Hi Steemians! Meet one of the historians who'll be exploring 1918 with you
My name is Derek Engle. I’m a grad student at Temple in the Public History MA program, and also an artillery officer in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
My historical interests focus around military history, especially in colonial America, but I also have a casual interest in the ancient Greeks and their neighbors. Professionally I am interested in museum collections and collections practice, as well as exhibit curation, and most of my experience is in this area.
The JMU quad as seen out of the back of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter
I got my Bachlor’s Degree at James Madison University (JMU) in the Sheanandoah Mountains of Virginia. While studying there, I did my first internship at the America on Wheels Museum in Allentown, PA. The museum has a small staff (about 4 people) and is heavily dependent on volunteers. While there, I completed various tasks including helping with accounting, the docent guidebook, children’s scavenger hunts, and administration.
I then interned at the Lisanby Museum at JMU. I helped the curator there identify some previously unidentified objects, including a Greek Kariophili musket, a Chinese Zhou Jian, and various bronze and iron age weapons and tools. Check out my online exhibit to learn more about them.
Kariophili Musket held by the Lisanby Museum at JMU. Possibly used in the Greek Revolution against the Ottomans.
After this, I headed for Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for several months to complete my initial artillery officer training. We learned the practical side of artillery, including fire support, fires planning, fire direction, and artillery platoon operations, but also some of the theoretical framework of ballistics. I also discovered that Oklahoma is brown, except for about a week in the spring when grass grows before promptly dying.
Most of Oklahoma is flat plains land, but I did find some natural beauty in the Witchitaw Mountain Wildlife Refuge.
I then moved to Philly for grad school. I’m on schedule to graduate this May, after I complete my thesis examining the history of firearms displays in American museums and how current displays could be improved today. I argue they are currently not useful to the vast majority of the public, and will suggest ways to make them relevant and accessible to broader audiences.
I also volunteer at Valley Forge National Historical Park, where I did my third internship over the summer. This involved a lot of hands-on experience in collections care, including accessioning new objects, doing inventory, and developing an exhibit using their collections. I chose to focus on civilian uses of firearms in the 1700s. You can check it out here.
On drill days in the army, I lead a team of soldiers doing fire direction. My team ensures that we fire the correct rounds and that those rounds land exactly where we want them. It’s up to us to prevent them from hitting civilians or our own soldiers. Hopefully the world will become the kind of place where our only targets are the hulks of metal on our training ranges, but until then we will stand ready to defend our people and our allies.
That’s enough about me. As part of my final semester, my class will be looking back to 1918. My next series of posts will all focus on various events from that year. I’ll probably start with veterans or other WWI history, but who knows what I might find or come up with, so stay tuned.
100% of the SBD rewards from this #explore1918 post will support the Philadelphia History initiative @phillyhistory. This crypto-experiment is part of a graduate course at Temple University's Center for Public History and is exploring history and empowering education to endow meaning. To learn more click here.