Hello world!

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!


DLFxDHSI Digital Demo

Got to love travel adventures……a long delay in Seattle decided to throw a wrench in my trek to Victoria for the second week of the Digital Humanities Summer Institute. Was scheduled to give a digital demo on some of the dissertation work as part of the DLFxDHSI un-conference, but me, my tech, data, and maps are currently in travel limbo, glaring at an overly-affectionate couple who decided to occupy neighboring chairs.

Alas, alas, a pigeon on the grass.

So, I’m posting a PPT version for what would have been a much more interesting digital demo. Happy to respond to questions folks may have.

[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”presentation/d/e/2PACX-1vQSW5lzM-zUPKS9nSBKSjfw_nSZrocghpGjb2TePh5qS2N3SDrtG5_glY13rTQGDDc59RBdpdjWUSIq/embed” query=”start=true&loop=false&delayms=3000″ width=”1920″ height=”1109″ /]


Life updates: new job, new city, new chapter

I’ll say again, applying to 100+ jobs, wrapping up a second MA, teaching, working, and trying to get keep a dissertation moving forward……… nuts.


But, super excited to share some updates that came out of all that madness.

I’m a real librarian! Continuing my quest to find creative ways to add more letters to the end of my name, I successfully wrapped up a second masters degree in Library and Information Science. All the adventures in archives, digital preservation, digital humanities, and info literacy. [In case you’re keeping track, we’re up to MA, MLIS, PhD Candidate (ABD).]


I have a job! Starting tomorrow, I’ll be at Grinnell College, working in their Center for Teaching as a Digital Liberal Arts Specialist. That role will involve working with faculty and students to integrate digital technologies in research and teaching by promoting digital pedagogies, providing technical expertise and support in the implementation of digital applications/resources, and encouraging folks to use technology in innovative ways for their teaching, learning, and research.


I’m living in a new city! Even though Grinnell isn’t that far from Iowa City, decided I’d rather spend the 10 hours that would go toward commuting doing…..just about anything else (e.g. writing the dissertation). But after an ‘interesting’ apartment search, found a place to live for the next year.


Speaking of the dissertation…….no, it’s not done. Turns out taking classes full time, applying/interviewing for jobs, and working as a TA doesn’t leave a whole lot of mental energy/bandwidth for doing much of anything…….let alone make substantive progress on a dissertation.

But, thanks to some truly fantastic committee members, we’re making progress on the actual dissertation work, and having productive conversations with the UIowa Graduate College, University Libraries, and Digital Studio for Scholarship and Publishing about how exactly we want to go about archiving and preserving a born-digital digital humanities dissertation. The goal is to defend the dissertation and graduate Spring 2019, which is exciting but also terrifying. And on that happy thought……back to work.



Traveling for Job Interviews

As folks who follow me on Twitter know, I’ve had my own personal March Madness this month, trying to keep work on my dissertation going while finishing a second masters–and traveling for job interviews. (While working as a TA and graduate fellow.) To encapsulate that in a single image……

My immediate hot take: to everyone who said it was bat-excrement crazy to apply for 110 jobs over Christmas break, take classes for a second masters, work as a TA/fellow, and try to write a dissertation…….you were right. Feel free to shake your heads and say ‘we told you so.’ Because you did.

A disclaimer: Maybe I’ll have something to say in the future about preparing for academic job interviews, strategies for practicing self-care during an academic job search…..or maybe not. We’ll see. Either way, this post covers some of my thoughts on strategies for handling travel logistics.

Where it’s worth spending

Get a suit

Doesn’t have to break the bank, but spend the time/energy to find a suit that (1) fits, (2) is comfortable, (3) is versatile, (4) looks professional, and (5) will be easy for traveling. My recommendation is stick with your style but don’t veer too far off the beaten path in terms of conventional business casual dress.

My choice:
Jacket/pants: Liz Claiborne, JC Penney
Shell: Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor Loft (both of these have jackets/pants, just a higher price range)

Get shoes that work with the suit

Most of my shoe purchases are made based on the Will it give me blisters/Can I walk 2 miles in this/Would I be able to wear this and outrun the zombie apocalypse criteria. Invest in a pair of business casual shoes that don’t look like they’ve been over-worn by an impoverished grad student. Again, doesn’t have to break the bank, but a good pair of shoes that (1) fit, (2) are comfortable, (3) are versatile, and (4) look professional goes a LONG way. Once you’ve found the shoes, double check you have socks/liners that work with the new pair.

My brands: Naturalizer, Lifestride, Easy Spirit/Street

Find a good coat

Depends on when you’re on the market and where you’re interviewing, but I found myself trekking through the Midwest and East Coast in winter weather. Shoutout to Burlington Coat Factory for a clearance London Fog wool coat that was a step up from the St. John’s Bay peacoat I’ve been wearing since 2010. Yes……2010.

My choice: Burlington Coat Factory- good prices, good selection, good quality

Invest in yourself

Yes- we need to have/keep having a conversation about gender, intersectionality, politics of representation, and power in the workplace. What my nails look like, whether I’m wearing makeup, how white my teeth are, or what kind of shoes I’m wearing don’t actually tell you how I’d perform on the job. And evaluating on those criteria reinforces some incredibly problematic structures of gender, race, sexuality, class, (dis)ability, etc.

