Thesis Breakthrough 2012

Kelly Murphy
Throughout the summer my thesis research seemed to feel like this…

My brain.

I had my proposal, I had my proposal revision, I had ideas, a lot of ideas. I had a concept map, I had a swot analysis, I had a few casual interviews. I had met so many people…professionals, who were really interested in my ideas, but in all of the positivity, I lost focus. My brain was soup. I neglected to really understand my topic. I needed to connect my ideas. After a recent meeting with my thesis advisor and professor, Joseph Gonzales, I was able to take my summer “progress” and really understand how to turn it into real progress. Unfortunately, like on most roads to greatness, you have to leave some of your ideas behind. All summer I had been using the vein of genealogy to really sell my research. It was my thought, that those interested in genealogy would automatically be interested in storytelling, furthermore, in a digital platform. Of course months of preliminary research, even tapping into human psych. studies with regards to basic needs and sharing, gave way to this thought. However what I did not realize at the time was, my thesis- which I thought was so including- was really excluding, for the sake of my main purpose of research, the sustainability of heritage sites through stewardship. If these heritage sites are really expected to thrive I need to open the opportunity of stewardship through connections (sharing stories) up to a greater audience. So…that’s what I’m now doing. Genealogy still exists within my research, however now as a segment of the population, along with tourists, immigrants, and city residents. My new area of focus is place-making and how my three selected case studies can make their sites a place for each potential group, through the vein of digital story sharing. 

A little ding went off in my head about one month ago as I was interning at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. I was transcribing the acceptance speech of the HSP’s 2012 Founder’s Award winner, historian David McCullough (also a winner of the Pulitzer Prize). In his speech McCullough stressed the importance of teaching history and understanding our collective history. As I was typing his words, it hit me. I needed to understand my thesis through more of a collective “we.” We as Philadelphians, we as having Irish-American ancestors, we as Vietnamese immigrants, we as tourists from Russia. I spent the summer thinking of the numerous “we’s” and the stories we all posses. I thought genealogy was the best connector between these “we’s.” However after spending time at HSP, I got to understand genealogy more and realize how intricate the practice is. I think I was confusing genealogy with personal history and although the two correlate, they are not the same entity- Break through!
The many “we’s” of the world.