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Amelia Zurcher

M.A. CandidatePhoto of Amelia Zurcher in the Czech Republic

Fields: Public History, Early America
Education: B.A., History, The College of New Jersey
Interests: Social and Cultural History, 17th Century North America, Colonial New Jersey, Native American History, 20th Century Eastern Europe, Oral History, Urban New Jersey

At an early age, stories of the past told by public historians, historical fiction writers, and family members captivated me, inspiring a life dream of a career in public history. During my undergraduate years at The College of New Jersey, I developed a strong interest in local history. My history honors thesis on the early settlement of Newark, NJ analyzed the town and its people by considering how 17th century Newark interacted with nearby towns, various levels of government, and neighboring ethnic, racial, and religious groups. Through an internship with the Cultural Resources Department at Morristown Historical National Park, I researched Morristown’s influential Theodosia Ford. In addition to colonial New Jersey, I spent considerable time with more recent state history, studying the political culture of Trenton’s Puerto Rican community in the late twentieth century. Both through this Trenton independent study and through an internship with the Hurricane Sandy Oral History Project, I gained appreciation for oral history.

Beyond local history, I have also reached out into more foreign historical territory. An avid learner of languages, I enrolled in intensive Russian courses and studied for a semester in the Czech Republic to concentrate on modern Eastern Europe. A common thread throughout my studies is my interest in understanding groups of people through analysis of their relationships and interactions with other groups. Whether studying colonial America, 20th century New Jersey, Eastern Europe or any other period and region I focus on social and cultural dynamics. In identifying these historical elements, I hope to continually question and reassess established narratives.

I have felt a natural transition throughout my studies from simply writing history toward sharing my findings. I am inspired by the power of museums to ground cultural objects and information into the context of “time” and “place”. Although I have long appreciated museums and historic sites, recently I am especially inspired to pursue a career in public field, as I increasingly realize the great quantity of significant documents and material culture that are largely unknown. As a public historian, I intend to help make historical materials and knowledge more accessible to the public.

azurcher@umass.edu