That said, you’re going to be hard-pressed to substantively contribute to those conversations and advocate for change without some type of gainful employment. As much as I’d like to flip the bird in the direction of those structures of power…..I know they exist, and I know some of the privileges they afford me a cis-gendered, heterosexual, white, upper-middle class woman.

Side note–I’ll point to the fantastic online community of gender queer folks, people of color, and intersectional feminists who are also contributing to these conversations about how to navigate professional norms and academic structures of power.

But yeah, I got a haircut, used teeth whitening strips, had my nails done, and got a facial before hitting the road for interviews. Should I feel like I had to do those things- no. Did I have to make those choices- no. Do I think they had a positive impact on how I was perceived or ‘read’ while on interviews- yes.

Stuff that’s handy for traveling

If you can squeeze some funds out of a grad student budget, there are some fantastic travel hacks out there.

I’ve put together an Amazon list with some of my go-to supplies (many of which are available cheaper at Walmart), and the one-time purchases that have a nice long-term return on investment.


On-campus interviews can last anywhere from a half-day to a dinner the night before/morning through early-afternoon the next day. The short version is you’ll usually only be spending one night on the road.

Save $$ & the hassle of checking luggage by having a couple of strategic carry-on pieces. I swear by my Weekend Shopper canvas satchel and Isabella Fiore Travel Tote ($20 at a Ross Dress for Less). Pair that with a couple of Shacke luggage tags, and I’m ready to go with a change of clothes, laptop, iPhone charger and external battery, book, mini-umbrella (Totes NeverWet micro is my favorite), and necessary toiletries.


Since I prefer to travel light, wanted to see if there was a way to avoid bringing a brush and a straightener. Behold the straightening hairbrush. Read the reviews, think about your hair type, but I’ve found this a time and space-saving hack.

Just buy a whole bunch of quart-size bags. Get the nice ones that won’t break when you stuff them full of snacks and liquids. Plus, it’s a handy bag size for organizing all your loose non-liquid stuff like deodorant, toothbrush, meds, etc.

Downy Wrinkle Releaser Spray. THIS STUFF IS MAGIC. Take off the wrinkled suit you spent all day flying in, spray the jacket and trousers, and it looks like you just picked it up from the dry cleaner. Seriously- magic.

Lint removers. I usually try to pack a mini lint roller and a foldable lint remover. But especially for folks traveling during winter with coats/scarves or folks who tend to find long brown hairs everywhere, this is a must.

Shout stain remover wipes. THESE ARE ALSO MAGIC. I’ve used it on everything from cotton tops to dry-clean only clothes and have yet to see it harm fabric. Plus, it gets out every single stain I’ve ever used it to remove. MAGIC.

Blister bandaids. THESE ARE A LIVE SAVER. I don’t normally do a lot of walking in dress shoes, so even when I’ve broken a pair of shoes in, blisters can happen. These bandaids cushion a blister that has fully formed and can protect a blister that is forming from getting worse. Even better–if you know where you’re prone to blister and put the bandaids on in advance, they can prevent blisters all-together. MAGIC.

Then you’ve got all the other travel toiletries: Toothpaste, toothbrush, face wash, hand sanitizer, lotion, chapstick, deodorant, ear plugs, hairspray, medications, Excedrin (even if you don’t normally get headaches/migraines, bring it)


The empty clear water bottle is a pretty ubiquitous airport hack now, but make sure you pack it. I swap out my normal insulated polar bottle for an old Camelbak, but there are lots of collapsible/foldable options if you’re tight on space.

I really despise trying to find healthy airport food options. Affordable is a pipe dream, and healthy can be a frustrating challenge. My solution is to pack a bag of snacks for the trip, which I can dig for an airport meal and use during interview breaks to recharge.

Think fiber, protein, fruit, and energy. My stash of Clif Bars, fruit leather, individual Emerald nut packs, and Hersheys milk chocolate nuggets has been a lifesaver. Throw it all in a quart-sized bag, and be prepared for TSA to flag the snack bag for additional inspection (doesn’t take long–they just visually inspect the contents and swab the outside each type of food item).

Before you go

Interviews and traveling are stressful enough without the added hassle of frantically searching through your phone for a confirmation number or reservation details.

Plan ahead

As much as you can, plan or schedule your travel logistics before you actually start traveling. That includes plane tickets, car rentals, shuttle transportation, hotel reservations, airport parking, etc. If you can reserve or pay for it in advance, do.

Not sure what’s best in terms of driving/flying/getting to a campus? Ask your contact person on the hiring committee, if they haven’t already provided that information.

You can’t predict what all might happen during a trip, but try to leave some margin for error. If you can avoid it, don’t take the flight that gets in at 11pm when your interview starts at 8am the next day. If you can avoid a 40 minute connection, look for other possible options.

Once you’ve made the reservations, then start to block out what that means in terms of your personal travel schedule.


