Historic Loray Mill is “Worth Saving”

From Bit + Grain (co-founded by Folklore MA Sandra Davidson!), “Worth Saving” chronicles the efforts to preserve Gastonia’s historic Loray Mill, once a the largest textile mill in the South. A combination of exceptional persistence and, crucially, federal tax credits allowed Preservation North Carolina to works successfully with developers, who have renovated the 600,000 square-foot building and are now leasing space.

Bit + Grain's "Worth Saving"

Bit + Grain’s worth saving tells the story of the lengthy effort to save and restore Gastonia’s Loray Mill.

The Mill will host the Loray History Center and inspired Digital Loray, a Digital Innovation Lab project spearheaded by Robert C. Allen, James Logan Godfrey Distinguished Professor in the Department of American Studies. Digital Loray is a collection of material relating to the history of the mill and its mill village, which can be deployed across a wide range of on-site and online public programming.  This material has been collected from the UNC Library, national and regional archival sources, local cultural heritage organizations, churches, and local collectors. Digital Loray currently contains nearly 1000 objects with links to many more, including photographs, oral history interviews, musical recordings, films, maps, census enumerations, and newspapers.

Announcing Cultural History and its Publics: A Symposium on the Occasion of the Retirement of John Kasson

Cultural History and its Publics:
A Symposium on the Occasion of the Retirement of John Kasson

Saturday, October 3, 2015
Johnston Center, Graham Memorial,
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Sponsored by the Departments of History and American Studies, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Honors Program, and the Graduate School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The broad rubric for this symposium, Cultural History and Its Publics, is intended to stimulate reflection on the kinds of work that we do in History and American Studies, the people whom we wish to engage beyond the academy, and the means and modes by which we do so. We invite speakers to draw on their own efforts, perhaps highlighting one or more specific projects, as well as reflecting on the broader challenges and opportunities that scholars face at a time when universities, museums, publishers, and digital communications are all in rapid flux. We do not wish to minimize the personal and professional stresses of the field. Yet we also wish to capture the creativity and emerging new possibilities for scholars of cultural history, broadly defined, including those now in graduate school, the varieties of ways that we make our work public, the various communities that we hope to reach, and the kinds of public engagement we most desire.
Invitations and Registration Information will be sent via e-mail in late August. Here is a tentative preliminary schedule:

Morning Panel Discussion, Imagining American Publics
Kresge Foundation Common Room, Graham Memorial 039 (lower level)

9:00 a.m. Welcome: W. Fitzhugh Brundage, William B. Umstead Distinguished Professor and Chair, Department of History, and Bernard Herman, George B. Tindall Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies
Introduction to the Symposium: John Kasson

9:15-10:15: First Panel Session
Moderator and Commentator: Bernard Herman
Timothy Marr, Associate Professor of American Studies
Seth Kotch, Assistant Professor of American Studies
Jerma Jackson, Associate Professor of History
Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Adjunct Professor of History and American Studies

10:30-11:30: Second Panel Session
Gabriel Berlinger, Assistant Professor of American Studies
Kathleen DuVal, Professor of History
Molly Worthen, Assistant Professor of History
Commentary: Bernard Herman

11:30-11:50: Reflections and General Discussion

12:00-12:50: Informal Luncheon Buffet, Graham Memorial

Afternoon Symposium, Cultural History and Its Publics:
Kresge Foundation Common Room, Graham Memorial
1:00 Brief Welcomes
Moderator: W. Fitzhugh Brundage
1:10: Brent Glass (PhD, UNC-CH. 1980), Historical consultant and former Director, national Museum of American History
1:35 Discussion
1:45 Pamela Grundy (PhD, UNC-CH, 1997), Independent scholar, author, and museum consultant, Charlotte, NC.
2:10 Discussion
2:20-2:35 Break
2:35 Michael Kramer (PhD, UNC-CH, 2006), Editor — Design, Publishing, and New Media Department, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; (on leave as Visiting Assistant Professor — History, American Studies, Digital Humanities, & Civic Engagement, Northwestern University.
3:00 Discussion
3:10 Kimberly Kutz (PhD, UNC-CH, 2013), Post-Doctoral Associate, Department of History, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, 2014-15
3:35 Discussion
3:45-4:00 Break
4:00 James W. Cook (PhD, 1996, University of California at Berkeley). Professor of History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
4:35 Discussion
4:50 Brief remarks by John Kasson

A reception and light buffet supper will conclude the symposium.

