Historian Abby Smith Rumsey described stewartship of the past through digital archives, memory


Historian and author Abby Smith Rumsey discussed stewardship of the past, present and future at Thursday’s 10:45 a.m. morning lecture on Aug. 16, titled “Will Digital Memory Erase Our Past.” Her Amphitheater lecture, part of Week Eight’s theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century,” was accompanied by various alarms — car, carbon monoxide, truck and phone among the bunch.

“The questions we have been contemplating this week — how and what should we remember — are fundamentally moral questions about our obligations to other generations, as well as to ourselves,” Rumsey said. “And the real question that I have for us today is ‘What will people know about us in 100 years? How will they come to understand our actions, the things that we have done and the things that we failed to do that will stun them in historical perspective?’ ”

As a historian, Rumsey’s work focuses on the creation, preservation and cultural recording in the media, which are prominent topics in her book, When We are No More: How Digital Memory Will Shape Our Future. She served as director of the Scholarly Communication Institute at the University of Virginia, and she worked with the Library of Congress’ National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program (NDIIPP) for more than a decade.

Her work with the NDIIPP involved strategizing how to identify, collect and preserve digital content of value.

“There is a very real threat, people tell me, that digital memory will erase our past because it is so easy to erase digital memory,” she said.

Digital memory is fragile, Rumsey said. Despite hardware’s ability to store exabytes of data — one exabytes being 1 billion gigabytes — it is impossible to retrieve digital information without a computer; an MP3 can’t be “picked up” and listened to without a compatible device. Moreover, data has been privatized and commoditized by Amazon, Google and Apple, she said.

And while digital has its dilemmas, physical records can also be cumbersome. Rumsey referenced a picture of the Library of Congress in 1897, featuring overflowing piles of records. Eventually, the piles were catalogued, indexed and shelved, but within 10 years, the collection had once again outgrown its space.

As for humans, Rumsey said collecting and documenting memories is not considered important until it is too late.

“People don’t always agree with what memory is,” she said, “and they seem to neglect the fact that it is a natural endowment given to all living beings and has a fundamental biological function, no matter how culturally important it is.”

Humans have various types of memory, Rumsey said, including genetic memory and learning.

Genetic memory is uniform coding in DNA that informs aardvark cells to become a fertilized aardvark egg and eventually an aardvark, rather than an elephant or a human.

“If you take this as a metaphor for our cultural and collective memory, I’d say the cultural memory operates very much like the genetic memory DNA,” Rumsey said. “It operates the same way because cultural memory is something that tells a Japanese girl what language she is going to learn when she grows up, what kind of food she is going to eat, what kind of music she is going to like, how she’s suppose to behave around men.”

Learning is the modification of an individual by an experience or environment, she said. For example, When sea slugs feel pain or pleasure, there is a biological response; the same applies for humans, which advertisers have caught onto, she said, with the use of attracting — and distracting — colors.

Memory is a survival mechanism, Rumsey said; the brain’s perception of the world is based on previous observations, and the conscious mind is only alerted to unexpected occurrences, which saves memory space and keeps the most relevant information fresh.

Rumsey stressed that although the brain ages and information is lost, forgetting a name or date is part of the brain’s survival technique: pushing the less pressing information to the back of the mind.

Primitive archival efforts to extend the life of the human memory came from the Sumerians’ early cuneiform tablets used to track goods and services  — ”you’ll be glad to know that the people who invented civilization were actually accountants,” Rumsey said. Their tablets embraced propaganda, poetry and proficiency, she said, which are also embraced by modern technology.

“The Sumerians invented the single most durable form of cordon technology,” she said. “This tablet is 2,300 years old. It survives fires, among all other forms. It’s made of clay, so it gets stronger once fired. You do not want to drop it, and it is not very portable, and it does not have a lot information on it. All technology since then have become more fragile, have held more information and have been harder to actually preserve.”

But are these technologies advantageous, Rumsey asked, quoting technology-curmudgeon Plato, who questioned the morality of memory through the guise of Socrates:

“For this invention will produce forgetfulness in the minds of those who learn to use it, because they will not practice their memory. Their trust in writing, produced by external characters which are no part of themselves, will discourage the use of their own memory within them. You have invented an elixir not of memory, but of reminding; and you offer your pupils the appearance of wisdom, not true wisdom, for they will read many things without instruction and will therefore seem to know many things, when they are for the most part ignorant and hard to get along with, since they are not wise, but only appear wise.”

Rumsey said Socrates — the ironist who knew Plato was writing down everything he said — was wrong in his assumption, as societies that adopted writing flourished. However, she agrees technologies have no morality and that without humans, technology would have no power.

Modern technology’s power is gross, with too much information trapped in digital technology. But this “data deluge” did not amass from the onset of the computer, but rather with the ability to record sounds and images — technology that produced more fragile material to be preserved, she said.

But who decides what is worthy of preservation? Rumsey said it’s the collectors, avid collectors like Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson preserved literature and scientific works that reflected “who Americans are.” His books eventually joined the national collection after the burning of the Capitol Building by British soldiers, when he sold his books to the Library of Congress.