Flight leaves Des Moines at 11am –> I need to be at the airport by 9am
The Des Moines airport is 2.5 hours away–> I need to leave my apartment by 6:30am
I leave home by 6:30am –> I need to wake up by 5:30am to have time to shower, eat breakfast, and double-check packing
I wake up by 5:30am –> I need to have the car filled up with gas, purchased all of my toiletries/snacks, laundered all my clothes, and at least organized what I will pack by the night before I leave

Everyone has their own process, but if your normal brand is crisis, lower the anxiety level by planning ahead where you can and writing those plans down on your normal calendar system.

Once you know your travel schedule, let instructors/supervisors/etc. know what you’ll be missing, why you’re traveling, and how you plan to stay on top of your obligations or commitments. That said, I set up an auto-reply for emails that come in while I’m traveling, just so I don’t feel pressured to stay on top of email while traveling.

Organize your documents

When I was a high school sophomore, I did a round of east coast college visits with my grandfather (a story full of adventure for another time). We had reservations for flights, rental cars, hotels, campus tours, etc. Before we hit the road, my dad put together binders (yes, binders) that had a detailed schedule, as well as all our confirmation/reservation documents. We knew exactly where we were supposed to be, when we needed to be there, and how to find where we were going. It was kind of amazing.

For each interview, I put together a travel packet that is totally different from my interview prep notes. I lead with the interview schedule, a campus map, then copies of my flight confirmation, hotel reservation, and rental car or shuttle arrangements. I print out a hard copy and email myself the PDF.

Go paperless where you can (mobile boarding passes, Google maps, etc.), but nothing beats having the shuttle company’s number at your finger tips when your flight gets delayed and you’ll be getting in later than expected.

As you’re going

[vimeo 98749703 w=640 h=360]

8 or higher bro from Beau Graham on Vimeo.

How I Met Your Mother fans might remember the ‘8 or higher’ rule Marshall and Lily institute after baby Marvin is born. It’s a longer story line, but the short version is the new parents are so overwhelmed that they have to rethink how they allocate their mental and emotional energy.

Traveling for interviews is a brutally exhausting process. (Granted, not on the same level as having a newborn in the house, but go with the analogy.) Airports are crowded, gate agents can be short-tempered, flights get delayed, hotel accommodations are not always luxuriously comfortable, interviews are draining, and flying/driving late at night after an interview is pretty unbearable.

If the goal is to do the best you can interviewing for the job, everything else has to be moved further down the emotional/mental energy scale. Do what you can to prevent travel hiccups, but also just recognize that at some point you’ll just have to readjust your perspective.

Difficult row-mates? Great, grab your earplugs and read a book, or put in headphones and jump into an audio book. Let that be a 2, not an 8.

Shuttle that’s getting you from the airport to hotel gets rear-ended by a semi, you end up in the ER with a whiplash injury, and are in excruciating pain/can’t move your head or neck on the day of the interview? That’s actually an 11, but in the moment you’ve got to somehow make it a 5.

For folks who are having a rough experience on the market or are just exhausted and discouraged by the job search, hang in there. And for folks who are looking ahead to an academic job search in the future (particularly women), hopefully there’s something in here that helps.

DISCLAIMER: I’m approaching traveling and interviewing as an able-bodied person with minimal physical, mental, and emotional (dis)abilities that directly impact or impede my travel and interview experience. That is not everyone’s experience. Expecting someone to just “get over” or “move past” a travel issue ignores the reality there can be a whole spectrum of (1) real and (2) legitimate conditions or factors that make it impossible for someone to just “rise above” an issue or complication. Ableism is real, and let’s check our privilege before just telling folks to get over it and fix their attitude.


IDEAL 12/11 Assignment Design Workshop

I had the opportunity to kick off Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning’s 2017-2018 assignment design workshop series this week, leading a 90 minute workshop for graduate students on multimodal composition and digital humanities pedagogy.

Download the Workshop PPT and handout.

[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”presentation/d/e/2PACX-1vQEDcjIIJgD_RXHkoxQVj1B8hOm-7oBqvpNqPil634zTHLZCJgzngRi2a2eBB73bUCE_wKMdhRXZrTy/embed” query=”start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000″ width=”640″ height=”389″ align=”center”/]

The workshop opened with some reflections on the way I had incorporated multimodal composition and digital humanities pedagogy into a self-designed “Rhetoric of Sport” curriculum I had taught for four semesters in the Rhetoric Department.

To summarize, after a year of teaching first-year composition, I was disillusioned with the “standard” assignment, questioning its purpose and capacity to promote student engagement and success.

I was also developing a personal interest in primary sources, multimodal composition, and digital humanities pedagogy. As part of the Certificate in Public Digital Humanities, I was taking a Digital Humanities Theory and Practice course that prompted a lot of brainstorming and reflection on the way I could incorporate digital technologies in the classroom and increase students’ digital literacy. Through my own research, I had also developed an interest in place-specific primary sources and archival research–nothing like digging into the history of communities and institutions you’re a part of to prompt some intense self-reflection.

We started the hands-on portion of the Assignment Design Workshop by analyzing a narrated video project I had used in my Rhetoric of Sport curriculum.


