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Research Statement

     The study of cultural history is a vital part of the social sciences. Cultural historians explore beyond one aspect or cause of an event. Nothing happens in a bubble. I define culture as the norms to which a society or group of people give value. This can include, but is not limited to: theological notions, superstitions, traditions, rules of conduct, and a commonly held sense of identity. Culture influences human communication, actions, and reactions.
    At present, too few researchers take into account the broader cultural influences. Many are pigeon holed into studying from a single angle or discipline. Quality research takes a multi-disciplined approach. In order to gain a deeper understanding, one must delve into the necessary and sufficient causes. Sufficient causes in turn then become necessary causes for other events. History, Art, Architecture, Philosophy, religion, sociology, archeology, and anthropological lenses are all essential in researching the past. My background in the Humanities allows me to use a multi-disciplined approach to research. I am capable of seeing the problem through multiple lenses at the same time.


Past Projects

The Aural Soundscape of Nauvoo, Illinois (1800-1847)

     19th Century American’s notions of listening and reliance on the sense of sound differs from present day dependence on the sense of sight. As the country grew both in territory and population, the soundscape evolved. The Mormon settlement of Nauvoo is a particularly interesting study as it contained elements of rural and city sounds in its rapid growth and then decline. Located on the Mississippi River and the destination of many new convert immigrants, it also reflected an experience that is foundational to the notions of American 19th Century cultural legacy. What did it sound like to live in a bustling frontier settlement? How did people use their sense of sound differently than modern Americans? What connections did sound have to cultural development? How did our sensitivities change from sound to sight based? What elements propelled this change?

The Mormon Order: Understanding the Symbolic Heritage of the Original Nauvoo Temple

     My Master’s Thesis explores an interdisciplinary interpretation of the original Nauvoo Temple. There was a need for a more comprehensive and symbolic study of the architecture. The results of previous studies were superficial, narrow, repetitive, or meant to simply reconstruct the building. Many were biased and leaned heavily to pro- Mormon or Anti- Mormon sentiments. Previous interpretations were based on modern connotations and failed to recognize the wider influences. My work goes beyond a recounting of the building. It puts the architectural symbolism in a broader perspective. The paper highlights the temple’s reflection of the cultural influences that created this unique sacred space.


Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima: Capturing the sounds of the 20th Century Collective Unconscious
    Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima was a work of Polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki. Many listeners are put off by the harsh sounds. Upon deeper examination, one can find the musical expression of 20th Century experimentation. This paper explores the cultural influences on this composition including the experimentation and abstraction in artistic movements, globalization, and the psychological effects of total war.  Penderecki created a prime specimen of sound reflecting the collective unconscious, memory, and experiences of the 20th Century.


Iowans at Pearl Harbor
    This project was a cross curricular project for the music department at Fort Madison High School. They were chosen to perform at the 75th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. In order to help students understand and connect with the events of Pearl Harbor, they were assigned to complete a biography on an Iowan who was there that day. Currently, there are about 200 names on a monument in Des Moines to Iowans who were there. Searching through news papers, state archives, and military records, I was able to identify over 400 people from Iowa who were at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. These included navy, army, marine, and civilian personnel—male and female. Students did research on about 200 of these, and I checked the research and sources as well as compiled their biographical sketches and what photos I could find into the book.


Sesquicentennial Mormon Trail Wagon Train (1997)
    This reenactment wagon train commemorated the 175th anniversary of the first Mormon Pioneers to enter and settle the Great Salt Lake Valley. I traveled via wagon train from Omaha, Nebraska to Salt Lake City, Utah. We followed the original trail as closely as possible. From this, I experienced aspects of historical research that I couldn’t have discovered otherwise. It was a entirely new level of research. For example, there are many period photos of women on the trail ironing. In our modern age, we would see this as a very unnecessary waste of time and energy. Through experimentation on the trail with soap made from period recipes, we discovered that the laundering leaves clothes rough. If you do not iron them, they will chafe the skin. The physical act of ironing makes the material soft and wearable. This is just one example. I gained insights into the people who were part of the American Westward Movement that could not be gleaned from primary sources alone. The experience of the wagon train broke down the archetype of the “Rugged Pioneer,” faces turned westward with hope and American determination. These were individuals with varying degrees of “wilderness” experience. How people adapted to the conditions differed. Their personalities, backgrounds, motivations, and experiences enormously varied as well.


Youth Resistance Movements in Nazi Germany (1996)
    This was my first published paper.  I used newly available primary sources to study a subculture in Germany during the Nazi period. At the time I wrote the paper, Germans were becoming more interested in exploring their past during this turbulent era. Not all Germans participated willingly or enthusiastically in the Nazi ideology. The questions of why someone would go against this authority and the results of that opposition begged to be examined. Through the research of the experiences of people coming of age during the time, I was able to show how they adopted and created their own counter cultures. These then evolved into outright resistance against the Nazis.


Current Research
King Arthur’s Cowboys
    A nation’s formative years leave indelible marks on its culture and identity. It is interesting to note what movements are considered formative in a scholarly sense verses the popular sentiment and how that nation identifies itself collectively. There has never been a cultural study that compares the legends of King Arthur in the creation of British identity and the legends of the American West. Both have at least a tie to historical events. The interpretation and evolution into legend has become part of the national identity for each. There are many questions to consider. To begin with, why create a national narrative? What narrative did each gravitate toward? What archetypes and theme do the American identity share with the British identity. Britain is often considered America’s mother country. What unique traits of each of these cycles do the legends possess? What cultural influences exerted themselves in this foundation? Why have we as nations chosen these stories and periods of history on which to based our deepest ingrained legends?

   When researchers fail to synthesize and evaluate the multi-approaches the results fall short. Necessary causes gathered through various lenses must be considered. Otherwise, the view of the sufficient cause is skewed or even possibly misidentified. Causes and effects are created by many different factors. A student of history must understand the cyclical and interdependent nature of the subject. Much like Hagel’s theory of the thesis and antithesis, necessary and sufficient causes meld together to create new causes and thus effects.
   My motto is "Learning Lives Forever." It is through learning and seeking an understanding of people from different cultures, places, and times that we can begin to comprehend our own world. I want to provide a way for myself and others to do just that. My goal is to continue to study the cultural influences on complex events as well as how we communicate our experiences through the arts in both formal and informal avenues.

 

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