Researching Dickinson College History

Selected journal entries and final projects from History 204 students in Fall 2016


  1. During fall semester 2016, students in Prof. Pinsker's History 204 kept a research journal detailing efforts to explore and contextualize the stories of Dickinson College students between 1840 and 1870. Their goal was to create an online multi-media project that might be a suitable teaching resource for a high school or undergraduate history course. Below are links to some of the most intriguing results.
  2. Establishing Context

  3. Amanda Donoghue, Hugh Downs, George Gilbert and Samantha Reiersen each discovered some fascinating snippets on their first serious adventure into nineteenth-century biographical research. Each student used a variety of reference sources and online databases such as to help establish some context for a class of Dickinson students assigned to them. All of the student researchers tried to provide some helpful data analysis of their assigned class as a whole, before plunging ahead with some focused research on a few of the students who seemed most promising as subjects for a potential online exhibit. See assignment page here.
  4. Entering the Archives

  5. Next, students in History 204 went directly to the College Archives, where they began to establish themselves as serious, working historians. Over the course of the semester, most students (or historians) in the class made several research trips to the Archives, where they received invaluable assistance from Archivist Jim Gerencser and Special Collections Librarian Malinda Triller-Doran. Sometimes the finds were quirky but mesmerizing. It was during one of these trips, for example, that Ian Ridgway discovered the doodle of an 1852 class oration appended by William Snively at the end of the text of his speech. This doodle provides the banner image for this post. Other model posts came from Fiona Clarke, who discovered some exceptionally memorable cartes-de-visite (CDVs) of students from her assigned class in 1868, Liam Donahue, who encountered something unusual --a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled professor. Hugh Downs, George Gilbert, Greg Parker and Samantha Reiersen also found some great stuff concerning nineteenth-century student life. See assignment page here.
  6. Historical Newspapers

  7. No nineteenth-century research project can be complete without an examination of historical newspapers. In History 204, the students went after such newspapers online (via the Library's exceptional collection of subscription databases), in archives (at both the College and over at the Cumberland County Historical Society, thanks to some special help from Cara Curtis), and via microfilm. There were a number of great posts from this aspect of the journal, but some of the most intriguing finds came from Amanda Donoghue, George Gilbert, Jonathan Long, Alexia Orengo Green, and Samantha Reiersen. See assignment page here.