Throughout the semester we have explored and discussed the different ways sport relates to a variety of issues and events within American society.  We have also addressed the role of sport narratives—the stories we tell and are told about sport.

Your final project will be a 6-8 minute narrated video that speaks to how some of these same themes and issues have manifested here at the University of Iowa.

Graded components of this process include:

  1. Topic selection and research using primary sources
  2. Contextualization, analysis, and interpretation of the primary sources—connecting different primary sources and putting them into a broader historical, social, and cultural context
  3. Creation of a narrated video featuring your primary source material and your analysis/interpretation
  4. Public presentation of your narrative project

We took a look at a sample student project from the assignment: [youtube]

Then we got down to the business of reverse-engineering learning objectives and outcomes for the assignment, thinking about what students were asked to do and what students learned/accomplished in this assignment. Participants also worked in groups to consider what challenges they might face implementing this type of project, as well as how it might or might not be a good fit for the types of teaching they do.

After discussing some of the possibilities and challenges the sample assignment presented, participants selected an assignment from a course they have or might teach, thinking about a project that already involves or could be revised to involve multimodal or digital components.

Then we started to break down the components of an assignment–at least in most humanities courses, we give assignments that ask students to engage in written or oral communication. Students work individually or collaboratively, and assignments usually fall into the following categories:

  • Minor (lasts no more than 1-2 class periods, may be accomplished during a class meeting)
  • Major (lasts no more than 2-3 weeks of class, includes a graded learning activity)
  • Cumulative (long-term project worth a substantial portion of the semester grade, may be broken into smaller stages with discrete learning activities)

And since no pedagogy workshop is complete without a reference to Bloom’s Taxonomy, we thought about how the assignments we give students ask them to developing and demonstrate particular thinking skills in a variety of assignment “genres.”

Workshop participants used the language of Bloom’s Taxonomy and assignment “categories” to consider what exactly the assignment they selected was designed to accomplish, thinking about the following questions:

  • Objectives & Outcomes
    • What learning objectives do I have for this assignment?
    • What skills do I want students to acquire and/or develop?
  • Situational Factors
    • What type of project do I want to accomplish?
    • What type of project am I able to accomplish?
    • What are my resources?
    • What is my time frame?

We’d reached the hour mark by now, so after a brief stretch break for lunch, we shifted to focus on how workshop participants could move from a conceptual to practical level in designing a multimodal or digital assignment, thinking about the following key themes:

  • Infrastructure
    • What’s necessary to support the type of project you’re envisioning?
  • Skill acquisition & collaboration
    • If you don’t feel comfortable leading students through this project, how can you acquire necessary skills or partner with an individual or resources that already has these skills?
  • Learning objectives & outcomes
    • Digital technologies are enticing, so it’s important to have a clear sense of what a digital or multimodal project does to support your learning objectives.

Starting with Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy, we looked at resources and strategies for designing a digital or multimodal assignment, thinking about our ideal “dream” projects and what is realistic considering situational factors. I talked about how the Digital Research Tools directory is a useful starting point for discovering possibilities and relevant platforms or tools. We also looked at the utility of finding sample, model, or exemplary projects that are more closely aligned with the type of course you teach–one of my go-to examples is the Early African American Film website developed in a UCLA course.

We also talked about the benefit of looking at digital or multimodal projects already happening on our campus, looking at sample projects supported by Iowa Digital Engagement and Learning and The Digital Studio for Scholarship and Publishing.

We ended the workshop by thinking about what resources can be useful for getting started with a digital or multimodal project, as well as where workshop participants could go for on-campus support. For those who weren’t able to attend the workshop and participants who want to continue the conversation, IDEAL’s Assignment Design Workshop series will continue next semester, and IDEAL staff are available for consultations and brainstorming sessions.

Digital collections


DH pedagogy forums

Lynda tutorials

On-Campus Resources:




Fall 2017 Update

I’m supposed to be cranking out another around of revisions on the dissertation proposal, so this will stay brief.

Junior Fellowship at the Library of Congress was AMAZING. I’m one of three scholars in the U.S. who studies baseball/music intersections, and I got to spend 10 weeks on a baseball music scavenger hunt AT THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS. And they’re planning for a baseball exhibit next summer. Plus all the monuments, museums, and memorials. Amazing really doesn’t cover it.

Successfully finished doctoral comprehensive exams last March, so a dissertation proposal is on the docket for this semester. Looking like an October proposal meeting (*fingers crossed*). More on the dissertation later.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of the Sport Studies Program and C. Pauline Spencer Scholarship fund, I’m also a graduate fellow in the Iowa Women’s Archive this academic year. Looking forward to getting some general archive experience, while also reprocessing the UIowa Department of Physical Education for Women Collection and helping prepare six-on-six women’s basketball materials for the Smithsonian’s summer 2018 Hometown Teams traveling exhibition.

