The PDX History Project is underway!

IMG_912Alex York is working with Prof. Mark Eifler to develop a new site that will help students do research into the History of Portland.  The site will have many resources: an annotated bibliography, directions to local archives and their holdings, links to books, selections of documents grouped by topic, and (eventually) student papers on Portland History.

History Journal Wins Top Prize

University of Portland’s history department awarded first place for student journal, Northwest Passages

University of Portland’s Department of History department was awarded first prize in the Gerald D. Nash History Journal competition for its student journal, Northwest Passages. This marks the second year in a row that the journal has placed first and the fourth time overall.

The 2012 Northwest Passages editorial team includes 2012 alumni Tessa Daniels, Cassie Passion, and Whitney Simpson; senior Renne Erb; and junior Lindsey Tsuruda. Faculty advisor is history professor Mark Eifler.

Northwest Passages is sponsored by the Rho Pi Chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national history honor society. Published in the spring of each year since 2000, each edition of the journal includes several senior theses as well as a diverse sample of smaller papers completed in history courses offered throughout the academic year. The writings are selected by the editorial team which is staffed entirely by students. Each year over the past six years, the journal has received recognition in a national journal competition.

The William Peck Civil War Letters

Students in Mark Eifler’s History 420 this semester are reading, transcribing, and researching a collection of unpublished letters of a surgeon from the US Civil War.  The letters of William Peck were digitalized and given to the university by Jane Leeson, who lives in the North Portland neighborhood.  The letters begin in 1854 and go through 1870, and cover Peck’s work as a doctor, lawyer, surgeon, officer, political worker and businessman during this traumatic period of history.

The collection was digitalized last summer in order to preserve the letters, and to make it easier to view and study them without increasing any deterioration of the original pages.  The letters are now being transcribed and researched.

Only a few collections of letters from surgeons covering the entire war are known to exist, and this collection may be one of the best in the western United States.  Peck’s letters are written to his fiancee, and later wife, Jennie Tracy.  They cover the period after he leaves medical training and becomes a traveling doctor in Pennsylvania.  A few years before the war be begins to train for and practice law, but when the war breaks out he enters as a regimental surgeon for the 104th Pennsylvania Volunteers.  Much of his time is spent setting up field hospitals and caring for the men in his regiment.  Some of the most interesting letters come from his experiences in Virginia in the spring of 1862 in the Peninsula Campaign.

Students in Eifler’s class are transcribing the letters and doing research into the stories of Peck and his family and friends.  They are also looking into what life was like in the mid-ninteenth century, and studying the letters of other soldiers in the war.  At the same time they are helping to create indexing tags so that researchers in the future will be better able to get into the content of the letters.

As work proceeds on this project, students will be able to write up their findings and present them in regional conferences and publish them in the student journal, Northwest Passages.  The digitalized letters themselves will be made available on the library’s web site for anyone who wants to read through them.

And in the long run the letters will likely be published as a book.  Eifler hopes that within a few years, as the context and research on the letters progresses, that he will be able to take students and the letters’ owner on a trip back to Pennsylvania and Virginia to visit the locations where the letters were written, and do deeper research into William Peck’s world.


The Civil War Letters

For over one hundred and fifty years the letters of William Peck and his wife Jennie were carefully preserved, and handed down from one generation to another. Then, in the summer of 2011, the current custodian, Jane Leeson, came to the University of Portland to see if we could help her preserve the letters for the next generations. Prof. Mark Eifler agreed to help her by having the letters digitalized, in exchange for letting UP students study the letters and use them for academic purposes.
This fall the letters will be used as a major part of a seminar on historical research using personal correspondance. Students will transcribe the letters, research their context, and present and publish their findings.

Making History

Prof. Hancock recently won the 2012 Herbert S. Schell Award from the journal South Dakota History for her article “Being ‘all things to all men:’ Louisa Irvine Riggs and the Cultural Implications of Women’s Missionary Work.”  She is also the author of “Healthy Vocations: Field Nursing and the Religious Overtones of Public Health,” recently published in the Journal of Women’s History.

AT UP, Prof. Hancock teaches Women’s History, African American History, and the History of Social Movements and Reform.In addition to teaching, she is also on the Editorial Advisory Board of the Oregon Historical Quarterly.  She recently co-hosted a presentation with Gertrude “Trudy” Rice, entitled Trudy’s Story: The Remarkable Career of One of Oregon’s First Registered Nurses of Color.  Following this presentation Prof. Hancock conducted an oral history recording session to preserve this story from Oregon’s past.  The audio-video recording will be available to students through the UP library.

History Students in Spokane

Last April, the University of Portland History Department was well represented at the 2012 Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference.  Hosted by Whitworth University at Spokane’s Davenport Hotel, undergraduate history students presented a wide variety of research topics, including semetic literature of fifteenth century England, Civil War era prostitution, and material consumption in Japanese-American internment camps.