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Khronikos: Year in Review (2013-2014)

All too quickly, another academic year has reached its conclusion. This past year has been a busy and productive one at the Khronikos blog. Since the 2012-12 year in review post, our traffic has more than doubled and our blog averages 780 page views per month. Khronikos posts have been featured in the monthly History Carnival, on other history blogs, and shared by a variety of individuals and organizations on Facebook and Twitter. Of course, most of the credit goes to our dedicated and creative bloggers – Khronikos wouldn’t exist without their hard work.

This year we continued to grow our audience, averaging 780 page views per month for the year but 1,000 page views per month during the spring semester. Considering in 2012-13 our best month traffic-wise was April 2013 with 733 views, our traffic has increased dramatically over the past year. This increase can be attributed to our archives being well established with search engines and a regular posting schedule, but I believe the inclusion of more guest bloggers and some well-written and attention-grabbing posts by our regular bloggers also nabbed us more visitors this year. For last year’s numbers, please see the 2012-2013 Year in Review post.

Page View Totals by Month: Sept. 2013-April 2014.

Page View Totals by Month: Sept. 2013-April 2014.

Khronikos was founded as “a full-time, graduate-student run blog aimed at showcasing the work of University of Maine history graduate students and bringing our academic historical scholarship to a wider audience through short, accessible, and image-heavy blog posts” in the spring of 2012. What can be gleaned about the nature of our audience from WordPress stats, suggests we our meeting our goals of showcasing history graduate student work and reaching a wider, less specialized audience. The majority of our referrals continue to come from search engines. The phrasing of many of these search engine requests (“history of atlantic creoles,” “james secord from the war of 1812,” “boundary settlement in 1846,” and “pumpkin pie spice history”) are suggestive of the broad searches conducted by students doing research papers and people with specific curiosities about the past. The most common search terms are related to the University of Maine, culinary history (especially pumpkin pie, plum pudding, and American Cookery), the Secords and the War of 1812, and the Ambajejus Lake Boom House.

Search engines and social media supply the majority of our audience.

Referrals by source: Search engines, social media, history sites, UMaine.

Aside from search engines, most of our referrals come from HASTAC.org, Facebook, Twitter, and other history blogs. Khronikos has become well integrated into the lively history blogging community, hosting a History Carnival in December and with posts featured in several recent carnivals. One of the primary goals of Khronikos is to showcase the research of University of Maine history graduate students. Our posts have been shared on social media by The Graduate History Society at the University of Iowa, the Indiana University Archives, the United Empire Loyalist’s Association of Canada, the Culinary Historians of New York, Central Connecticut State Historians, Philosophical Crumbs, University of Guelph Archives, History Press, and Historical Recipes, the Mount Desert Island Historical Society, and Acadia National Park.

United States Custom House (Castine, Me.), Account of fees collected in the district of Castine 1886-1891. Special Collections, Fogler Library, University of Maine. Orono, Maine.

United States Custom House (Castine, Me.), Account of fees collected in the district of Castine 1886-1891. Special Collections, Fogler Library, University of Maine. Orono, Maine.

As historians-in-training, we believe passionately that the academic study of the past serves a crucial role in society. Many of us also believe that as students at a land grant university many of us with positions supported by public funds, we have a responsibility to share our research with and make our work relevant to the public. In this current climate of budget shortfalls and cuts, expanding our mission and serving the public is more crucial than ever. Fogler Library, the History Department, and the University of Maine Humanities Initiative, but we seem to be falling short with other campus units. Less than 1% of all referrals come from the University, but it seems Khronikos could be an excellent recruiting tool for Admissions and the Graduate School. Those that follow the Graduate School, Admissions, or the University’s public relations on social media will have experienced a barrage of STEM related student achievements; we’d like to see more humanities featured. Khronikos could be an excellent source of student research and achievement. In the coming year, expanding our relationships with the University will be an area of improvement for Khronikos. One effort we made to expand our relationship with the university this past semester was the start of a post series title “Fogler Features.” These posts highlight materials available in Special Collections at UMaine’s Fogler Library.

This year we welcomed a number of guest bloggers to Khronikos. Stacey Fraser-deHaan, Co-director of the Ipswich Museum wrote a thoughtful post about the differences between academic and public history and the strategies used by her institution to engage the public. Sarah Batterson, Visiting Assistant Professor at Misericordia University provided us with a post that highlighted a portion of her dissertation research, “A Dead Failure”: The U.S. Navy and the Suppression of the Slave Trade”. K.A. Woytonik first guest posted at Khronikos was in October and she has happily become a regular contributor. Her work on eighteenth and nineteenth-century medical culture has proven excellent fodder for history blogging. Her posts this past year include “The Origins of ‘Snake Oil’ in Nineteenth-Century American Medical Culture” and “Leeches and Lancets: Blood-Letting’s Longer-than-Expected History.”

