Digital Summer School: Nursing Clio

While most of the projects highlighted by our Digital Summer School series have been place-based–such as the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, Gotham, Chicago Elections Project, and even Tropics of Meta, though to a much lesser extent (somewhat Sunbelt, California leaning)–Nursing Clio represents a broader approach focusing on gender more than any one place or region. Launched in 2012, Nursing Clio has become one of the leading blogs in the academic universe and though not strictly urban in its orientation, cities and suburbs factor sharply in its coverage. One of its co-founders, Jacqueline Antonovich, sat down with The Metropole to explain how it came into being, where it’s going, and what insights she and her fellow co-editors have gleaned from the experience.

21891r
The San Francisco Women’s Building is a landmark internationally recognized for its mural, MaestraPeace, which honors women’s contributions around the world, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Why did you establish Nursing Clio and who do you see as your audience?

We started Nursing Clio back in 2012, right in the middle of an election year. If you remember, things like reproductive justice, affordable healthcare, and same-sex marriage dominated political debates and news headlines. In that one election cycle, the House passed a bill that weakened the Violence Against Women Act, the Senate blocked a measure to address sex-based wage discrimination, and several red states attempted to roll back access to abortion, repeal Obamacare, and increase efforts to discriminate against LGBTQ communitites. And of course, we had Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women,” Todd Akin’s definition of “legitimate rape,” and Foster Friess’ “aspirin between the knees” contraception advice. The media labeled it a “war on women”–and it was. In debating these issues, however, pundits, politicians, and reporters often failed to include any actual women. There was also a discernible absence of historical scholarship in these conversations that could have provided important context to these issues. Our goal, then, was to create a digital project that could amplify the voices of women by providing the space and scaffolding for both scholars and non-academic audiences to comment on these connections between past and present. We believed that a collaborative blog project was not only intellectually appealing but genuinely necessary.

What do you hope people take away from Nursing Clio?

21890r.jpg
The San Francisco Women’s Building is a landmark internationally recognized for its mural, MaestraPeace, which honors women’s contributions around the world, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Nursing Clio’s mission statement emphasizes the goal of connecting historical scholarship to contemporary issues related to gender, health, and medicine. Our tagline, “The Personal Is Historical,” adds an important dimension to the groundbreaking feminist claim that “the personal is political.” So I hope that the big takeaway for our readers is that “everything has a history,” as Jim Grossman says, including everything you think you know about medicine, health, and the body.

How did the Nursing Clio come to fruition? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

In 2012, I conceptualized Nursing Clio as a first-year doctoral student at the University of Michigan. The project was born from a public humanities graduate seminar taught by Matthew Countryman. The final project for the course was to create a project that would engage the public in some way. I contacted five other gender and medicine scholars across the country and asked them if they wanted to be co-founders of Nursing Clio, and from there we worked together on developing the theme, scope, and content of the blog.

In the six years since its founding, Nursing Clio has grown to a staff of eleven volunteer editors from various backgrounds. The editorial team includes tenured and tenure-track professors, public historians and museum educators, and historians working outside of academia. The contributor base is similarly diverse: Nursing Clio has published essays from over 150 writers, including academic historians, public historians, art historians, sociologists, anthropologists, K-12 teachers, community health activists, graduate students, and others.

Like many collaborative projects, we’ve faced our share of obstacles. About two years in, we took a hiatus to reconceptualize the back end of the project. A few of our co-founders left, we brought in new editors, and developed a new and more streamlined method for editing and publishing. The biggest lesson I’ve learned as an executive editor is that fostering a deliberate feminist space for collaboration means everyone on the editing team has an equal voice and decisions come through consensus. And although the blog is an important project, in the end, it’s just a blog. That means that sometimes life, jobs, or just self care comes before Nursing Clio and that’s totally ok. In fact, I think that’s been the key to our longevity.

21893r.jpg
The San Francisco Women’s Building is a landmark internationally recognized for its mural, MaestraPeace, which honors women’s contributions around the world, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, 2012, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Where do you hope Nursing Clio goes in the future?

