American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

February 2005

P. T. Barnum’s American Museum Rises Again!

ASHP/CML is pleased to announce the completion of The Lost Museum: Exploring Antebellum American Life and Culture, one of its most ambitious and innovative Web projects ever. Eight years in the making and almost 140 years after the fiery destruction of the original structure in lower Manhattan, The Lost Museum is an interactive re-creation of P. T. Barnum’s American Museum, circa 1865. Barnum’s Museum, mid-nineteenth century America’s pre-eminent popular cultural institution, offered its visitors a cornucopia of attractions that merged entertainment and education and, often in odd but compelling ways, highlighted some of the major compromises, accommodations, and conflicts of the antebellum and Civil War periods. Its present-day digital reincarnation combines a 3-D spatial exploration of four rooms containing 130 interactive artifacts and attractions, a searchable archive of more than 300 primary documents, and 14 teaching resources geared to diverse classroom settings. Working independently and together, these features allow contemporary virtual visitors to experience the fascinating intricacy of nineteenth-century exhibitions, to embark on a search for clues to solve the mystery of who burned down the building in July 1865, or to choose lesson plans and strategies suitable for high school and college teaching.

Lecture Room from The Lost Museum

Even before its completion, The Lost Museum garnered coverage in The New York Times and on CBS News Sunday Morning and won the 2000 New York Metropolitan Archivists Roundtable Prize for “the most innovative application of archives to the Internet.” Now, with the help of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University and thanks to the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Old York Foundation, you are welcome to point your browser to and investigate the past in a way you’ve never done before!

And after you’ve paid a visit, let us know what you think–or tell us how The Lost Museum worked in your classroom.

JP Morgan Chase Foundation Awards ASHP/CML Grant

The JP Morgan Chase Foundation awarded ASHP/CML a $30,000 grant in December 2004, to support a two-year education program for new small schools. The grant provides partial funding for a partnership between ASHP/CML and a consortium of eight new small theme-based schools in the Bronx, New York. ASHP/CML will provide sustained professional and curriculum development support to participating humanities teachers.

History Matters Wins AHA Teaching Resource Prize

The American Historical Association awarded the American Social History Project and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University the 2005 James Harvey Robinson Prize for our website History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web. The Robinson Prize is awarded biennially for the teaching aid that has made the most outstanding contribution to the teaching and learning of history in any field for public or educational purposes. In the award program, the AHA lauded History Matters as “an incredibly rich and ‘user friendly’ web site” and as “a model of its kind.” This is the second Robinson Prize given to one of our projects: our CD-ROM, Who Built America? From the Centennial Celebration of 1876 to the Great War of 1914, won the 1994 prize.

ASHP/CML New Hires

ASHP is pleased to welcome two new staff to our education programs this year. Abigail Sara Lewis began work as our Making Connections Coordinator in September 2004. Her previous work experience includes coordinating the High School Teachers Institute and other projects at the Rutgers Center for Historical Analysis, as well as legislative project work for Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY). She is currently completing her dissertation on “The Young Women’s Christian Association and the Christian Foundation of Interracial Women’s Activism, 1940-1973″ at Rutgers University.

Leah Potter arrived in January 2005, to take on the position of Teaching American History Coordinator. Before joining ASHP/CML, she coordinated a NEH Landmarks in American History workshop in Durham, North Carolina, and produced Exploring the World of Thomas Day, an award-winning CD-ROM on free African Americans in the antebellum era. She is also a Ph.D. candidate in History, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her dissertation focuses on journalist Nellie Bly’s around-the-world trip and the popularization of American expansionism in the 1890s

ASHP/CML Internship Opportunities

For the past few summers, advanced undergraduate history students have worked with ASHP as researchers and writers on The Lost Museum and Who Built America? videos websites. This summer and through the fall ASHP will be producing a new Web project, the Young America: Experiences of Youth in U.S. History, and we welcome interns interested in social history, public history, new media, and the history of children and youth to participate. Interns conduct primary document research, timeline and bibliographic writing, and join the ASHP staff in planning, designing, and producing online teaching materials in U.S. history. Interested students should contact Pennee Bender at:

Calendar: The Fight for Academic Freedom at CUNY: Past and Present

ASHP/CML is cosponsoring a series of three public programs at The Graduate Center on the history and ongoing struggle for academic freedom in the U.S.

Sylvia Ward image
Credit: Sylvia Ward

Rehearsing for McCarthyism at City College

Friday, February 4, 4-6 pm

This session examines City College in the 1930s when students and faculty confronted the issues of free speech and academic freedom–culminating in the 1940-42 Rapp-Coudert hearings during which numerous faculty members were fired for “communist subversion.” Panelists: Paul Buhle, American Civilization, Brown University; Blanche W. Cook, History, The Graduate Center; Henry Foner, former president, Fur and Leather Workers Union; and Stephen Leberstein, History, City College Center for Worker Education.

Moderated by Stephen Brier, Dean for Interdisciplinary Studies, The Graduate Center.

Defending Academic Freedom in an Atmosphere of Terror

Wednesday, February 9, 7-8:30 pm

Scholars from New York area academic institutions examine how the passage of the U.S.A. Patriot Act has influenced federal monitoring and intimidation of university-based faculty and students.

Panelists: Mahmoud Mamdani, Anthropology, Columbia; Joan Wallach Scott, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; and Eric Foner, History, Columbia.

Moderated by William Kelly, Provost, The Graduate Center.

A Conversation with the Critical Art Ensemble

Friday, March 4, 6:30-8:30 pm

Scholar, poet and critic Ammiel Alcalay discusses the intersection of art, activism and policy with artist and co-founder of Critical Art Ensemble Steve Kurtz, who was arrested last May under the U.S.A. Patriot Act, and Rebecca Schnieder, who is representing the CAE defense fund.

The programs accompany the exhibition “Activism and Repression: The Struggle for Free Speech at CCNY, 1931-42,” which will be displayed in the lobby of The Graduate Center from February 4 to March 4, 2005–and featured online on the Virtual New York City website. For more information about the events (cosponsored with the Center for the Humanities, the Office of the Dean for Interdisciplinary Studies, and the Center for Continuing Education and Public Programs at the CUNY Graduate Center, and the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY), click here.