Claire Berman

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Kenyon College Class of 2016
History Major, Art History Minor

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It was at a tender young age that I discovered the musical '1776'--though at what exact age, I cannot say--and thus began my lifelong affliction for a love of my country and its history. What began as memorizing every person who signed the Declaration of Independence as a child (both because I had no friends, and probably the reason why) has blossomed into more than simple fact memorization.

In his 1915 book, 'America's Coming of Age,' writer Van Wyck Brooks coined the phrase "usable past" in regards to American history. The phrase didn't become relevant until the Great Depression, when Americans were concerned with finding some manner of cohesive identity in order to pull them together during the time of crisis and I still believe that the phrase has relevance today. But rather than looking to Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman, as the scholars, writers and artists of the Depression did, I prefer to look at a usable past for groups that have been over-looked, both in my History major and Art History minor. Favorite research topics of mine have included agrarian socialism on the eve of the first World War, the Guerrilla Girls' quest for representation in the art world, the cultural significance of cotton in visual mediums during the Great Depression, the Southern cult of honor's lasting effects on the rural poor, American intervention in Congolese regime changes and the Terra Foundation's efforts to increase knowledge of under-appreciated American art.

I am currently in my third year as an undergraduate at Kenyon College, located in scenic Gambier, Ohio. When not holed up in a library carrell, I am an editor and writer on The Thrill, a news and humor blog affiliated with Kenyon's school newspaper (for a list of my articles see and work as a Special Collections Assistant in the Greenslade Special Collections and Archives, where I have had the pleasure of making scans with every scanner imaginable to going through boxes of documents accumulated since the 1970s to handling letters sent from Auschwitz and everything in-between. During the fall of 2014 I am participating in the ACM Newberry program in Chicago. I hope to go on to graduate school and get a dual masters in Library Science and Art History, with the intention of becoming either an Archivist, Special Collections librarian or Art librarian. My favorite President is William Howard Taft and my favorite artist is Charles Demuth. In my mind I am the leader of the 'Understands the Historical Significance of but Does Not Appreciate Alfred Stieglitz Club.' I still watch '1776' every 4th of July.

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