Our goal for the upcoming year is to possibly create a funding mechanism for Nursing Clio. This is sort of a contentious topic among our editors. How do you ethically monetize a project like this? We would love to be able to pay our writers, and maybe ourselves one day. I’m also looking forward to establishing a paid internship program that will allow undergraduates and graduate students an opportunity to learn digital publishing skills.

So far, what moment or event related to Nursing Clio comes to mind when one ask’s about its greatest achievement or most unique insight?

I am incredibly proud of our Power of Protest series that we produced in 2017. Shortly after the election of Donald Trump, the editors held a Skype meeting to brainstorm ideas on how to effectively respond to our collective sense of despair and helplessness. We put out a call for writers to contribute to a series focused on historical protest movements across the world. We were not prepared for how many submissions we received. But the very act of protest has a long and complicated history, one that defies geographic or temporal boundaries, so I think we tapped into something very tangible and accessible for historians across subfields. We covered topics as varied as AIDS protest funerals, Bolivian housewife hunger strikes, squatter’s rights in the UK, disability sit-ins in San Francisco, and even children’s letters to US presidents.

The insight I gained from this series was twofold. First, blogs are a unique platform that can quickly respond to political and cultural moments in a way that journals and books cannot. Second, the informality of a blog allows for more flexibility in content. Many of the essays in our Power of Protest series were about health and medicine, but many were not. Collectively, however, they made a powerful statement on what protest could and could not achieve. For these reasons, I think scholarly blogs, podcasts, and even twitter threads are indispensable and important tools for historians.

More broadly, one important achievement of Nursing Clio is that we take a deliberately feminist approach to our peer-review process. Our process is not blind – our writers know exactly who is editing their piece – and this method allows for the editing process to be a friendly conversation, rather than a sterile (and sometime adversarial) process. As one of our editors, Cassia Roth, told me recently, our editing process could be a lesson for the rest of the profession. We are a public history blog. We have rigorous peer review, but we do so to help our writers flourish.

Antonovich grad photoJacqueline Antonovich is an Assistant Professor of History at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. Her current research focuses on women physicians, reproductive surveillance, and medical imperialism in the turn-of-the-century urban American West. She is also the creator, co-founder, and executive editor of Nursing Clio. Jacqueline received her PhD from the University of Michigan in 2018.

Featured image (at top): Mural: Women of the Wiregrass, 126 N. St. Andrews Street, Dothan, Alabama, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, April 1, 2010, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Digital Summer School: Chicago Elections Project

After sojourning to the East Coast to visit the Gotham Center’s Gotham blog last week, we now travel to capital of the Midwest, Chicago, where LaDale Winling and others have embarked on an ambitious project that combines political science, history and GIS mapping to create the Chicago Elections Project (CEP). Winling, who has both a new book out, Building the Ivory Tower, and worked on the very successful Mapping Inequality project, sat down to discuss the roots of the CEP, the challenges faced in putting it together, and what makes Chicago such a worthwhile case study for urban political history.

This is the fourth in our Digital Summer School series, including the aforementioned Gotham blog, the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee, and Tropics of Meta.

12718r.jpg
Harold Washington Library Center, Passing ‘El’ Train, Chicago, Illinois, photo by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Why did you establish this digital project and who is your audience?

In the summer of 2017, I was doing some research on Oscar DePriest and Arthur Mitchell, the first two black Congressmen from a northern district, DePriest as a Republican and Mitchell, a Democrat. Devin Hunter, a fellow Chicago historian, told me that the Chicago Public Library held detailed election results for their two head-to-head elections in one of their collections, so I went to check it out.