After a summer in Cooperstown as a Library Research Intern and this year’s Library of Congress gig (plus being in the Women’s Archive this year), I figured I should probably make the librarian thing official. Three cheers for a tuition scholarship and an ALA-accredited Library and Information Science graduate program right here at UI. So while the American Studies-Sport Studies side of my brain works on the dissertation, the Libraries/Archives/Museums/Digital Humanities side is taking coursework to complete an MLIS. And thanks to the classes I’ve already taken for the Public Digital Humanities Certificate, I’ll finish the second masters and PhD at the same time. Or something like that. Because nothing could go wrong with this plan.

Speaking of the dissertation ……….

When I think about my dissertation                     When I think about my proposal

The short version is back in Fall 2016 I took an Archives & Media course for the Public Digital Humanities Certificate [all hail the wonderful Prof. Lindsay Mattock]. Our semester-long project in the course involved developing a prototype digital humanities (DH) collection using a data set of our choosing. I’d been mulling over ideas related to Minor League Baseball, ideology, and globalization for a while, so I got the crazy idea that it might be interesting to use DH tools and approaches to visualize where American professional baseball players come from and how they move through the Minor League system. Fast forward a year, and I’ve previewed the project at two national conferences [slides here], partnered with UIowa’s Studio for Digital Scholarship and Publishing, and am about a month away from getting approval for a DH dissertation.


The Umpire Strikes Out: Baseball Music and Labor

This post originally appeared July 31, 2017 on the Library of Congress Blog.


This post is by Katherine Walden, a 2017 summer intern with the Junior Fellows Program. Walden is a Ph.D. candidate in American studies and sport studies at the University of Iowa, where she is also completing a master’s degree in library and information science with a focus on digital humanities and archives. She has a bachelor’s degree in music from Vanderbilt University.

This summer, I have been updating the Music Division’s 1991 baseball music bibliography, which identifies over 400 baseball-related titles in the division’s holdings. Much like a scavenger hunt, my internship involves thinking about where baseball songs might be in the collection, as well as what keywords or search terms might lead to copyright deposits for previously unknown baseball songs. My goal is to at least double the bibliography’s size to provide a robust resource for Library staff, academic researchers and anyone who wants to know more about baseball.

Among my many interesting finds, songs about umpires especially stand out for me. I research U.S. popular culture and baseball labor history, and umpire songs offer a fascinating glimpse into both.

Today, the umpire is frequently an object of fan ridicule. But long before instant replay destabilized umpires’ authority, early baseball fans—and Tin Pan Alley songwriters—looked for ways to ridicule “the man behind the plate.” I have yet to find a song written from an umpire’s perspective, which suggests songwriters thought depicting umpires as humorous or pitiful would have better popular culture traction than attempts to rehabilitate the umpire.

The chorus to the 1909 title “Let’s Get the Umpire’s Goat,” written by Nora Bayes and Jack Norworth (a co-writer of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game”), shows how fans expressed their frustration with the umpire:

Let’s get the Umpire’s goat, goat, goat

Let’s make him go up in the air

We’ll yell, Oh you robber! Go somewhere and die

Back to the bush, You’ve got mud in your eye

Oh, what an awful decision!

Why don’t you put spectacles on?

Let’s holler like sin, and then our side will win,

When the umpire’s nanny is gone.

The 1905 title “The Umpire Is a Most Unhappy Man” suggests that driving a hearse was the only profession worse than being an umpire. The chorus asks

How’d you like to be an umpire

Work like his is merely play

He don’t even have to ask for

All the things that come his way

When the crowd yells, ‘knock his block off’

‘Soak him good,’ says ev’ry fan

Then who wants to be an umpire

The brickbats whiz when he gets his

For the umpire is a most unhappy man.

Even the famous “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” includes a passing reference to umpires. The song’s main character, Katie Casey, “saw all the games” and “told the umpire he was wrong, all along good and strong.”

Though entertaining, early 20th-century songs about umpires also reflect changes in popular culture and a period in American labor history rife with worker strikes and labor activism.

Early baseball in the United States existed primarily in upscale gentlemen’s clubs, but after the Civil War and into the 20th century, entrepreneurs like Albert Spaulding and Henry Chadwick made strategic efforts to market the game to working class fans, from mass-produced baseball equipment to inexpensive annual baseball guides.

As baseball infiltrated popular culture, labor in professional baseball became a contentious issue, just as it was in other realms. The American Federation of Labor had formed in 1886, the Western Federation of Miners was established in 1893, and the Pullman railway strike took place in 1894. Also occurring were a variety of coal strikes and movements advocating living wages, child labor laws and safe working conditions.

In baseball, it was team owners and league officials who were most often in tension with players in labor debates. But the umpire was an easier target, and composers continued writing songs about umpires past World War II.

Want to see more songs about baseball umpires? Check out umpire-related titles in the Library’s digitized sheet music collections.

To learn more about baseball songs in the era of sheet music, visit the Library’s exhibition “Baseball’s Greatest Hits: The Music of Our National Game.”



Washington Nationals Western Tour

This post originally appeared July 11, 2017 on the Library of Congress’ Performing Arts Division blog, In the Muse.


