Alumni Voices: Jessie Swigger releases new book on Greenfield Village


We hope you’re enjoying the tail end of your summer, friends of AMS! Some exciting news from one of our alumni: Jessie Swigger, who received her Ph.D. from the program and is now a professor at Western Carolina University, has just published a new book entitled “History Is Bunk”: Assembling the Past at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village. The book chronicles the historical development of Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. The synopsis from the press:

In 1916 a clearly agitated Henry Ford famously proclaimed that “history is more or less bunk.” Thirteen years later, however, he opened the outdoor history museum Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. It was written history’s focus on politicians and military heroes that was bunk, he explained. Greenfield Village would correct this error by celebrating farmers and inventors.

The village eventually included a replica of Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratory, the Wright brothers’ cycle shop and home from Dayton, Ohio, and Ford’s own Michigan birthplace. But not all of the structures were associated with famous men. Craft and artisan shops, a Cotswold cottage from England, and two brick slave cabins also populated the village landscape. Ford mixed replicas, preserved buildings, and whole-cloth constructions that together celebrated his personal worldview.

Greenfield Village was immediately popular. But that only ensured that the history it portrayed would be interpreted not only by Ford but also by throngs of visitors and the guides and publicity materials they encountered. After Ford’s death in 1947, administrators altered the village in response to shifts in the museum profession at large, demographic changes in the Detroit metropolitan area, and the demands of their customers.

Jessie Swigger analyzes the dialogue between museum administrators and their audiences by considering the many contexts that have shaped Greenfield Village. The result is a book that simultaneously provides the most complete extant history of the site and an intimate look at how the past is assembled and constructed at history museums.

Go forth and buy the book here!

Faculty Research: Dr. Janet Davis and “In the Company of Cats and Dogs”


The Department of American Studies is deeply concerned with public scholarship and finding innovative ways to reach out to the greater community around us. In that vein, we’re happy to report that Dr. Janet Davis has consulted on a brand new exhibition at the the Blanton Art Museum entitled “In the Company of Cats and Dogs.” The exhibition features works of art featuring – surprise – cats and dogs, including works by Pablo Picasso as well as some video clips of cats. Like Nora the Piano Cat. Seriously. No word yet on whether Keyboard Cat is also featured, but we can hope…

In addition to providing her own expertise on animals and humanities, Janet also incorporated the exhibit into her Plan II Signature Course: students in her class wrote papers on specific works, which the curators then used to generate some of the labels in the gallery. Truly a wonderful and fruitful bridge between the classroom and the community.

More details on the exhibition can be found here, and we highly recommend you check it out this summer!

The End of Austin: Brendan Gaughen’s work featured by The Criterion Collection


The most recent issue of The End of Austin turned some heads, to say the very least. The publication skyrocketed from just over 50,000 views to over 70,000 in just three weeks thanks to the incredible work of the many contributors to the latest issue. One of these pieces, Slacker Geography, 25 Years Later by American Studies Ph.D. candidate Brendan Gaughen, inspired a whole host of attention from the city’s residents (past and present) and film buffs.

We’re thrilled that both Brendan and The End of Austin nabbed some very positive feedback. Among these plaudits were an Alcalde piece about his work as well as a quick piece from The Criterion Collection‘s blog. And be sure to check out the comment thread at Brendan’s original piece (linked above) for fascinating firsthand accounts from people who appeared in or worked on the film.

Talk about reaching the public through innovation and creativity. Nice work, Brendan!

Faculty Research: Dr. Karl Miller and Dr. Janet Davis at Humanities Texas Teachers Institute on 1960s America

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Some very cool activities from our faculty this summer: Dr. Karl Miller and Dr. Janet Davis are both participants in the Humanities Texas Institute for Texas Teachers, this year’s theme being “America in the 1960s.” Dr. Davis gave a presentation yesterday on “Influential Women in the Sixties,” and Dr. Miller is today speaking about “Music in the 1960s.” Both also led primary source workshops in the afternoons.

We just wish we could attend, too!

Faculty Research: Dr. Randy Lewis Teaches Course on Public Scholarship


We hope you folks are enjoying your summer so far! As we mentioned, AMS :: ATX is on a summer posting schedule so we can catch our breath a little bit, but not everyone is in vacation at the moment. Take a look at this brief note from Dr. Randy Lewis about a course he’s teaching this summer on public scholarship:

The College of Liberal Arts asked me to create a new summer graduate seminar that began last week. “Doing Public Scholarship” is an interdisciplinary graduate seminar that will explore the quickly evolving landscape of public scholarship, which is a broader vision of what we often know as public humanities work. Focusing on the creative, intellectual and professional possibilities now emerging in the field, this intensive summer course is open to all graduate students willing to work in a fast-paced, collaborative context. Using a praxis-based approach that emphasizes doing as much as discussing, the course will culminate in a joint project that enables students to appreciate the transformative potential of public scholarship in the digital age. In addition to providing a crash-course in public scholarship skills and concepts with intellectual, creative, and job market benefits, this course will examine how public scholarship can serve a vital function in the democratization of knowledge. Including but not limited to OA journals, digital humanities projects, applied research initiatives, public intellectual blogs, academic podcasts, and oral history archives, such public scholarship allows academic knowledge to reach and cultivate new audiences. Ideally, public scholarship creates reciprocal relationships between universities and communities, serving to answer the question asked in 1939 by social scientists Robert S. and Helen Lynd: “Knowledge for What?”

Happy summer!

We’re officially shifting to summer vacation here at AMS :: ATX, so we’ll be publishing content at a more leisurely pace than we do during the school year. We will have new content for you, however, so keep checking back, dear readers.


“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The End of Austin Issue 5 Launches

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We are pleased to announce that issue 5 of The End of Austin is now published.

Featuring the work of current UT American Studies Ph.D. candidates Brendan Gaughen and Jeannette Vaught, as well as Adam Tallman, David Villarreal, Megan Coxe, Andres Lombana Bermudez, Jack Murphy, Derek Sayer, Riley Triggs, Jonathan Silverman, Adrian Mesko, Monty Jones, Álvaro Torres, Daniel Perera, Jonathan Lowell, Emily Mixon, and Joy Luther, this issue addresses topics like Slacker 25 years later, shared services at UT, flooding in Onion Creek, the F-1 track, weirdness in Austin, cedar fever, and more.

2014 has been an exciting year already for the project. Having surpassed 50,000 unique page views, the site continues to gain momentum as an invaluable source for conversations about Austin’s changing identity. This year, we’ve been featured in a variety of national and international press outlets, including British Airways’s High Life Magazine and Bavarian Public Radio’s Bayern 2 for an hour-long feature about Austin – not to mention UT’s own The Daily Texan.

Members of the The End of Austin editorial board were also asked by the University of Texas to speak at the UT Chancellor’s Council Annual Meeting on May 2. Randy Lewis, Sean Cashbaugh, and Carrie Andersen gave a well-received lecture to nearly 200 donors about the project, the field of American Studies, and what they anticipate of Austin’s future.

We hope you enjoy this issue, available here – and please share it with anyone you know who may be interested in Austin’s metamorphosis.