Reading the Order of expulsion to the Acadians in the parish Church at Grand Pré, in 1755.

Reading the Order of expulsion to the Acadians in the parish Church at Grand Pré, in 1755.

We’d also like to offer a hearty welcome to our newest bloggers, Brent Y. Skaggs and Elisa E.A. Sance. Brent just completed his master’s work at the University of Maine – congratulations! Brent’s thesis is titled, GUNS AND A DAM: DIVERGENT PERCEPTIONS OF TECHNOLOGY IN U.S.-EGYPTIAN RELATIONS, 1952-1956 and his recent Khronikos post, “Divergent Development: Perceptions of Technology in U.S.-Middle Eastern Relations” during the 1950s highlights some aspects of his master’s work. Elisa also recently graduated with her M.A. in North American French and will join the History Department as a Ph.D. student in the fall. Elisa’s post, “The Great Deportation: A Recurring Theme in Acadian Song” is the all-time most popular post on Khronikos with nearly 700 views since it was published in April. Returning University of Maine bloggers include Cody P. Miller, Greg Rogers, Annie Tock Morrisette, Joseph R. Miller, Rachel A. Snell, Patrick Callaway, Rebecca White, and Daniel Soucier.

Our top five posts from this past year were:

The Great Deportation: A Recurring Theme in Acadian Song by Elisa E. A. Sance

The Great Deportation is one of the major historical events in Acadian History. This ethnic cleansing, as John Mack Faragher defined it in A Great and Noble Scheme, was orchestrated by the British and consisted of the deportation of most Acadians between 1755 and 1762 from what is known today as Nova Scotia. The Great Deportation led to the current dispersal of the Acadian people and the elimination of a unified Acadian territory. Many Acadians came back to the Maritime Provinces after 1762, but their farms had long been burned down and their land claimed by the British. This situation forced them to settle in different places, forming small communities more at risk of losing their culture, language and traditions through assimilation.

Digital History: Pros and Cons by Rachel A. Snell

For the preliminary stages of my dissertation research, I’ve been largely dependent on digitized sources. Fortunately, many of the nineteenth-century printed cookbooks relevant to my dissertation are available as e-books or PDFs. This academic year, fellowships are allowing me the luxury (and necessity for the serious scholar) of immersing myself entirely in my research and visiting several archives and libraries. While I feel I’ve long been immersed in nineteenth-century culinary texts, for the first time I’m physically immersed in them. As my dissertation research transitions from digital to traditional, this moment seemed a good opportunity to record some of my thoughts on digital texts.

“Now Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding”: Plum Pudding and the Celebration of Christmas in Nineteenth-Century America by Rachel A. Snell

A major source was English holiday tradition; leading many American cooks to embrace plum pudding for the finale to their Christmas dinner and Christmas trees in their parlors (this custom was popularized by Queen Victoria after her marriage to Albert. He brought the tradition from Germany). A rich dried fruit, suet pudding that is well laced with brandy, plum pudding has been firmly associated with English Christmas celebrations for several centuries. Despite the name, most plum puddings contain far more raisins than plums. The fact that figgy pudding and plum pudding are one and the same suggests how little relevance the ingredients have to the name. Recipes usually included a combination of several dried fruits, most commonly raisins, plums, and currants. Liquor was the liquid of choice for most plum pudding recipes ranging from Madeira, whiskey, and a wide variety of homemade wines. The popularity of the Temperance movement would lead the development of Temperance recipes later in the century.

Approaching Conferences as a Stress Management Event by Joseph R. Miller

Graduate school often seems to be designed to create the same level of stress I experienced in military training. Years of work can appear to fall by the wayside because of flat performances at the comprehensive examination orals, the “necessary” presentation at a national level academic conference, dissertation defense, and subsequent job talks. It is often difficult negotiating challenges that create unintentionally excessive hurdles for students who have more trouble managing stress. The academic conference has been especially difficult for me, so I have developed coping strategies and treat conferences as a stress management event. Granted, my struggles with PTSD make handling stressful situations like conferences more arduous than the typical graduate student’s experience, but I hope my methods will be useful for other students.

The Origins of “Snake Oil” in Nineteenth-Century American Medical Culture by K. A. Woytonik

In today’s vocabular practice “snake oil” connotes the deceitful practice of alleging a substance is good for one’s health, when at best it does nothing and at worst may actually injure.  The “snake oil salesman” is a slippery figure, preying on people’s desire for health for their own profit.  But where did these terms come from, and how did they evolve to the present meaning?  The story of snake oil is the process of how Americans came to decide what medicine was—and what medicine was not.

 

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