Monthly Archives: March 2014

Historic Preservation Commission Docket

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By Natalie Walker

On Friday I had the privilege of attending a Historic Preservation Commission Docket where I was permitted to sit in the committee seating section and listen to the cases being presented. It was a great learning experience and I felt honored to be a part of the Commission’s proceedings and decisions in the various cases they heard. One thing that I found particularly interesting was the process that homeowners must go through when trying to renovate or update a property that is historically significant.  Whether it is the period in which the architecture originates or the architects themselves, making changes to a home that fits within one or both of these categories can be a challenge.

It was fascinating to witness the relationship between the public and the commission members and how they dealt with each case, trying to come to a fair solution for both involved parties. For example, if homeowners wished to update features like windows, then they would need to ensure that the windows match the originals installed by the architect/builder.  Sometimes it is an easy solution that can be quickly reached and other times those making a case for themselves will have to attend multiple meetings and present progress and status reports to the committee.

I think it is incredibly important to preserve historic homes, neighborhoods, and architecture that reflects significant styles or architects. The service that the Commission provides allows for the careful preservation of historical significant sites while also permitting homeowners to make desired changes in a way that maintains the integrity of the original structure. Granted, this process is not always simple and can be difficult, but the goal to maintain local history for everyone to appreciate is admirable and should be shared by all.

boxes and mags and post its OH MY!

By Whitney Knowles

These last 2 weeks at the ATHS were not very eventful. They had a large shipment of boxes and bookshelves to help get their place more organized, since the collections are so rich and large. The focus of my internship has been making it easier to find specific items in the collection. Mostly I formed boxes from IKEA and learned that paper boxes can give you a paper cut. I must have popped up about 200. They are needed to put books and magazines on the shelves of the crisp new bookshelves. The highlight of that day was to be able to pick out photos for the Facebook site. It was St. Pat’s day which is why I picked a beer truck, a “patty wagon”, a police truck and RV truck, since spring break was coming up.

 

Riding Jefferson's Coattails in Jefferson city, MO

A Note from an Impatient American Historian

Nothing happens fast when you are working on a collaborative public history project. There are a thousand pieces of a puzzle that must all come to together. Visits to archives, conversations with those who may know where information might be found, documents must be perused, phone calls made, emails sent, meetings attended, drafts of papers, and more drafts of papers, daydreams, lots of daydreams, favors asked, and favors called in. (Which reminds me I need to add Thank You notes to my ever-growing list of things to do.) All these things are all aimed at that magic moment where an exhibit, single artifact, or piece of writing strikes the viewer or reader with that A-ha! moment. They get it. It sticks. They take it with them down the road and they share it.

I just got back from my first Missouri Conference on History in Jeff City. It was my first conference where I delivered a paper away from the comfort of UMKC. That 20-minute paper took a year to come together and its not finished yet. If I taught and shared a tenth of what I learned it was a great trip. I participated and heard a lot of conversations where ideas and research was shared. There were authored PhDs, undergrads, grads, amateurs, and professionals all sharing their research and ideas, mingling together shaking hands, renewing old acquaintances and exchanging e-mails with the new ones. It was the most attended MHC so far and I’ve realized more than ever that creating history is all about planning and collaboration. No good project is the work of a single author, exhibitor, designer, or researcher. They’re already planning for the next conferences. In 2015 it returns to KC and I can’t wait!

Time, collaboration, planning, that’s what creates good public history. It’s an example of good old-fashioned American democracy in action and at its best. And it ain’t easy and doesn’t happen fast.

Churches, Churches, and more Churches

photoKansas City is unique in that it is home to so many religious groups and the diverse histories they bring with them. If you have driven down 71 highway, particularly near Linwood Boulevard, you will notice a number of immaculate churches with breathtaking architecture that conjures up images of Old World European cathedrals. I have driven by these churches so many times and always marveled at the dramatic contrast between these massive structures and the thriving metropolis that has grown up around them.  Part of the work I am doing in my in internship deals with the East and Swope District, both of which contain a majority of the city’s churches. The past couple days I have been buried in property deeds and descriptions for many of these churches and while it might sound boring, it has actually been quite fascinating.

