We are pleased to present the ninth volume of the Virginia Tech Undergraduate Historical Review (VTUHR). The mission of the VTUHR is to contribute to ongoing scholarly conversations and to provide fresh perspectives from a new generation of scholars at Virginia Tech as well as at other universities. The journal also seeks to provide hands-on publishing experience for student editors and writers, all while supporting and disseminating significant original research. This year the undergraduate editors on our editorial board read submissions, discussed them with their fellow editors, decided what to publish, peer-reviewed the articles they accepted, copyedited them, and engaged in many other tasks to shepherd a paper through the publication process. The authors published in this volume worked long, extra hours in revising, rewriting, and polishing their work. The success of this journal is primarily due to the hard work of these undergraduate writers and editors and their dedication to the important role that scholarly publishing plays in educating, sparking discussion, and producing and disseminating knowledge.
In this volume, the articles published provide perspective on a variety of places, time periods, and events. First, we have Bryce Nolan’s article, “Oracles of the Internet: Gibson, Stephenson, and the Elevation of Cyberpunk Literature.” In this piece, Nolan examines how Cyberpunk authors William Gibson and Neal Stephenson brought a new level of respectability to science fiction in part by providing “various conceptions of eventual technological achievement,” such as the internet. Next is “The Mountain People and the Washington Post: Conflicting Narratives in the Relocation of Shenandoah Families,” by Caroline Harvey. Harvey compares how writers at the Washington Post and Shenandoah residents described the latter’s removal from what would become Shenandoah National Park. In using oral histories and letters from residents, Harvey allows their voices to contradict the Post’s portrayal of Shenandoah families as ignorant, dependent, and indigent. In “Grant Park and the Globe: Lucy Mitchell, Bessie Bennett, and the Art Institute of Chicago,” Wen Li Teng tells the story of two women who helped the Art Institute of Chicago become internationally acclaimed. Teng challenges the way we think about great cities and institutions as the creations of similarly “great” men, instead inviting us to view cities and institutions as the collective work of many individuals. Finally, we conclude this volume with Elizabeth Sholtis’s “Shaking Things Up: The Influence of Women on the American Cocktail.” Sholtis examines how women in the 1920s and 1930s—thanks to newly won suffrage, work opportunities, and commercialized leisure—entered and drank in spaces that had normally been reserved for men. Sholtis places women at the center of this story to highlight their role in the standardization and commercialization of the modern cocktail.
We have many people to thank for the production of this volume. We are grateful for the continued support of the Department of History. We are particularly thankful to Dr. Heather Gumbert, who serves as our faculty editor, for her insightful guidance and edits. We also thank the department chair, Dr. Brett Shadle, and the VTUHR’s founder, Dr. Robert Stephens. We are particularly grateful to Robert Browder at Virginia Tech Publishing. Without Robert, we would not have been able to seamlessly transition to conducting all of our work from home in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The staff at Ubiquity Press has been so helpful in typesetting and publishing the journal. Last, a special thanks to our undergraduate editors and authors. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, for the second half of the semester we had to forgo our in-person staff meetings and rely on email to coordinate the publishing process. Despite the disruptions and challenges of the pandemic, these editors and writers continued to work hard to publish these articles. Their diligence and dedication to moving forward has been inspiring during these difficult times.
Finally, we add our voices to those of many others in saying Black Lives Matter. We support Historians for Justice, a statement from the Virginia Tech Department of History faculty, and encourage our audience to read it. Our next issue will be a special edition of the VTUHR: We are soliciting a variety of submissions that focus on students’ experiences of national protests against police brutality and systemic racism. During this time, we hope the forthcoming issue can provide a platform to amplify student voices, especially students of color.
Tyler Balli and Sydney Sweat-Montoya
August 24, 2020