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2012-06-18 10:13 am

June 18, 1812

I'm not one to celebrate the anniversary of a war, but I will mark the occasion. Here are some musings and resources on the War of 1812.

This month is the bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812. President James Madison declared war on Great Britain two hundred years ago today, June 18, 1812.
If the War of 1812 has a reputation among non-historians, it's that American War that no one knows anything about today. I disagree; I think the Spanish-American War and the Mexican-American War are even less known, to say nothing of the Quasi-War with France or the Barbary Wars (not that I'm an expert on any of these myself). America was pretty bellicose in the 19th Century.
However, the War of 1812 rarely ever gets the spotlight except now, because of its bicentennial.


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2012-05-24 10:41 am

Antidisestablishmentarianism Week

It's Antidisestablishmentarianism Week at Cambridge Considered! One appropriately-long post on the causes of antidisestablishmentarianism in Cambridge will be serialized over five days. Check out a new section posted each day!

Church and state in early Massachusetts

The religious establishment after the Revolution

The Unitarian Controversy

Trouble in the standing order and a schism intensified

The End of the Establishment, Epilogue: the churches continue to evolve, and antidisestablishmentarianism: the word

Aaaand we're done! Woo! This was difficult but really fun.
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2012-05-19 10:15 am

New Arts America post: Ceci N'est Pas Une Map: George Deem Exhibit at the Boston Athenaeum

On the right when you enter the exhibit George Deem: The Art of Art History at the Boston Athenaeum, there is a very large map of the coast of a foreign land. Looking closer, you see that this is not an ordinary hand-drawn or printed map done in ink, and it is not on paper or parchment as it appears to be at first glance. Instead, it’s mixed media – oil, acrylic, watercolor, and ink – on canvas. The painting hanging beside it is recognizably based on a work by Johannes Vermeer, and in the painting, on the wall to the right of the obligatory window, is the very same map! Deem painted the 60 X 84 inch map in 1982, and then incorporated it into many of his Vermeer-related works. Deem’s hallmark was to reimagine other artists’ work; the effect is something like that of a retold fairytale...

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2012-03-28 05:31 pm

The Great Bridge Over the Charles

Today, the big transportation issue people are talking about in Cambridge is the T. It affects individuals, businesses, and local government. In the first two hundred years after Cambridge was settled, however, the construction and maintenance of bridges across the Charles River had just as broad-reaching an effect. While we depend on bridges today, and a bridge closing or new bridge would certainly draw attention, as compared with the years through the mid-nineteenth century, we take bridges for granted.

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2012-03-08 02:56 pm

Cambridge Cowpaths

In response to my post, “Getting Around in Cambridge: what do you want to know?” [ profile] lightgamer commented, “I often hear people say that the roads are so terrible because they were laid on old cow paths. I never really questioned this because it made a certain amount of sense, but I'd like to know how much truth there is to it.” If you've ever read a guidebook to the area, you may have heard this legend, and if you've ever tried to find your way in Cambridge or in most other places in the Boston area, you may well be able to sympathize.

Read on...
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2012-01-18 11:01 pm
Entry tags:

Guest blogging!

First of three guest blog posts at The Uncataloged Museum. This is cool. She is a real person.

As a museum professional, I believe that working directly with visitors should be a lifelong practice for me.  I had thought for a long time that I might want to volunteer at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, a small, beautiful Boston institution full of art from all time periods. Until recently, I had too many other things going on in my life, including being a tour guide at two history museums, but this fall, after starting a desk job, I realized now might be the time. It’s also a very exciting time to be at the Gardner, because they just completed a new wing, opening to the public on January 19. They recruited a large group of new volunteers, and I applied just in time. In November and December, I attended a series of trainings to get oriented to the museum’s story, the collection, and how to help visitors have a great experience.

While I’m excited to get involved at the Gardner, I’m a historian, and there’s a voice in my head asking,  “What do I know about art?

read on in my post, Learning to Talk About Art.

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2011-12-21 08:08 pm

Some Christmas Cheer from Winslow Homer, a Cambridge Native

As a history researcher, I often find that libraries are a gift -- and their online collections are a gift as well! The following images, originally published in Harper's Weekly in the late 1850's, are in the Boston Public Library's Winslow Homer collection, which is available to view on their flickr photostream.

Read on... and see the prints!
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2011-11-28 12:36 pm
Entry tags:

LARPer opinion question

(Pre-question: in your opinion, what is the culture / etiquette of posting this type of question in the interconlarp or brandeislarp lj communities? In the relatively short time I have been a part of those communities, I have seen that most, but not all, posts are event and scheduling related, but discussiony posts seem to be not-unheard of. Thoughts?)