1936FederalElection
“The map captures the results of the 1936 election for Congress in IL-01 in Chicago, a rematch between Oscar DePriest and Arthur Mitchell.  Mitchell won re-election in 1936, but it was largely due to districts with white voters.” – LaDale Winling

The Harold Washington Library of the CPL has nearly a hundred thousand “aperture” microfilm cards of detailed election results, down to the precinct level, going back to 1886. They have data for municipal, state, and federal elections and primaries, as well as the precinct and ward boundary maps to go with them. It was exciting and nearly overwhelming to find such a treasure trove of material on urban political history. It was also extremely frustrating to wrestle with the microfilm reader and squint at the faint and grainy data in negative on the screen. Through social media inquiries, I heard from a few historians that they had used this collection before, with some of the same difficulties, and the wheels in my mind began to turn. Margaret Garb at Washington University had used this collection in her recent book Freedom’s Ballot on black politics in Chicago.  Also, Richard Anderson, who is just completing his PhD at Princeton University, had digitized some elections for his dissertation on post-WWII Chicago politics, called ‘The City That Worked.”

One of my fundamental ideas as a digital historian is that there is value in providing access to data, something I saw, for example, when a group of my collaborators made the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation redlining maps available through Mapping Inequality. Since there was established demand for these election results, I thought there would be opportunities to broaden access and simply make it easier for people to conduct the research they were already doing.

02132r.jpg
[Alderman Edward Vrdolyak (aka “Fast Eddie Vrdolyak”, standing, center) gesturing during a meeting of the Chicago City Council with Mayor Harold Washington, as Alderman Edward M. Burke stands behind him], photograph by Lee Balgemann, May 11, 1983, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
In addition, access to this data and digital mapping resources can help us think about urban political history in new ways—as diverse coalitions, independent individuals, and communities with shifting interests and alliances. We often use the metaphor of the political “machine” to describe urban politics. That image and concept can obscure the variety of political activities, patronage employees and power centers operating in cities. A political machine can be decentralized and some of the key connections may be between the ward offices, precinct captains, and the local voters, rather than through city hall. We know this, and some of the best urban political history accounts for this. However, the research burden of investigating the variety of neighborhoods and communities in a large city can be very challenging—that spade work often gets lost in favor of synthesis or providing context.

Finally, I want to emphasize that elections matter. Studying these popular expressions of political sentiment is an important way of understanding social change. My suspicion is that we often rely on qualitative explanations and narratives for political change without drawing on the messy data where voters express their actual choices.

In terms of audience, we want to provide for scholars, to reach journalists, and to connect with the public at large. Chicago historians and urban political historians who have already been using the microfilm will get better, easier access. Chicago journalists will be able to draw on this material for data visualization and to craft more detailed and meaningful stories about Chicago politics that go beyond the typical mayoral narratives. Chicagoans interested in the history of their city, their ward, their precinct, or their neighborhood will find something about the history of their communities. Chicago loves to talk politics and this will help us do it better.

Why Chicago?

Chicago has been a well-studied center of urban sociology and urban politics that, through the tradition of scholarship coming out of the many Chicago universities, has strongly shaped the way we think about urban history. By taking this new look at Chicago, we can enable an interesting set of inquiries about neighborhoods, political figures, and policymaking that can be a model for other cities around the country.

I also lived in metro Chicago (Evanston) for several years in graduate school and studied the University of Chicago and surrounding for a chapter in my book, Building the Ivory Tower. It is a place I return to for archival research each year, so Chicago also makes sense for me logistically.

How does GIS contribute to a data-rich effort like the Chicago Elections Project and what do you hope people will take away from this?

We’re in the early stages, but when we launch, I envision this project as a comprehensive data resource for Chicago political history – one where users can appreciate the multitude of Chicago political figures, the fine-grained geography of city neighborhoods, and the interaction between space and politics. We live our lives in space, build community in space, and spatial relations structure our politics, whether it be racial segregation, the provision of civic infrastructure, or other investments. So we’d like people to appreciate the historical importance of counting votes, getting out the vote, of targeting appeals to specific neighborhoods and demographics. We recognize all of these things in contemporary political campaigns and elections, but they are hard to reconstruct and do justice to in historical research. Digital data management and mapping technologies help us handle this type of research.

Through a project like this we can also teach history students and research assistants digital skills in the course of building the site and collections. History students learn GIS, HTML coding, image editing, digital archiving, and data management by working on some pieces of a larger digital project as part of their college or grad school experiences. They can go on and apply these skills to their own research or to their career work after graduation.