I have learned so much how about how the various religious groups in Kansas City divided up the geographic landscape of the city.  I would like to think that I have become a bit of an expert in architectural terms associated with churches such as fenestration, doric porticos, sash windows, stone gables, and buttresses. So why is all of this important? Well, for one, I think it is imperative to understand the historical significance of the churches in our city. They represent much more than a Jewish Synagogue or a Catholic Cathedral. These awe inspiring structures remind us of the melting pot of religions that is Kansas City and how a boulevard like Linwood managed to pack Presbyterian, Catholic, Methodist, and various other religions into one lane that comfortably coexisted. In another sense, these churches stand as symbols of a dedication to archictecture that is rarely seen in our modern world. Essentially, an effort to create cathedrals that call to their old European predecessors versus the more modern church structures built today. These magnificent buildings serve as a reminder of the old and the new in Kansas City, standing out in their ancient appeal against the backdrop of a fast developing city.

JPEG1Sadly, some of these amazing churches have long since been abandoned. Fortunately, some have been repurposed into various business or similar purposes. My favorite example is the B’Nai Jehudah Temple that looks as if the Parthenon itself had been dropped into Kansas City. Today that temple is the Robert J. Mohart Multi-Purpose Center. While it seems rather unfortunate that the building is no longer occupied by the original congregation it was designed for, it is nice that the building is being used and not abandoned. If not used as churches I think it is important to preserve these structures not only because of their historical significance (this temple was home to the largest Reform Congregation in Kansas City and the largest reform group in the Midwest), but because of their architectural significance.  It is one of the fines examples of Greek Revival structures in the city and should therefore be preserved and maintained.  The best part about working with all of the property descriptions of these churches is learning the dual histories of the architecture and the original congregations. It has certainly made me appreciate all the immaculate churches and cathedrals I have driven by in the city.

Part Time Positions at the Wornall-Majors House

Immediate part-time openings available at the John Wornall and Alexander Majors House & Museums for administrative contract positions. Responsibilities include: opening and closing the museum, documenting and conducting tours, and miscellaneous administrative tasks as assigned.

Requirements:

  • Must commit to one day per week
  • Knowledge of Microsoft Windows, Word, Excel, and database programs
  • Must be flexible
  • Must work well with others
  • Must be comfortable speaking in front of a group
  • Possess excellent verbal
  • Have knowledge of money transactions (making change, running a credit card machine)
  • Genuine interest in the history of the area and of the Civil War era is a must.

Salary: $8.50 per hour.

Positions available at the:

  • Alexander Majors House & Museum 8201 State Line Rd, KCMO 642115 Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30-4:30 and
  • John Wornall House & Museum 6115 Wornall Rd, KCMO 64113 Two shifts are available on Saturdays from 9:30am to 12:30pm and from 12:30pm to 4:30pm Sundays from 12:30pm to 4:30pm

Contact: Dorene at 816 444-1858 or email volunteers@wornallmajors.org

Paid Oral History Internships at the Missouri History Museum

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THE DEADLINE FOR THIS INTERNSHIP HAS PASSED

The Missouri History Museum is accepting applications from students who are interested in oral history internships (paid positions) with our Exhibitions and Research department. Two interns will be selected and will report to the Director of Exhibitions and Research.

The Missouri History Museum is developing a new space devoted to first-hand accounts of our area’s history. A major feature of The Story Center, which will open in 2016, is a theater that will be used to play films created from excerpts of longer oral histories. During the first year, a series of films will be created called “Show Me Stories.” These films will feature stories from a wide range of fascinating people. To help create these films, we need two interns capable of both conducting long-form interviews and editing those interviews into shorter presentations that will be engaging for a wide audience. These interns will help identify potential interviewees, will conduct interviews along with a videographer, and will work with the videographer and other staff to edit excerpts of the interviews into completed films. Each intern will conduct at least six oral histories over the course of the summer and will create at least two films based on these interviews.

