History Through Discovery

charlene-mires2 (2)“History Through Discovery” is my approach to teaching, research, and service through public history.  In addition to teaching in the Department of History, I am director of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) at Rutgers-Camden, and I lead a project to create an Encyclopedia of Greater PhiladelphiaMy fields of graduate training are U.S. culture and material culture, nineteenth and twentieth centuries; U.S. social and political history, 1820s-1880s; U.S. popular culture, twentieth century; and world history (teaching and major themes).  I also do research and teach courses in public history and urban and suburban history.

Projects and books:

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Fall 2014: Issues in Public History (Graduate)

Course description: Historians play a vital role in creating an engaged and informed citizenry. This seminar provides an in-depth examination of the issues and controversies that arise for historians and the public in settings such as historic sites and museums. The seminar also serves as an introduction to research in public history, a field of scholarship with local, national, and global dimensions. Each member of the seminar will research and write a site-specific case study of a public history issue. Participants also will gain training and experience with the WordPress website platform and will participate in a collaborative research and analysis assignment using Google Drive.  Check back later for books list.

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Spring 2014: Cities and Suburbs (512:364)

The following books for this course have been ordered through the University District Bookstore:

  • American Urban Form (2013), by Sam Bass Warner and Andrew Whittemore
  • Crabgrass Frontier (1987), by Kenneth Jackson
  • American Urban Reader (2010), by Steven H. Corey and Lisa Krissoff Boehm (Companion website: http://cw.routledge.com/textbooks/9780415803984/)
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Independence Hall in American Memory, Paperback Edition

Independence Hall in American Memory

Independence Hall in American Memory
Paperback Edition, December 2013
ISBN 978-0-8122-2282-1

New companion website with teaching guides, documents, and more:

University of Pennsylvania Press


Table of Contents

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Fall Semester 2013 – Updated book lists

This fall I will be teaching Perspectives on History (50:509:299) for history majors and Issues in Public History (56:512:531).  Graduate students, please watch your Rutgers email for an assignment for the first class. Read on for book lists, updated September 1, 2013:

Continue reading

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Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations

NYU Press, March 2013
From 1944 to 1946, as the world pivoted from the Second World War to an unsteady peace, Americans in more than two hundred cities and towns mobilized to chase an implausible dream. The newly-created United Nations needed a meeting place, a central place for global diplomacy—a Capital of the World. But what would it look like, and where would it be? Without invitation, civic boosters in every region of the United States leapt at the prospect of transforming their hometowns into the Capital of the World. The idea stirred in big cities—Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, New Orleans, Denver, and more. It fired imaginations in the Black Hills of South Dakota and in small towns from coast to coast.  
Meanwhile, within the United Nations the search for a headquarters site became a debacle that threatened to undermine the organization in its earliest days. At times it seemed the world’s diplomats could agree on only one thing: under no circumstances did they want the United Nations to be based in New York. And for its part, New York worked mightily just to stay in the race it would eventually win. 
With a sweeping view of the United States’ place in the world at the end of World War II, Capital of the World tells the dramatic, surprising, and at times comic story of hometown promoters in pursuit of an extraordinary prize and the diplomats who struggled with the balance of power at a pivotal moment in history.
Library Journal:
Mires (history, Rutgers Univ.-Camden), corecipient of the Pulitzer Prize in journalism, investigates a largely unexamined aspect of the birth of the United Nations: the attempt by many U.S. cities during the closing days of World War II to persuade it to base its headquarters in their respective communities. Mires has tracked down elusive archival sources and forgotten newspaper accounts, uncovering a fascinating chronicle involving countless American politicians, foreign diplomats, and community promoters who participated in the feverish lobbying campaign that at times resembled an Atlantic City beauty contest. After numerous site inspections and unending deliberations, the prize was finally awarded to New York City in late 1946, largely owing to the $8.5 million gift of the Rockefeller family allowing the United Nations to build its “workshop of peace” on the Manhattan site overlooking the East River where it resides to this day. VERDICT While plenty of books address the creation of the United Nations, Mires provides an important supplement showing how the idealistic search to establish the physical presence of the fledgling organization gave way to the cold realities of the marketplace. Recommended for readers of 20th-century American history, students of urban history, and scholars of post World War II diplomacy.
Polls have repeatedly indicated that many New Yorkers wouldn’t mind if the UN left their city lock, stock, and barrel, taking its bureaucracy and parking-violating diplomats along.  The irony is not lost on Mires, for, as she reveals in her surprising and often amusing work, New York “won” the privilege to host the UN after a furious, sometimes sad, and sometimes comical competition with other cities and locales.  Some of the competitors were seriously considered, including San Francisco, Boston, Philadelphia, and even an Ontario Island near Niagara Falls. Others, including the Black Hills of South Dakota, never had a chance.  Mires shows how the competition was triggered by a combination of municipal pride, boosterism, and an eagerness to reap the financial rewards that were expected to accrue to the host city.  Mires also captures the pervading sense of optimism amongst the claimants after the horrors of WWII.  This is a very readable, entertaining account that is aimed at a general audience.
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Spring 2013: Historic Interpretation

New graduate seminar:  This seminar will focus on knowledge and skills necessary for interpreting history to the public, especially research and methods of communication using a variety of means and media. Readings will focus on Mid-Atlantic history, to prepare students for public history work or advanced research in the Mid-Atlantic region. The seminar also will function in the manner of a public history consulting group to produce new research and interpretation of the Cooper Street Historic District that borders our campus.  (For an example, click here.)

Did you know … that Cooper Street is a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places?

Course materials updated 12/12/12:

  • Freeman Tilden, Interpreting Our Heritage, fourth edition with introduction by R. Bruce Craig.
  • Jessica Foy Donnelly, Interpreting Historic House Museums.
  • Robert P. Marzec, ed., The Mid-Atlantic Region: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures.
  • Gabrielle Lanier and Bernard Herman, Everyday Architecture of the Mid-Atlantic: Looking at Buildings and Landscapes.
  • Ned C. Landsman, Crossroads of Empire: The Middle Colonies in British North America.
  • Kenneth Ames, Death in the Dining Room and Other Tales of Victorian Culture.
  • Brian Black and Michael Chiarappa, Nature’s Entrepot: Philadelphia’s Urban Sphere and Its Environmental Thresholds.
  • Jeffrey Dorwart, Camden County, New Jersey.
  • Howard Gillette, Camden After the Fall.
  • Eric Foner and Lisa McGirr, American History Now.
  • AASLH Technical Leaflets (provided): A Different Path for Historic Walking Tours; Telling the Story: Better Interpretation at Small Historical Organizations; Telling a Story in 100 Words: Effective Label Copy; Interpreting Difficult Knowledge.
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