The following is a guest post written by Katherine Walden, one of 37 college students who spent the last two months working at the Library as part of the 2017 Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program. Walden is a PhD Candidate in American Studies and Sport Studies at the University of Iowa, where she is also completing a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science with a focus on Digital Humanities and Archives. Her research explores race/ethnicity and gender in American baseball, as well as baseball’s relationship with American popular culture. She received a Bachelor of Music Degree from Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, where her senior thesis was on Minor League Baseball and “music cities.” Her internship in the Music Division involves updating the Bibliography of Published Baseball Music and Songs in the Collections of the Music Division at the Library of Congress. Her work in the internship has ranged from updating the bibliography format to identifying additional baseball-related titles in the Music Division’s holdings through exploring cataloged materials and copyright registration files.


In the 1992 baseball film Field of Dreams, James Earl Jones’ character Terrance Mann delivers an iconic monologue:

“The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray.  It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”

Scholar and author Gerald Early also underscored the significance of baseball in American culture and history:

“I think there are only three things that America will be known for 2,000 years from now when they study this civilization: The Constitution, jazz music, and baseball. They’re the three most beautifully designed things this culture has ever produced.”

Because baseball is so deeply rooted in American culture, the sport often functions as a significant historical marker and unifying force in times of national crisis.

Most recently, Congressional staffers and baseball fans turned out at Nationals Park for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, a tradition that dates back to 1909 and has taken place annually since 1956. Raising funds for a number of D.C.-area charities, this event has been a place where, according to the event website, “members of the United States Congress from each party solidify friendships off the floor and on the field.”  This year’s Congressional Game took on heightened significance after the Republican team’s practice was interrupted by gunfire that injured Representative Steve Scalise, members of the Capitol Hill Police, and others.  The game went on as scheduled and after their 11-2 victory, the Democrat team gave the trophy to the Republican team, to be kept in Scalise’s office for the duration of his recovery.

The spirit of bipartisan unity encouraged by the Congressional Game echoes earlier baseball games with added historical meaning: President George W. Bush’s ceremonial first pitch at Yankee Stadium during the 2001 World Series just weeks after the September 11th terrorist attacks; the mantra of “Boston Strong” reverberating in Fenway Park in 2013 after the Boston Marathon Bombing.

Baseball as catharsis in the wake of national trauma is hardly a recent phenomenon.  Take, for example, the Washington Nationals‘ “Great Western Tour” of 1867, one of the earliest official tours that took a dominant East Coast baseball team to parts of the country that were still developing professional baseball markets.  Not only was this one of the earliest documented tours by a baseball team—it also was yet another moment when baseball served as national unifier in the face of partisan tension.

1867 was an eventful year in American politics—the Civil War’s aftermath and uptick in racial violence were the impetus for legislative and legal measures designed to reintegrate Confederate States as part of the larger national body and provide some version of emancipated rights. But, competing political and ideological agendas complicated efforts to unite the country after the War.

In a fraught political climate, with national unity hanging by a thread, baseball began to emerge as “the national pastime.” Having taken root in the New York and East Coast gentlemen’s clubs before the War, troop movement during the War, alongside post-War media and popular culture, identified baseball as a cultural entity that could effectively proselytize for the cause of national unity.

On one hand, Washington’s Western Tour was a financial opportunity—as Albert Spalding, Henry Chadwick, and other baseball entrepreneurs would realize soon after, taking professional talent on the road was an opportunity to build brand recognition and fan engagement, while also scouting potential talent on other rosters. Though Washington outscored the Cincinnati Red Stockings 141-22 in two decisive victories, the team recruited key Cincinnati players for their 1868 season. On July 11, 1867 the Washington Nats launched a twenty-day, ten-stop “grand western tour” covered by baseball journalist Henry Chadwick. In the heat of that summer, the Nat’s bats were on fire as they went on to win nine out of ten matchups, outscoring their opponents 735 to 146.

But as historian Ryan Swanson has argued, baseball’s emergence as a unifying force during the Reconstruction was also a concerted effort to market a predominantly Northern and Midwestern game to other regions of the country. The 1867 trip may have been called a “Grand Western Tour,” but it strategically brought the Washington team to Southern cities like Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis in an attempt to make Washington baseball (and by extension the federal government) palatable to former Confederate or Confederate-leaning states.

Washington’s players, like those on most pre-professional teams, did not earn a living wage solely from baseball.  Nats pitcher Will Williams attended Georgetown’s law school, while catcher Frank Norton, center fielder Harry Berthrong and outfielder Seymour Studley worked at the Treasury Department.  First baseman George Fletcher and right fielder Harry McLean clerked in the Third Auditor’s Office, while second baseman Henry Parker found a home off the baseball diamond in the Internal Revenue Office.  Georgetown College student George H. Fox manned third base, and in the event of injuries or illnesses, Fourth Auditor’s Office clerk Ed Smith was ready as a substitute.  Only shortstop and captain George Wright, one of baseball’s earliest stars, came onto the team with baseball as his main occupation.

While the federal offices represented by the 1867 Washington team were largely non-partisan, the group’s political neutrality made it an effective ambassador for the middle-ground Reconstruction efforts advocated by Presidents Lincoln and Johnson. The significant press generated by the tour included local news reports as well as an entire chapter in Chadwick’s The Game of Base Ball.