The work schedule is flexible, with hours typically between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. A minimum of 25 hours of work per week is required. This internship will run from May to August 2014, and the final schedule will be determined with the supervisor.

Undergraduate and graduate student will be considered. The ideal candidate will major in American Studies, History, Communication, Journalism, or other related fields. Candidates for the position should have both interviewing and editing experience

The Missouri History Museum is a nonprofit organization dedicated to deepening the understanding of past choices, present circumstances and future possibilities; strengthening the bond of community and facilitating solutions to common problems.

To apply, the applicant must provide a cover letter, and the completed intern application found at www.mohistory.org/employment. Please submit these documents by email, as well as writing samples of your work, and references to: Vicki Kaffenberger, Director of Volunteer and Interns Services, vak@mohistory.org.

OMG- Magazines!

By Whitney Knowles

The last couple times working at the American Historical Truck Society has been filled with colorful pictures of trucks, truck parts and the people who enjoy them. We have been shuffling through old black and white pictures to organize them by their original serial number. Their collection was disorganized and needed to be fixed. It was cool to see how far trucks have come and the different styles that they would come up with. For example, the 50’s and 60’s trucks looked very “George Jesttson” type of style. They looked more like airplanes and spaceships than trucks and buses that we have come to know. My favorite was the monster truck photos from the 70’s. That was on bad mother on wheels. 1779677_744897012189173_1444640811_n

The next week I got to go through ALL their magazines. It is crazy that they have some from 1936. Most of the copies were from the 1970’s and 1980’s. It was my job to sort them by year and month, which took most of the day to complete. I would flip through some, since it gets boring at times, and found it interesting how the truck world was reacting to the change in technology. They seemed to think it would make their jobs hard when in fact it made it much easier.

funny how times change so fast!

“Kitchka, kitchka”

IMG_1361After working on over a dozen transcripts of Holocaust survivor interviews, I have learned a lot of information that I did not expect to learn from this experience. I know more Hebrew and more about various Jewish holidays that I ever knew before. I’ve learned how to identify Yiddish, Hebrew, and Polish words (to a certain extent). I’ve learned about branches of Zionist organizations in Eastern Europe. The context needed to accurately transcribe this information is sometimes daunting, but it is also fascinating to learn about the everyday life of pre-war Poland, Germany, and Hungary through the memories of the interviewees.

I have also learned when I am likely to have a more difficult time with a transcription. With my background in German, I am usually able to easily handle an interview full of German terms or place names. Polish, on the other hand, is not so familiar to me – often, however, the Polish mentioned in the interview is supplemented by Yiddish, which is more similar to German. Hungarian is, unfortunately, almost entirely foreign to me, but I have only worked on two interviews from Hungarian survivors. As I said before, Google Translate is a big help for identifying words or small phrases.

Sometimes, though, the path of researching a term or phrase is anything but straightforward. As I was working on an interview with a Polish survivor, he mentioned a game that he used to play when he was a child. “Kitchka,” he said – the interviewer was not sure what he meant, and as the interviewee described it, the interviewer decided it must be cricket. To check for spelling, I looked for the Polish word for cricket, and then the Yiddish word, but nothing matched. Eventually we contacted a historian Jessica knows to ask, and it turns out that “kitchka” is an obscure game particular to the area the survivor grew up in, with some similarities to cricket. No matter how much I may feel prepared for the next transcript, there is usually at least one curveball waiting for me.

Internship with Honorarium at the Dialogue Institute

Kansas Branch of the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest is pleased to announce an internship opportunity at our office located at 9903 Pflumm Rd, Lenexa, KS 66215.

The Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, established in 2002 as a 501(c)(3) non- profit organization, grew out of the need to address the question, “How can citizens of the world live in peace and harmony?” As the Kansas Branch of the DIS we aim to promote mutual understanding, respect and cooperation among people of diverse faiths and cultures in Greater Kansas City Area, Wichita and Lawrence by creating opportunities for direct communication and meaningful shared experiences. We encourage pluralism by providing opportunities for all cultures, communities and faith groups to be engaged in dialogue through a variety of programs such as Annual Abrahamic Traditions Dinners, Annual Dialogue & Friendship Dinners, Abrahamic Traditions Panels, Thanksgiving and Iftar Dinners, Interfaith Academy Projects, Annual Art Contests as well as many others.

