On March 25, Brandeis students may have noticed some of their peers walking through campus wearing colonial-style clothing and white wigs. As part of their recognition and remembrance of the Stamp Act of 1765, students from the Myra Kraft Transitional Year Program (MKTYP) dressed in colonial clothes and reenacted dialogues between famous colonial figures such as Thomas Hutchinson and Benjamin Franklin, both of whom were involved in the Stamp Act, which imposed a tax on American citizens by British legislation. The Act was met with much protest, thus largely uniting the colonies under an umbrella of anti-British sentiment. By bringing attention to this event, the students hoped to spread awareness and interest in this revolutionary occurrence.
Craig Smith, an American history professor at Brandeis and an instructor in the TYP program, explained that the exhibit was created for the students’ Preserving Boston’s Past: Public History and Digital Humanities spring course. The course, designed around the Stamp Act, inspired students as a historical event that triggered union among previously disjointed colonists in order to achieve a common goal. “The course was designed around presenting history beyond the textbook. It gave students the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the fields of public history and digital humanities,” Smith said. Indeed, it did not go unnoticed by their peers that the TYP students were engaging in something meaningful, as they were noticed participating in this exhibit throughout the day beyond the classroom.
TYP student Christian Nunez ’19 describes the Stamp Act as “a unique moment in human progression … how we deal with each other.” Like Nunez, other students similarly felt that the Act’s significance extended beyond its historical content, into their own lives and relationships with one another. Another student involved, John Novas ’19, explained that the exhibit “used everyone’s strength to reach a goal,” just as the protest of British colonization did in 1765. With each student given a separate job, such as writing image descriptions or creating informational brochures, it appears that the theme of teamwork followed the students throughout the time leading up to the display of the exhibit as well.
An untraditional approach to a traditional academic subject, the exhibit and this course left students inspired and interested in pursuing more projects such as this one. Student Kenneth Hong ’19 comments, “People were excited to see students do something different.” Other students were also thrilled to see their work draw the attention of their non-TYP peers. Indeed, it seems that the exhibit was a success in part due to its requirement for active participation on the students’ part, as well as its effect on non-TYP students. Noting that everyone who attended the event stayed for the entire time, TYP students were excited to share their collaborative academic knowledge with non-TYP students. “As always, education was the primary goal, but the course was designed to make the students active participants,” remarks Smith. If the active participation of both TYP and non-TYP students alike was any indication of a successful event, then the Stamp Act event was surely a hit.