Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I Promise-- NY Really IS Your Campus

You’ve probably heard the slogan “Fordham is my school, New York is my campus.” It's simple and to the point, but it can be hard to understand what that phrase means in practice. I, for example, thought it meant that we went to a lot of museums and shows in the city for class and recreation. We do service in the city, explore the city, and figure out its secrets. This semester, however, I am gaining a deeper appreciation for what my "campus" can offer me.

The New-York Historical Society on Central Park West

The castle-like American Museum of Natural History is
just across from the NYHS (and Shake Shack!)

 My early American material culture class meets weekly at the New-York Historical Society. Founded in 1804, the impressive building sits on some great real estate. It is on the Upper West Side, facing Central Park and beside the American Museum of Natural History (do I have any secret Night at the Museum fans?). It is a block from Shake Shack (New York’s equivalent to In ‘n’ Out with even better shakes) and a short walk from bakeries, clothing stores, restaurants, and even a Trader Joe's (which will become more exciting when you are in college and cook for yourself).
At Fordham Lincoln Center to catch my
evening Ram Van back to Rose Hill

The NYHS is a museum and a library devoted to the history of New York, which is also the history of America. New York has been inhabited for over 450 years and is rich in the period my small seminar class is examining, early America. A material culture class focuses on objects as a way to understand the people who created them, traded them, bought them, and used them. You’d be surprised to know how little we actually know about colonists, including the number of female traders, the fact that we imported china in the 1700s, and a fashionably designed house was more important than a big house for more than a century. Our class is using items from the museum and our professor’s collection as a launching point for class discussion ranging from the quotidian (witch’s lantern, candle mold) to the refined (solid silver spoons, two-toned teacups).

Class is easy to get to from Rose Hill, with free Ram Van passes to and from Lincoln Center. In good weather, I can stroll through Central Park to class. In bad weather, I can hop on the subway, which the history department has been kind enough to subsidize for us. For me, it's a great excuse to get into the city in the middle of my school day. It might be the same for you, in a couple of years!

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