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Careers in History: Local History

Jobadiah Christiansen ('13)

Grad student in Public History, Kent State University

Jobadiah Christiansen discovers an arch at Umm el-JimalI am currently working on my master's in history at Kent State University in Ohio. I am on appointment as a teaching assistant and am one of six students that are new to the program this year. I was drawn to Kent State because of their program with public and local history.

While taking historiography in my last year at Calvin, I came to the conclusion that one of our foremost duties as historians is to do the history of our local communities and help our communities understand their history. As such, my master's thesis is on the history of my hometown in Pennsylvania. Already I have found several faculty members at Kent State who are eager to help me with my work on the local history.

But doing local history attracts me in another way. In my time at Calvin, I minored in archaeology and spent time in Jordan with Dr. de Vries. My goal after Kent State is to become an archaeologist and continue working in the Levant, particularly focusing on the lives of commoners on the Roman frontier.

You may ask how this connects to my work at Kent State on local history? My answer is twofold. First, while in Jordan, I realized that much of what modern archaeologists do is negotiating with the current inhabitants of the ancient ruins. Dr. de Vries has inspired me by his work on a continuous history at Umm el-Jimal. he not only focuses on the Roman ruins, but also on the modern descendants of the Masa'eid bedouin tribe. As such, in preparation for a career in archaeology, I am determined to learn how to do history of local people and communicate this to the community. This is where Kent State's public history program comes in. Officially I am in the public history program here, but realistically the only aspect of what I am doing that is public history is that my thesis focuses on the local history of a small town in Pennsylvania. Second, my thesis focuses on the founding of my hometown in the late 18th century and how the area was settled and developed. Essentially I am working on the local history of colonial frontiers and studying how towns develop. Hopefully I can apply my research on colonial frontiers to the Roman frontier and ancient settlement patterns.

Since leaving Calvin, I have continued correspondence with Dr. de Vries. We have a few ideas of turning my undergrad honors thesis into several different publications. I also attended the ASOR conference in November 2013 with Dr. de Vries. I have been continuing research on Umm el-Jimal under his direction and I may connect my master's research to continuing scholarship of Umm el-Jimal. currently, I have several avenues open to me in my budding career as a historian and archaeologist. I feel that in the long run my work in local history at Kent State will enhance my performance as an archaeologist, particularly because archaeology is a multidisciplinary field.