Internship opportunities are available every quarter/semester for students who wish to participate in a learning environment where he or she will gain work experience for the future. The intern will assist the Director of the Kansas Branch of the DIS with daily operations, as well as larger, long-term projects. Responsibilities include maintaining the database, composing invitations, communicating with participants, working on one of the annual programs, and participating in the development of new cross-cultural and interfaith programs and opportunities. The ideal candidate should be able to work flexible hours and attend events.

Internship Requirements:

  • Must be an undergraduate/graduate student or recent graduate
  • Ability to respectfully communicate and work with diverse community groups varying in age, religion, denomination, and ethnicity
  • Ability to efficiently manage multiple tasks and meet deadline
  • Ability to process and protect confidential information
  • Ability to work independently and collaboratively in a team environment.
  • Have excellent verbal, interpersonal and writing skills

Desired Skills/Preferences:

  • Pursuing a degree in Theology, Religious Studies, International Relations, Communications, or other related fields
  • Interest in and ability to readily acquire knowledge on international affairs
  • Excellent organizational skills and attention to detail
  • Ability to work in a demanding, fast-paced environment.

Selected students will be paid $200 at the end of the internship, and rewarded a certificate at the end of the internship term for successful performance. For more information please contact kansascity@thedialoginstitute.org for evaluation. Students wishing to apply should follow the instructions on the How to Apply page.

Leaving Home Behind

By Elizabeth Perry

Tom Lewinsohn and his family did not try to leave their home in Berlin until January 1941, after Tom’s father received a tip from a policeman that their family would soon be deported. Very few places were open to Jewish refugees by 1941, so Tom and his family fled to one of the few places still open to them – Shanghai. For many German Jews, especially those emigrating after Kristallnacht in 1938, Shanghai was one of the very few places that did not limit Jewish immigration. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website, there were 17,000 Jewish refugees in Shanghai by 1939.

Most of the testimony I have transcribed thus far featured the experiences of those that survived the war in Europe in concentration camps, but some of the testimonies feature survivors that escaped Germany before they were deported. Many of them followed a long, tangled route to safety. Klaus Frank and his father were arrested after Kristallnacht and sent to Sachsenhausen, but his family managed to pay for their release, and afterwards they made it to the Dominican Republic. Reggie Goldberg’s family managed to board a French ship to Cuba, but like the famous St. Louis, they were turned back. The family later obtained fake papers and escaped on a flight to the United States from Portugal.

Having studied the Holocaust, and taught it to high school students, one of the questions I often hear is why more of the Jews in Europe, particularly Germany, did not leave. In retrospect it seems like an easy choice, but in reality this was a very difficult decision. These families had often lived in their hometowns for generations, they had homes, businesses, friends, and extended family nearby. Most did not have the money to emigrate. How many could actually imagine what the Nazis planned? Reggie remembers that her father was convinced it would blow over, up until the day that Reggie was picked up at school by the police and sent to a ghetto in Poland with her parents. Klaus’ father dismissed Hitler in 1933, figuring that he “wouldn’t last the next week.” Tom’s father fought in World War I and received the Iron Cross – all his friends told him that no one would touch him because of his service. There were many logical reasons why they didn’t want to leave, and not least of those was the fact that they would be leaving their lives behind. Tom remembers that they left their apartment in the middle of the night, taking only what they could pack and carry with them.

Compounding these problems was the fact that, particularly after 1938, it was difficult to find a place to go. After the war, Tom found out that his father, who worked as a doctor, tried to obtain papers for his family to go to England. He received a reply stating that England did not need any more doctors. Only a few places, like Shanghai, were still available for Jewish refugees, and these were difficult to reach. For most, by the time they realized what was happening, it was already too late.