Interview: Emerging Scholars at American Civil War Museum

American Civil War Museum
The new American Civil War Museum, scheduled to open in May 2019

As proud sponsors of American Civil War Museum’s upcoming Emerging Scholars program—set to occur next May during the grand opening of the museum’s new facility in Richmond—we thought we would sit down with Madeline Wood, ACWM’s digital engagement manager, and Stephanie Arduini, director of education & programs, to learn more about their plans for the big day.

What is the Emerging Scholars program?

The program is a new feature that will highlight the research of the “next generation” of people working in the history and public history fields. We want to shine a light on some of that great up-and-coming work that will shape the future of how we understand and remember the Civil War era. These selected scholars, as part of our opening programs in the spring of 2019, will deliver a series of informal “pop-up” talks to provide the audience with an engaging, less formal sampling of their work. Additionally, the museum and our partners, The Civil War Monitor and Emerging Civil War, will feature some of their work on various print and web platforms.

Civil War Scholars
American Civil War Museum
Historians Gary Gallagher (left) and Ed Ayers in discussion at a recent American Civil War Museum event

Who is eligible to apply for the program and when are applications due?

We have four categories for entries: (1) students (in a current degree program, undergraduate or graduate); (2) post-doctoral fellows; (3) early career (in the history/public history field—or related disciplines—less than 10 years); and (4) new author (who has published their first article or book in the last two years). We want to get a range of individuals and experiences and recognize that there are people doing good scholarship and public history/interpretation with less traditional career paths, and we want to capture that through this broad range of application categories. Applications include a series of short answer questions and a short informal video of the applicant communicating their topic and its relevance. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. on December 10. To apply visit

American Civil War Museum Speakers
American Civil War Museum
“Never Get Over It: What Night Riding Meant to African American Families,” a talk by Kidada E. Williams, Wayne State University, delivered at Historic Tredegar, part of the new American Civil War Museum.

How and when will speakers be chosen?

A committee of ACWM staff will review applications for diversity of historical topics as well as strong communication skills for a non-expert audience. Our team will notify applicants of their status in January 2019.

Do you intend for the Emerging Scholars program to be an ongoing endeavor? And what other educational opportunities and events will you offer at the new American Civil War Museum site?

Our museum values scholarship and encourages critical thinking and evidence-based analysis, in supporting and featuring professional scholarship as well as inviting visitors to do this with us in our exhibits and programs. Emerging Scholars is envisioned solely as a special feature of our museum’s opening programs, though if it’s successful, we’d love to explore continuing the program beyond our opening year. We’d also love to see some of this great content live in multiple areas such as on our website, blog, and social media.

Beyond this, the museum offers a robust slate of programs and events throughout the year. From some of our signature annual programs, such as the annual symposium (March 2), Bottimore Lecture (Fall), and Book Awards programs (Spring/Summer), to our ongoing program series (such as the Foundry Series, History Happy Hours, and Civil War Conversations), teacher professional development, and annual public events (such as Civil War & Emancipation Day), we always have programs that blend historical content, scholarship, and community partners for a range of ways to explore the Civil War era and how it impacts our lives today. As we can, we also record or share some of these great offerings via video and blog posts for those people who can’t attend in person.

American Civil War Museum Living History
American Civil War Museum
One recent American Civil War Museum program included an immersive tour and discussion, created and led by Dylan Pritchett (far right), as part of the museum’s monthly House 200 series, which explored 200 years of history at the White House of the Confederacy.

Besides the Emerging Scholars program, what other grand opening events do you have planned?

We have some really great things in the works for our first calendar year, but we can’t talk about all of them yet—stay tuned! We’ll continue our existing program series, some with added elements to celebrate the museum’s new building and exhibits. For example, our annual Civil War & Emancipation Day public event will not only still have our community partners, performances, and family-friendly activities, but also include a panel discussion exploring the intersection of the development of Civil War narratives with the evolution of teaching this era in schools. Since most people’s first (and often only) time learning about this history is in school, and 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the creation of public education in Virginia, we’re excited to look at how teaching this subject has changed over time, and how it continues to impact how we understand and remember the Civil War era.

UPDATE: See the announced speakers here.

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