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Public History News

Keyword: in the classroom

Mount Clare Mansion, Carroll Park, Baltimore, Maryland.  One of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in Baltimore.

As part of our crusade to bring the most interesting public history programming to the classrooms of Stevenson University, the Stevenson History Department presents our Spring 2016 "Cool Courses."...Click here to read more.

Genotyping Chip (credit Maggie Bartlett, NHGRI )

Last Thursday, Stevenson PHIST majors were given an opportunity that may come only once in a lifetime: an opportunity to document one of the most important scientific projects in human history....Click here to read more.

The jet powered truck Shockwave tries out its propulsion system on the runway.

A lot of students believe that history is boring and simply deals with stuff in the past.  Well, that may be true if you have the wrong teacher.  Here in the Stevenson Public History Program we believe that history is vibrant, active, and fun.  We believe in "doing" history as opposed to simply reading about it.  This past weekend we went to an event at Naval Air Station (NAS) Oceana near Virginia Beach, Virginia.  The idea was to participate in an event as old as the development of the airplane: the airshow.

In the 1920s and 1930s, "barnstormers" crisscrossed the United States as they brought their death defying performances to local pastures and airfields.  Local crowds gathered to watch stunt performers engage in aerial acrobatics (aerobatics) and to watch as daredevils walked on the wings of airplanes in flight.  The planes flew low, engaged in lops and rolls, climbed into the heavens--- and then plummeted toward earth as if they were going to crash.  Only at the last moment would the pilot pull back on the "stick" and save himself from certain death.  How can we capture the feel of those events in history in our contemporary world?  Go to an airshow!!!!

    

Greg Shelton and "Sam" the Wingwalker taxi down the runway having just returned from their performance.

Greg Shelton and his "Super Stearman" airplane were the perfect platform by which wingwalker "Sam" performed her amazing routine far above the crowd.  Whether the Stearman was looping, rolling, climbing, or plummeting, "Sam" was incredible in her ability to recapture the golden days of wingwalking.  The Stearman has a unique engine sound as well as look that brings us back to the 1930s-- its two wings and 450 hp engine make it extremely maneuverable.  Back in 1943 it was part of my dad's training as a Navy pilot in Corpus Christi, Texas.

A few AT-6 "Texans" fly by in formation.  Known to the US Navy as the SNJ.

A number of AT-6 "Texans" provided a demonstration of WWII aerial tactics to the crowd at Oceana as part of the airshow.  Used as a primary flight trainer by the armed services during WWII, the AT-6 was usually a step or two before a pilot was given control of his fighter or multi-engine aircraft.  With the unique sound of piston engines exhibited by all aircraft at the time, it's amazing to hear them roar over you and to realize that what you're hearing would have been present at Pearl Harbor-- twenty times the number and with explosions and gunfire increasing the volume.

Of course, as good as the piston driven aircraft were, it was the Blue Angels for whom the crowds had gathered. The US Navy's precision aerial team, the Blue Angels have been in existence since 1946.  Above they demonstrate their formation flying capability.

With their landing gear extended and tailhooks deployed, these Angels show how to get ready for a carrier landing.... or maybe not!

Once again--the finest precision military aerial team in the world!

While the Blue Angels are a wonderful precision team and are as showy as you can get, it seemed that the hometown crowd's hearts were stolen by the local Navy pilots stationed at Oceana NAS.  Below you will see an F-18 Hornet taxiing in from its performance that showed the crowd what it means to be a Navy pilot.  

Displaying the skills required to operate in today's combat zones, this crew showed everyone what the Fleet Air Arm is all about.  These are the aircrews protecting us on a daily basis and it was wonderful to see them doing their job.

The airshow was dedicated to the Navy Wounded Warrior/ Safe Harbor Program.  As a way of displaying how that program helps former Navy and Coast Guard personnel with disabilities find a new meaning in life the crowd was honored to observe three Wounded Warrior heroes skydive to a precision landing.

Oh, and that truck on top is really neat. Shockwave is powered by three jet engines and has been performing for 30 years.  It is a staple at airshows around the US and races a jet at every airshow.  To see a jet cross the threshold of a runway and Shockwave begin to race it down the runway is truly amazing.  It may not prove much, and it may not be very educational, but it makes a great picture!

102 years ago a sea battle took place that marked the beginning of modern naval warfare.  Taking place in Hampton Roads near Norfolk, Virginia, the battle between the ironclad warships USS Monitor and CSS Virginia heralded a new era: an era during which warships were made of steel and propulsion came from steam.

The Stevenson Public History Program recently visited the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Virginia, the home of the salvaged USS Monitor.  An extensive collection of artifacts is displayed through the exhibits in the museum that deal with the development of ironclads, the history of the two ships, a detailed account of the sea battle, as well as the raising of the USS Monitor.

What's absolutely wonderful about this museum is the multiple opportunities it provides for visitors to engage with the subject.  Even going to the bathroom is an opportunity to learn about life at sea.  In the mens room one is greeted with a wall poster devoted to explaining how sailors historically cared for their bodily functions while at sea.

A visit to the "head" becomes a personalized learning opportunity:

 

 
Using every opportunity to educate the public.

One exhibit displays a recreated interior of the USS Monitor's turret interior as it appeared when it was raised. 

Rusted, dirty, and encased in underwater sealife, the mock turret provides an indication of that which was once reality.  Nearby, a recreation of the turret as it originally looked helps the visitor envision the interior of the turret and the purpose of the vessel.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recreation of the turret as raised from the sea floor.

Recreation of that same turret as it would have looked at the time.

After taking an hour to go through that part of the museum concerned with the USS Monitor-- we could easily have spent two hours-- we opted to view the 43-minute movie "D-Day 3D: Normandy 1944" by Pascal Vuong.  Narrated by Tom Brokaw, the film makes use of colorized documentary photos, CGI, battle recreations, and standard film techniques to deliver the story of the D-Day invasion(s) of Normandy in 1944.  Rarely impressed by 3D films, I can tell you that this one works.  Seeing historically significant photos rendered as colorized 3D images is amazing as is the CGI -based pop-up book explaining the flow of the battle as well as some of the key inanimate heroes of that battle.

If you have the opportunity to swing hy the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, please do so.  On our visit we barely scratched the surface of what is available at that venue.  Having said that, the part that we saw was impressive.  Plan the better part of a day to see the museum or a number of shorter visits.

Photo Courtesy of the National Museum of The Marine Corps

Representatives from Stevenson's Public History Program spent a memorable Saturday morning at the National Museum of the Marines Corps in Triangle, Virginia....Click here to read more.

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