14103r
The historic Chicago Theater, Chicago, Illinois, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

This project is in its early stages. What obstacles do you face?

Building any new collaboration brings questions and challenges – how much time people can devote to the project, whether we have compatible interests and visions, how we can accumulate the resources to pull it off – and that takes time to negotiate and navigate. There is a set of supportive participants and advisors with interests in Chicago politics (Richard Anderson, Margaret Garb, Brad Hunt, Nora Krinitsky, Christopher Manning, and Christopher Reed, in addition to me), which has been a great help, and we would always welcome additional collaborators.

We next would like to find an institutional home for the project that is publicly engaged with the city of Chicago. Chicago Public Library administrators have not yet agreed to host this as a digital project. It takes a while to reorient institutional priorities and we’re working to get the library to take this project seriously. Some of the staff has been very cooperative in facilitating the digitization phase of the Chicago Elections Project, but we’re just at the start of a long process. Scanning; data entry, checking, and cleaning; creating relational databases; and drawing digital maps in ArcGIS all take a long time and a lot of labor.

45040r
Chicago Federal Center, Chicago, Illinois, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, July 27, 2007, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Where do you hope it goes in the future?

The ambition is to catalyze a data-enabled, spatially-informed way of approaching urban political history, so building relationships with scholars in other cities could help start that process and demonstrate the possibilities elsewhere. I have just started conversations with a library in New York City that also has a large collection of elections data somewhat like Chicago’s, which may be the first step.

 

18061r.jpg
Chicago Merchandise Mart, the world’s largest wholesalers’ building. Chicago, Illinois, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 

The career of Barack Obama prompted several projects examining Chicago politics, from the Making Obama podcast to David Garrow’s book, Rising Star, and Gary Rivlin’s book on Harold Washington, Fire on the Prairie. What does this project have to contribute to our understanding of the already well-trod topic of Chicago politics?

All of those very good projects rely on narratives that are fairly triumphant about racial dynamics – either voters’ acceptance of African American candidates or black elected officials’ skillful navigation of racial politics.

David Axelrod, who worked for both Harold Washington and Barack Obama, tells a tale about how Harold Washington’s mayoral tenure helped pave the way for Barack Obama’s rise. It’s a neat story, and he illustrates it by saying on election night for the Senate primary in 2004, Axelrod checked a northwest side precinct where Washington had faced protests and white opposition. Washington lost the precinct, 10 to 1, but in 2004, Obama carried the precinct. Axelrod’s takeaway is that Chicago grew more tolerant, even in its most regressive neighborhoods, because of Harold Washington.

It’s not as tidy as that. Groups like the “lakefront liberals,” who were supposedly strong supporters of Washington, voted for his opponents, in many precincts, by large majorities. Northwest side precincts were changed as much by demographic transition as by any changes in hearts and minds, and this spatial and voting data helps us investigate that in detail.

So this project can help scholars bring together comprehensive data resources with excellent, synthetic scholarship. The combination of data and narrative can help us enrich the stories that we tell, improve our arguments, and help us appreciate both the optimism and the failures of our very messy democratic process.

Featured image (at top): Chicago silhouette, Chicago, Illinois, photograph by Carol M. Highsmith, between 1980 and 2006, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress 

Winling-Headshot2.jpgLaDale Winling is an associate professor of history at Virginia Tech, where he teaches U.S. urban history, digital history, and public history.  He is one of the co-creators of ‘Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America’ and a forthcoming project on U.S. Congressional elections, both part of the American Panorama digital atlas from the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond.  His book on universities and urban politics, Building the Ivory Tower: Universities and Metropolitan Development in the Twentieth Century, was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2017.

Grad Student Blog Contest Deadline Extended to August 1

We couldn’t resist extending the Second Annual UHA/Metropole Grad Student Blog Contest two more weeks! Why? Why not?! You know have until August 1 to enter the contest.

