History Department Theses

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This collection represents the research of IUPUI history master's degree scholars. Areas of research include United States History, European History, and Public History, as well as dual degree research--combining an M.A. degree in history with a master's degree in either library science or philanthropic studies. Also included is research as part of the Graduate Certificate programs in Museum Studies and Professional Editing.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 165
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    One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Dead Fish: How Two Fish Kills in the White River Demonstrate Changes in the Historic Protection of the Commons in Indiana
    (2023-09) Dewey, Heather Corrinne; Scarpino, Philip V.; Robertson, Nancy Marie; Shrum, Rebecca K.
    Common property resources, often shortened to the commons, are natural resources meant to be accessible by all. In Indiana, an important part of the commons is the White River. Although the concept of the commons entered American intellectual spheres through the earliest European settlements and has been a part of the American legal system since the official formation of the United States in 1776, the role of common property resources in American history has constantly changed. Fish kills in the White River near Noblesville in 1896 and Anderson in 1999 are the basis for a comparative study of American intellectual perception and legal protection of the commons at the state and federal level. While both events resulted in great damage to the ecosystem of the White River, they had disparate outcomes, which have yet to be studied from a historic perspective. In 1896, there were minimal legal consequences for the industry that polluted the White River, consisting of a small fine of $250. In 1999, there were civil and criminal court cases with charges brought against the primary industrial polluter, which resulted in approximately $14 million in fines, as well as the creation of a consent decree, state and federal efforts to clean and rehabilitate the White River, and further economic consequences for the polluter. The outcomes to the fish kills represent a social and intellectual shift in the United States which paved the way for greater protection of the commons. The former American conception of nature, which focused on the wilderness and conquest, transformed into a model influenced by science with much more emphasis on protecting the integrity of the natural world. Communities confronted by the consequences of pollution and ecological damage needed to find new ways to protect the commons through the law. Ultimately, the commons in the state of Indiana and within the United States at large continues to have an ever-changing intellectual and legal status and will continue to undergo changes and scrutiny as experts debate who should be allowed to access the commons and who is responsible for its protection in the modern world.
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    "Americans All?" - Messages in Miniature
    (2023-07) Bennett, Janna Merrill; Robertson, Nancy Marie; Kelly, Jason M.; Shrum, Rebecca K.
    A small white-collar project of the Works Progress Administration project called the Museum Extension Project (MEP) operated in the latter half of the 1930s in at least twenty-four states including Indiana. A product of this visual aid program was the twelve-inch miniature figure dressed in clothing to reflect periods in US history or countries or cultures throughout the world. Museum and Indiana school educators used the MEP figures, as part of a broader intercultural learning agenda, to demonstrate or encourage ethnic appreciation and inclusion, while also fostering “otherness”–all in the safety of classrooms and informal educational settings. The figures simultaneously expanded the definition of membership in a majority white cultural group by adding and validating recent white immigrants while they continued to differentiate “the other”–Black and Native Americans as well as non-European immigrants through the cultural construct of race. These miniature figures allowed students to learn about the ethnic populations of their state and made the world available to all. At the same time, they prescribed the role of “other” to Indigenous Peoples throughout the world, the inhabitants of South and Central American countries, and those perceived as “non-white” peoples in places like Palestine and Egypt. This research examines educational philosophy in the first quarter of the twentieth century combined with the material culture analysis of these figures to demonstrate how three-dimensional objects were powerful educational tools.
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    Remember Maconaquah: The Forced Erasure of Indigenous Identity in Captivity Narratives, Historical Markers, and Memorials in Indiana
    (2022-12) Schrader, Elise Sage; Guiliano, Jennifer E.; Pfeiffer, Casey; Weiss Simins, Jill; Shrum, Rebecca K.
    Historic monuments and markers can be found across the United States. There are always different motivations involving why they were placed and who or what is being acknowledged. Markers and memorials remembering a white woman named Frances Slocum recognize that she was taken by Delaware Indians in 1778 and eventually married a Miami chief before dying in Indiana in 1847. What the markers and memorials fail to show is the life of Maconaquah, a Miami woman that was adopted by a Delaware family after being taken in Pennsylvania. Since being located by her white family, Maconaquah’s story has been retold, celebrated, and remembered as the story of Frances Slocum, a lost but now found sister. The memorialization of Frances Slocum and erasure of Maconaquah began with the captivity narratives that told the story of Slocum from the perspective of her being lost and then found by her white relatives. Native captivity narratives began when the increased colonization of the North American continent led to conflict and violence between the white colonists and Indigenous tribes; popular narratives began as early as 1624 with Captain John Smith’s Generall Historie. When captives shared their stories, it was a way to share information about the different cultures they had encountered, as well as created a division of white colonial cultural and Indigenous cultures. Narratives like the ones written about Maconaquah focus on her white identity and family and firmly emphasize any difference in dress, home, or demeanor. Maconaquah is not recognized so much for the life she created among the Miami as she is mourned for the life she could have had with her white family. This dismissal of her Indigenous identity continued onto her monuments and markers that refused to acknowledge her name or her legacy. To properly remember Maconaquah’s life and legacy, any potential monument or marker will need to disrupt the narrative previously presented in favor of centering her Miami identity.
