All posts by Elizabeth Nix

UB Public History Student Ashley Tippie Curates New Exhibit at Mt. Clare

Ashley Tippie introduces visitors to Mt. Clare’s parlor where portraits are draped for the mourning period.

University of Baltimore history major Ashley Tippie has created a new exhibit at Mt. Clare Museum House  in Southwest Baltimore City. “Mt. Clare in Mourning” explores the ways that English colonists and enslaved African Americans marked the deaths of their loved ones in the 18th century. In the course of her research, Ashley and museum director Rose Gallenberger found  a mourning ring that had been hidden in a ring box for generations.

In preparing the house-wide exhibit, Ashley researched the mourning jewelry in Mt. Clare’s collection.

On October 7 Ashley led a tour she had developed  that focussed on the material culture of death and dying in the colonial period. The exhibit runs from October 9 to October 29.

Ashley is pursuing an undergraduate history degree with a specialization in public history. She is currently enrolled in Professor Josh Davis’ course, Introduction to Public History. The Baltimore area provides many opportunities for internships at museums, historic houses, and archives.

Professor Elizabeth Nix went on Ashley’s specialized tour on Saturday, October 7. Museum director Rose Gallenberger added to the interpretation.

Nearby History


IMG_1399Students in the Introduction to Public History did not have to go far to see an example of best public history practice this week. One floor up from their classroom in the Learning Commons, students got a close look at an exhibit created by UB history professor Nicole Hudgins and Langsdale librarian Ben Blake who combed Langsdale’s Special Collections for materials on the history of Baltimore’s Cultural Arts program. The exhibit shows that you can achieve professional results on a tight budget.

Dr. Nix Sits on the Commission to Review Confederate Monuments



Dr. Nix has been listening intently to public opinion about Baltimore’s four Confederate monuments on city property since she was appointed to a commission made up of members of the Commission of the Arts and the Commission of Historical and Architectural Preservation. The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument, pictured above, is within walking distance of UB on Mt. Royal Avenue.



Roger B. Taney sits on Mt. Vernon Square.


The Confederate Women of Maryland monument is at the corner of University Parkway and Charles Street.

On the evening of December 15 the commission heard public testimony for three hours at City Hall. Suggestions ranged from keeping them just as they are to throwing them in the Inner Harbor. Some thought they should be supplemented by artwork that provides a different narrative of the Civil War.



Some suggested moving the Lee Jackson statue that now stands across from the Baltimore Museum of Art to Chancellorsville since the statue commemorates the moments just before that battle.

Here’s a news story about the public testimony:

Public Commentary on December 15, 2015

Learn more about the Commission here:


Add your ideas about what should happen to the statues.

Freshmen in HIST 290 Get to Know Their Bay


In the past few decades Baltimoreans have viewed their harbor as a playground — a backdrop for urban festival spaces, seafood restaurants and multi-million dollar penthouses. But for most of Baltimore’s history, the harbor was primarily a vital working port, the economic engine of the entire region.

This semester freshmen in the Learning Community “Know Your Bay” are tracing the history of Baltimore as a port city and its role in the Chesapeake region. On the first day of class they made the trip down Charles Street to the Inner Harbor to survey the harbor from the top of the World Trade Center. In September, thanks to a generous grant from UB alumna Marie van Deusen, the class spent the day on the water aboard the Lady Maryland, a replica of a pungy schooner.  The crew showed us the work that would have been done on this type of cargo boat during the 19th century.

Students in the learning community continue their hands-on experiences in internships throughout the city. Some are working with Blue Water Baltimore on environmental projects; others are training to become eco-tour guides in the Inner Harbor. By the end of the semester they will produce public service campaigns to highlight a solution to an urban problem they have encountered in their studies.


UB History Alumnus Leads Irish Railroad Workers Museum


Luke McCusker,  an outstanding history student at UB, won the Fisher Award in his senior year and went on to pursue a career in public history. He now serves as the first paid  director of the Irish Railroad Workers Museum near the B&O Railroad Museum in Southwest Baltimore.  On Monday, March 23, Luke led a class in Dr. Nix’s 19th-century social history class on a tour of the compact neighborhood where Irish immigrants worked, lived, worshipped, shopped for food and educated their children.


As a student in Dr. Nix’s methods course, Luke had uncovered the story of H.L. Norris, a Baltimorean who had started to work for the B&O at age 11. Norris went on to design a refrigerated rail car for transporting milk, and he shared his profits with his community through his philanthropic efforts.


Luke has continued to conduct research into the lives of railroad workers, discovering that the family that lived in the homes that now house the Irish Railroad Workers Museum fled the potato famine to settle in Baltimore. They started out renting the property, eventually bought their home, then bought another larger home in the same neighborhood and rented this smaller property out to new arrivals.


UB grads like Luke continue to add to our understanding of our city and to the interpretation of our history to a wide audience.



Richard P. Robinson Once Again Goes ‘Unhung’

"Everyday Lives" Spring 2015
“Everyday Lives” Spring 2015


On February 25, 2015 prosecutors once again failed to convict Richard P. Robinson for the murder of New York prostitute Helen Jewett.  Robinson’s first trial in 1836 also ended in his acquittal. The brutal killing of a beautiful and popular young woman and the trial of 19-year-old clerk Richard Robinson caused a sensation in a changing New York, a city filled with young people who had left rural communities to live unsupervised in the bustling metropolis.

Students in “Everyday Lives,” Dr. Elizabeth Nix’s social history course, researched the historical figures from the 19th century that Patricia Cohen described in The Murder of Helen Jewett, and testified as those people in class. Students had to stay true to the facts in the book, but the legal counsel had leeway to ask new questions and present arguments the historical figures had not made. Our judge for the day, Dr. Darien Ripple, listened to the evidence, and like the rest of the class was surprised when the defense made the bold decision to put the accused himself on the stand.  At the end of the day, our judge agreed with his 19th century predecessor that too much doubt existed to convict the “innocent boy.”


Historians Look Toward the Future



On February 19 Professors Tom Carney and Betsy Nix were introduced to the next generation of historians at Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle School. Students in grades 6, 7, and 8  had researched a wide range of historical topics as competitors in the first round of National History Day.  Dr. Carney and Dr. Nix joined other professors, teachers, politicians and community members to judge dozens of exhibits, documentaries, websites and performances that addressed this year’s theme of Leadership and Legacy. Eighteen projects from Mt. Royal will advance to the regional stage, and the national finals will be held in June in College Park.

More and more schools are participating in National History Day. This was the first year for Mt. Royal and Waverly Elementary here in Baltimore. If you love history, volunteer to judge.