Jim Holloway Set the Stage for Session 2

Session 2 of the 2014 Pre-Collegiate Program has officially begun.  But before we sent our 50 new students out in the NIAHD vans, we whet their appetites for history with an introduction to historical interpretation by Jim Holloway, Director of Museum Education Services and Operations at the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.  Mr. Holloway returns every session with an engaging presentation.  Using photos and reproduction artifacts, he presented history in a fashion that made the students begin thinking like expert historians.  Here are just a few of the highlights from Mr. Holloway’s presentation:

Questions Galore – Though he was the one that all eyes were drawn to on Monday evening, Mr. Holloway, like many NIAHD presenters, was always finding ways to put students in the spotlight.  His primary tactic: asking questions.  What drove his presentation forward was a constant stream of questions thrown out to the audience, keeping them interested and always thinking.


Think Like A Historian – One of the first questions he threw out to our would-be historians and archaeologists was how do we interpret the artifacts, historical accounts, and artwork?  Using reprints of a few often-referenced historical engravings and portraits, he coaxed the students into thinking about more than what was in the photo.  What did the images depict?  Who created them?  What sorts of biases did the artists most likely have?  For what purpose were these images created and how might that have affected the final product?  As the students quickly realized, these are the sorts of questions that must always be considered when analyzing history.

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Jim Holloway asking students to analyze Jamestown engraving.

See For Yourself – While it is always a treat to be able to see artifacts that came straight from their resting place in the soil, but their fragility makes it impossible for public hands to handle.  This is the advantage of having reproductions and Mr. Holloway brought dozens.  And the objects weren’t just for viewing.  Students were encouraged to touch, hold, and experiment with each one in order to figure out their use or significance.  As any archaeologist can attest, much information can be gained from being able to feel the weight and texture of an artifact in your hand.

Soldier Like Me – Especially on the first day, Pre-Col students can be timid.  They don’t always volunteer answers and they rarely volunteer to be a guinea pig in front of a group of 50+ strangers.  Luckily, Mr. Holloway has a knack for hand-picking just the right students to don reproduction elements of 17th-century armor and militia gear from the Revolutionary period.

Audience Participation – While only a handful of students might be called into the spotlight, at onepoint every member of the audience was on their feet.  From his table of tricks, Mr. Holloway produced a reproduction pamphlet of military commands and instructed his student militiaman to read an excerpt.  After reading an explanation of what the commands meant, the audience was taught to “Right Face,” “Left Face,” and “About Right Face.”  Then the students had some real fun.  Our student militiaman was given free rein to yell out a series of the three commands in any order, at which point it became clear that though they may know a thing or two about history, some of our Pre-Col students might benefit from a refresher course in determining right from left.

Always Keep Them Guessing – No discussion about the military aspect of any war is complete without a discussion of how soldiers were treated for their wounds.  Mr. Holloway’s approach to this subject was to again let the student’s be the historians.  He always gave them the opportunity to figure out what each tool was used for before either confirming or denying their hypotheses, and guided them with hints to keep them moving in the right direction.  Every group of students reacts differently to this potentially-squeamish discussion, but for Session 2’s students, their thirst for knowledge and understanding outweighed any squeamish tendencies.  This subject seemed to garner the most interest with students eagerly raising their hands with questions of their own.

Pre-Col students clearly enjoyed Mr. Holloway’s presentation as evidenced by the parade of laughter, smiles, and continued discussion that trumpeted their departure.  Sharing his approach to analyzing history was a great lesson and would serve our students well when they began field trips and site visits the next day.

Published in: on July 17, 2014 at 12:40 pm Comments (0)