Statement of Purpose for Studies in American Material Culture Class.
While I have long been interested in issues of historical memory as well as how physical objects impact our understanding of history, I have recently grown increasingly focused on the use of tangible objects to represent specific aspects of local culture that tell broader stories about the past. Several visits to local historical museums around the Atlantic and Cape May County areas of the Jersey Shore, as well as a summer position creating an historic tour program for the James Candy Company of Atlantic City, have reminded me of the many ways the objects can be used to impact our understanding of the past and promote everything from environmentalism to capitalism through the engagement of all five senses as well as our collective cultural memories.
I first developed an interest in the use of objects to tell stories about the past in a course on North American Archeology while an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, where I pursued joint degrees in History and Anthropology as well as a concentration in American Studies that included a significant focus on digital history as well as internet-based multimedia scholarship. After writing a Distinguished History Major thesis on the impact of films like Forrest Gump on our collective recollections of the counterculture of the 1960s and 1970s, I pursued a Master of Arts Degree in American Studies at the University of Iowa, where I focused my coursework on 20th century American cultural history, public policies, and the mass media.
It was also as a graduate student at the University of Iowa that I first had the opportunity to teach university level English Literature courses and to initially discover my passion for college classroom teaching. Since then I have taught History, Geography, Political Science, Sociology, and Writing at a wide variety of higher educational institutions across South Jersey, as well as by making use of multiple online teaching platforms including Blackboard and eCollege. I was honored to be recognized with the 2008-2009 Adjunct Teaching Excellence Award at Atlantic Cape Community College, where I also spent three years working as an Academic Advisor. Last summer, I taught a hybrid course for Rutgers called “Civil Liberties in Times of National Emergency” while crafting a tour program for the James Candy Company, which included writing a spiel, creating a display case, and providing public educational tours.
I love teaching and my long term goal is to obtain a full time academic position divided between teaching courses and curating a local history museum preferably along the Jersey Shore. Therefore in this course I am hoping to refine my skills in using objects to teach the public about specific local histories that reflect on broader trends in American society. Ideally I would prefer to examine either a Victorian Era Bathing Suit or a Miss America Pageant Gown, which would let me explore issues of media, law, class, gender, tourism, local history, and cultural memory.