public history

Dr. Mark Barron is the professor leading the very first History 481X class at Iowa State University. The class looks at case studies, theories and methods of public history. As a final project, the class is putting together an exhibit in collaboration with University Special Collections about Pammel Court.

Mark Barron is the professor leading the very first History 481X class at Iowa State University. The class looks at case studies, theories and methods of public history. As a final project, the class is putting together an exhibit in collaboration with University Special Collections about Pammel Court.

For those who don’t know, Pammel Court was an assembly of housing units on the north side of campus used to house married residents of Iowa State from 1946 until it was opened to singles in 1978. It was even once rated as one of the largest and best equipped student housing projects in the Midwest.

Students in the class did not know much, if anything, about Pammel and had to do plenty of research for the exhibit.

“I used to live in Freddie Court and I didn’t know Pammel Court used to be a thing right by there,” Dacey Messinger, sophomore in history, said.

In 1946, the end of World War II brought in 1,100 married students to campus. The “short-term” solution was Pammel Court. Every few years there were plans to demolish the halls and build new ones, yet it never seemed to happen.

Barron reached out to Special Collections and University Archives with the idea of them helping the class to create an exhibit showcasing the history of Pammel Court with the potential to showcase the students’ work. The rest as they say, is history.

The class’ goal for the project is to educate library-goers about Pammel Court and its connection to Iowa State and to preserve these stories over the long term. Messinger says that although other classes teach history, this class provides much more hands on experience. That is  Barron’s intention.

“We want to show people that these stories exists not just in a classroom,” Barron said. “We want to provide hands-on opportunities for students.”

The exhibit will include six glass cases filled with projects that have been prepared by the students. The last of which commemorates the last years of Pammel Court and what the area where Pammel once stood looks like today.

The project is a big deal to the students. They get to show what history looks like in practice.

“I’m excited to show all of my engineering friends what I actually do,” remarked one student who asked to remain anonymous until the unveiling.

Messinger’s family is even coming in from Kentucky to view the professional display Messinger helped put together.

Petrina Jackson is the head of Special Collections and University Archives and has been assisting Barron’s class through the process of research and then presenting their new knowledge to the public.

She would like students and faculty to realize what they can learn by going up to Special Collections using this exhibit.

“It tells a tale from University Archives history that is in the moment, not through a classroom, Jackson said.

 She is excited to display the documents and photos the 481X students discovered in the archives.

“You can see the uniqueness of the time,” Jackson said. “[The exhibit] is about how [married students] lived in that time.”

The display will show current students what life was like at a time of rapid expansion in Iowa State history.

“The students are part of a lineage. It’s a very compact time in history,” Jackson said.

The exhibit will reside on the fourth floor of the Parks Library, starting just outside the front door of Special Collections, making its way inside their viewing room. It will run from Jan. 18 until the end of the spring semester.

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