Join the 10th Season of Excavation of the Roman Baths!

Here are a couple of awesome opportunities available this summer for those interested in archeology and excavation…don’t forget that Villanova Students are able to apply for conference travel funding as well!

June 12 – July 23, 2016
Now accepting applications from students and volunteers to participate in our tenth season of excavations of the baths at Roman Carsulae. The application deadline is April 15, 2016.
Project and Location  
The Roman city of Carsulae, founded in the third century BCE along the Via Flaminia in modern Umbria, was extensively excavated by the Soprintendente for Umbria, Umberto Ciotti, from the 1950s to the 1970s.  He uncovered a number of its public buildings including the forum, amphitheatre and theatre and transformed the entire area into an archaeological park.  In 2004, our team, under the direction of Jane K. Whitehead and the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici dell’Umbria commenced a long term project to re-excavate the baths, which are located just south of the city limits and were left exposed after Ciotti’s excavation 40 years earlier.
In 2011, grants were received from Italian sources, in particular the Associazione Valorizzazione del Patrimonio Storico, which enabled us to construct a roof over the remains of the baths.  Because it affords greater protection from the elements, during the 2012 and 2013 seasons we were able to open up areas that were more fragile, thus further exposing the structure. 
We plan to dedicate our 2016 season to excavating the remainder of the areas beneath the protective roof.  We will also collaborate with our colleagues with the San Gemini Preservation Studies program and the Soprintendenza on a comprehensive plan for the conservation of the bath building.
The field program welcomes both students and volunteers. No experience is necessary, only an enthusiasm for archaeology and the ability to work hard in rigorous conditions. Participants are instructed in excavation strategies, techniques and recording, the formulation of research questions and priorities, identification and handling of artifacts, drafting of site plans, and analytical rendering. Throughout the season, participants are given the opportunity to work with our conservators in the lab cleaning and consolidating small finds, or in the field helping to conserve the mosaics we have discovered over the course of the excavations.
The program fee is $950.00 per week, which includes a shared room as well as breakfast daily and lunch and dinner five days a week. All equipment and local transportation is also provided. The minimum length of stay is three weeks, however in order to experience all stages of an excavation we strongly encourage participating in the full six-week program.  We offer a discounted rate to those who opt to enroll for the full six weeks.  Contact us for further details.
There are two possible start dates this year: Sunday, June 12and Sunday, July 3.
We are not offering credit this season, however we are happy to work with your university.
Accommodations and Meals  
We stay at the Albergo Duomo, three or four people to a room, in the charming hill town of San Gemini, just three kilometers from Carsulae.  All rooms have private baths and air conditioning, and the hotel is equipped with free wireless.  Our meals are eaten in the elegant dining room of the hotel.
Participants work in the field Monday through Friday from 6 AM to 1 PM (or an hour earlier, depending on the weather). After lunch and a well-earned siesta, afternoons are spent in the lab processing each day’s finds and attending classes, lectures, or working with our conservators. Weekends are open for travel or relaxation. Group trips to nearby sites of interest are often available.
The application deadline is Friday, April 15, 2016
Related programs:
Restoration and Analysis of Archaeological Ceramics
May 30 – June 24, 2016
Our colleagues at San Gemini Preservation Studies offer a number of programs that also take place during the summer in San Gemini.  We encourage you to look at their website and consider participating in one of their courses before or after your time spent working with us.  Of particular relevance to our project is the Archaeological Ceramics Conservation program, which provides an excellent background in analysis and restoration (very useful when working in the field and lab) and offers a rare opportunity for students to be trained in both disciplines by experienced field archaeologists and conservators while working with original archaeological artifacts.
Athens: Heritage and Modernity
Exploration of the coexistence between historic and modern Athens, Greece
June 26 – July 7, 2016 (check-in Saturday, June 25 – check-out Friday, July 8)
This twelve day trip is a thoughtful exploration of the history, preservation and conservation issues facing the city, organized around a series of lectures and visits led by some of the top Athenian archaeologists, architects, historians, conservators and planners who have been dealing with the problem of surveying, planning, and preserving monuments and cultural heritage in the midst of a growing modern city.
The faculty of this program includes internationally renowned scholars, such as Dr. Manolis Korres, who was Chief Architect on the Acropolis Restoration Project, who will be leading lectures and visits to the Acropolis area, as well as Dr. Fani Mallouchou Tufano, an expert on the history of restoration and was director of the Documentation Office of the Acropolis Restoration Service.
Thank you to Jane Whitehead, Director of the Excavations of the Baths at Roman Carsulae, for sharing this information with the Villanova History Department.

