Wednesday, June 17, 2015

GUEST BLOG POST: Marguerite Madden & This Summer's Study Abroad Course

For anyone who has gone abroad--for vacation, for school, for research--the experience can be life-changing. The immersion in a different culture, the interesting people, and the opportunity to be a part of something out of the ordinary day-to-day can help shape a person in ways he or she never imagined. 

Duquesne has multiple opportunities for students to go abroad, whether it's for an entire semester or just a week or two during Spring Break or the summer. And this summer, the Department of History, with the help of the Office of International Programs, coordinated its first European summer study abroad opportunity and sent a group of students, faculty, and staff to England, France, and Belgium to commemorate and study some of the World War I events that took place 100 years ago. A huge thank you to Kimberly Szczypinski, Assistant to the Department Head for International Education, and part-time Department of History faculty member Carolyn Trimarchi, for their incredible planning and hard work to make this course a reality for our students, as well as Dr. Roberta Aronson, Executive Director of International Programs, for her endless support.

Our guest blogger, Marguerite Madden, who will be a sophomore Integrated Marketing Communications and Economics double major in Fall 2015, shares with us her memorable experience of this course and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Thank you, Marguerite, for taking time out of your summer plans to tell us about your time abroad! 

Students, faculty, and staff who participated in the summer study abroad course, WWI Centenary: A Just War or Just a War? Guest blogger Marguerite Madden is on the far left, wearing a white sweater and gold sandals. Course leaders Kimberly Szczypinski (orange shirt) and Carolyn Trimarchi (black wind breaker and teal socks) are in the front row.

"Just a few weeks ago, I returned home from a trip of a lifetime with friendships and memories that I will hold onto for years to come. Fortunately for me, I have been lucky to travel abroad to other countries starting at the young age of 6 months. I have family who live overseas, and that has always served as a good excuse for my parents and me to go to Europe once every several years. Having just finished my freshman year at Duquesne, however, I had never had the opportunity before this year to study abroad. From the moment I kissed my mom and dad goodbye at the airport, my experience in Europe this time around was completely different from any trip I have taken before.

'...[W]e were able to take full advantage
of our time abroad
and gain an education
that was much more beneficial
than if we were to simply learn it
in a classroom at Duquesne.'

"The purpose of our trip was to commemorate and study some of the World War I events that took place 100 years ago. As we traveled through England, Belgium, and France, we were exposed to parts of history that are seldom seen and often under appreciated. Without sounding cliché, there were so many wonderful aspects of our trip that it was hard to choose one to write this post about. When I was trying to think of a similarity that each one of my favorite moments had in common, I found myself always going back to the friendships among the students and professors that were formed on the trip. Whether it was touring Westminster as a group before any of us recovered from the severe jet lag, or participating in the Last Post ceremony in Ypres, Belgium, each and every cultural and educational experience we shared was a different bonding experience that tied our whole group closer together.

Students Jill Purcell, Andrew Donnelly, and Marguerite Madden lay the wreath at the Menin Gate memorial during the Last Post Ceremony in Ypres, Belgium.

Animals In War Memorial, near Hyde Park, London. Shane Myers – shown here taking a photo of the Memorial - is one of our students. The monument commemorates animal service and suffering in many conflicts.
"While some of us were interested in the beauty of the architecture and landscapes, others were interested in the historical aspects of the trip. Regardless of our various interests, however, we were all joined together as we paid our respects and gave our remembrance to the lives lost of soldiers from many backgrounds and nationalities.

"On one of our tour days in Belgium, our guide took us to the Langemark German Military Cemetery. Established in 1915, this grave site is the only World War I German cemetery that exists in Belgium. As our guide told us details about the various parts of the cemetery, he called our attention to a piece of land that was no bigger than a tennis court. To everyone’s shock, the single piece of land held the bodies of 24,917 German soldiers. For the majority of our group, the horror of the Great War was felt more in this small plot of land than at any other point in our travels. Together, our group was able to reflect on the great tragedies that were a result of the war and the sorrows the war brought upon the soldiers and their loved ones.

Langemark German Military Cemetary

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, near Ypres, Belgium - nearly 12,000 burials and its memorial monument commemorating the approximately 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom and New Zealand who died in the Ypres Salient after 16 August 1917 and whose graves are not known. It is the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in the world, for any war.

The Smell of War exhibition by smell artist Peter De Cupere to commemorate the first en masse use of poison gas as a weapon of war during the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915.

"Not all of our bonding experiences throughout the trip dealt with the tragedies of World War I, however. There were many other adventures that brought our group together such as touring the Palace of Versailles, seeing the famous play War Horse at New London Theatre, and my personal favorite, eating the regional food from all three countries we visited.

