A New Generation of Historians, Curators and Archivists
Thursday, September 10, 2015
Assistant Professor of History Dr. Mark Benbow walks the talk he teaches. Like many members of the Marymount faculty, he has professional experience in his field of academic expertise, public history. His students generated a lot of buzz this past academic year as they designed, created and installed exhibits through partnerships with area history museums.
In honor of Marymount’s 65th anniversary, Dr. Benbow’s Introduction to Public History students presented exhibit proposals to a jury panel for the Arlington Historical Museum, where the professor serves as director of an all-volunteer staff. The winning exhibit, developed by Apasrin Suvanasai, Emma Enkhsaikhan, Dalia Faris and Amy Lawton, focused on the school’s founders, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. The Founding Sisters showcased photos and artifacts documenting how integral Marymount has been to Arlington. The team combed archives and interviewed retired sisters. One team member was an interior design student, and Dr. Benbow feels the mash-up of cross-disciplines (design knowledge with history) was a distinct advantage. Other exhibit proposals focused on the University’s Main House, once home to the White House physician to William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, and the landmark Blue Goose’s rebirth as a mixed-use complex.
“Telling a story well – one people will remember – is a rewarding effort and can keep history students working in their field beyond teaching,” according to Dr. Benbow. He considers Marymount’s minor in Public History a smart companion for other disciplines because it trains professionals to research, weigh, organize and communicate their insights in a convincing and accessible way.
Before joining Marymount, Dr. Benbow was historian at the Woodrow Wilson House Museum in D.C. “Opportunities keep emerging for professional historians in areas outside academia. Cities and states, corporations, professional organizations and non-profits all hire professional historians to acquire, man- age records, preserve and teach through public outreach. Architectural firms and historic districts hire archivists and historians for building and restoration projects. Park rangers are historians and curators. These professionals are trained in finding, examining, understanding context and interpreting sources.”
Dr. Benbow recently guided history major Chesney Rhoades to condense 150 years of children’s literature and vast independent research into a navigable and engaging exhibit for the Manassas Museum in Virginia. Partisans Among Playmates: American Childhood and the Civil War brings to life wartime experiences of Northern and Southern children with artifacts, photos, letters and books, and also surveys juvenile literature impacted by the war. Chesney spoke at a “Meet the Curator” event during the 150th anniversary in August. “Working with Dr. Benbow allowed me to dig deeply into the mechanics of creating an exhibit and working in public spaces and to make my research more accessible to more people,” Learn more about Chesney’s work here.
From left, Marymount University student Apasrin Suvanasai, Dr. Mark Benbow and students Emma Enkhsaikhan stand in front of the exhibit, “The Founding Sisters” at the Arlington Historical Society’s museum.