Literary Review

Literary Review

Interview with Danielle Jones

Danielle Jones is a senior Violence in Memory and History major at Gettysburg College with an undeniable passion for culture. Danielle has worked on a variety of projects including exhibits at the Smithsonian and the New York Historical Society that interconnect memory and history. Danielle is currently helping with the curation of a WWI exhibit at Gettysburg College that will debut in the Spring of 2018. We met to talk about the way in which history, memory, and culture intertwine to produce what we believe to be true today, and whether that perception is valid or solely that of a story hidden in the past.

Colleen King: Upon arrival to Gettysburg College, you decided not to choose a typical undergraduate path by creating your own major. So, what is your major, exactly?

Danielle Jones: I am majoring in “Violence in Memory and History.” It is an Interdisciplinary Studies major. It focuses on how violence influences memory and how that then changes history. I am not looking at the brain science behind how that interaction occurs, but more so the culture. I study to what extent people’s memory influences their culture, the emphasis that they put on certain situations over others, and how that emphasis changes how history remembers things.

What exactly drew you into your major and the focus it has on the interconnection between memory and history?

Honestly, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. I came into Gettysburg with the intent of studying History with a Civil War Era Studies minor, and I thought that I wanted to teach after graduation. However, I ended up taking two classes in the fall semester of my freshman year that changed that outlook for me. They weren’t history classes, but I fell in love with them. After that, I heard about the Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) program, and I started researching my options. I ended up going through the process a number of times before I solidified my major. It’s a really amazing program because I have the opportunity to learn about something that is multidisciplinary, like violence. Everyone experiences violence in one way or another, but I am interested in seeing how different disciplines approach the idea of violence.

Is it difficult to create your own major since it involves classes from so many different departments? Did you have to fill out any specific application or form to do so?

Yes, I had to apply separately for my major, which I did approximately three times for the major alone. The capstone required a fourth and separate application from the general major application.

What departments do you typically take classes in for your major?

Religion, philosophy, history, sociology, political science and education.

Have any of your classes in particular solidified that this is the path you were meant to take?

Yes, definitely. My methods class was public history methods in which I learned about museum work and how I could pursue it in the future. Honestly, all of my classes have been so influential. Having the opportunity to take classes in so many different departments and reading something for one class and applying it to another is so rewarding. The interdisciplinary idea is something that I really appreciate about this major, because I do not think you necessarily get that opportunity just majoring in a more generic major, as you are often only taking classes from that one place. Doing this major just gives me a new perspective each day on what I am doing with my life.

Have you had any internships that have also given you some experience in this field?

Yes, after my sophomore year at Gettysburg I had an internship at the Smithsonian Institution Archives, where I worked in the institutional history division, which included a lot of research and projects. Next, I was a Fortenbaugh intern in Special Collections here at Gettysburg in the spring of my junior year in which I worked with a variety of World War One artifacts. In addition, this past summer I was a professional development intern with the museum education department at the New York Historical Society.

Which of your internships do you think was most influential?

I think the New York Historical Society internship that I had this past summer was the most influential, as it’s when I finally had the realization that I was in the right place and that museum education is definitely what I’d like to do for the rest of my life. It really gave me clarity on what museum education is. I loved getting to interact with principals and teachers and see firsthand how passionate they are about their students and learning. Being able to help them teach their students and get them as engaged with history as I was engaged was monumental.

Do you ever get to write creatively or read creative works from the time periods that you study?

Yes! So, because I study memory, a lot of the works that I read are memoirs. While memoirs are not necessarily fiction, many of the authors aren’t purely truthful in the retelling of their stories. I feel like they use a lot of creative writing when they produce their memoirs. It is always good to know about the military history, but it is arguably just as important to know the memory and how people remember these events through letters and diaries. That is how you learn how the experiences are, not just through facts and figures.

How do you personally believe that memoirs have influenced history?

There are a lot of memoirs that have influenced how history is remembered. A lot of the memoirs that I study are written by generals after the war, but many others are written by regular soldiers who just wanted to get their name and part into the overall story. Unfortunately, this leads a lot of people to alter the details of their memoirs to make them more interesting or to hide certain negative aspects. That is what we need to remember when reading memoirs – how much truth are you able to invest in a memoir? At what point does the memory of a few people change how history is remembered? In Italy when as innocent people were captured one night by Nazis and murdered the next morning, the people of that town believe that it was the Resistance’s fault and that it was a warning to turn themselves in. Even though the latter was not true, that’s the way history remembers it because “memory” has influenced the truth. It’s very interesting to see how one person’s memory of an event can influence the way that history is and how other people remember the event for the remainder of time.

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