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Immersed in early American life

What started as childhood affection for historical fiction—particularly Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House”—has grown into a passion for American history that now finds senior Katie Garland immersed in early American life as a member of the prestigious Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Program.

Love of stories
“Part of my love for history comes from a love for stories,” Garland says. “It is fascinating to see how the world today came to be.”

This summer, Garland is finding out plenty about the Americans that lived in Deerfield, Mass. between 1600-1850. Garland was chosen from among 350 applicants to study material culture and decorative arts with seven other history or art history majors in the historic town of Deerfield, known for its public collections of art and antiques from early New England.

During her time as a Deerfield Fellow, Garland will help construct a museum exhibit, give tours of in-house museums, write a research paper, and visit other museums and historic sites, like the Smithsonian, Colonial Williamsburg, and New York City’s Tenement Museum.

So far, Garland has been immersed in learning about materials culture—the objects that people from the past used and the architecture of their buildings—in order to better understand the lives of Deerfield residents.  She can now identify earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain from the 17th and 18th century, explain the difference in their production, and discuss the political and cultural implications of each type of ceramics. In addition, she has a deeper knowledge of architecture, clothing/fashion/textiles, clocks, food and currency. Garland and the other Deerfield Fellows will use their background to create an exhibit about the Old Indian House, a home that survived the 1704 French and Mohawk Indian attack.

The next element of Garland’s experience is guiding. “I am excited about this component, not only because I get to study a house and its objects more deeply, but because I am able to interface more directly with the public,” she said. “We spend three days learning each house and then begin to give our own tours.”

The final project—the extensive research paper—may sound less exciting, but after rummaging around in the archive’s collection of journals and diaries, Garland looks forward to piecing together the details of the life of Robert Crawford, a 19th century minister.

History at Messiah
“I grew up loving history,” Garland says about her decision to be a history major and to pursue opportunities like the Deerfield Summer Fellowship Program. “I truly enjoy finding out about the lives of people who lived before me. History provides the background for a thorough understanding of the present.”

Garland says that majoring in history was a natural choice for her, and once she met Messiah’s history faculty, she knew she wanted to be part of their department. She appreciates how her teachers have shown a genuine interest in her success, and she is grateful for their willingness to utilize personal connections to open doors to different opportunities for her.

John Fea, chair of the history department and Garland’s “mentor, boss and unofficial advisor,” praises her as one of the best history majors to come through Messiah’s program. He notes that the Deerfield Program is highly competitive and known for being the top material culture studies program in the country.

During her experience at Deerfield, Garland is blogging once a week on Fea’s blog, “The Way of Improvement Leads Home.” Read her “Deerfield Dispatches.”

3 Responses to “Immersed in early American life”

  1. John Fea Says:

    Way to go, Katie!

  2. Naomi Guerrasio Says:

    Congratulations girl you’re amazing!

  3. Immersed in Early American Life — a piece on Katie Garland « History on the Bridge Says:

    […] can read the rest of the story at Messiah’s website.  Congrats, […]