Articles by

Tona H

Return to Elkton

By November 6, 2014


This post comes out of my experiences this fall teaching a senior seminar on ?Writing Recent History? (which my students are finding especially challenging), and thinking about what that might mean in the Mormon context. And it?s also prompted by something that Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said about Claudia Bushman at the Exponent II 40th celebration last month that caught my ear and which I?ve been thinking about ever since. Laurel said that one of the motivations for starting the journal was Claudia?s desire to ?contain our anger by coming up with a project.?

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Exponent II Turns Forty

By September 22, 2014


Exponent II's board in 1974 and 2014 (credit: Heather Sundahl)

Exponent II’s board in 1974 and 2014 (credit: Heather Sundahl)


Exponent II began in 1974 in the Cambridge neighborhood of Harvard Square. On its fortieth anniversary, its founders ? silver, sassy, and more than a little surprised that what they had wrought was still going strong ? returned to one of the neighborhood?s church halls packed with guests to celebrate the organization and its achievements. I was so, so happy to be there, too.

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Cheese-Frosted Cauliflower and Other Delicacies

By May 19, 2014


Food is really important to Mormon life, and specifically to the life of Mormon women. Women, by long-seated and seemingly immovable cultural tradition in many (most? all?) world cultures, are the preparers and servers of food. This is especially true across many religious communities, not just Mormonism ? church suppers grace all Protestant faiths; Catholic feast days and Jewish holidays and Muslim observances (just to name a few) are built around food and have both women and specialized food preparation at their center. Food made and presented by women marks Mormon occasions: births, funerals, baptisms, weddings, potlucks, ?linger-longers,? and of course the ubiquitous and generic ?refreshments? concluding nearly every Mormon event I have ever attended.

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MHA Newsletter Update, Spring 2014 edition

By April 9, 2014


The Mormon History Association Spring 2014 newsletter is now available, and we wanted to continue our tradition of highlighting its contents and announcements.

Registration is now open for the San Antonio conference (MHA’s 49th), expertly organized by Brian Cannon, and the lead story reminds us that there is a long history of church connections with Texas dating back to 1844 and continuing through the followers of Lyman Wight, missionary efforts in the 1850s, and vibrant local growth in the 20th century. The conference will take place at the Wyndham San Antonio Riverwalk hotel, and self-guided tour maps will be available for those wanting to see the city on foot. There are still some seats open in the pre-conference tour to the Spanish Missions, and in the post-conference tour to the Wightite sites, state capitol at Austin, and LBJ locations.

Starting in July 2014, MHA welcomes its new executive directors, Debra J. and David B. Marsh of Sandy, Utah, who are profiled in this issue. Debbie is a professional genealogist and historian who will be defending her PhD dissertation at the University of Utah this summer on the Carthage mob. David is a longtime CES educator and church curriculum designer with degrees in psychology, family studies, and sociology of religion, currently working for the church’s Priesthood Department.

Calls for Papers and Upcoming Events, in order of their submission deadlines –

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Elegy for Missing Data, in Advance

By January 13, 2014


Or: All Web is Not Created Equal, have you noticed?

One of the sessions I attended at the AHA this month was Session 151, Social Media and History. It featured one of our JIers, Max Mueller, talking about tensions and complications in the church’s “I am a Mormon” campaign, including the fascinating case of one woman whose tattoos were airbrushed out of her profile pic (her profile is now gone, for other reasons). Great talk, by the way, along with several others that reflected on the ethical and methodological problems of using social media as historical sources for researching marginalized groups or threatened voices. In each of the presentations — Max’s on constructing Mormon online “diversity,” Jessica Lingel’s on underground music scenes, Sadaf Jaffer’s on online discussion boards for Pakistani atheists, and Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa’s on sites made by and about Tibetans — the very existence of the sites to begin with, and especially their continued life on the web, is inherently unstable. It was actually a rather terrifying session, like watching 4 canaries in a coal mine (Hey! There’s a pocket of air over here! Oh wait, never mind).

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Musings on Archival Research, Methods and Workflow

By August 23, 2013


…or how to hack your summer archives trip and come off victorious.

This post grew out of a conversation I had with fellow JI-er Christopher Jones during one of his lengthy jaunts around the Atlantic seaboard during his summer dissertation research. I have the good fortune to be located not too far from the American Antiquarian Society and could offer him room & board during his research trip there, and since I didn?t set foot inside an archives all summer I was living vicariously through everyone else?s treasure-hunting. We got to talking about archival research method: how we historians actually do what we do inside the archives, and reflecting on how we all get very little graduate-level instruction on the nitty-gritty of how to do this, and how it might benefit our JI community to have a broader conversation about it.

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Youth Trek, Public History, and Becoming “Pioneer Children” in the Digital Age

By August 7, 2013


In 2009 our stake organized its first trek for youth conference and put it into the regular rotation for youth conference planning. So 4 years later, we repeated the event this summer with roughly the same itinerary and logistics and presumably will keep it going in future years as well. Now, you may know that I live in New England, not in the Wasatch front region or along anything remotely resembling a traditional handcart route. Treks outside the historical landscape of the handcart companies have become commonplace: unusual enough to generate local news coverage, but frequent enough that a whole subculture has sprung up to support and celebrate it. With some similarities to Civil War reenactment in its emphasis on costuming, role play and historical storytelling, youth trek evokes and romanticizes selected aspects of the Mormon past to cement LDS identity and build youth testimony and unity. It is a unique (and, I?m arguing, actually very recent) form of LDS public history.

I?ve now attended and had a hand in planning both of the treks our stake conducted, so I?m of two minds about the whole experience. A double-consciousness, if you will.

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Troubling the AHA’s Embargo Waters

By July 26, 2013


There’s a naval and mercantile metaphor in there somewhere, even if my post title doesn’t quite capture it. This is a short post just to call attention to the squall on today’s horizon about open access, digital dissertation publishing, and the tough choices facing history grad students navigating the internet’s rough seas. A perfunctory glance at my Twitter feed this morning shows that although the AHA issued a policy statement way back on the 22nd against timely open access digital publication of dissertations, today was the day it surfaced big-time. Breached the waters, you might say. It’s perhaps a tempest in a disciplinary teapot, but still: young scholars, best to take note.

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It’s May, Happy New Year! Or, How I Spend My Summer Vacation

By May 18, 2013


Sorry this post isn’t very Mormon-y, but it’s part of my occasional postings that try to make academia’s processes more transparent, especially to benefit prospective & junior faculty. So this public service announcement brought to you by the merrie month of May, hopefully it’s timely advice to someone out there.

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Dreaming up a DH Research Agenda for Mormon Studies

By April 2, 2013


On my spring break I took a one-day “staycation” to Day 1 of a local gathering of digital humanities scholars, hosted by the smart folks at Northeastern University’s NULab for Texts, Maps and Networks (http://nulab.neu.edu/, tweeting at @NUlabTMN). It was one of the best conferences I’ve been to – seemed like mainly literary scholars but also historians, librarians, and coders, and it involved a good blend of showcasing completely awesome ongoing initiatives, asking big existential questions about knowledge production, and teaching hands-on skills. Myself, I learned a bit about network analysis using Gephi (no relation to Nephi) and how to georeference a high-resolution historical map image using ArcGIS. I felt like a boss (as my students would say) by the day’s end.

And it got me thinking.

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