Carolina Cooks, Carolina Eats!

Carolina shone a spotlight on Carolina Cooks, Carolina Eats today. This of course is Professors Sharon Holland and Marcie Cohen Ferris’s course (AMST 375) that combines experiential learning, expert instruction, and traditional academic practice into a course experience that engages students with their communities through food. Read more here!

The Latest Gravy: Jews in Natchez, Mississippi

From the Southern Foodways Alliance (text by Tina Antolini):

When Robin Amer visited her Mississippi grandparents as a little girl, her most memorable experiences revolved around food. They would go to Sunday lunch at Stanton Hall, a historic plantation mansion with a carriage house that had been converted into a restaurant. “It seemed stuck in time,” Robin says. They’d eat fried chicken, tiny biscuits with strawberry jelly, tomatoes and fruit suspended in aspic. Her grandparents would go every Sunday, dressing up to meet their friends who were coming from church. But they, themselves didn’t go to church—because Robin’s family is part of Natchez’s once large and thriving Jewish community.

There have been Jews in Natchez since the 1840s, and, over the years, their culinary traditions have hybridized with the ones on display at places like Stanton Hall. In the new episode of Gravy, Robin returns to Natchez as the Jewish community is dwindling to see what’s left of those traditions, and what might be lost when they’re gone.

Listen here.

Rising to the Digital Challenge

The challenge for first-year American Studies PHD student and DIL graduate associate Charlotte Fryar: build a prototype interface in DH Press for interacting with historical film footage that could be used online and on touchscreen tablets.  Oh, and can you do it in six weeks while you’re assisting for an undergraduate class, working on other lab projects, and taking a full load of classes?

The specs: display, index, and geo-tag identified individuals, places, and events from a film shot in 1942; locate them on interactive map (include contemporary street views); and create a space for streamed audio and transcripts of comments about and memories of the film and the people/places/events it depicts.

The answer: a resounding “yes, I can!”  Here is what she (working under the guidance of Michael Newton and with the latest version of DH Press) came up with.

The film chosen for this use-case is H. Lee Waters’s “Gastonia, 1942,” preserved and shared on YouTube by the Duke University Special Collections Library.  Charlotte used two brief scenes from the film as test content: a shift change at the mill, and workers and their families gathering at the neighborhood movie theater, the Carolina, where they would be able to “see themselves as others saw them” a few weeks later.

The prototype will be further developed this summer in conjunction with the DIL’s Digital Loray project and the Loray Mill’s planned history center.  “Seeing Ourselves” also grows out of discussions with UNC Folklore grad, Martin Johnson (Catholic University) about developing tools to reveal the remarkable work of the hundreds of local and itinerant filmmakers in the US and around the world.

Charlotte’s prototype also points to many other materials and use-cases that could take advantage of these features of DH Press: oral history, folklore, and ethnographic interviews;  home movies; and family history come to mind immediately–and to other settings in which DH Press can be deployed: historic sites, museums, K-12 learning units, college-level classes, online learning. 

Here are two demos of “Seeing Ourselves,” starring Charlotte, produced and directed by Will “Star Wars” Bosley, General Manager of the DIL.

“Seeing Ourselves” debuted as a part of Robert Allen’s presentation at the Arclight Symposium on the application of digital technologies to cinema and media history at Concordia University in Montreal the week of May 11th.


See Yourself Screen Demo from Digital Innovation Lab on Vimeo.

