The American Founding in Public Memory

Abstract: This presentation concerned the role of journalism in forging early collective memory of the American Revolution. Journalists pre-dated history scholars by decades. Their stories of revolutionary events and people were often used as primary source material for the earliest national and state histories. Later, magazines and newspapers looked back at the nation’s founding with nostalgia and awe, building a national narrative for their expanding audiences during the first half of the 19th century.

“A Possibility of a Lady Competitor:” Helen Preece and the 1912 Olympic Modern Pentathlon

Abstract: On July 7, 1912, the Louisville Herald printed the story of Helen Preece, a teenaged English girl set to be the first and only woman to compete in the Modern Pentathlon at the upcoming Olympic Games in Stockholm. She’d been training for months and attracted international attention. The Modern Pentathlon competition started that same day; however, Preece was not there. Olympic organizers refused to allow women to compete. The erroneous story points to the uncertainties of publishing and the press in the early 20th century, and also to a national and international fascination with the prospect of a woman participating in an event rooted in male-dominated events. In the aftermath of her failed Olympic venture, Preece lived a long and prosperous life, where she continued to challenge gender norms in a variety of ways. Until now, historians have largely overlooked Preece and her life story. This article sheds new light on the life and legacy of this would-be Olympic pioneer through the benefits of previously undiscovered documents and articles, Preece’s unpublished memoir, and interviews and material shared by members of her family.

Below-the-Line Labor and Infrastructure in Hollywood

From the ragtag crews of 1910s productions to the organized backlots of Classical Hollywood to the runaway productions of the last fifty years, Hollywood has employed a wide array of workers. Their duties have ranged from hanging lights and writing music to designing sets and casting talent, and their professional norms and practices have helped shape Hollywood’s industrial culture. This seminar will focus on these workers, often labelled as below-the-line, and the organizations that cut a horizontal swath across the studios from above (AMPAS, MPPDA, etc.), below (ASC, SAG, etc.), and outside (SMPE, ASCAP, etc).

When we enlarge the view of what Hollywood is and explore how it sustains the economy of a city and the livelihoods of thousands of workers, how does that change our understanding of this paradigmatic creative industry? We seek to expand on recent historical works that look beyond the screen, and even beyond stars and directors, to focus on the production conditions that bolster the system. Like Vicki Mayer and production studies scholars, we take a broad view of what it means to make media, from manufacturing raw materials to drawing storyboards to making legal arguments.

This seminar carves out space between several fields which are often disconnected, including media industries, labor, technology, and Hollywood history. We invite a range of methodological approaches that engage with one or more of these animating questions:
How do motion picture and television workers perceive themselves and their labor?
Who defines professions and forms gatekeeping mechanisms?
How are technologies, techniques, and practices codified and disseminated throughout the industry? In what way do institutions (both top-down and bottom-up) shape professional identities and control labor?

Participants will submit a 5-6-page paper including three pages on their project and its interventions in the field, followed by 2-3 pages on the current state of and areas of struggle with their research, sources, methodologies, and writing. Participants and auditors are expected to read these papers in advance. We will begin with small group discussions and end with a full group conversation about ways we can bring these projects and fields into closer dialogue. We particularly encourage projects in nascent stages.