View taken from the Ypres (Belgium) rebuilt medieval Cloth Hall Bell Tower over Ypres town and the WWI Ypres Salient. Ypres was completely destroyed in World War I, and the current “medieval” town was rebuilt in the 1920s as closely as possible to the way it was before WWI. The Cloth Hall now serves as the “In Flanders Fields Museum.”

No trip to Paris is complete without a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower.
"Having the privilege to travel overseas and experience the different cultures of countries is never an opportunity that should go unappreciated. With the help of our professors, we were able to take full advantage of our time abroad and gain an education that was much more beneficial than if we were to simply learn it in a classroom at Duquesne. In spite of our different majors, ages, and backgrounds, each and every one of us formed new friendships that we’ll carry with us when we return to Duquesne in a few short months. When I study abroad in the future, I can only hope that my next trip will be as educational and memorable as this one." 

~Marguerite Madden

Friday, May 1, 2015

Guest Blog Post: Graduate Student Carrie Hadley at the NCPH!

L to R:  Public History graduate students Abby Kirstein, Carrie Hadley, Lauren Van Zandt, Elyse Grasser at the 2015 National Council on Public History Annual Conference, Nashville, TN

Our students do some pretty amazing things during their time with us, and we want to feature them here on our blog. Most recently, we introduced you to Lauren Van Zandt, a second-year Public History graduate student who presented some of her research at a national conference.

Now we'd like to introduce you to Carrie Hadley. Carrie is also a second-year Public History graduate student who will be graduating next week. (Congratulations, Carrie!) 

Earlier this month, Carrie had the extraordinary opportunity of presenting her scholarly research at the National Council on Public History's annual conference, where the attendees are primarily professionals in the field of Public History (e.g. curators, archivists, museum professionals, etc.).

We asked Carrie to tell us a little bit about how she ended up getting to go to the conference, as well as her experience while there.

Abby Kirstein and Carrie Hadley in Boot Country

The National Council on Public History is an association for anyone interested in presenting history to the public. In my humble, Public History Master’s student opinion, membership to NCPH is an absolute must for anyone looking to get into the field. A few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the NCPH’s annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee. And not just attend—I was chosen to present research during the poster session! It was an incredible experience, and I can’t wait to go to next year’s conference!

A group of other Public History Graduate Students—Abby Kirstein, Lauren Van Zandt, who also presented during the poster presentation, and Elyse Grasser— and I made the 9-hour drive down to Nashville from Pittsburgh. Our Public History-filled weekend started with a visit to Mammoth Cave NationalPark—we had been driving for a while, saw signs for it, and thought, “why not?!” It was a great way to break up the trip, and as any public historian knows, one can never go wrong with a pit stop at a National Park!

Carrie at Mammoth Cave National Park

Having presented at the Phi Alpha Theta conference last year at Slippery Rock University, this was my first multi-day conference, so I was not sure what to expect. I was a little intimidated walking into the conference hotel for the first time, but that quickly disappeared as I began interacting with friendly professionals and grad students. It was so nice to interact with people from all over the country—and some from all over the world!—with similar interests and goals. As someone who is about to graduate and looking for ways to get into the field, this was the perfect place for me to be!

Tennessee State Capitol

The Parthenon (No, not the one in Athens!)

Over the four days of the conference, I attended numerous panels of professionals and grad students discussing issues and work that was being performed in Public History today. These included discussions on a study of how people use “selfies” and social media in Holocaust concentration camp sites, how to interpret race at historic sites, and how to get a job in the Public History field. I received invaluable advice on how to improve my resume from a professional with the American Association of State and Local History, and took a class with two editors from The Papers of the Revolutionary Era Pinckney Statesmen project on historical documentary editing. There were great networking events, too, like “Speed Networking.” Here, instead of potential love interests, we had five 15 minute discussions with professionals in the field. One of the people I met with was a historian for the U.S. Senate—a job I never knew existed! It was a fun way to meet young professionals just starting out and veterans who had been in the field for years in a relaxed setting with lots of coffee.

2nd Avenue shopping and restaurants

My presentation at the poster session was very rewarding as well.  I presented a project that had started as my term paper for Dr. Julia Sienkewicz’s American Painting and Sculpture class in the fall semester of 2013, and with the encouragement of Dr. S. and Dr. Alima Bucciantini, I decided to submit it for presentation at the conference—and was accepted! My presentation was on the painting Baptism of Pocahontas (1840), a painting that hangs in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building, and the Public History issues that exist with its interpretation. During the presentation, I received incredible feedback, advice, encouragement, and support from a variety of professionals in the field, including employees of the Smithsonian’s National American History Museum and Library of Congress, and a few Native American scholars.  