This is both a general discussion question because I find the topic interesting and a poll for my own information as I work on this larp I'm kind of writing.

What do you think of mechanics in a (theater-style, not paticularly "experimental") larp that are supposed to influence role-playing decisions but are not attached to numerical values, contingency envelopes, or direct actions like powers or spells? The structure I have in mind is, "people generally know that if a group of characters does X, it is likely to have an effect on them, and the most common effect is Y. In character sheets, it is specified how that character is affected by X. Players are asked to take this into account in their role-playing decisions."

In the situation I'm trying to write, the effects are changes in mood. Y is that characters feel more relaxed, but X makes some characters more nervous. For others, it makes them more likely to speak their mind, for others, it makes them more forgiving and favorable in their responses to new information.  I would only have one of this type of mechanic in a game.

Have you played in or written games that used a mechanic of this style? Was it successful? What made it work or not work?
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2011-11-23 11:42 am

A Bird in the Belfry Revisited

Thanksgiving Day marks the one-year anniversary of Cambridge Considered!

Readers who have been with Cambridge Considered since the beginning,
or who have explored the modest archives, will know that in my
first post,
I attempted to verify the rumor that a group of Harvard students hung a
turkey in a bell-tower as a Thanksgiving prank sometime in the
nineteenth century.

I continued researching, and while I still have not found a primary source, I did find an earlier description of the event.

Read on...
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2011-11-06 07:26 pm

The Muslim Community in Cambridge

      While Cambridge has a storied religious history and has been home to many groups of immigrants, neither Muslims from the United States nor those from other parts of the world were a significant presence in the city until the mid-twentieth century. Muslims are absent from a number of books about the history of the city. This is probably in part because their numbers are smaller than many other religious groups in Cambridge. In the 1950's, there was a small Muslim population at Harvard. A few graduate students who were here from other countries and studying Islamic history founded the Harvard Islamic Society in 1958. In 1958, three Harvard students formed the Harvard Islamic Society, It was the first Muslim organization in Cambridge and one of the first student Muslim organizations in the United States. According to the Harvard Islamic Society’s web site, American-born Muslim students first came to Harvard in the 1970’s.
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2011-09-10 12:25 pm

Cambridge Considered is no longer on a regular schedule

"What refuge is there for the victim who is possessed with the feeling that there are a thousand new books he ought to read, while life is only long enough for him to read a hundred?"
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809-1894)

Dear readers,

In the future, Cambridge Considered will no longer be updated on a regular schedule. I have a lot of projects going on in my life at the moment -- for example, I started a new job a few months ago, and I moved to a new apartment last week.

Read on...
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2011-07-17 10:28 pm

A Very Brief History of Cambridge, 1900-2000, Part I: The Turn of the Century Through Plan E

      With streetcars, electricity, and more, Cambridge was already a modern city by the turn of the twentieth century. At the same time, it was in for a number of significant changes over the next several decades. MIT moved in, immigration continued but trends in sources of immigration changed, the Great Depression and the First World War made their mark, and the people voted in a new system for electing the city council and school board. Life in early twentieth-century Cambridge was characterized by factional tensions, discussion and debate, both cultural and political.

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2011-07-03 11:12 pm

it's up!

Two hundred and thirty-five years ago today, on July 4th, 1776, the United States of America was born. Or was it? Many ideas that inspired the founding of the country had been around for centuries, and the Revolutionary War would not end until 1883. The Continental Congress decided to approve the Declaration on July 2, leading John Adams to write, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival.”[1][2] Today, of course, Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4, the day that Congress actually voted on and approved the document, and even at the time, people recognized it as a greatly symbolic occasion. All across the newly-declared country, people celebrated as the news was spread, and those celebrations, too, came over a period of time, so it could be said that America's first Fourth of July lasted for several weeks.
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2011-07-03 08:07 pm

mini-post at Cambridge Considered and teaser for my guest blogging appearance

On July 4th, I will be a guest blogger for Pamela Winnick, an author who focuses on the American Revolution. You can read my post, “That the People May be Universally Informed of It: reactions to the Declaration of Independence, 1776” at her blog, A Historical Novel About Jews During the American Revolution. For today, here's a bit about what was going on in Cambridge at that time.
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2011-05-29 10:49 pm

Shh... the artifacts are resting... and five other tips about museums

Apart from being a history blogger, I am currently a tour guide and museum educator in two history museums.  Today at Cambridge Considered, I want to share some of my museum knowledge that I thought readers of history might find interesting.