Where Will We Work?

The American Historical Association recently dropped some bad news for academic job seekers in the humanities.

AHA has reported that the number of job postings they received in 2014-15 was down 8 percent from the prior year. This marking the third straight year in which the association is reporting a decline. Although 8 percent may not seem like such a big drop, as a whole job listings are down 45 percent since AHA’s 2011-12 report.

Not all faculty positions are listed with disciplinary associations, but many are, and from that, most experts on the academic job market believe that the ups and downs of disciplinary association listings are a reliable barometer of the market as a whole.

In history, the situation may be especially challenging for new Ph.D.s, because their numbers have continued to grow as the market has become so tight.

“Notably, for the first time in 41 years, the number of jobs advertised with the AHA fell below half the number of Ph.D.s conferred in the previous year. Approximately 1,183 new Ph.D.s were conferred in history in the 2013-14 academic year,” says the report on the jobs data, written by Robert B. Townsend, who oversees the Washington office of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Humanities Indicators Project, and Julia Brookins, special projects coordinator at the AHA.

And if that’s not bad enough news, there are also issues related to a mismatch between the specialties of new Ph.D.s and those of the available positions.

For jobs that specified an area of focus, 21.8 percent specified an expert on the history of North America. But 36.5 percent of the latest cohort of new Ph.D.s have that as their area of focus. The odds also are difficult for those in European history, which is the preferred subject of 14.8 percent of positions but the specialty of 19.4 percent of new Ph.D. recipients.

The proportions of jobs and of new Ph.D. specialties are closer (and the numbers are small) in Latin American and Middle Eastern history.

Areas where there are proportionately more jobs than are reflected in the new Ph.D. pool are Asian history (9 percent of listings and 6.6 percent of new Ph.D.s) and African history (4.4 percent of listings and 2.7 percent of new Ph.D.s).

Some job listings include qualities aside from geographic focus. The largest nongeographical specialty sought was the history of religion (3.6 percent of listings). Work with digital history was also listed as the prime focus of 2.6 percent of jobs and as a desirable quality in 5.5 percent of jobs.


S.F. Johnson

Smithsonian to Open African American Museum

On September 24, the Smithsonian Institution will open the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Chief spokeswoman for the Smithsonian Institute, Linda St. Thomas, has confirmed that President Barack Obama, will lead the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

A weeklong celebration will follow, including an outdoor festival and a period in which the museum on the National Mall will be open for 24 consecutive hours.

The museum has built a collection of 11 exhibits to trace the history of slavery, segregation, civil rights and African-Americans’ achievements in the arts, entertainment, sports, the military and the wider culture.

Artifacts on loan from other institutions will also be on display, such as two documents signed by President Abraham Lincoln: the 13th Amendment and the Emancipation Proclamation.



S.F. Johnson

Welcome new Phi Alpha Theta Members! 

On November 9, 2015 Villanova’s History Department welcomed their newest members to the Tau Phi Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta. Both graduate and undergraduate students were recognized for their outstanding attainments and scholarship in the field of history.

A big congratulations to the 2015 prize winners:

Ciara Sprance, awarded with the George T. Radan Prize in Art History for her paper entitled “Byzantine Iconoclasm and the Image Cult of the Virgin Mary: Constructive Desctruction.”

