Camille Villa – Introduction

July 24, 2012 § 1 Comment

Hi all!  My name is Camille and I’m the other course facilitator for the Historical Research Workshop and a rising junior here at Cal.  I’m torn between ancient history and modern history, but hopefully the skills we learn in the class will apply to all fields of concentration.

One of my chief interests is history theory: when and where does the historical discipline emerge?  How are historical claims substantiated, and what types of evidence are considered historical objects?  How is historical knowledge possible?  Thus far these questions have taken me to studying ancient historiography, with a particular focus on Herodotus (“the father of history”).  How do we get from speaking of the past in the form of epic poetry in Homer to Herodotus’ historie, based in research and inquiry?

Though I currently intend to write my 101 thesis in the field of Ancient Greece, my first love was American history, with particular emphasis on California and the development of the West.  The Bancroft served as my starting point for my UGIS 39B research project on the Richmond shipyards’ booming production during World War II and the effect of rapid industrialization on the local area.  I had the opportunity to utilize a variety of sources to build a rich picture of the challenges and opportunities that workers faced upon arriving in the Bay Area.  At the Bancroft, I sifted through the Henry J. Kaiser papers, which included Kaiser Corporation employee manuals, internal magazines, and reports on workers’ housing and transportation conditions.  By accessing Calisphere (an extremely rich digital resource for California history, replete with photos and documents), I was able to examine photos of “Okie” migrants’ ramshackle housing, a result of the local construction industry’s inability to keep up with the flood of people coming to the Bay Area to work in warboom industries.  I wanted to learn more about potential tensions arising from interactions between locals and the “Okies”, as well as find out more about living and working conditions, so I sought out material from the Regional Oral History Office.  ROHO’s Rosie the Riveter project offered a variety of perspectives on the WWII home front experience.  At the Newspapers and Microforms library, I found a variety of articles in the Oakland Tribune surrounding severe rubber rationing (an issue which I was able to connect to oral histories and Kaiser’s internal studies of pressures on transportation).  While the Oakland Tribune gave me a good bird’s eye view of happenings in the East Bay, I wanted to learn more about how Richmond, a tiny community transformed overnight into a booming factory for the war effort, coped with the pressures of accepting a sudden influx of migrant workers.  Luckily, I had the privilege of visiting the Richmond Museum of History‘s archives and worked with physical copies of the Richmond Independent, the city’s local paper 1912 to 1950.

To me, a Berkeley education is ultimately about discovering one’s own capacity and firmly grasping one’s intellectual potential.  Hopefully, this class will give you the space to practice the research process, explore a variety of resources, and discuss with engaged peers.  This is my first teaching/facilitating experience, so I’m looking forward to everything we’re going to teach each other this semester.  Go Bears!

p.s. You’ll note I am obsessed with providing links.  I highly encourage this practice as a way of (1) making it easier to retrace your own steps (2) encouraging others to become well-informed participants in discussion of your topic .  A good lead to any historical research topic is checking out an author’s bibliography.  If you’re interested in learning more about the history of citation, check out The Footnote: A Curious History by Anthony Grafton,  former president of the American Historical Association.


Katie Fleeman – Introduction

July 5, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hello! My name is Katie, and I am one of the course facilitators for Undergraduate Historical Research Workshop. Right now I’m working on a test run of the course. Students in the class can use my blog as a model for their own journal in the fall, but feel free to use your own style and voice.

My primary interests encompass modern US social history, although I have taken forays into African and global history. I prefer looking at history up and down – how do decisions at the government level affect people on the bottom? How do grassroots movements determine action at the top? I am fascinated by the various intersections between race, gender and class. I have yet to narrow down my 101 topic, but I am contemplating using either the intersection of radicalism and education at San Quentin or the founding of Chinatown in Los Angeles as a starting point.

I met Camille in UGIS 39B, a freshman/sophomore seminar in the Spring of 2011. This was my first foray into undergrad research, and I was instantly smitten. For the class, I crafted a play entitled Bonds of Liberty based on the William H. Staniels family correspondences, a cache of letters I discovered in the Bancroft. Originally, I intended to use the letters to provide background for a WWI-era play I began writing in high school, which was absolutely atrocious in its historical authenticity and desperately seeking some sort of ending. Once I began reading through the archive, however, I realized the stories did not quite align: I wanted something heroic and exciting, and instead I found mundane chronicles of the horrendous food at military camp in Texas. So I used the letters to begin a new play, utilizing words and phrases to create the dialogue, and fictionalizing the very real people to create characters of my own. I embellished my script with images from WWI newspapers, drawing the title from the multitude of war bonds ads I found in the papers. It was a new approach to playwriting for me and a new way of thinking about history.

Since then, I have written several research papers (although I have yet to tackle that 103!). My favorite recent paper detailed the history of women in the University of California Marching Band,  from gender integration in 1973 to current perceptions of women. The majority of my work was actually outside of the library: I conducted nearly 30 phone and email interviews with Cal Band alumni, documenting their experiences and fitting them together into a history. But I strengthened this work with library sources, such as articles from the Daily Cal and oral histories stored in the library and online. I also discovered a whole archive in the back of the Band Rehearsal Hall! It was a really awesome

I absolutely love using the Bancroft library. The reading room is so beautiful and quiet, and an aura of studiousness circulates throughout. I imagine this is what it was like for ancient scholars and medieval monks, except it’s bright and airy, with a lovely view of Memorial Glade and large windows letting in the California sun (although as I write this, it’s one of those June-gloom-in-July kind of days so it’s not quite as bright and airy as other visits). I always get a little bit of a thrill when I check out a box from the Bancroft. To me, this is what Berkeley is about: discovering something new and making it your own.

I am super excited to do this test run this summer and to facilitate the DeCal in the fall. I’m sure a bunch of great stuff will come out from it, and I’m excited to teach and learn from all of you!

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for July, 2012 at Historical Research Workshop.