious reductions in their state funding requiring dramatic cutbacks in academic programs and services they provide to their students.

Here at the City University of New York (CUNY), we have gone from a tuition-free system as late as 1976 to one that receives more than 45% of its operating budget from student fees and tuition. During this same time, the faculty workforce has been completely transformed. In the past almost all of the courses were taught by full time faculty. Today more than 50% of the courses are taught by adjunct faculty. Academic and student support services such as library, financial aid, and counseling have had serious staff reductions. Simultaneously, CUNY enrollments are at an all-time high. In the midst of these greater demands and a reduced full time work force, CUNY has lost $330 million, or 15%, of its state funding over the past three years. Finally, present plans are to further privatize or shift the cost of financing CUNY from the state to students.What can we do to reverse these trends?

This question prompted a number of CUNY Graduate Center faculty, staff, doctoral programs, and research centers (including ASHP/CML) to organize “Defending Public Higher Education,” a one-day conference on Friday, October 7, from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. Please join us in the Proshansky Auditorium at The Graduate Center for a day of collective thinking about the challenges facing public higher education. Turn this time of disinvestment into an opportunity to think strategically about mounting a defense of a precious resource, the City University of New York. Click here for further information and to register.

Keeping Up with Us via Social Media

While our e-newsletter will keep arriving in your inbox, you can also keep up with what we’re doing here at ASHP/CML on a more regular basis. Our Facebook page ( and Twitter account (@ashp_cml) will alert you to our new podcasts, highlights from our online projects, public seminars, and links to useful and enlightening items from around the Web. So “like” us on Facebook and “follow” us on Twitter—historical insight is just a click away!