Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Conference Announcement: American West Center at Fifty

Via the excellent Greg Smoak, this call for papers for a special conference: The American West Center at Fifty. Don't be misled by the title, the conference is about the entire history of the American West, not specifically about the University of Utah’s American West Center. I appreciate the emphasis on public engagement. The conference is Sept. 19-21 and deadline for proposals has been extended to April 15. Here are the details:

The American West Center at Fifty 



A Symposium on Public Engagement in the Humanities and Social Sciences
University of Utah Salt Lake City, Utah September 19-21, 2014

Western Lands, Western Voices, a three-day interdisciplinary symposium exploring the past, present, and future of public engagement in the Humanities and Social Sciences will be held in Salt Lake City, September 19-21, 2014. The symposium marks the fiftieth anniversary of the University of Utah’s American West Center, the oldest regional studies center of its kind in the West. Our goal is to bring together college/university and community based practitioners for a lively discussion of the place and power of publicly engaged/applied scholarship in the American West.

Participation: We seek submissions from college and university based scholars, community based organizations and institutions, state and local historical and cultural entities, and indigenous Nations. The symposium will engage diverse fields including history, anthropology, political science, ethnic studies, literature, cultural studies, and the arts. We strongly encourage participants and projects that span disciplinary divides. Submissions from graduate students, early career scholars, and community based scholars are particularly encouraged, as are those that address innovative ways of reaching public audiences. 

Topics: We are seeking proposals for panels, sessions, and individual presentation that illustrate the power and potential of publicly engaged scholarship. Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Indigenous Sovereignty
  • Cultural Preservation and Indigenous Peoples
  • Oral History Methods and Applications
  • Community Based History Projects
  • Environmental Policy and Politics
  • Public Lands Management and History
  • Literary and Artistic Representations of the American West 

Session Formats: We are seeking submissions for sessions and presentations in a range of formats. Traditional research presentations are welcome, but we encourage collaborative formats such as roundtables and the NCPH’s “working group” format. Working Groups connect individuals working on similar projects or problems through the discussion of pre-circulated scholarship.

For complete panel or session proposals a designated contact person should submit a single PDF document that includes a one-page (approx. 250 word) abstract describing the general purpose of the session as well as one-paragraph presentation abstracts and one-page CV’s for each of the session participants. Contact information (address, phone number, and email) for all participants must be provided.

Individual presentation proposals should include a one-page abstract as well as a one-page CV with complete contact information (address, phone number, and email) . We will do our best to match individual submissions to create viable sessions.

Working Group Submissions should be made by individuals planning to serve as facilitators for the group. They should include a one-page abstract describing the central issue that the group will address and a one-page CV with complete contact information (address, phone number, and email). If the proposed topic is selected we will assist the facilitator in recruiting appropriate working group members.

All submissions should be sent in PDF format to by April 15, 2014. Please contact the American West Center at (801) 581-7611 if you have any questions.

Monday, February 24, 2014

History Trivia Night at NoLi Brewery

History and beer are a perfect match--and have been for at least 10,000 years. For those of you in the Spokane area, here is an opportunity to indulge in both. NoLi Brewery, our finest local brewmasters, are partnering with the EWU History Club for a trivia night. Come early and get a tour of the historic structure that houses the brewery. Details below:

EWU History Club & Phi Alpha Theta Present:
Trivia Night Fund Raiser
At the NoLi Brewery in the Historic Cascade Laundry Building
March 3, 5:30 – 8:00

$8.00 in advance,  $10.00 at the door.  Ticket covers admission and one raffle ticket.  Children under 16 free of charge.  Families welcome!!

Historic tours of the building start at 5:30
History Trivia competition begins at 6:30
Raffle at 7:30

For more information please contact Erin Pulley at

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Postcard Valentine's Day Story

One of the challenges of the Spokane Historical project has been finding images that we can use. Digital history is hungry for pictures, and unfortunately the institutions which hold historic images in Spokane are hungry for cash. Three is no budget for Spokane Historical, it is a labor of love from the EWU Public History Program. So I have not been able to use many historic photographs from our local museum or newspaper.

Historians, though, are nothing if not resourceful. We have found thousands of images we could use  by scouring other, copyright-free sources, including public archives like the Library of Congress and the Washington State Archives, old images in newspapers and Google books, and hundreds of historic postcards that I have purchased at thrift stores and online. Last year I bought this accordion-style postcard set of colorized images of Spokane from the 1930s and 40s:

Looking more closely, I discovered I had purchased more than I'd bargained for. I always consider it a bonus when someone has written on the postcards. Over the years I have found love notes, parental chastisements, and travel stories this way. This particular set of postcards was addressed to Gazel (yes, Gazel) Turner of Philippi, West Virginia. The postmark is October 17, 1945:

Here is Gazel in the 1940 census--daughter of Issac and Dessie. Apparently unusual female names were a Turner family tradition. She was 21, single, and like nearly everyone else in Philippi, had gone to school only through the 8th grade. What really caught my eye though was the note written around the return address inside:

Can you make it out? It reads: "With lots of love to the girl of my dreams I hope." I love how "hope" is underlined. Of course I immediately went online to the Washington State Archives, Digital Archives to see what happened with Miss Turner and her hopeful suitor. Here is what I found:

Reader, he married her. On the day before Christmas in 1946, eleven months after Milton dropped the post cards with his shyly-penciled love note into the mail. he and Gazel were wed. A Unitarian minister, the Rev. John Brogden, performed the service. I don't know when Gazel came out to Spokane or what she brought with her--but she must have brought our postcards, which she poured over again and again on her way across the country.

And that really is the end of story, because after their marriage in 1946, our lovebirds seem to have vanished. I can find no record of either Milton or Gazel, including no obituaries. And really, how does a person named Gazel hide from Google Search? One can speculate all sorts of scenarios, but I like to think they are still together, in their nineties, and living in a little shotgun house in Peaceful Valley, below the falls pictured in the postcard that Milton sent to his girl in 1945.