History major Katherine DeFonzo in the Archives Center at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.
Earlier this summer, History major Katherine DeFonzo reached out to faculty member Christopher Dietrich about the work she was doing at her internship at the Archives Center at the American Museum of National History (a part of the Smithsonian Institution). Katherine wrote:
I just wanted to share with you a project that I’ve gotten to work on during this first week of my internship at the Smithsonian. I remember watching a scene from All in the Family during your class, and the museum recently received many boxes from the collection of Jean Stapleton, who played Edith Bunker on the show. My fellow interns and I have spent much of this week organizing and cataloging them! It has been very exciting: in the collection we found her programs from the Emmy Awards, many newspaper clippings about her performances, and some letters written between her and other famous individuals, including Bill Clinton! It has been interesting to see how her roles reflected the changes that took place in the US during her lifetime.
We wrote back to Katherine to find out more about her internship and her experience this summer working as a Reference Intern at the Archives Center. She told us a bit about how she got the position, the work she’s been doing, and how it relates to her work at Fordham.
As a History major, I am considering pursuing a career working in a museum or archive. Hoping to gain experience in this area, I applied to several internships at various Smithsonian organizations through the Smithsonian Internship online Portal, including the Museum of American History Internship Pool. Mr. Joe Hursey, a reference archivist in the Archives Center at the Museum, reached out to me. I was offered a position as a reference intern.
I work 9-4 each day from Monday through Friday. During the hour before the Archives reading room opens, it is part of my job to tidy up the reading room for the day and re-shelve document boxes that were used the previous day. Each day, I have a two or three hour shift helping to staff the reference desk. When researchers come into the reading room, it is my responsibility and that of my fellow interns to pull and bring out the boxes that they have requested. I have also occasionally been tasked with responding to phone or e-mail questions from researchers. When not working on the desk, I work on processing and assisting with the upkeep of various collections. This has involved alphabetizing and sorting by date collection materials; copying newspaper articles from those collections; and sometimes rehousing photographs and slides from the collections. My fellow interns and I were also tasked with helping to come up with the series and subseries titles that would be used to organize some new collection materials. As part of my internship, my fellow interns and I also got to hear some curators in the museum share their experiences with us, and we were able to visit other historical institutions throughout Washington D.C. such as the Library of Congress Manuscript Division and the Archives of American Art.
As a student in the Honors Program who almost always has at least one book checked out of the Fordham Library, I am glad that this internship gave me the opportunity to better understand the extensive knowledge that librarians and reference archivists must have in order to serve the students and researchers who come to them for assistance. I have always believed that preserving and making accessible primary source documents is essential to the preservation of history, and I am grateful that this internship allowed me to see some of the ways in which that is done. While none of my Fordham classes have involved a hands-on component that could have prepared me for the actual processing work that this internship has required, the extensive amount of writing that I have done as an Honors Program student has prepared me to write the blog post that I have about the Jean Stapleton Papers, which I hope will be published. I hope that I will be able to utilize some of the research skills that I have improved over the course of this summer as I begin to complete research for my Honors Thesis.
Thanks so much for the update, Katherine. The History Department is proud to have one of its own helping out at at such an important repository of American history and culture.
“Created by the Department of History to identify particularly impressive history majors and offer them an intensive introduction to research and writing history papers,” the History Department’s Mannion Society invites students to join in their sophomore or junior year. By their senior year, therefore, Mannion Society members have had extensive training and supervision assisting them with their final projects. We reached out to graduating members of the Society to ask them about their projects. Here’s what they said:
My project explored the ramifications of the introduction of the Stinger missile by the United States government to the mujahidin during the Soviet-Afghan War. During the war, the United States ran the largest covert operation in history, supplying the mujahidin with weapons with which to fight the Soviets. I argue that the introduction of the Stinger missile was the turning point in the war, as it had a great impact militarily, psychologically, and diplomatically. The Stinger allowed the mujahidin to effectively counter Soviet aerial attacks, punctured the Soviet aura of invincibility, and, most importantly, ended American plausible deniability. The Stinger proved American involvement in the war, which could have provoked an extreme Soviet response. The Stinger missile changed the course of the war, and marked a departure from conventional Cold War tactics regarding plausible deniability.
