Gerald Maa, 2017 Public Fellow

English PhD student Gerald Maa worked with the OC Parks Historical Division as part of the Humanities Out There Public Fellows Program in 2017.

I worked on the Helena Modjeska Digital Map for the OC Parks Historical Division. At Arden, the home of 19th century Polish stage star Helena Modjeska, which is now a National Historic Landmark, the OC Parks has a large map that tracks every performance that Modjeska did in the United States during her career. OC Parks wants to transfer the map onto a digital platform and expand it with information and images so that it can be a rich resource for the public. I went through the wealth of Modjeska material in the UCI Special Collections to learn about her in order to draft a project proposal for the digital map.

Two weeks into the session, a more pressing issue emerged. When I started, the Historical Division had been working on a new video for the tour. The production company got their draft of the script to Dr. Emily McEwen and it was, shall I say, wanting. So, the second half of my internship had me writing the script for the new tour video. I also pitched an article to the Los Angeles Review of Books, which was accepted and is now live.

Much of what was rewarding came from what was challenging. The most rewarding experience was using the thoughts and arguments that came from academic research to write for a lay audience.

This opportunity not only taught me a lot in terms of academic adjacent jobs, but also broke ground in fields of knowledge necessary for my research. Right now, my research focuses on theater of the late Georgian period, but I want to broaden my field of knowledge to account for the circum-Atlantic and for the entire nineteenth century. Research on Modjeska has been my entry point for learning about the culture of theater-going in the United States at the end of the nineteenth century.

The Humanities Out There Public Fellows Program gives humanities graduate students the opportunity to intern with local cultural organizations. Public Fellows apply and expand their humanities research, writing and analytical capacities—skills developed in a PhD program—in a non-profit setting. The 2017 Public Fellows were supported by a grant from the Luce Foundation, as well as by donor and School of Humanities funds.