First prize claims $100 but as important is the value of contributing to a lively public discourse and active dialogue within the profession of urban history. It doesn’t hurt that a panel of distinguished, award-winning urban historians will judge it: UHA President Richard Harris, Pulitzer-prize winner and UHA President-elect Heather Ann Thompson, and standard-bearer in the field, Tom Sugrue, author of the foundational Origins of the Urban Crisis.

The rules are below, and there’s two weeks left before we reach the new deadline of August 1. We hope to read your submissions soon!

Striking Gold: The Metropole Grad Student Blog Contest

The Metropole/Urban History Association Graduate Student Blogging Contest exists to encourage and train graduate students to blog about history—as a way to teach beyond the classroom, market their scholarship, and promote the enduring value of the humanities.

The summer’s blogging contest theme is “Striking Gold.” With golden rays of summer sunshine in our near future, we invite graduate students to submit essays on lucre and archival treasures. Tell us how you found the linchpin of your dissertation argument hidden in a mislabeled folder, or share the history of an event or era characterized by newly-realized wealth.

All submissions that meet the guidelines outlined below will be accepted. The Metropole’s editors will work with contest contributors to refine their submissions and prepare them for publication.

In addition to getting great practice writing for the web and experience working with editors, the winner will receive a certificate and a $100 prize!

The contest will open on June 1 and will close on August 1. Entries must be submitted to uhacommunicationsteam@gmail.com. Posts will run on the blog in August and September, and we will announce the winners in late September. Finalists will have their papers reviewed by three award-winning historians: Heather Ann Thompson, Tom Sugrueand Richard Harris. The winning blog post will receive $100.

Contest Guidelines

  1. Contest entrants must be enrolled in a graduate program.
  2. Contest entrants must be members of the UHA. A one-year membership for graduate students costs only $25 and includes free online access to the Journal of Urban History.
  3. Contest submissions must be original posts not published elsewhere on the web.
  4. Contest submissions must be in the form of an essay related to the theme of “Striking Gold.” Essays can be about current research, historiography (but not book reviews), or methodology. Essays that stick to the following criteria will be most successful:
    1. Written for a non-academic audience and assume no prior knowledge.
    2. Focused on one argument, intervention, or event, and not trying to do too much.
    3. Spend more time showing than telling.
  5. Posts must be received by the editors (uhacommunicationsteam@gmail.com) by August 1 at 11:59 PM EST to be eligible for the contest.
  6. Posts should be at least 700 words, but not exceed 2000 words.
  7. Links or footnotes must be used to properly attribute others’ scholarship and reporting. The Metropole follows the Chicago Manual of Style for citation formatting.

Digital Summer School: Gotham

Digital Summer School began with Tropics of Meta where co-editors Romeo Guzman and Alex Sayf Cummings talked about the old and new initiatives at the academic/cultural website. We then moved the classroom to the Midwestern metropolis of Milwaukee as Amanda Seligman discussed the Encyclopedia of Milwaukee. Today, we travel to New York City and The Gotham Center. Peter-Christian Aigner explains how Gotham: A Blog for Scholars of New York City came into being and where it hopes to be going in the future.

Why did you establish this digital project and who is your audience? ​

I started Gotham three years ago, for a simple reason—it didn’t exist. New York City has an unrivaled number of libraries, museums, universities, and buildings dedicated in one respect or another to its history, of course, and some of them have blogs that occasionally spotlight the many treasures in their archives or the many wonderful programs they do. But there was no regular digital space, and certainly no obvious place, no headquarters online for all the scholars who do research on New York City history. And that just seemed insane.

There are hundreds of academics, in so many disciplines, who have done research on New York City history, so many every year. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of books, articles, etc., have been published on the subject, much of it recently. And that’s because New York City is, and has long been, America’s unofficial capital. People outside the five boroughs may dismiss that as egotism, and historians of different regions might cite their area’s significance, but the fact is that New York is this country’s most important city, historically speaking.