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    NOW and Then: Indiana NOW, Abortion Rights, and the 1980s Culture Wars
    (2022-10) Smith, Hannah Jane; Robertson, Nancy Marie; Haberski, Raymond; Stump, Shana
    After the fight by the Indiana chapter of the National Organization for Women (Indiana NOW) to include the Equal Rights Amendment into the Constitution of the United States failed at the national level, it was thrust into a battle to protect abortion rights. During the 1980s culture wars, a period of identity politics and antifeminist movements, abortion rights became the largest issue Indiana NOW had to face. Indiana NOW utilized a strategy based on both empathy (to form an emotional motivation) and a political (or legal) strategy to combat the political Right’s attempts to eliminate women’s right to obtain a legal abortion. This thesis looks at Indiana NOW’s strategies to fight for women’s right to keep abortions safe and legal during the 1980s. Understanding Indiana NOW’s efforts throughout the 1980s and into the early 1990s to combat the removal of abortion rights offers a glimpse into how we can understand feminism before, during, and after the culture wars. This understanding allows us to see the utility of and problems with the idea of “waves” of feminism.
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    The Legacy, Life, and Lynching of George Tompkins
    (2022-10) Brinker, Haley Renee; Shrum, Rebecca K.; Haberski, Raymond J.; Kelly, Jason M.
    In 1922, George Tompkins was found dead in an isolated area of Riverside Park. Though the media and evidence present pointed to Tompkins having been the victim of a lynching, the official ruling was that of suicide. Almost a century later, a multiracial, driven group of individuals set out to memorialize Tompkins as a victim of lynching and challenge the ruling that he had taken his own life. In discussing deaths such as George Tompkins’, it is vital to remind oneself that the victims of lynchings were more than just statistics in the ongoing epidemic of anti-Black violence that has permeated the history of the United States. By employing a victim-centered methodology, we can examine the lives of these victims before the worst happened to them and recognize the three-dimensionality of their lived experiences. This work examines the lived experience, lynching death, and memorialization process one hundred years later of George Tompkins. In understanding the means by which he lived, died, and was remembered, we can better understand the ways that this process can play a role in multiple contemporary communities.
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    Expanding the Narratives of Domestic Staff at Historic House Museums: A Case Study of the James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home
    (2022-10) Vorndran, Zoe; Shrum, Rebecca K.; Robertson, Nancy Marie; Kelly, Jason M.
    The James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home (JWRMH), located in Indianapolis, Indiana, is best known for interpreting the life of the famous Hoosier poet who resided at the home for the latter part of his life. The JWRMH has the opportunity to more fully incorporate the domestic staff – Katie Kindell, Dennis Ewing, and Nannie Ewing – who worked at 528 Lockerbie Street during Riley’s residence, into the story told today at the home. The JWRMH has preserved Katie Kindell’s room on the second floor of the home and the butler’s pantry next to the kitchen, places in which interpretation about the domestic staff have long been presented to visitors. Yet archival research shows that there is much more to the lives of the domestic staff than what is currently presented at the house. While Katie Kindell, the only white domestic staff member at the home, has been fairly well documented, much less was known about the home’s two Black domestic staff, Dennis Ewing and Nannie Ewing. Since Dennis Ewing and Nannie Ewing were married, a story about them being married to each other while they worked at the home has long been perpetuated. This study of the documentary record, however, has revealed that their marriage to each other occurred long after they left their employment at 528 Lockerbie Street. This study explores where this myth might have originated, why it has been perpetuated, and how Dennis Ewing and Nannie Ewing’s work and marriage history situates them into the larger story of Black Indianapolis in the early twentieth century. Additionally, exploring the ways in which architecture during the nineteenth and twentieth century isolated the domestic staff and the ways in which this has been reproduced in the site’s interpretive strategies reveals how the lives and stories of the domestic staff have been devalued. This study demonstrates that there is a great opportunity for historic institutions to expand their interpretive narratives and hopes to inspire them to be curious about all the people whose lives shaped their sites.