My research seeks to understand how the AFL-CIO’s power in Congress diminished during the Nixon administration. I explore this question by examining the differences between the union’s successful lobbying campaign against the Supreme Court nominations of Clement Haynsworth and G. Harrold Carswell Court in 1969 and 1970 and the organization’s failure to block the nomination of William Rehnquist in 1971. I contend that the Rehnquist proceedings reflect larger social changes that split the AFL-CIO from its allies and discredited the organization’s testimony against Rehnquist. While the AFL-CIO criticized the conservative stances of Haynsworth, Carswell, and Rehnquist on civil rights, its opposition to the Philadelphia Plan and its failure to address affiliates’ discriminatory practices undermined the AFL-CIO’s relationship with the NAACP. Further, the apparent contradiction between the organization’s avowed stances and its own pervasive discrimination opened the organization’s testimony to criticisms, which the union could not deflect without NAACP support. In addition, the law and order issue, largely absent in the Haynsworth and Carswell hearings, predominated the Rehnquist proceedings. The AFL-CIO condemned Rehnquist’s conservative stances on such civil liberties issues as wiretapping and the right to protest. However, the union’s arguments seemed to contradict the average worker’s growing concerns about crime, particularly as Nixon deliberately tied the issue with the rise of the New Left to divide the working class from the Democrats. Meanwhile, as radical antiwar elements gained influence in the Democratic Party, the AFL-CIO chose to abandon the party rather than promote compromise reforms. AFL-CIO leaders thus became more closely tied to the Nixon administration and offered their full-fledged support for the president’s decision to invade Cambodia. During the Rehnquist proceedings, then, former allies such as Americans for Democratic Action lost credibility by adopting unpopular stances regarding civil liberties issues, while the AFL-CIO’s condemnation of Rehnquist’s law and order views and his support for expanded executive power were, like its civil rights testimony, dismissed as illegitimate.
“The Golden Apple: Pietro Andrea Mattioli’s Influence on the Usage of the Tomato in Renaissance Italy,” tells the story of the Sienese herbalist and physician, Pietro Andrea Mattioli. In 1544, Mattoli published his seminal work, I discorsi. This groundbreaking herbal included the first description of the tomato in European literature. Its subsequent editions (the 1554 updated edition in particular) included the first European name for the tomato, pomi d’oro, and a detailed illustration of the plant, which reflected its increased cultivated in the Italian peninsula in the decade between the initial publication and the updated edition. Mistakenly believed to be a relation of the controversial mandrake, the tomato was generally condemned or ignored by Europeans. An extended research project for the Mannion Society, this research demonstrates the mutability of culture and the invaluableness of Mattioli’s writing; it was this audacious herbalist who, against convention, encouraged the usage of the tomato as a culinary ingredient. As a result of Mattioli’s influence, European herbalists, botanists, and physicians from John Gerard to Rembert Dodoens echoed Mattioli’s observations that would dominate herbal literature in almost every major European language for centuries. As a result, the tomato’s association with Italians overshadowed the tomato’s true colonial origins, cementing the tomato’s exalted position in the Mediterranean diet and Italian cuisine.
Congratulations to our Seniors on their original and fascinating projects!
On Saturday, December 5th, Professor Alex Novikoff took four Fordham Students to the 10th Annual Undergraduate Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Moravian College. The four students, all History majors, each presented a paper. Erin Collier presented, “The Role of Menstruation and Impurity in the Characterization of Jews as ‘The Other’ in Medieval Soceity,” Arthur Mezzo presented, “God and Kind: Biographies of Medieval Frankish Kings,” Rita Orazi presented, “The Emperor as Classical Hero in Ana Komnene’s Alexiad,” and Kyle Stelzer presented, “The Tibyan: One Ruler’s Account of Christian-Muslim Relations in Eleventh Century Iberia.”
Nice work, Fordham historians!