So, the goal was to provide a “blog” for scholars, like the Gotham masthead says. But I struggled a bit with that label, because the Gotham Center takes seriously the mission of NYC’s public university, our institutional sponsor: “knowledge for the public good.” We sometimes do programming strictly for scholars, but we are a public history organization, even if we are based in a university (CUNY’s Graduate Center). We’ve always sought to make scholarship accessible to non-academics, and have always included other professionals in the historical world (curators, educator, archivists, filmmakers, preservationists, independent scholars). So I did not want our digital publication to be exclusive. I wanted a broad range of contributors and followers.

4a19431r.jpg
College of the City of New York (City College, City University), New York, N.Y., between 1900 and 1915, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

What do you hope people take away from it?

Well, in terms of professional value, I think Gotham provides a unique space for younger scholars in particular to engage with other professionals, share their research, and gain writing experience. Ideally, we can be a place that helps identify the next generation of New York City historians.

In terms of intellectual value, I think beyond that shared locus of conversation Gotham offers not only a place where one might apply the latest method or theory of urban history, but also perhaps a counterpoint to the pointillism of the field now, where the focus on a single place allows us to really dig deep and fill out collective understanding in a particular setting. Both approaches, the global and local, are obviously needed.

And generally, I feel there’s just a desperate need still for this kind of work, in public education. Mike Wallace established The Gotham Center at a time when New York seriously lagged behind other world cities in presenting its historical resources to locals and tourists. There was little collaboration between our great historical institutions, and the oldest, biggest one, New-York Historical Society, had in fact closed and nearly sold off its collections only a few years before. The idea was to establish a place that could network and support the many institutions and individuals who kept the history of this city alive, and make the public — including civic leaders — aware of New York’s rich history, and why it matters. Although in some ways the situation has improved, in others we are no better off, collectively, than all those years ago. New York History, for example, should be celebrating its hundredth anniversary next year. Instead, fifteen months after the Board of Regents dissolved the state’s 120-year-old historical association, it’s still very unclear whether—in addition to being the only state in the country now without an organization promoting and preserving its history— New York will lose the journal and conference that were attached to NYSHA. Ten years ago, Ken Jackson gave a wonderful speech before the state library, laying out the case for New York as the “most historical” state in the nation. Mike Wallace is finishing up the last volume in a brilliant trilogy making that argument for New York City, across the centuries and virtually every area of life. But there is still very little appreciation of these facts by the public, even locally. And there is little obvious collective power still among our historical organizations. So, I hope with Gotham, just like all the programming we’ve done at the Center, and the new programs I am working to establish, we are pushing back against this situation.

4a19432r
College of the City of New York (City College, City University), New York, N.Y., between 1900 and 1915, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

How did the project come to fruition? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

It wasn’t hard, just time-consuming. Daniel Wortel-London (ed. note: his work has appeared here on The Metropole as well), the blog’s first associate editor, then at CUNY’s Graduate Center, provided crucial help. But the work itself has not been difficult. We benefited, I think, from our association with The Gotham Center, and the niche we filled. Traffic has grown steadily and handsomely. Conversation is now far less about how to fill our calendar and far more about how we can deliver the high-level content we present to new audiences.

Where do you hope it goes in the future?

We’ve got a few exciting new ideas we’re pursuing. I’ll leave it at that, but I’m very optimistic about Gotham‘s future. The potential has always been great. We mostly feature new original content, book reviews, interviews, etc., and obviously that is valuable. But we are looking to expand into different areas. It should be a place that discusses New York City history everywhere one finds it: in museums, libraries, schools, the arts, TV and film, memorials, tourism, etc. And I would like to see it become a place where experts regularly comment on social, cultural, political and economic debates in New York City, from that historical perspective. We recently doubled our editorial team, and have begun exploring new partnerships, with these long-term goals in mind​. But transforming into something larger (e.g., more than a semiweekly publication, like it is now) may ultimately require some kind of backing.

4a10195r.jpg
College of City of New York, N.Y., circa 1908, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In regard to the Gotham Center, New York City has been a subject of study by urban historians for decades, with so much already said about NYC, how does Gotham Center approach the Big Apple with fresh eyes?

