Imagine ~ Sustain ~ Understand ~ Engage

Category: Communities

Shamokin Rescue Fire Museum Documentary

“One Man, One Museum, One community, Shamokin’s fire history” is an original documentary produced and edited by students at Bucknell University, that focuses on the Shamokin Rescue Fire Museum and the life work of John Smith.


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Students interviewing the fire fighters from the City of Shamokin’s Fire Department. From right to left, the students are: Michelle Lutz, Colin Sygrove, Connor Hayes, and Clayton McManus.


The video was a final project for SOCI 206, Video Ethnography, taught by Professor Carl Milofsky. Colin Sygrove ‘15, Connor Hayes ‘15, Abu Chowdhury ’15, Clayton McManus ’15, Michelle Lutz ’17, Laura Lujan ’17, and Stephanie Salazar ’17 were the students who collaborated with firefighters from the City of Shamokin’s fire department, arranging and filming interviews to be condensed into a fifteen minute video.

John Smith was a valued member of the Shamokin rescue fire company and the town historian. For nearly two decades, John Smith’s collection of Shamokin fire memorabilia was stored in the Rescue Fire Company garage, until 1997 when the Rescue Fire Museum was established. The film captures the appreciation that the firefighters and Shamokin community have for John Smith’s work and the value that the museum has in preserving the town’s history.

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Historical Items on display at the Museum

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To see the film:

For more information:

Bucknell’s field station in Mt. Carmel

The establishment of a Bucknell field station in Mt. Carmel  is underway, an exciting new development that will induce community based student and faculty engagement in the region. The goal of the field station is to have a location off campus to be utilized by Bucknell staff, faculty, and students where “curricular and extra-curricular components of the University can work together to create novel, interdisciplinary learning experiences for students that contribute to the public good of our region”. Over $23,000 in fundraising has been provided by a range of Bucknell administrative units.


Brandn Green, Ben Marsh, and Carl Milofsy have been collaborating with Fr. Marty Moran, Karen Morin, Eric Martin, and Neil Boyd in the establishment of the field station. With the compliance of the Mother Maria Kaupus Center, they were able to begin the project, the partnership of Civic engagement and Place studies playing a key role.


This summer of 2015, the first Coal Region Summer Research Institute will be implemented. Funding has been provided to house three faculty and student research projects at the site, where they will be conducting their research. During the 2015-2016 academic year, several projects will advance in support of classes, independent study projects, student research, and faculty research.


In addition to the development of the Summer Research Institute that will continue during the academic year, Professors Carl Milofsky and Jamie Hendry will be teaching a Rural Poverty Course. Additional course connections can be made with the utilization of the site for courses such as MGMT 101, MSUS 400, and others. There will also be continued work on the Shamokin Fire Museum, and increased opportunities for Service Learning and Civic Engagement Volunteerism. Additionally, it provides a space for a potential alternative and service Fall Break, as well as a place to hold orientation activities for new students. The research fostered at the field station will be used to inform and encourage community members and college students from other universities within a 50-mile radius to engage in volunteer efforts in the area.


On April 12th there will be a dedication for the Mother Maria Kaupas Center to celebrate Place Studies partnership with Divine Redeemer Parish and the Mother Maria Kaupas Center for Community Service.



The Environmental Humanities Reading Group

The Environmental Humanities Reading Group acts as a support group, a voluntary seminar, a cool kids club, whatever you want to call it, that brings faculty from various departments together with a common interest in holding intellectual discussions concerning the environment.

The Environmental Humanities Reading Group presents that there is an equal role that Humanists play alongside natural and social scientists in the study of the environment. Arts, philosophy, classics, religious studies, history, and other departments in the humanities all have a role to play that is not only important but incredibly necessary. As Professor Stuhl and Professor Campbell disclose in the interview, a humanist will paint you a picture of a place whether through words or brushstrokes, illustrating the importance it has in a person’s life, in our society, and in the world.

“What does a place mean to you”? What is the emotional, economical, familial, or historical investment that you have in a place, and how will you contribute for that place’s survival.



The following is an interview with Professor Andrew Stuhl who started the group, and Professor Claire Campbell who is a member.


Rachel: What does the Environmental Humanities Reading Group entail?


