Publication Date

November 2, 2016

Perspectives Section

Member Spotlight, Perspectives Daily

Heather Wacha is a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow in Data Curation for Medieval Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and has been a member since 2012.
wachaWebsites: Incipio, Medieval Women and Manuscripts: Thinking Digital

If Books Could Talk…

Twitter handle: @hgwacha

Alma maters: BA, Hamline University, 1985; PCGE, Birmingham Polytechnic (UK), 1991; MA, University of Iowa, 2009; PhD, University of Iowa, 2016

Fields of interest: medieval women’s and gender history, particularly Northern France (11th–13th centuries); paleography, historical bookbinding, paper-making, manuscript studies, and the history of the book in general; providing greater access and annotation of medieval documents through digital technologies

Describe your career path. What led you to where you are today? I came to the study of history via a circuitous route. After receiving my BA in French I decided to travel to South America, the Middle East, and Europe. I eventually ended up in England where after completing a postgraduate certificate of education, I became a French teacher in a secondary comprehensive school. In England, I began to explore and read up on the historical monuments/sites that I encountered everywhere I turned. A year in France doing a teacher exchange gave me the opportunity to visit even more sites. A distinct passion for the Middle Ages surfaced and I decided to pursue a PhD in medieval history. At the University of Iowa I had the good fortune both to take classes at the Center for the Book and to work part-time in Special Collections. Colleagues at the library and History Corps encouraged me to use social media and videos to make the medieval manuscript collection available to a wider public. As a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow I am very excited to explore the best of manuscript, print, and digital technologies in order to help scholars collaborate and share their teaching/research with a wide array of audiences.

What projects are you currently working on? I am currently working on co-editing a dual print/digital version of the Cartulary of the Abbey of Prémontré, the founding abbey of the Premonstratensian Order. In my position as a CLIR Postdoctoral Fellow, I am working with Martin Foys on an exciting digital tool (called DM) that provides an interface for collecting, annotating, and linking manuscripts and images.

What’s the most fascinating thing you’ve ever found at the archives or while doing research? There is a small cartulary held in the archives of the Société historique, archéologique, et scientifique de Soissons. The person who bound the cartulary quires used a discarded piece of 13th-century parchment as an end sheet and this page holds a list of letters to be written and sent out from the Abbey of Prémontré. As far as I know, no other document of this type for this abbey survives.

Is there an article, book, movie, blog etc. that you could recommend to fellow AHA members? Jean Allman, “The Disappearing of Hannah Kudjoe: Nationalism, Feminism, and the Tyrannies of History,” Journal of Women’s History, 21, no. 3 (2009): 13–35.

What do you value most about the history discipline? The discipline of history allows me to travel into the past and in the present. I also love knowing that whatever the subject of my historical research, I will encounter some form of another discipline: economics, agriculture, technology, urban planning, philosophy, demographics, environment, languages, social issues, gender issues, and much more.

AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, AHA Todayfeatures a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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