Carrie's poster

In our downtime, we had a great time visiting Nashville! We stopped at the Tennessee State Museum (naturally), visited a whiskey distillery (obviously), and took in a couple of live shows at a few bars in Nashville’s famous music district. The city was really walkable with delicious local restaurants, lively bars, and a nice shopping district. The city has a fascinating history too—therefore, what else is a public historian to do but take a Civil War walking tour?

The Downtown Presbyterian Church, which was used as a hospital during the Civil War

Overall, I had an amazing time at the National Council on Public History’s annual conference. I can’t encourage present and future Duquesne Public History students enough to join the NCPH and attend the annual conference! Since I was presenting, the Duquesne History Department graciously funded my trip, and I received incredible amounts of support from the Department faculty. The connections I made, the advice I received, and the conversations I had at NCPH were invaluable to me, and I know they will help me develop as a Public Historian.

Carrie Hadley and Abby Kirsten enjoy some delicious milkshakes in Nashville.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Clio Award for Undergraduate Research

Yesterday we posted about some unique undergraduate research and contest opportunities. Along those lines, we introduce to you today the CLIO AWARD, a new Department of History award for undergraduate research. In order to qualify for the award, you must present your research or scholarship at Duquesne's annual Undergraduate Research and Scholarship Symposium, which will be held this year on April 9, 2015.

You can learn more about the CLIO AWARD and other departmental awards here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Undergraduate Research and Conference Opportunities

Attention Undergraduate Students!

We've got three unique and exciting research and conference opportunities on deck. Check them out below. Good luck!

Monday, February 2, 2015

2015 Black History Month

On behalf of the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Duquesne University, we're pleased to announce the 2015 Black History Month events planned for our campus community. We hope you'll be able to join us as we celebrate this important month!

For more information about Black History Month events, or to contact the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Duquesne University, call 412-396-1117 or email

Friday, January 30, 2015

Student Spotlight: Jill Purcell

We're excited to continue our Student Spotlight Series, because we want you to get to know our students! They're awesome! Most recently we featured Art History major Angus Leydic, who will be graduating this semester. (We'll miss you, Angus!)

Now we'd like you to meet double major Jill Purcell, who is a sophomore studying History and Corporate Communications. We're glad Jill will be with us for a couple more years!

What year are you during 2014-2015?

Lansdale, Pennsylvania (Outside of Philly)

Why did you choose to double major in History and Communication? 
History because I love the subject and want to know everything about everywhere; Communication because job opportunities can be so diverse and I like to write.

What's been your favorite History class so far and why? 
Dr. Dwyer’s ‘Revolution: Modern Latin America’ - I liked that it focused on some really interesting turning points in Latin American History and it was neat to compare and contrast different countries’ revolutions. The content was really fascinating and I actually wanted to do the readings/homework!

What area of History are you most interested in?
I love Public History and going to museums. I could spend hours looking at paintings or objects of the past. 

Favorite Movie:

Favorite Book: 
The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Favorite Historical Period:
Colonial America

Little Known Fact About You: 
I’m an avid Post-it® note user.

Extracurricular Activities while at Duquesne: 
Circle K International, Art History/History Society, TOMS Club, Duquesne University Dance Theatre, & Lambda Sigma.

What are your plans (or your dreams) for after you finish your Bachelor's degree?​ 
I would love to go to graduate school for Public History and then work in the museum world. That’s the dream but until then, we’ll just see where life takes me!

Thursday, January 29, 2015


Meet Dr. Saskia Beranek, Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History!

Dr. Saskia Beranek
Visiting Assistant Professor of Art History

1. Why did you become an art historian?

I started as a studio arts major, with an emphasis in ceramics and sculpture.  About halfway through undergrad, I realized that studying the social and historical work done by images was more interesting to me than making them.  Images are a powerful tool to help us understand past moments, and by extension, ourselves.  That realization came about primarily through classes on Northern Renaissance art taught by my undergraduate mentor. 

Plus, I was named after a painting – it may have been fate.

2. If you weren't an art history professor, what would you do for a living?

I have very elaborate plans for my hypothetical future career establishing and running the Black Market Biscotti Company.

3. Tell us a little bit about your educational background. Why did you choose the particular institutions you did?

My undergrad was at Penn State (main campus) and I ended up there by accident.  I did an MA at Duke University, then took time off from academia to make sure that it was what I really wanted.  Having realized that teaching was what I needed to be doing, I did my PhD at Pitt.  I went to Pitt because I needed to stay close to Pittsburgh at the time, and lucked into two amazing mentors and a whole cadre of lifelong colleagues.  My whole educational experience has been a case of ending up somewhere almost accidentally and making the most out of what it has to offer.