Victoria Bouloubasis collaborates on digital piece about North Carolina activism surrounding the “forced disappearance” of student in Ayotzinapa, Mexico

Folklore Master’s student Victoria Bouloubasis collaborated with fellow journalist (and current UNC JOMC grad student) Andrea Patiño Contreras on a digital piece about the North Carolina activism surrounding the “forced disappearance” of students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico last fall. Bouloubasis and Patiño Contreras documented the Ayotzinapa parents’ visit to NC through a series of short Instagram videos and essays. They chose this medium to match the contemporary form of online activism fueling the movement. They wanted tell this story through the voices of the #Caravana43 and the NC immigrants (#NC43) who brought them here. Bouloubasis and Patiño Contreras felt that their voices are indicative of a changing South and a civil rights movement not yet laid to rest.

Check them out on Victoria’s (@thisfeedsme) or Andrea’s (@andreapatino) Instagram page.

There is also a Medium page with the full story: bit.ly/NCCaravana43.

The two students will present their work on Thursday at 6pm at the Hayti Heritage Center in Durham. The event, Las Semillas de Ayotzinapa, Cruzando Fronteras (Seeds of Ayotzinapa, Crossing Borders), is a presentation by Raleigh activist Monserrat Matehuala who worked on the case in Mexico and her mother, Martha Hernandez, who organized here.


The Department of American Studies Celebrates Distinguished Career of Professor Joy Kasson

On Tuesday, May 5, the Department of American Studies honored the distinguished career of Professor Joy Kasson with a celebration at Crook’s Corner. The event was co-sponsored by the Department of American Studies and the Department of English and Comparative Literature.

The night included music, dinner, toasts, and merriment. The department created a memory book in Professor Kasson’s honor.

Joyfest Program Final

Looking Back on State of the Plate

State of the Plate, the ninth meeting of the Navigating the Global American South conference and the first to examine foodways, convened in late March to examine southern foodways, histories, economies, and more.

state of the plate conference

“State of the Plate” at UNC’s FedEd Global Education Center delved into the pressing complexities of southern foodways, past and present. Art by Tripp Tuttle.

Speakers engaged the role of Lumbee Indians in contributing to core southern food traditions; to the social significance of white bread; to the dominance of corn in southern foodways and economies.

For more, including the panelist assertion that the South has “no fine dining experience,” take a look at this wonderful writeup from UNC Global’s Shannon Harvey.

Sara Camp Arnold Milam (MA, 2012) Wins James Beard Award!

Sara Camp Arnold Milam, graduate of the Folklore Program in the Department of American Studies and 2015 James Beard Award winner. (Photo credit Pableaux Johnson)

Sara Camp Arnold Milam, graduate of the Folklore Program in the Department of American Studies and 2015 James Beard Award winner. (Photo credit Pableaux Johnson)


Hearty congratulations to Sara Camp Arnold Milam, who in a few short years has transformed the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Gravy from a black-and-white, twelve-page print journal to a colorful, rich, and filling sixty-page quarterly publication and biweekly podcast … and who in recognition for her efforts has received a 2015 James Beard Award for Publication of the Year! Read more here.

From Sara: “It was such an honor to win the James Beard Award for publication of the year. I’m pleased that the Beard Foundation recognized our multi-platform approach to storytelling—first a print magazine, and now a sister podcast. I’ve been editing the print side of Gravy for five years now, beginning when I was a grad student at Carolina. I’m so grateful for the education I received in the folklore program, which helps me ground Gravy’s content in foodways and cultural studies scholarship.”

Sara’s thesis, “Branding and the Value of Folk Narrative: The Carrboro, North Carolina Farmer’s Market,” was supervised by Marcie C. Ferris (Chair), Bernard L. Herman, and Danille E. Christensen.

Emily Wallace: In the New York Times, on Mayonnaise

Folklore alumna Emily Wallace (MA, 2010) has built on her degree work on southern foodways to become the region’s expert on that essential condiment, mayonnaise. And the New York Times  has come calling. Take a look at their recent pieces on mayo and on building sandwiches, both of which quote Emily.

Duke's Mayonnaise.

The header for Emily’s graphic history of Duke’s mayonnaise. Illustration by Emily, of course.

Congratulations, Emily! And keep up the good work. For more of that good work, including Emily’s illustrations of quintessential southern foodstuffs, take a look at her website: eewallace.com