Nelson Rice, awarded The Bohdan P. Procko Prize for best undergraduate student paper in 2015 for his paper entitled, “The Frontier on Fifth Avenue: How Rodio Ben Lichtenstein, Jim Shoulders and Wrangler Jeans Refashioned the American West.”
James Schmitt, awarded The Daniel B. Carroll Prize for best graduate history paper in 2015 for his paper entitled, “The Postwar Wilderness Dilemma: the Relationship between Conservationists and the National Park Service from the Second World War to the Wilderness Act, 1941-1964.”
Patrick Ciapciak, awarded The Richard L. Bates Memorial Award for Outstanding Service to History 2015.
And welcome to the newest inductees:

Graduate Students

Anna Fitzpatrick

Alexander Harding

Sarah Johnson

Chelse Martin

Elizabeth Motich

Christopher Pegg

Melissa Tracy

Undergraduate students

Kathleen Boyce

John Brennan

Laura Campbell

Patrick Ciapciak

Michael Collins

Hollis Ekroth

Joseph Farmer

Joseph Gaude

John Kraus

Ryan Murtha

Erin Mysogland

Brian Polk

Patrick Riley

Kevin Samolsky

Elise VanAradale

Vernacular Architecture Forum Annual Conference

This summer, Helen Gassmann and I  attended the Vernacular Architecture Forum’s (VAF) 2015 conference in Chicago, Illinois. Entitled “Out of the Loop,” the conference featured two days of walking tours through residential and industrial neighborhoods led by scholars and long-time Chicagoans. The conference concluded with a day of paper sessions. The theme of the conference, “Neighborhoods in Transition,” highlighted many issues at the core of the public history program at Villanova University. Topics included immigrant experiences, urban renewal issues, public housing histories, industrial and brownfield development, competition between old and new construction, and community involvement in preservation.

VAF is an organization dedicated to the study of ordinary landscapes and buildings. As a result its annual conference unites individuals from various disciplines. “Out of the Loop” brought historians, architects, urban planners, historic preservationists, anthropologists, sociologists, and geographers into conversation with each other, providing an opportunity for academics and professionals to interact.

The two of us received Ambassador Awards from the VAF to travel to “Out of the Loop” with our faculty sponsor, Dr. Whitney Martinko. In addition to promoting the conference on social media, we are planning on-campus events over the coming year in order to build upon our experiences in Chicago at Villanova. We would like to thank the Graduate Studies and History Department, as well as Dr. Rosier and Dr. Martinko for allowing us to participate in such an enlightening experience.

For those interested, VAF’s 2016 conference will be held in Durham, NC from June 1- June 4. The conference will focus on the wide range of resources from rural to urban, as well as the social and racial histories of the region. For those interested in presenting a paper at the conference, information can be found here:

An Open Letter to the First Year Grad Students…

Congratulations! You have made it through your first two weeks as a graduate student! You have attended orientation, the writing workshop, and I’m sure a tour or two. You have maybe stumbled upon a Holy Grounds, or favorite food spot on campus. You have definitely found your classes, made your way through the awkward introductions, received your syllabus, and if you are anything like the rest of us, had a small panic attack. How will you ever make it through the next two years? How will there ever be enough hours in the day to complete the amount of work expected?


Take a breath.

Now (maybe grab a drink, snack, coffee, etc.) read some of the advice that helped me get through my first year…I promise it will help.