In my younger days, I used to think “How much could there be to say about ___?” I don’t  often have such thoughts anymore. There are still many new frontiers in New York City history, as there are in U.S./world history generally. What hasn’t been researched—huge, important subjects—consistently astounds me. And so long as we have new theories, there can be hundreds of people writing about New York City every generation, and still  many mountains to cross. We could, for example, see a lot more research on “the outer boroughs.” There’s an over-focus on Manhattan, logical as that is. As on city limits. “Metropolitan history” is more or less the new consensus among suburban and urban historians, but I’m sympathetic to complaints that (as in other fields) practice hasn’t really kept pace with the professed methodology. Finally, I’d say the point we constantly make at the Gotham Center is that New York City is the best lens for learning about the history of the United States. So long as that is true — and it is —  learning about its past will always be vital.

unnamed_3_origPeter-Christian Aigner is the director of The Gotham Center for New York City History at CUNY’s Graduate Center, and the founding / managing editor of Gotham. He is currently writing a biography of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, contracted with Simon & Schuster. 

Featured image (at top): College of City of New York, N.Y., circa 1908, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Remember the Grad Student Blog Contest deadline is approaching July 15!

You’ve undoubtedly spent the past few days gorging yourselves with barbecued food, imbibing adult beverages, and semi-enjoying fireworks as you beat away thousands of swarming mosquitoes. But now it’s Monday and if you’re an intrepid, enterprising, UHA member and grad student, you have until this Sunday to enter our second annual competition.

First prize claims $100 but as important is the value of contributing to a lively public discourse and active dialogue within the profession of urban history. It doesn’t hurt that a panel of distinguished, award-winning urban historians will judge it: UHA President Richard Harris, Pulitzer-prize winner and UHA President-elect Heather Ann Thompson, and standard-bearer in the field, Tom Sugrue, author of the foundational Origins of the Urban Crisis.

The rules are below, and there’s less than one month left until the July 15 deadline. We hope to read your submissions soon!

Striking Gold: The Metropole Grad Student Blog Contest

The Metropole/Urban History Association Graduate Student Blogging Contest exists to encourage and train graduate students to blog about history—as a way to teach beyond the classroom, market their scholarship, and promote the enduring value of the humanities.

The summer’s blogging contest theme is “Striking Gold.” With golden rays of summer sunshine in our near future, we invite graduate students to submit essays on lucre and archival treasures. Tell us how you found the linchpin of your dissertation argument hidden in a mislabeled folder, or share the history of an event or era characterized by newly-realized wealth.

All submissions that meet the guidelines outlined below will be accepted. The Metropole’s editors will work with contest contributors to refine their submissions and prepare them for publication.

In addition to getting great practice writing for the web and experience working with editors, the winner will receive a certificate and a $100 prize!

The contest will open on June 1 and will close on July 15. Entries must be submitted to uhacommunicationsteam@gmail.com. Posts will run on the blog in July and August, and we will announce the winners in September. Finalists will have their papers reviewed by three award-winning historians: Heather Ann Thompson, Tom Sugrueand Richard Harris. The winning blog post will receive $100.

Contest Guidelines

  1. Contest entrants must be enrolled in a graduate program.
  2. Contest entrants must be members of the UHA. A one-year membership for graduate students costs only $25 and includes free online access to the Journal of Urban History.
  3. Contest submissions must be original posts not published elsewhere on the web.
  4. Contest submissions must be in the form of an essay related to the theme of “Striking Gold.” Essays can be about current research, historiography (but not book reviews), or methodology. Essays that stick to the following criteria will be most successful:
    1. Written for a non-academic audience and assume no prior knowledge.
    2. Focused on one argument, intervention, or event, and not trying to do too much.
    3. Spend more time showing than telling.
  5. Posts must be received by the editors (uhacommunicationsteam@gmail.com) by July 1 at 11:59 PM EST to be eligible for the contest.
  6. Posts should be at least 700 words, but not exceed 2000 words.
  7. Links or footnotes must be used to properly attribute others’ scholarship and reporting. The Metropole follows the Chicago Manual of Style for citation formatting.