Claire: There’s a group of, on average eight or ten people that come from departments like history, environmental studies, religious studies, comparative humanities, philosophy, and classics. And the idea is that in our separate departments we all work on the relationship between people and the environment in some capacity. But we tend to be a minority in our departments, and yet collectively, we make quite a sizable presence on campus. So we wanted to be able to come together and talk about how we as humanists approach questions of environment and sustainability and what we have to contribute. A lot of the discussion about how to go forward with projects of sustainability tends to be scientific in language and scientific in program, and we think that you have to understand human impulse and human need as much as those of the natural world to really have a constructive result. And so what we do is we either hear from people in the group who are working on a certain project, like Andrew who presented on his work on the Artic, or we do some shared readings. We did a week where we looked at issues of race in environmental history, and we talk about them and we bring our ideas to the conversation. As a historian I look for this pattern or a philosopher might say, well my big question as a philosopher is to ask this, and its encouraging and thought provoking and I think those two things were what we were looking for.


Andrew: I think that sums it up perfectly. It’s kind of a support group for faculty.


Rachel: So it’s mostly composed of faculty?


Andrew: Right now it’s completely faculty.


Rachel: Would you want student involvement in the group?


Andrew: I think we see ourselves engaging with students more and more as we build our own sense of who we are and what we want to accomplish on campus. Of course we engage students in our own coursework. I think we also have talked about briefly in our reading group what is the presence of environmental humanities in terms of courses that are offered on campus. And how can we bring exposure to that; lets folks know that and make that more cohesive to the view that students have of the course catalog and opportunities here. So in that way, we definitely think about students all the time. I think we also kind of crave a meeting among faculty to talk about; hey I have this research proposal, I have this research question, or I have this research grant, can you help me think through that. Not that students wouldn’t be helpful in those ways but we just thought that kind of experts in these other fields would be the voices we want to hear first.


Claire: It’s like a voluntary seminar. I think that part of your experience as an undergraduate is to literally find yourself. You’re literally to discover by the end of it, what you’re passionate about and what you’re skilled at. And what we hope what bringing environmental humanities greater attention will do is introduce to people who sort of naturally feel themselves to be interested in the humanities and the arts fields, if they also care about the environment. If they also are passionate about dealing with environmental sustainability, they can pursue that through history and English and religious studies. And so, as students sort of unearth that or carve that out for themselves over the course of their four years, if they were drawn to a discussion group of likeminded people, I think that would be ideal.


Rachel: Cool. So, what are the opportunities that exist through the group?


Andrew: As Claire mentioned, there is a shared reading that we do. A selection of readings on a new concept called the anthropocene that a lot of different scholars are kicking around. And that concept says geologically humans have left an imprint on the earth such that in the future historians and geologists will be able to take some soil off the top of that land right there and say, oh yeah this is the time the humans lived because we can see all the pollutants in it, we can see all the chemicals in it. And so, thinking about that term from an arts perspective or a humanities perspective, how do you communicate the human relationship with the environment through a term like that? So we do some readings and we push that idea around. Do we like it, do we not like it. Do we think it helps in our teaching, does it help frame “what the environment is”? Another opportunity is when we want to take this research that we’re doing, that I’m doing personally, in a new direction and I would like to hear feedback on it. It’s really helpful to take someone else’s brain for an hour and say will you think on this question with me? And that’s immensely helpful for a lot of us. Other things that we’ve talked about that are kind of in the works are an undergraduate research conference focused specifically on the environmental humanities that might happen over the course of the summer, where we invite students from the region or nationally to come here and share the work that they’ve been doing with faculty members in literature and religious studies, philosophy, history, and the arts. Another kind of opportunity that we would like to pursue at some point is a lecture series. I think we imagined it as two faculty or two leading thinkers on a topic that their thoughts might actually come in direct conflict or tension. Like animal rights. Take a philosopher and biologist and tell them to talk about that. And do that in a public venue, in front of an audience. Show how civil discourse can take place and how people can present ideas and disagree with one another that goes beyond a “like button” or a comment, which we’re kind of getting much more familiar with in life. Those opportunities are on the horizon and as I mentioned before we take all of what we do in this reading group back to our classes and share them with our students. So, even though it’s not a formal opportunity there are lots of opportunities for students to be engaged in this conversation in their classwork.


