The city of Deadwood, South Dakota, was home to one of America’s most significant gold rushes, but it is mostly known for its colorful locals like Wild Bill, Calamity Jane or to some Potato Creek Johnny. It is likely a few students may have heard about Deadwood before, be it from the HBO show of the same name or a passing fun fact from a history professor, but even those students might not know the full extent of Deadwood’s history. Which is precisely the reason why UMass Lowell’s new history club chose it as the topic for its second meeting on Sep. 24 in McGauvran Student Center room 311.
Lead by sophomore history major, Shaylin Silva, and advised by U.S. Social and Environmental History Professor, Chad Montrie, history club aims to give those with even a passing interest in history a casual environment to talk about and investigate the obscure and under-analyzed parts of history without the narrow scope of one class.
The club meets every other Monday to discuss a different historical topic. The group hopes to provide a casual environment for students to learn about history and have fun doing so without the pressure they might feel in a classroom setting. One way the group strives to do this is to incorporate a variety of multimedia into each discussion from short documentaries, literature, music and the occasional meme. Any presentations are kept short and are mostly questions, as Silva says that the club is not supposed to be or feel like a history class, but it is a place for people who enjoy history to talk about it and collaboratively learn more.
Members were encouraged during the first meeting to get involved by suggesting new topics and helping the board to plan the resulting meetings. Additionally, Silva informed members that all meeting topics are voted on at the previous sessions to ensure that the group is always talking about a topic of interest to most members.
The club aims to expand on subjects taught in classrooms by focusing on the aspects of history that professors do not always have the time to explore or even introduce.
That does not mean the club will always concentrate on obscure events. Some meetings will cover events and people that everybody knows about but from an angle not always considered.
For example, October’s meetings will potentially cover the Jack the Ripper and Elizabeth Bathory cases and examine how the supernatural affected them. Not that they want to use historical evidence to speculate the existence of the supernatural, but instead look at how the perceptions of the supernatural may have affected the case. Although they would undoubtedly have a lot of fun with the first argument.
Another topic Silva expressed an interest in covering that many students might find interesting is the history of Lowell outside of the Industrial Revolution and Jack Kerouac. Instead, the meeting would focus on the different demographics that helped build the city or explore how Lowell has influenced a lot of ligature and musicians throughout history.
Silva encouraged students other than history majors to join the club saying, “We are not just history. We want to talk about musicians, stories and other things that have influenced history.”
History is more than just facts. Even if a student is a history buff, they might be surprised by the perspective and insight they could bring to the discussion of these topics. History club’s biggest goal is about taking the time to look at and examine these topics through a new lens.