Many historic baseball events have been immortalized in song, and the Nationals Grand Western Tour was no exception. Composed in 1867 by Washingtonian “Mrs. Bodell,” the “Home Run Polka” was published 150 years ago this July. “Dedicated to the National Base Ball Club of Washington, D.C.,” the song is Washington baseball’s first song and one of the earliest songs dedicated to a specific team. The cover illustration depicts a loose interpretation of the Massachusetts Game rules for laying out the grounds: a square field and stakes for bases.

No polkas have yet been written about this year’s Congressional Game, but the larger legacy of Washington’s 1867 tour highlights the significant and complex role baseball has played in promoting a spirit of bipartisan unity. Forty years before Republicans and Democrats took to the baseball diamond to formally inaugurate the Congressional Game, Washington staffers from a range of offices pursued baseball alongside careers in public service. With this year’s Congressional Game in the books, its heightened significance underscores baseball’s long history of political intersections.



NASSH 2017 Slides

After traveling 5,000 miles in 6 days (would not recommend. Especially with a cold/sinus infection), I’m quasi-settled in D.C. for a Library of Congress Junior Fellowship. More on that here.

Many thanks to Jennifer Sterling, Jennifer Guiliano, and Murray Philips for being part of a digital sport history panel at this year’s NASSH convention.

I’ve posted Andrew McGregor’s live-tweeting from my presentation, as well as my slides below. As always, I’m more than happy to continue the discussion via email or Twitter. Or carrier pigeon, if that’s your thing. [And as always, PPT content is covered by a CC license.]

[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”presentation/d/1B3GBCohlVTvUoDvm01g19aFZA0sobRxksYanYU1bLAw/embed” query=”start=true&loop=true&delayms=2000″ width=”640″ height=”389″ /]

All the Carto DB links:


Blogging Within and Beyond the Academy

This post originally appeared on the University of Iowa’s NEH-funded Next Generation PhD website.

On Thursday, March 2, UIowa’s Next Gen PhD project brought Slate columnist and German PhD Rebecca Schuman to campus to join with our own Classics Department’s Sarah Bond for a panel on blogging and public writing.

I had the opportunity to engage with Rebecca and Sarah throughout the day, from a grad student lunch to an ill-fated podcast recording session with Sarah (that tragically won’t see the light of day because sometimes remembering to be sure I’ve actually pressed “record” is hard), followed by the public flipped Q&A.

The blogging advice both panelists offered was simple, without being simplistic:

  • Build versatility, conciseness, and precision in your writing skills. Let your training as a humanities scholar shape your writing as you make sense of particular events or trends. However, a blog post isn’t the condensed version of a seminar paper. Most graduate students are being trained to communicate specialized knowledge to a specialized audience. Jargon isn’t the enemy, but imagine you are writing for a general education undergraduate audience. Not your Department’s upperclass majors—rather, the freshmen and sophomores who need convincing that your discipline’s way of seeing the world matters.
  • Find a way to produce consistent, quality output for a specific audience. Developing an audience and accumulating a body of work requires years of consistent output and quality content. Trying to build that while managing grad school teaching, research, and coursework loads can be daunting. Start with micro-blogging on a platform like Twitter. Find an online academic community or group of scholars/writers who are working in your area. Many academic organizations have an online presence with a blog; see, for example, the blogs of the American Musicological Society or the North American Society for Sport History. The African American Intellectual History Society’s Black Perspectives site gives graduate students the opportunity to be in conversation with established scholars in a vibrant, thriving online blogging community. I’ll be writing a post on Major League Baseball’s Opening Day in a couple weeks for the Sport in American History group blog.
  • Have a network and don’t be afraid to use it. Sarah Bond’s first piece in the New York Times was published after she reached out to a faculty mentor who wrote for the Times. Her evolution as a public historian was shaped by other classicists she identified as role models for the types of writing and public engagement she wanted to cultivate. Rebecca Schuman’s “Thesis Hatement” piece appeared in Slate after she reached out to a Slate editor.  Find the people further down the line who are doing what you want to do. Comb their resumes/CVs, make connections, and be willing to invest in those relationships.
  • Avoid predatory or exploitative publishing models. Recognize that freelance blogging can provide some financial compensation—but likely not enough to support you full time. The peer-reviewed academic publishing model assumes writing and research labor is being undertaken by scholars who are receiving compensation for their work from an employing institution. Blogging when research and writing are part of your job description, subsidized by your employer, is a unique set of circumstances. I appreciated Rebecca’s clarity in this area. She doesn’t read, edit, or comment on pieces for free. She wrote a piece in the Chronicle on “The Academic Book as Expensive, Nihilistic Hobby.” Talk to a professional faculty member in a journalism department or someone you know who actively freelances. Start to figure out the business side of publishing. Learn the etiquette. Know what practices and publications to avoid.

Detailed advice, thoughtful advice, given by those with a lot of experience pursuing these types of writing opportunities. I’m looking forward to applying it when writing my own baseball-related blog post. If you came to the site wanting a recap of the Next Gen blogging event, you have now reached the point when you can stop reading, close the browser window, and go watch Lin-Manuel Miranda do carpool karaoke with James Corden.