Shh... the artifacts are resting. Materials become fragile over the years – for example, paints fade and fibers weaken with prolonged exposure to light. Museum galleries are designed to be gentle on the artifacts. They are not too hot or moist, and the lighting is not too harsh. Still, they are far from perfect, so from time to time, most museum artifacts are “rested”: they are placed in storage, where it is dark and the climate can be kept consistent.

read on at
or, on a mobile device,
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2011-05-17 09:44 am

Hutchinson and Harvard

The backstory is written, and now, finally, THE post about Anne Hutchinson's relationship to the founding of Harvard is up.

One thing that can be learned from the controversy surrounding Anne Hutchinson is that the leadership of 1630's Massachusetts were absolutely determined to remain in power. They led their new religious community with the doctrine that there is only one right way to practice their faith. It is natural, then, that they would want to establish a theology school, where those who were already in power and in the mainstream could mold the next generation of leaders.

read on at

or, on a mobile device,
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2011-04-24 09:41 pm

Time and Tide in Cambridge

Picture Cambridge in 1637, or 1700, or 1776. What do you imagine? Perhaps churches, small houses, or the common. Now imagine looking to the east. What you should see in your mind's eye is a stretch of salty, tidal marshland, and then open water over a mile before you see the town of Boston in the distance. The Charles River as it flows through Cambridge today did not begin to take shape until the early nineteenth century, and it did not take the form it has today until the twentieth. Both Cambridge and Boston underwent land fill projects in the nineteenth century, also called land reclamation, in which solid land is made from wetland or water. Boston's project was massive, doubling the size of the city, but Cambridge's land fill was also very significant, as changed our relationship to the Charles forever.

or, on a mobile device,

Happy belated Earth Day!
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2011-04-03 06:59 pm

Anne Hutchinson, Heretic

  Some Cantabrigians believe that Anne Hutchinson, the religious dissenter who was among the first prominent settlers of Rhode Island, should also be credited with causing the Puritans to found Harvard. The General Court of Massachusetts decreed that there would be a school, then called “the College at New Towne,” in 1636. Anne Hutchinson's trial by the church leaders did not begin until 1637. However, until 1638, the school had no buildings, professors, or courses; it was merely an idea. That year, the year that John Harvard willed his library and half his fortune to the school, the first building was erected. Was Anne Hutchinson responsible for the transformation from idea to reality? The short answer, although some find it surprising, is yes. Of course, as with almost every historical question, the full story is more nuanced than yes or no.
Part 1 of this two-part series will look at who Anne Hutchinson was and what she believed.

...

My blog is back from a one-month vacation! I'm probably going to do a few extra posts in the next month to make up for lost time. Also, I'm going to be transitioning away from announcing all of my posts on my own FB and LJ pages, and start making the announcements on the blog's own FB page:
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2011-01-15 10:15 pm

A Very Brief History of Cambridge, 1800-1900, part II: Immigration and Industry

As noted last time, I am dividing the 19th century into several posts. I want to stress that no century is more important or more worth studying than another, but it happened that it was most convenient to do it this way for the 19th century. The subjects of immigration and industry in Cambridge in the nineteenth century are closely related, as immigration provided a new workforce, and they are also the main reasons that Cambridge changed size and shape over that century. Most immigrants to the city settled in Cambridgeport or East Cambridge, and these areas were also the centers of local industrial growth. Now, let's take a closer look at these topics.

read on...
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2011-01-01 09:47 pm

A Very Brief History of Cambridge: 1800-1900, Part 1 -- Cambridge Changes Shape and Size

      Cambridge started out sprawling but barely settled. As centers of population emerged in the outlying areas of the village, they began to break off and form their own towns. The areas of Shawnsin and Cambridge Village became Billerica and Newton, respectively, in the seventeenth century, and Cambridge Farms became Lexington at the beginning of the eighteenth. By the nineteenth century, Cambridge's outline roughly resembled what it is today. Yet, the town's population was growing: it went from around 2,000 in 1810 to around 8,000 in 1840. This speedy growth rate was three times the growth rate of Massachusetts during the same period. At the beginning of the century, if you had told a local that the population would be growing that way in his or her lifetime, he or she would probably have assumed – incorrectly – that Cambridge was finally going to take off as a center of trade, like Boston.