The ups and downs of public humanities projects… on “research” Monday

Mondays are my research days; however, as chair of my department and while working on a complex class project with my students, I must take a broad definition of “research.”

This morning began grand. I walked the ten minutes from my house to meet my students as they prepared for their first day of fieldwork. As Christina and I were waiting for the other students LM security approached and told us that we could not sit up here (we were on the second floor of the Arcade) if we have not purchased food, which seems a bit “problematic” within a “public” market space to me… and especially since we had not even been sitting there for five minutes before being approached. I politely told the security guard that we were waiting on more people who were joining us and I was about to go and purchase food and drinks. She was cool with that.

So, I ran down stairs and got some Konstant’s coffee (the best!) and four doughnuts from the Berger’s booth (AMAZING… and Berger’s is really busy in the morning). I saw Stacey Pack, the communication manager and friend to our class, with a film crew. She said that the Market was working on “telling their own story” in a short film. Wonderful! The more stories (past and present) we can tell about the Lexington Market at this moment of impending change the better. However, if we have “learned” anything about the history of the Lexington Market it is that it has always been changing with the city and that change has always been contentious. Change is hard.

Last weekend when I read many of the numerous news tidbits in the Sun on the LM in the 19th century, I noticed how some contemporary issues have existed for well over 100 years. Going back to at least the 1830s street harassment of “ladies” was an issue around the Market. Bustling city streets are a great amalgamation of our shared humanity. From 6:30am to closing at 6pm the Market and its environs are some of the most lively and beautiful places in all of downtown. Humanity is on display and it is glorious.

As I bolt back up the stairs with coffee and donuts, Adam and Liz have arrived. I make sure they have all they need and tell Christina that I put two batteries in the zoom recorder case since the power was a bit low. Adam remarks, “You know it takes four batteries, right?” No. I did not know that… because having student teachers (like Christina and Adam) take numerous Baltimore Traces courses and then return as fellows means that they know more about certain aspects of our project than I do. We all learn from one another. Making mistakes is often the best way to really learn something. Okay, four batteries… got it. Adam always has his recorder and a dozen batteries in his gear bag any way. We won’t even speak about what I did to the earphone cord Adam fixed for me last semester :O

With a delicious cup of Constant’s coffee in my hand, I walk home to get back to my “research.” After answering emails and putting out the little fires that always seem to flare up on a Monday morning right before advising season begins, I write Calvin (another Traces fellow) to get the files to make the final zine edits. Simple, right? Let’s just say it does not go well.

Something I can work on (other than navigating photoshop and the Adobe suite better) is delegating responsibilities to the students/fellows. I have to let the control of the final steps (always the most difficult) go sometimes and let the project really be the students’ project.

Well folks… that’s my “research day” when I am teaching a Baltimore Traces course. Remember my advice: Don’t work too hard!

Next week: Do they get zine 1 to press before Wednesday’s class? What are the next steps for fieldwork? And, will Professor King ever actually understand the Adobe suite? And why is everything always so complicated?

UPDATE… Markele Cullins is a brilliant designer and we got the first volume of the zine completed in time for Prof. King to make the 5:30pm shuttle home… YAY! Go Team.

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