Have You Seen Our Department Webisode Yet?

If not, this week is a great time to check in with Past & Presence, the weekly webisode series that Sam Mulberry and I have been producing with our colleagues and students in the Bethel University History Department.

Today’s episode — #9 — is just packed with good stuff:

  • Screen shot from episode 9 of Past & Presence: Langemark Cemetery
    Some of the footage Sam shot at Langemark, the four sculpted soldiers who stand watch over their fallen comrades

    As usual, I moderate everything with interstitial clips in which I talk about the history of a place at that place. But in this case, we’ve gone far afield: Sam hauled a camera and microphone along on our J-term trip to Europe, and we shot footage at several sites along the former Western Front of World War I. You’ll see Last Post at Menin Gate, the haunting German military cemetery at Langemark, the preserved trenches of the Newfoundland Memorial, and the monumental Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme. (Come back in a few weeks for one more episode “hosted” from Europe.)

  • In place of our usual faculty or alumni interview, we sat down with Bethel librarian Kent Gerber and one of his student-workers, History major Fletcher Warren, to have them walk us through the process of adding materials to Bethel’s outstanding digital library.
  • One of our recent alumni, Gretchen Luhmann, encouraged current students to follow in her footsteps by seeking out an internship — in her case, at a living history site in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Park.
  • My colleague Diana Magnuson confessed to being a closet colonialist as she previewed her 18th century U.S. history course, American Beginnings.
  • And another of my colleagues, AnneMarie Kooistra, and I wrapped up our two-part conversation about Christian approaches to the practice of history.

It’s hard to believe that all of that fit into less than 27 minutes on YouTube!

I’m especially excited to share my conversation with AnneMarie with the first-year students in our Intro to History course, since they’re working on a paper for Monday in which they offer a personal reflection on what it means to think historically and Christianly about the past. (The stated goal of Tracy McKenzie in The First Thanksgiving, one of the course’s two textbooks. They’re also reading John Fea’s Why Study History?, tailor-made for a course like this.)

In part one of the conversation, AnneMarie and I focused on the ways in which thinking historically and thinking Christianly about the past are identical. (I also managed to confuse Harry Stout and Perry Miller, but flaws make art beautiful, right?) Then this week we turned to approaches to history that may seem more distinctively Christian: neither of us especially liked “providential” models, but we tended to sympathize with Fea’s argument that there’s something potentially transformative (even “conversional”) about the study of history.


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