4. Where all have you lived? Which place has been your favorite?

I am a Pittsburgh native and though I keep leaving, I keep coming back, too. I passed some time in Central PA and in North Carolina, but I also lived for about two years in the Netherlands.  I spent most of my time there in The Hague, which is a city that I love, but for sheer charm and rich history, my favorite may have been Utrecht, where I spent my first two months abroad.   

5. What about Pittsburgh excites you? Is there something here that you're really interested in or have loved experiencing?

What’s really fun to me as someone who grew up here is seeing the local scene change!  Pittsburgh has an incredibly vibrant arts community that has blossomed.  When I was a kid, everyone was terrified because the city was so elderly – everyone young left.  Now, there’s always something going on for all age groups.  The things I’ve always loved since I was very small, like going to the Strip on a Saturday and getting good coffee and great cheese and fresh bread are still there, but now we’ve also got a blossoming restaurant culture, gallery crawls, artist lectures, performances, etc.  If you’re bored in Pittsburgh, it’s your fault, not the city’s!

6. What book would you recommend that every student of art history read?

This isn’t art history specific, but rather a book that I think all students of history should read: Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears.  Pears was an art historian and also wrote fun art history mysteries, but Instance of the Fingerpost is a novel about a (fictional) event set in 17th century England.  The book presents four different narratives about the same event.  On the one hand, it’s a whodunit nestled amidst questions of faith, reason, the history of science, and more than a little backstabbing.  On the other, it’s a potent reminder that every primary source is an unreliable narrator.   I read it at a moment when I was utterly occupied with primary research and trying to find the “truth” in the documents.  To be reminded of the subjectivity of any document was a sobering experience. 

For an actual art historical text, The Art of Describing by Svetlana Alpers.  Groundbreaking when it came out and controversial ever since, it is an essential read not only for students of Dtuch art history, but also for thinking about what vision is and what is at stake in image making.
7. What is your favorite book (art history-related or not)?

Hands down, it’s Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night.  One of the world’s great translators of Dante’s Divine Comedy, Sayers is better known for her mystery novels.  Gaudy Night is both a mystery novel and a love story.  But the love story isn’t just about the two main characters (a sleuth and a novelist).  It’s actually a love story about academia. 

8. What is your favorite movie?

High on my list of favorites is 84 Charing Cross Road, a movie about a used bookstore.  Also on the list are the French films My Father’s Glory and The Music Teacher.  I also really love Stranger than Fiction.

9. What is your favorite historical period or moment?

My actual favorite historical event is the Great Tulip Crash of 1637.  The Dutch had become obsessed with tulips, which are in origin a Himalayan wild flower highly prized in eastern courts.  The Dutch were already movers and shakers in the history of science and botany and everyone loved the new flowers.  There was an extensive futures market and people were spending their entire fortune to buy the chance to get tulip bulbs.  In 1637, the bottom fell out of the market and the whole economy almost collapsed.  Smart legislation on the part of the government prevented abject crisis.  I think I am drawn to the whimsical, and though economic collapse is deadly serious and the resulting economic policies significant, the fact that it was brought about by flowers makes me giggle. 

10. What historical event have you experienced so far that has had the most profound impact on you, and why?

It’s not so much an event as a place.  The first time I went to Berlin was recently – maybe five years ago.  I was fascinated by the way the city is, and sometimes isn’t, “healing” around where the Berlin Wall had stood.  I study architecture as well as art, so the choices being made about space in the wake of the fall of the Wall speak both to memory and to renewal –both past and present.  Until then, to me, the fall of the Wall was something that happened a long time ago and very far away when it was really something that happened in my lifetime that radically altered the course of the world.  Going to Berlin made me realize that history wasn’t someone else’s story, it was mine, too. 

11. Tell us a little-known-fact about you.

I used to be a competitive ballroom dancer and also taught ballroom dance for about six years during and after college.  I still dance weekly, but not ballroom, as I’ve branched out into other styles.

12. If you could create a course to teach--about anything--what would it be?

I’ve got a list!  I want to teach a course on Golden Age Dutch art (Rembrandt and Vermeer), a course on the northern renaissance, a course on Forgeries, Fakes, and Frauds, but mostly, I would love to teach a course on Iconoclasm and Censorship.  In the case of iconoclasm, there are all these instances of people who have intense relationships with art objects that turn violent.  Why?  What makes people turn from worshiping to destroying an object, and what does that mean about the power of visual culture?  Censorship is similar: if you censor an image, it can be argued that you aren’t actually reducing its power but instead affirming and reinforcing it.  Why are these images so powerful, and how do historic and contemporary cases of destruction and censorship speak more broadly to issues of artist creation, visuality, and the role images play in our lives?