Maybe it was the midterm fog that always seems to set in before Spring Break. Maybe it was the stress of a hectic week overshadowed by my own looming comprehensive oral examination (now successfully DONE). Whatever the full reason, trying to recap and process this Next Gen event has been hard emotionally, mentally, and intellectually.

Interacting with Schuman and Bond was a study in contrasts, for me encapsulated in a moment from the Q&A. Judith Pascoe asked what the panelists would do differently if they could redo their graduate education. Rebecca immediately responded with something along the lines of “I wouldn’t do it,” expanding on her answer to talk about the need for graduate students to get real information about job market prospects and legitimate, substantive support for finding alternate paths.

When asked the same question, Sarah responded “I wouldn’t change anything. Maybe make my interest in GIS clear earlier.” [Apologies to both panelists for my butchered paraphrasing.]

In the graduate student lunch, Rebecca talked about how her graduate school experience required her to shut down or set aside parts of what make her who she is.

In the lost podcast recording session, Sarah talked about her rich formative graduate school experiences, and about mentors who were supportive when her advisors and colleagues didn’t support her public writing.

A study in contrasts.

For Schuman, a negative post-doc experience and unsuccessful prolonged academic job search has led to her annual practice of deconstructing and grading MLA job ads.

Bond went from dissertating at UNC to a year-long Mellon Junior Faculty Fellowship at Washington and Lee, after which she was hired for a tenure-track position at Marquette University before taking up her tenure-track position at Iowa.

A study in contrasts. These are two people who had very different graduate school experiences and experienced graduate school (and academia) very differently.

From the conversations I’m having with other graduate students, I think coming face-to-face with someone like Schuman can be terrifying. Many of us want to believe we’re going to be Sarah Bond, but we know somewhere deep down that the job placement data in our fields suggests we’re more likely to have a job market experience like that of Schuman.

Both Bond and Schuman talked about the power and influence of mentors and role models, positive and negative. I’m grateful for the Vanderbilt University faculty who were brutally honest with a naïve PhD-bound undergraduate senior four years ago. They talked about tiered hiring. They talked about the real academic job market. They were as transparent as they could be about the challenges and pitfalls of graduate school. I wish every college senior with an inflated GPA and decent writing chops could receive the same level of candor. I came into graduate school with the rose-colored glasses mostly already off.

Emotional support and self-advocacy matter. I’m grateful for an American Studies department and advisor who are at least somewhat open to my zig-zagging path through grad school. Hearing about Rebecca Schuman’s graduate school experience, I was reminded that openness and receptivity aren’t universal. I’d like to believe the advocacy work that initiatives like the Next Gen PhD project are doing will help shift the conversation and expectations for future graduate students. I might hope that future Next Gen PhD students are provided with support, resources, and community, rather than being expected to figure it out and seek it out on their own. Speaking from experience, trying to build a new infrastructure and communicate alternate goals can be stressful and exhausting, even when faculty are receptive.

Beware the pitfalls of the gig economy. Labor that’s valued should be compensated. Perhaps I’m trying to make a statement about graduate student labor, but I’ll go back to Rebecca’s comment about not freely sharing her time, labor, and expertise. Since the Next Gen event, I’ve started paying attention to the amount of “free” labor expected in academia. [Hint: it’s often gendered emotional labor.] My students skip office hour appointments and expect me to reschedule. I’m irked when a faculty member doesn’t respond to my spring break email. In the now-infamous lost podcast, Sarah Bond talked extensively about the female mentors she leaned on in order to grow as a publicly-engaged scholar. Academia’s culture of undefined work/life boundaries doesn’t translate well into the freelance alt-ac market. To quote Rebecca Schuman, “We don’t live in a Marxist utopia.”

All of this is to say that being realistic matters. I’ve heard Sarah Bond talk in other forums about how her Mellon fellowship was an entry point back into an academic career. Without that experience, her digital and technical skills would have likely moved her toward the alt-ac market. Schuman’s point about getting real job placement information is well-taken, but at some level graduate students have to internalize and personalize the reality of those job placement numbers. “Special snowflake syndrome” is a great coping strategy but a horrible professional development strategy. In my first semester at Iowa, I saw the experiences dissertating students in my program were having on the academic job market. I found myself at the Grad College’s “The Malleable PhD” event, featuring the Lilli Research Group’s L. Maren Woods. It was the Next Generation PhD before we had a Next Generation PhD, and made the degree seem like more than an unemployment death sentence. Transferable skills. Converting CVs to resumes. Identifying skill sets and career sectors. Seeing the PhD as being about skill acquisition and professional development, as well as about subject specialization and research training. Yes, those are all buzzwords, but I’ve got to believe somewhere in there is a path through graduate school that leads toward sustainable, feasible careers for graduate students. Don’t be dismayed or unsettled by Schuman’s contrarian perspective. Visit the Versatile PhD website. Go to the Graduate College’s Open Doors Conference in April. Start to broaden the horizon toward which a PhD can lead.