Claire: I have to teach two new courses next semester and both of them should engage with issues of race and migration and it was a way of thinking about environmental history that I was thinking, I don’t know what kinds of questions to ask in the classroom, and I don’t know what students would respond to. And so this was a chance for me to ask other experienced teachers at Bucknell, how do you deal with often fairly contentious and difficult dimensions of environmental humanities? What works, what doesn’t? The concept of best practices is something that you know you might as well learn from other peoples experience and so we get to exchange as teachers as well as scholars and that’s really constructive.


Andrew: I think also that in terms of an opportunity that could be described as such, I think all of us faculty who are engaged in this reading group, we do our own research. And so I think if students find themselves drawn to this realm of thinking about the environment that always includes people and includes historical dimensions, ethical dimensions, then those students should feel like they can approach us and work with us on our research and that will bring students to a much different area of learning on campus with, how do you develop a research question, how do you interview somebody about their past, how do you learn about that trees history out there and what that tree means to someone who is not from Bucknell. So, those opportunities are always present even if we don’t promote them as widely as we typically do in the sciences for undergraduate research or lab research or something like that.


Claire: I think that’s a really good point, it reminds students and our colleagues that who we are in the classroom is part of and is shaped by also what we do outside the classroom. And we want students to come with us outside the classroom into this other conversation that we’re having as researchers as well as teachers and again we tend to see that model much more in the life sciences but to say to students hey you get really jazzed about life in the artic as a topic, it turns out Professor Stuhl does research on this so come along and see the kinds of questions he’s asking when you’re not in class together. And you’ll also get a better sense of why he is that way in class. I think it humanizes the Professor a little so I think that is valuable.


Rachel: How did this group start? Who started it and when did it start?


Claire: (Gesturing towards Andrew Stuhl) It’s all his fault.


Andrew: There was a big bang. (Laughs) There has been a rich history of environmental humanities at Bucknell. I came to campus in June of 2013 and as soon as I got here I was talking to the people who were already here. There’s a long history of environmental studies having a human component, not necessarily environmental policy or environmental biology or geology but English, literature, history, ethics. And so I think that for this question about origins you have to go back to the 1970s and 80s to see wow, there are teachers teaching about the environment in departments that are not biology or anthropology well before 2013. There are also really strong research programs that are centered in this area, led primarily by Alf Siewers and Katie Fall on stories of the Susquehanna -which is the title of that research program. But you already see that they are privileging the narrative form as a way to communicate what this landscape means, what this watershed means, which is different from using a chart of soil chemistry or using a satellite image of the valley. If you’re telling stories you’re already suggesting that the landscape means something in a human way. So those kinds of things fed into a discussion that we had last summer. We’re all doing these things, and there were a number of us who were recently hired and brought to Bucknell. And with that we should try to take advantage of this strength in a way that’s really necessary, formal but regular and scheduled and intentional. And so we decided that rather than plan a huge thing or a big event of some sort that we would start by sitting down around the table like we are now, just talking and bringing some structure to that with hey lets all read the same thing and would you present on your ideas. And I think that’s really how it got together.


Claire: I think its kind of … do you read Harry Potter?


Rachel: Yes.


Claire: Okay so you know how there are the death eaters and the order of the Phoenix, and they’re not recognizable to either the Muggles or the Wizards at large so they have to be revealed? That’s sort of like I see us on campus. We’re out there in significant numbers but we don’t uncloak ourselves in public, but yet if we were to, it would be pretty noticeable how pervasive humanist interest is in issues of the environment. But that’s not where popular ideas of environmental studies go, they tend to go to native gardens or tracking water levels and those kind of things so it’s like we’re this secret society which should maybe be a little more open about how important the humanist contribution is to actually getting any traction politically and in terms of opinion about making a difference in environmental practice.


Brandn: One of the things I observed was that the environmental humanists were the largest single block of faculty who were explicitly self defined as working on environmental issues. And it was hidden. There were way more environmental humanists than environmental social scientists or even probably people who do work in the natural and physical sciences who then self identify as environmental. Because you can study water and not identify as an environmental person you’re just a dude who does water. And so what to do with that reality I think is one of the parts of this discussion.