  1. If you don’t like coffee, start to. It will be your best friend. It will be your lifeline
  2. Pretzels on campus are 59 cents – also learn to love those.
  3. Get to know the librarians, especially Jutta Seibert – she is like a source finding wizard.
  4. When, and if, you have the time volunteer to work in Special Collections or the scanning lab, it’s great hands on experience, and you will without a doubt find something you can use in your personal research.
  5. Make use of office hours. One of the greatest things about the professors at Villanova is that they genuinely want you to do great and are more than willing to help, you just have to ask.
  6. Stay confident in yourself as a historian. You may still be learning, but you are in fact a historian, own that.
  7. Learn how to speed read and effectively utilize book reviews – this skill will never fail you.
  8. Take the opportunity to volunteer or intern, again, when you have the time, at any local museum or historical site. Really, take any and every opportunity you are able to – whether it be volunteer/intern positions, professional seminars (there are a ton of free ones around Philly), conferences, or on campus speakers and events – you will not regret it.
  9. Don’t be the person that listens to their music too loud in the library, Rofinot, or the graduate study lounge – we will all silently hate you.
  10. If you are one of those people that are used to always getting A’s, forget about that, but don’t lose your confidence, ask how to improve, and do it.
  11. You will have no idea what you are doing until about halfway through the semester – none of us do.
  12. You will likely question why you are here, you will consider moving back home and calling it quits on this whole MA in History thing. When this feeling creeps up on you know that you are here for a reason. Know that the department wanted you and believes in you. Each one of us offers a unique voice, a different background, and a personalized experience that helps make Villanova’s History Department the wonderful place that it is.
  13. Lastly, and maybe most important, when someone (coworker, classmate, friend) asks you to grab coffee, food, or drinks – TAKE THE INVITATION. You deserve a break.

I know that all of you are going to do amazing in the program and go on to do even greater things. Know how important this opportunity is and all the doors it will open for you, but don’t take it so serious that you are unable to enjoy it. We’re in this together – and on Thursday nights we are at Garrett Hill Ale House for post class drinks.

A special thanks to Dan Gorman, Chelse Martin, Brianna Quade, Ann Shipley, Elizabeth Motich, and Matt Albertson for helping contribute to this list.

Also, a very special thanks to Chelse Martin, Brianna Quade, Heather Lucas, Sam Hunter, Anna Fitzpatrick and Helen Gassmann for helping me survive my first year!

Connecting a City’s Past With Its Future: Creating Inner City Green Space Through Preservation

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of preserve is “to keep (something) in its original state or in good condition.” Often times it is assumed that Historic Preservationist lean toward the former, a desire to keep historic structures in their “original state” however, this is not necessarily true. It is also assumed that all historic preservation efforts focus on saving structures with major historical significance, such as Independence Hall, while “ordinary” structures fall to the wayside. In Kathryn Rogers Merlino’s article “[Re]Evaluating Significance: The Environmental and Cultural Value in Older and Historic Buildings,” published in the August 2014 edition of The Public Historian, she discusses the ways in which “ordinary” historic buildings can be preserved and repurposed to create green buildings that promote cross generational connections. Merlino explains that these buildings, which are often seen as historically insignificant, embody the culture of a specific time and place and that tearing them down to create new buildings erases a significant part of an area’s history. Merlino’s argument is that by repurposing old, or historic, buildings, a community can not only save on redevelopment costs, but can also revitalize their living space while connecting their past with their future.

This argument can move far beyond historic buildings to support the preservation of historic structures of all kinds. In cities across the world repurposing abandoned rail lines as city green spaces is becoming a popular trend. In Paris, Sydney, Toronto, Chicago, Atlanta, and even Philadelphia, plans have been developed to once again give life to the rail lines which once supported these major areas. Many of the cities have modeled their plans after New York City’s High Line, an elevated green space that opened in 2010 by repurposing the abandoned rail lines which once brought goods to Manhattan’s largest industrial district. The growth in popularity of vehicles and interstate trucking led to the closing of many rail lines that were once major arteries into the heart of cities. By repurposing them into parks, communities can enjoy green space, which is often difficult to find in urban areas, while also preserving their past as major rail ports and the history of the industrial railroad.

For more information on what Philadelphia is planning for the abandoned Reading Rail Park please visit – be sure to watch the video to see the ways in which the park can positively impact the surrounding urban neighborhoods.

