The Peter K. Oley "Tomorrow's Historians" Student Research Symposium was held at Irvington High School on May 29. Nineteen students presented history research papers written in their U.S. History classes. Sponsored by Irvington High School and the Irvington Historical Society, the event was organized by Dr. Erik Weiselberg, social studies teacher at the high school, who also acted as moderator. Members of the Irvington Historical Society and the Irvington community attended the event.
Students were arranged in five panels organized around a central theme common to each set of papers. Modern Warfare and American Power, American Women’s History, American and African-Americans, Science and Public Policy, and Alternatives to the American Mainstream. Topics ranged chronologically from the Salem Witch Trials to the Equal Rights Amendments, the US. Civil War to American involvement in the Bosnian crisis, and from baseball to grunge music.
The panelist presented not only factual details and chronology, but engaged in the practice of professional historians such as offering reasons for continuity and change, and identifying multiple causes of historical events. At several points, panelist in dialogue with one another and the audience explored not only contributions of various groups to American history, but how one group’s actions, such as the role of the abolitionist movement in first supporting women’s suffrage but then working against it, and the emerging space that was created for black feminism during the suffrage movement of the 1960s.
Panelists also discussed the role of "necessity" in shaping scientific investigation, and the way that cities influenced the development of literature, popular music and organized crime, amongst other topics. Panelists also shared their thoughts on the research process and on the act of doing history, including disclosures about their personal growth and discoveries. The panelists also fielded questions from the audience, including many asking the panelists to use their experience with historical topics to help explain present conditions and to make informed hypotheses about future trends.
The Irvington Historical Society provided refreshments for guests, and presented framed certificates to each panelist.
The “Tomorrow’s Historians” Student Research Symposium was developed by Dr. Weiselberg several years ago when he noticed that many student research papers showed qualities similar to those of professional historians, and he wanted to give those students a chance to explore the discipline and showcase their talents in an authentic setting. The Symposium is dedicated to the memory of Peter K. Oley, a former Irvington teacher, track coach and village historian, whose passion for history and education inspired generations of Irvington students and residents.