Rachel: So, what is the role of the Humanities in the study of the environment and why is it important for students?


Andrew: I think it’s good to think about this if we’re asking the question about disciplines or disciplinary views. What does the humanities offer generally that natural sciences and social sciences don’t offer? And then we can apply that to the environment. I’m not a natural scientist, I’m not a social scientist, I’m kind of out of my realm in saying what they do and how they do it but if we were walking down the Susquehanna River right now and you brought a natural scientist with you, they would probably take a water sample and then they’d bring it back to a lab and use really amazing technologies to break that water down and tell you what’s in it. And then the social scientist might say, okay well I can tell you all the legal structures that determine who can live on this bank of the river over here and how this water is regulated. But a humanities person might take you to that river and say, I’m going to paint you a picture where words are actually a canvas of what this river means and what it has meant to people; that will last a thousand years. So any one of those is a really great way to learn about the river. I don’t think you could say that one is better than another. So that’s kind of the disciplinary views. When we apply to the environment I think that we can say that the first two views of the lab approach to the river, and the legal approach to the river have been the dominant ways of thinking about the environment whether it’s on a college campus or whether it’s in a community as they deal with a river issue. And so what we’re saying in the environmental humanities is not that we have a better view or better understanding, but one that contributes equally and should contribute equally as the natural and social sciences. And even more when you put all three of these together, what does a picture of the river look like then? And how does it help people make meaning of their lives and also address problems that might arise of that river. So I think that’s kind of what we’re looking for. A better sense of interdisciplinarity, a richer picture of the river, and using the tools we have in the humanities and set of disciplines as a very long history of asking questions about the human experience on earth.


Claire: I think that’s basically it. I’d add two things. One, because we have often objectified the environment, either by using or attempting to protect it, by sending out regulations on top of it or identifying the resources we want to harvest from it, it has allowed us to distance ourselves from any sense of responsibility or role that we in fact play. So the environment isn’t the non-human. The environment has to include people dealing with the non-human. And if you’re incorporating the environmental humanities, that’s asking people to take responsibility for their value systems, for their life choices, for their economic priorities, for their legal systems. So it in some ways fuels any real commitment to sustainability because it asks people to take a more critical look at themselves as part of the system, as part of the problem, as part of the solution. I think the other dimension to it is that by asking, how as Andrew characterized it, I’m going to tell you a story of what the river has meant to people. If we want the environment to kind of hook or get traction as a political priority with voters, then you have to make people conscious of why nature matters to them. Again, not as something out there, not as polar bears drowning in a very remote and abstract sense, but what does – and this is why place studies is valuable – what does a place mean to you? And once you recognize you have an emotional and an economical and a familial and historical investment in a place, presumably you’ll be more committed to that place’s survival. And so you recognize both your responsibility, and your own value system in the world around you. And I think that’s something that the humanities brings that needs to be more at the fore of the conversation along with the biological diagnostics and the legal frameworks.


Andrew: Yeah there’s that saying, “think globally act locally” that’s been really popular in environmental thinking in North America since the seventies. But there’s a missing piece because you can’t necessarily just think about the whole picture and then know how to act locally. There’s a middle ground of understanding globally and applying locally. And I think that the humanities has a role in that.

Milton Murals ~ “Local Stories, Global Messages”

Pamela J. Snyder, an Altoona, Pennsylvania muralist, is an extremely busy woman. Between working as head coach for the Penn State Altoona’s women’s soccer program and participating in the Altoona Symphony Orchestra, she somehow still finds time to pursue her number one passion – art. While Snyder has found several outlets for sharing her creative passions with the world, her interest in public art and community outreach has made painting murals a perfect fit. Over the years, Snyder has painted many murals, including four major works in the town of Milton, Pennsylvania. She says that her favorite aspect of public art is the connection she is able to forge with the people living and working in that area: “I love the interaction with the community members and the opportunity to educate them in a unique and interesting way. Murals open me up to learning a great deal about the history of the towns and communities I work in. Many people are visual learners, so I provide a whole new means of learning and understanding for these people. Most people know very little about their past and I can give that knowledge to them in fun and palatable ways.”

