Different Perspective on History: Video Transcript

Andrew Cayton [Distinguished Professor of History]: I'm here on this warm August morning with a group of our masters candidates in history. We came down last summer and again this summer. We're working with the White Water Shaker Village — doing everything from paint scraping to helping them prepare buildings for the kind of repair and restoration work they're doing. And so we bring our students out here and they see the facility. They get ideas about projects they may want to do in terms of research. They also get the idea that they can bring their students to not only the White Water facility but to other history and renovation projects in the area. So what this does is to make the past very personal to students, helps them find clues to the past, helps them to use sources other than written sources. They use architecture…landscape…get some sense of the way in which the daily lives of Shakers operated.

Andy Pilder [graduate student]: You can get this information in books. You can get it online. You can see pictures. But, unless you're here and, seeing how the buildings are constructed, seeing the paint, seeing the brickwork, touching it…It's a completely different perspective on history.

Lindy Cummings [graduate student]: So I got interested in this topic because I went to Pleasant Hill before I came here to Miami and I was really intrigued by Pleasant Hill. And so when I came here and they brought us out here, I'm like, "Aha. I can actually do something with my intrigue."

Andrew Cayton: It's a great opportunity for our graduate students to do something that's not quite as oriented toward reading and writing as their usual work. They get to know each other better. they get to build a little community. They get to work with their professors in a situation where their professors may not have the expertise to get things done. Certainly, I don't when it comes to scraping paint [chuckles].

Lindy Cummings: I think one of the ways you can use a project like White Water is in the classroom…and I think I will try to do this this year because I'm teaching American 111, so this fits in really nicely…it's a nice example of a local community that's on the frontier, that's coming together and it puts small stories or local stories and local people, names and faces with kind of this broad overview of what American history is. So I think it personalizes it in a way and it really highlights one of the unique aspects. You kind of think everybody on the frontier were farmers and they were building their log cabins. This is really different but it's a part of that story. It helps tell the story of the Ohio frontier in a very unique way.

[August 2009]