MHS Presents at History Education Conference
The MHS was well represented at the National Council for History Education (NCHE) conference held in Charleston, S.C., at the beginning of April. Director of Education and Public Programs Jayne Gordon, Education Coordinator Kathleen Barker, and Head of Reader Services Elaine Grublin presented a breakout session on 2 April and staffed an MHS booth in the exhibition hall throughout the weekend. NCHE is a leading organization for promoting ways to improve the teaching and learning of history in the K-12 environment. This year’s annual conference drew more than 1,000 educators, library media specialists, historic site interpreters, and other history professionals from across the United States.
The 50-minute breakout session, “‘Good Men Wanted, No Boys Need Apply’: Recruiting a Union Army, 1861-1865,” was planned to complement this year’s conference theme, “The Causes and Consequences of Civil Wars.” The session used examples from MHS collections to demonstrate how educators could use primary source materials, particularly letters and diaries, to investigate what motivated people to volunteer for the war effort. The process of assembling the presentation and the subsequent discussions with conference attendees led to a range of insights about the reasons that led soldiers to join the Union Army. While some young men saw military service as their patriotic duty, others were motivated by the promise of financial reward. Alongside those findings, the discussions also addressed newspaper articles, letters, and diaries that documented how women became involved in the war effort, from joining sewing circles to volunteering as nurses near the front.
When not attending the many other engaging sessions, MHS staff talked with the conference attendees who visited the Society’s booth in the exhibition hall. As part of its ongoing service to teachers from across the United States, the MHS recently became part of the New England Historic Sites Collaborative, a group that includes sister institutions such as the American Antiquarian Society, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and Plimoth Plantation. Together these organizations are developing week-long workshops designed specifically for educators participating in the U.S. Department of Education’s Teaching American History grant program. As a result of the Society’s presence at the conference, the MHS expects an increasing number of teachers from across the United States at its workshops over the next few years.