Information on NYC’s High Line can be found here:

And for a quick article on how cities worldwide are repurposing abandoned rail lines visit:

The Fight for the Future of the Legendary Blue Horizon

At 1314-16 N. Broad Street, on the northern end of Philadelphia’s Center City, a decaying late nineteenth century brownstones sits unoccupied. Nestled between the Freedom Theater and a Sunoco gas station, only a blue historical marker sheds light on the importance that the building has held in Philadelphia’s diverse history. Beginning its life as three separate residences, the iconic brownstone façade is representative of the emergence of an upper middle class in urban centers during the nineteenth century, specifically the then affluent Philadelphia north side. The moose head above the joint entrance denotes the Loyal Order of the Moose, a civic group popular among men in the early twentieth century. Inside, the legendary boxing ring, continuously referred to as the best in the world amongst the boxing community, echoes back to the famous bouts once held within the buildings walls, and a cultural phenomenon that swept the country throughout the twentieth century.

In 1912, the Loyal Order of the Moose purchased three brownstones and converted them into one large building, adding an additional auditorium to the rear of the building. The location became the site of the largest meeting of the Order of the Moose in world. In 1961, when middle class Americans were fleeing to the suburbs, the building was purchased by a new owner, converted into a boxing arena, and renamed the Blue Horizon. For nearly fifty years the Blue Horizon hosted world renowned matches, and was even featured on ESPN’s “Friday Night Fights” until safety concerns and monetary issues forced the doors closed in 2010. Apprehensions regarding what to do with the historical building have since plagued the city and local preservationists alike.

In 2011, Governor Tom Corbett, approved a six million dollar Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant, which was given to the Mosaic Development Partners firm to be used to bring life back to the Blue Horizon building. The firm purchased the building under the agreement that they would restore its historical significance while creating a new commercial opportunity for the surrounding neighborhood. The Mosaic Development Partners collaborated with the Orens Brother firm to draw up plans which included building a hotel in the lot next to the Blue Horizon, and turning the arena into a night club and banquet hall. However, after two years of stagnation, the Mosaic Development Partners and Orens Brother firm came forward with a new plan for the building, which no longer included the preservation of the famous boxing arena.

The threat of its destruction caught the attention of Preservation Pennsylvania, Hidden City Philadelphia, and the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, as well as the national boxing community. Preservationists have argued that the building, and particularly its interior, is a strong candidate for being protected by the City’s Historic Commission. With the destruction of the Blue Horizon auditorium comes the destruction of a large piece of Philadelphia’s past. A city that has played a major role in the history of boxing continues to see reminiscences of said history washed away. With two other arenas already demolished, and Joe Frazier’s Gym, though added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2013, housing a furniture store, there is little to be seen of the once rich boxing culture.

Moving into action the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia submitted a request to the Historic Commission to ensure the salvation of both the exterior and interior of the iconic building. In a recent hearing the Historic Commission deemed the arena to not be worthy designation. ”Legendary did not mean historic” was the argument made for the allowance of deconstruction with the understanding that the façade of the building would be preserved. It is cases like this that raise questions regarding the difference between salvaging and preserving and what preservation really means. Furthermore, it begs the question, what parts of history are worthy of saving and who gets to decide?

Fall 2014 Digital Humanities Workshop Series

This semester a number of graduate students from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences had the opportunity to partake in a free digital humanities workshop series led by Laura Bang of the Special Collections Department. The five part series included introductory lessons on Coding Basics, Audio Editing, WordPress as a Content Management System and GIS/Mapping. Each meeting brought a new speaker from around the Philadelphia area who would conduct a short lesson on the specific topic and then walk the students through small projects using the programs that were introduced. Although none of us walked away experts, the mere introduction to programs and websites has made available the tools needed to be self taught.

With the history department offering a heavy presence throughout the series it was often asked what role digital humanities plays in the field of history, and the answer is they often work hand in hand. To quote one of the presenters, Mitch Fraas, Digital Humanities is “a new way of accessing and presenting humanistic ideas and information.” For historians this often works in our favor! The simplest example would be the digitizing of collections, such as the James Madison papers, for online access and research. However, here are two other examples that tie together the different aspects of the series such as mapping, coding and audio editing to give a better idea of the ways that Digital Humanities can offer new forms of research.