The ethical, political, and economic factors influencing how our history is portrayed
During this 3-week course Washington College students were immersed in the interpretation of the past by exposure to various institutions, researchers, re-enactors, actors, scientists, archaeologists, historians, and staff that are responsible for this important role. Students visited and were given “behind the scene tours” of a variety of museums (the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Natural History, the National Museum in Copenhagen), open-air museums (Williamsburg, Lejre: Land of Legends in Denmark, the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark), conservation labs (Winterthur, MAC lab), Medieval Times, a Society for Creative Anachronism group, a civil war re-enactment group, an international primitive technology gathering (the Athraa gathering); and, learned in a lecture/discussion format. After spending a considerable amount of time learning about how the past was interpreted to them, the students embarked on a culminating experience where they were required to put into practice all that they had learned by becoming interpreters themselves. During the final fours days of the course, students inhabited a reconstructed Iron Age Village, cooked and ate only period correct food, wore period correct dress, and use only period correct tools while interpreting Iron Age life to the public.
The Ichthyology students observed Zebrafish larvae exhibiting positive phototaxis, a tendency to move towards the light. In this experiment, half of a glass tank was covered in foil to create dark conditions and students watched as the larvae settled themselves in the lighted portion.
Andrea Wulf, acclaimed author of Chasing Venus: The Race to Measure the Heavens, visited Washington College as a part of the Chestertown Book Festival. In her book, Wulf vividly portrays the battalion of 18th-century scientists who braved hurricanes, tropical disease, pirates, plagues, and war to fan out across the globe and witness a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event.
Guided by Professor Bill Schindler, students visited several museums to consider the ethical, political, and economic factors that influence how history is portrayed. The course culminated in an Iron Age village in Denmark.