The History Department is proud to introduce one of its newest initiatives, the Mannion Society. Named in honor of the late Professor Anne Mannion, an alumna of Fordham’s school of education who went on to teach at Fordham for 53 years, the Mannion society was established by the History Department to identify outstanding history majors and to encourage their development as specifically as researchers. At the center of the historian’s craft is the process of research and writing. Members of the Mannion Society, therefore work intensively with a faculty member to identify a suitable research question, work intensively in researching that question, and then turn that work into a persuasive argument. In the end, members will have an outstanding foundation when they turn to apply for jobs, graduate school or prestigious fellowships.
Cristina Iannarino (FCRH ’17) wrote to tell us about how her work in the Mannion society had helped her in the process of doing original research:
I had done research with Dr. Myers in one of my previous history courses (Honors Early Modern Europe), in which I had traced the origin of the tomato and its significance to understanding the nature of contact between regions in Europe (and by extension, the New World). For that project, I had traced the earliest known sixteenth-century Italian source to describe the tomato and its novel usage as a culinary ingredient. I found that herbalists surrounding European regions outside of Italy had appropriated the same description and usage in their own works, demonstrating the effect Italian writing and usage of the tomato at the time had on establishing the tomato as an essential culinary ingredient—its status today. This was an experience that I know I will never forget, especially as an aspiring historian. I knew from that moment on, I was eager to do this kind of research again and deepen my understanding of the art of historical research. I wanted to equip myself with the same skills necessary to produce that same “aha-moment” of research and realize that it is not simply due to chance, but also, a product of dedication and passion. With the Mannion Society’s goal to reproduce the same spectacular moment in which one’s research clicks into something of significance and answers the “So what?” question historians face, I have been thoroughly enjoying expanding my knowledge on the process with Dr. Stoll that had been introduced to me by Dr. Myers. Along with the help of The Craft of Research and Dr. Stoll’s advising, I have delved into the intricacies of the process of producing original research, making the path much clearer and seem less intimidating with each meeting. While I am still gathering the specifics of the project, the advice from Dr. Stoll and my peers in the Mannion Society have helped me focus my research to the Early Modern experience/conception of “melancholy” and how important communal figures at the time, especially clergymen, recognized this as an illness, or something that deserved to be addressed and treated. Members of the clergy acted as the period’s first physicians, producing a wealth of “self-help” material and giving sermons on the matter. I find this relationship between sufferers of melancholy and the clergy to be fascinating, and am hoping to contribute significance to the subject. Because of the Mannion Society, I feel that I am more prepared to do so.
We’re excited to see what other Mannion Society members are up to, and we’ll let you know about the progress of their ongoing research.
John Taylor & Sons, the brewery at the center of a libel lawsuit brought against the teetotaler Edward Delavan
Two FCRH seniors, Tim Derocher and Chris Nolan, were recently selected to participate in the McNeil Center for Early American Studies’ annual Undergraduate Research Workshop at the University of Pennsylvania. Together, Nolan and Derocher will present a panel on two unique libel cases in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a product of research completed for Dr. Elaine Forman Crane’s “Laws and Outlaws in Early America” seminar. Over the next few months, they will be working with a graduate mentor from Penn to enhance their research and form a more cohesive panel on libel and slander cases in early America, which will be presented in April in Philadelphia. Read on to learn more about their research. Continue reading
Ricky Bordelon (FCRH ’15) at the Landesarchiv in Berlin
This summer, thanks to a research grant from the Fordham College Dean’s Office, Ricky Bordelon (FCRH ’15), a double-major in History and Political Science was able to travel to Berlin to do research for his History senior thesis. Ricky wrote to us with some details of his fascinating project and the archives and sites that he visited in Berlin.
Since the 1880s, millions of visitors have flocked to the amusements entertainment venues of Coney Island. It is a New Yorker’s dream: a place where the greatest urban metropolis meets the beauty of the seashore. Although it has been the topic of many books and documentaries, few have studied the planning proposals that shaped the Coney Island we know today. Fordham History major Priscilla Consolo (LC ’16), who grew up ten minutes from Coney Island, wanted to learn how this neighborhood and holiday spot came to be. She wrote to us with a description of the fascinating research project she conducted last summer.