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Amelia Zurcher

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

Fields: Public History, Early America, the Atlantic World
Interests: Atlantic World, Environmental History, Material Culture, Local History, Urban History, Native American History, Eastern European History, Social History, Cultural History

As many, I found the public history field through years spent exploring historic landscapes, properties, and museums around the country and world. I have always been inspired by the power of museums and historic sites to engage individuals and communities through underscoring the relevance of the past. I had entered college determined to pursue a career in public history, but my interest in local history developed later. As I began doing research of my own in college, I began to increasingly investigate the social and ecological landscapes more immediately around me.

During my undergraduate years at The College of New Jersey, I majored in History and minored in U.S. Studies, Sociology, and Political Science. At this time I wrote a history honors thesis on the seventeenth-century British-colonial settlement of Newark, New Jersey. The thesis traced the town’s transformation from one resembling its New England origins to one increasingly shaped by political disputes with the proprietary government and intensifying conflict from territorial seizures of Lenape land. During this time, I also wrote and spoke extensively on a research project about the active political culture of Trenton’s Puerto Rican community in the late twentieth century. Both through this study and several internships I gained a strong appreciation for oral history’s ability to record experiences that are so rarely highlighted and sometimes even lost in local collective memory.

This perspective found its way into my work this past summer as an intern at the Old Manse, a cultural property of The Trustees. Aside from working as an interpreter and guest services associate of the site, I worked on an independent project of the historic house. Months of researching the history of the attic resulted in a full-length tour that goes beyond the physical
structure of the garret space to focus on the role of the attic in the lives of the Old Manse’s inhabitants. I sought to illustrate the relations and interactions between various members of the
home through combining the stories of some of the better known residents (transcendentalist and revolutionary figures) and introducing the experiences of children, enslaved people, paid servants, and boarders connected to the attic. In its final edition, the tour spanned the history of the house from the late eighteenth through the early twentieth century, stressing the continuities and contradictions of each of these periods.

Beyond graduate school, I hope to work at a museum or historic house, utilizing skills of public history to promote interest in the past while also questioning and reassessing established narratives.

azurcher@umass.edu