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    "Unusual Demands of this Unusual Time": Logansport State Hospital and World War I
    (2022-09) Jesse, Helen Diane; Robertson, Nancy Marie; Monroe, Elizabeth Brand; Nelson, Elizabeth Angeline
    The Northern Indiana Hospital for the Insane (also known as Longcliff Hospital or Logansport State Hospital) struggled with a number of challenges common to state institutions, including a lack of funding, staff shortages, and stretched capacity. These problems worsened during World War I and the years immediately following, hindering the hospital’s ability to care for its patients. In response to these challenges, the hospital administration was forced to adapt in order to conserve resources. Using state and hospital records, this thesis examines the changes experienced by the hospital between 1910 and 1920 and demonstrates how external events such as a war had a greater impact on the care of vulnerable residents than did the internal dynamics of the facility or the motivations of its leadership.
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    Systemic Anti-Black Violence in Indiana: A Digital Public History Wikipedia Project
    (2022-07) Hellmich, Madeline Mae; Shrum, Rebecca K.; Tandy, Kisha; Robertson, Nancy Marie
    The most recent racial justice movement that emerged in the United States beginning in the summer of 2020 in response to the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd laid bare the overdue need to revisit white America’s legacy of racist violence against its Black citizens. Historians can help bridge the gap between past and present and urge more Americans to identify and confront racial violence. As a born-and-raised Hoosier, I wanted to contribute to social change and racial justice at home. The historical silence on the history of racist violence in Indiana supports the myth that Indiana was a free state where Black citizens found refuge from the racist violence they experienced in the South; thousands of primary source newspapers containing details of white perpetrators lynching and violently attacking Black Hoosiers refute this myth. This paper identifies white perpetrators’ acts of anti-Black violence and Black Hoosiers resistance to anti-Black violence throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This analysis of racial violence in Indiana shows that white perpetrators employed violence in defense of white supremacy and that Black Hoosiers resisted anti-Black violence and white supremacy. The record indicates that racial terrorism has been embedded in the fabric of Indiana since its founding. Grassroots efforts, such as the Facing Injustice Project’s work to acknowledge the 1901 lynching of George Ward in Terre Haute, Indiana, are starting to recognize the harm white Hoosiers did to Black Hoosiers and bring repair to victims’ descendants and communities. More public history projects are needed to engage all Hoosiers in reckoning with the history of anti-Black violence. Activists and organizations have shown that Wikipedia is one digital institution where anyone can do the work of rooting out inequalities and injustices. This digital public history Wikipedia project challenges the historical silence on Indiana’s racially violent past by telling the truth about the history on one of the most-visited websites in the world. Using Wikipedia to do public history invites Hoosiers of all backgrounds to take up the work of acknowledging Indiana’s history of anti-Black violence, updating the historic record, and reevaluating the narrative constantly.
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    A Look at the Effect of Two Extractive Industries on the Economy of Midland Michigan from 1850 to 1949
    (2022-07) Getzin, Kristen Marie; Scarpino, Philip V.; Robertson, Nancy Marie; Shrum, Rebecca K.
    This thesis will investigate the effect of extractive industries on the economy of an average Midwestern town from the mid-1800s until the conclusion of the WWII. Primary and secondary sources were studied to gain an understanding of the effect of extractive industries on the development of Midland Michigan. Due to its complete reliance on extractive industries for its economic welfare Midland suffered extreme economic upheavals. In conclusion Midland’s intensive boom and bust economy mirrors Michigan’s own rocky relationship with extractive industries.
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    “This Great Building Belongs To Everyone”: Interrogating Claims About Inclusiveness and Exploring the Role of Nostalgia in the 1970s and 1980s Historic Preservation Movement at Union Station in Indianapolis, Indiana
    (2022-05) Butterworth, Alexis Victoria; Shrum, Rebecca K.; Scarpino, Philip V.; Rowe, Stephanie
    Union Station is a unique historic building in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. The station, which first opened in 1853, has connected the history of the evolution of travel and the city of Indianapolis and, in the late twentieth century, became deeply embedded in local conversations about national issues at the intersection of race, historic preservation, and urban renewal. The station was a place of Black exclusion from public spaces throughout its existence, first as a train station, and later when it was repurposed as a Festival Marketplace. In preparation for the opening of the Festival Marketplace in the 1980s—complete with shops, restaurants, and a hotel—the developers invited people to write to them to preserve personal memories of experiences at the station from the era of train travel. Indiana residents, both white and Black, as well as Indianapolis city officials, and redevelopers of the station showed nostalgia for earlier eras when the station was active. This nostalgia, I argue, played an active and productive role in the process of saving Union Station. Importantly, those who contributed a letter to the “Remember Union Station” project were overwhelmingly white. Out of eighty-six letters, the race of seventy-three of them can be confirmed. Of those eighty-six, only two have been identified as Black. The two Black letter writers used the opportunity to contribute to the “Remember Union Station” campaign as a means to remember and claim the right to belong in Union Station for themselves, their families, and Black communities. As this project shows, the Indianapolis Union Station has always been more than just a building. It is a space that captures a part of the complex history of the city of Indianapolis and can hopefully provide more links to the past, present, and future for Hoosiers and visitors alike.