Snyder’s four murals in Milton exemplify her exploration of the town’s history and culture. This particular work pays homage to the Capitol Theatre that once existed in the adjacent vacant lot. The colorful, imaginative mural depicts a small boy and his dog staring up at the big lights while picturing a variety of movie scenes – his imagination running wild after so much time spent in the theatre. Snyder’s chosen characters within the mural are also historically relevant. For instance King Kong, Shirley Temple and Laurel and Hardy were some of the first movies to be played at the Capitol Theatre.

“Art in general is important, but public art is a gateway by which anyone can enjoy art. You don’t have to worry about how you are dressed, how smart you are, how financially viable you are, and so on. Each and every person can enjoy it equally.”


Snyder painted this next mural on the side of the Stetler, which historically has always been a hotel or boarding house of some kind. The work showcases the history of the building and provides some insight into Milton’s past. Originally a hotel and depot for passengers of the canal which ran near the building, people would enjoy a meal, some shopping, and a night in the hotel before continuing on their journey the following day. The original building had burned down in the Great Fire of 1880 but was rebuilt, soon regaining its status as a prominent and popular hotel in the area. Also pictured in the mural are a few famous faces from Milton’s past. Snyder seamlessly incorporates this piece into the everyday life of the Milton community. From a distance, the painted-on windows and awnings are indistinguishable from the real ones.


“Public art is universal and has no real barriers so it speaks volumes without a voice.”


This particular mural focuses on the transportation history of Milton. Depicted are the town’s many means of transportation, from trucking, to the small dirt airport that used to exist, to the grand canal system. Also pictured are numerous inventions that have originated in Milton, including “fly nets” for horses and tub cars which enabled trains to haul liquid. Milton remains a prominent transportation hub in Pennsylvania today, so this story remains relevant.


“Public art is a great way for communities to show off their contributions to society. It helps visitors get an instant snapshot of the town and allows them to become invested without ever having stepped into a building or onto a street. If you can grab someone’s attention, perhaps you can give them a reason to stop and spend some time in your community.”


This final mural illustrates the historical and cultural importance of Milton’s YMCA, depicting many of the services used by patrons over the decades. It is split into four different parts, the first depicting a classroom scene with young children learning and playing. This atmosphere is one that Snyder is very familiar with, as she is accustomed to working with kids on her large murals, related projects, and smaller mural exchanges. In working with children, Snyder has come to realize that they are born without any inherent hate, judgment, or malice but rather are truly innocent, kind, and genuinely friendly. Snyder reinforces this type of behavior by allowing children to help her in the creation of her pieces.


Snyder believes that through art, she is able to help people understand each other and relate to the struggles and cultures of others. “An appreciation for art and community are equally important. The children grow up being proud of where they are from and tend to have greater respect for the people and places around them.”


“I always incorporate children in my projects. I have never had a mural vandalized, mostly, I believe, due to the amount of time I take to include the community in the work. I also think children bring a bright, new perspective and keep me thinking creatively. I never get stuck in a rut, as they flood me with new ideas and constant streams of opinions, commentary and discussion.”


“My genuine goal is to work with children and help them to recognize the similarities we all share, yet at the same time, have the ability to value the uniqueness of our differences.”


Through her art, Pamela Snyder has forged bonds with the areas she has worked in, opening doors of thought and creativity for a variety of people. By connecting people to both their own communities and the communities of others, cultural and historical ties are able to be discovered and explored, all through the tacit voice of a brushstroke.



What is Place?

During the fall semester of 2013, the Place Studies Initiative of the Bucknell University Environmental Center hosted “Understanding Place,” a series of discussions about various concepts used to define and comprehend “place.”

The talks, which were free and open to the public, were delivered by students, faculty, and community members. During the fall of 2013, the following presentations were given:
“Identity” with geography professor Adrian Mulligan

“Rarity” with biology professor Chris Martine

“Headwaters” with English professor Alf Siewers

“Natural” with geography professor Duane Griffin

“Boundary” with international relations professor Jason Cons

“Local” with professor of rural sociology, Clare Hinrichs

Supported by the Bucknell University Environmental Center, the Place Studies Initiative undertakes and supports research within the social sciences and environmental humanities that examines the nature and role of place in human experience. The purpose of the Place Studies Initiative is to facilitate and encourage research on the human dimensions of environmental issues.

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