Map of Middletown, CT, c. 1877.

Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT): Through the generosity of a Mellon Foundation “Humanities for All Times” award, Wesleyan is able to embark on a new project that explores – from interdisciplinary perspectives – the past and contemporary resonances of slavery, race, and industrialization in New England, through innovative curricula, engagement with archives, and public presentations (exhibitions, film, conferences and workshops, & museum collaborations).

I’m truly honored to be a part of this amazing opportunity with my wonderful colleagues, historian Demetrius Eudell (PI/Coordinator) and co-investigators Sonali Chakravarti (Govt), & Jesse Nasta (Director, Middlesex County Historical Society). The team will implement new curricula and engage in archival research, & multi-year collaborations with local and regional museums.

As part of this project, I will lead a two year-long digital storytelling and exhibition project with curators Amy Glowacki (Program Manager, Interpretation and Education @ Coltsville National Historical Park in Hartford, CT) and Alex MacKenzie (Curator of Collections, Springfield Armory National Historic Site). Students will be able to undertake work on field sites such as the historical Colt forge and foundry sheds, engage in library research, and meet with historians, curators, and digital media specialists.

The Mellon support will give us a chance to hire a postdoctoral fellow specializing in digital and visual storytelling to help design student, museum, and community projects including short films, exhibitions, oral history research, photographic archives, and more.

I also will be able to offer three new undergraduate courses: “Visual Methods across the Humanities and Social Sciences;” “Reenacting Justice: Guns in America, with a member of our theater faculty; and “Guns, Society, and Culture.” The team-taught interdisciplinary (History and Theatre) course, “Reenacting Justice,” will culminate in undergraduate theatrical performances that address the social impact of gun laws.

The generous gift of Mellon funding will enable us and our students to build valuable resources and develop cultural partnerships for making legible the interconnections of stories, peoples, and machines of the Triangle Trade in guns and machetes, ivory, sugar, agriculture, human enslavement, and shipbuilding in Middletown and along the Connecticut River Valley, while also learning and applying new humanities tools and methods.

To read more about Mellon’s 2022 “Humanities for All Times” awards and this year’s other Mellon “Humanities for All Times” award recipients, click here for the Mellon Foundation’s announcement; and here for a report in Forbes. Read Wesleyan’s campus announcement here.

Watch this space for more news, events, programs, classes, and ways to get involved! We can’t wait to get started.

Colt building “Onion” Dome in Hartford, CT. Photo taken in spring 2020. Photographer: Nick Caito. Rights: Coltsville National Historic Park (National Park Service).

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Jennifer Tucker is a historian who studies the interrelations of art and science, photography, and mass visual culture, with a specialization in 19th to mid-20th century British, U.S., and trans-Pacific history. The common threads in her diverse research fields are the dynamics of visual media in modern history, the nature of evidence, public perceptions and practices of history, and the interrelationships of science, technology, and the law.

1 Comment

Patrizia Di Bello · January 28, 2022 at 3:53 am

This is an amazing project!

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