“What this library represents is a commitment across generations of citizens who every other year vote in representatives and senators to fund the Library of Congress and make this access publicly available,” she said. “… So stewardship is a multigenerational commitment. We have to do our part when we are alive and take faith that people coming after us will take care of our legacy.”

Stewardship is also a commitment to preserving an uncorrupted collective memory because it shapes the future.

Rumsey referenced her graduate experience researching 17th-century Russia in 1980s Soviet Union. While in Russia, she was unable to retrieve documents or records from the 1600s, as they “did not exist.” When she discussed this with her friends, they said: “The future is certain; it’s the past that is always changing.”

An example of the Soviet Union’s erasure and doctoring of the past comes in two photos Rumsey displayed on the screen. On the left, a photo of Joseph Stalin with Soviet secret policeman Nikolai Yezhov, who presided over the Great Purge. On the right, the same photo without Nikolai Yezhov, who was virtually erased from Russian history after he fell out of favor, succumbing to the Great Purge himself.

“When you are actually telling a story where you want everyone to know what the outcome is, you actually have to rearrange the past to get the outcomes that you want,” Rumsey said. “Some nations are very good at this, and we like to think in America that we are not this kind of people, but I will tell you we all know that it is in fact possible to … get into the historical record and manipulate it.”

She referenced the 2016 presidential election and the manipulation of facts, sensationalized “fake news” and the current climate surrounding Confederate monuments and symbols in the South. Rumsey called for resilience.

“First, we have to get over ourselves,” she said. “There is something about this country; we have this secular culture that believes time is always moving forward. … The current culture in the U.S. is that the future is coming at us so fast the past couldn’t possibly matter anymore, so who cares? Why does it matter to anybody? But the notion (that) the future, let alone the present, could ever supersede the past is biologically impossible. … The past is more important than ever. The faster we move forward, the more important it is that we have a strong, open access to the past.”

Resilience involves taking responsibility for data, “backing it up” — on the cloud or elsewhere — to pass onto the next generation. Rumsey quoted poet Czesław Miłosz:

“I imagine the earth when I am no more. Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant. Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley. Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born, derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.”

She closed with a charge for the audience.

“I hope you take away this idea that, in the digital realm, we can also do something to take away our own radiance and heights through this new technology if we apply ourselves and our moral sense to how to use this technology, which is much more powerful than we anticipated when it was first invented,” Rumsey said. “It is up to us all.”

After the conclusion of Rumsey’s lecture, Institution Chief of Staff Matt Ewalt opened the Q-and-A by asking if there are dangers to revisiting nostalgia and reliving the past digitally.

“I think nostalgia is an emotional problem,” Rumsey said. “… I think the questions of being trapped inside of nostalgia is not a technological question; it has to do with what a person wants.”

She did acknowledge that being “trapped” in a digital world is dangerous, as it can be addicting.

Ewalt then turned to the audience for the final question; one attendee asked if the distinction between past, present and future was an illusion.

“If we think about what people are going to know about us — what’s going to be important in a hundred years — we have to say with humility, ‘We have no idea,’ ” Rumsey said. “The only thing we can do is record what matters to us.”

Jesse Jackson, with Joan Brown Campbell, to close week on MLK’s legacy, civil rights movement

Photo by Roger J. Coda

Thus far, the Week Eight morning lecture platform and the Interfaith Lecture Series have explored different issues: “The Forgotten” and a remembrance of Martin Luther King Jr., respectively. Fri. Aug. 17, they converge.

At 10:45 a.m. in the Amphitheater, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Joan Brown Campbell will join the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Chautauqua’s vice president of religion, to close both morning and afternoon themes for Week Eight.

Jesse Jackson

Matt Ewalt, Institution chief of staff, said Jackson and Campbell’s conversation is an “opportunity to bring both the morning and afternoon platforms together in a
powerful way.”

“Through the work of Department of Religion leadership — both past and present — we close with the reflections of the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Joan Brown Campbell on King’s legacy and the legacy of the civil rights movement,”
Ewalt said.

Both Jackson and Campbell are longtime proponents of social justice and civil rights.

As a student in the 1960s, Jackson rose to prominence as one of the foremost leaders of the civil rights movement, working closely with King on various initiatives. He is the founder and president of Rainbow PUSH Coalition and the recipient of several awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Joan Brown Cambell

Campbell is a former director of religion at Chautauqua. During her tenure, she established key programs within the Department of Religion, including the Abrahamic Program for Young Adults and designating the 2 p.m. religion lectures as the Interfaith Lecture Series. She was the first woman in that position, as well as the first woman to be associate executive director of the Greater Cleveland Council of Churches; executive director of the U.S. office of the World Council of Churches; and the first ordained woman to assume the position of general secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States. Her many awards include the Walter Cronkite Faith and Freedom Award from the Interfaith Alliance.

Robinson, who will moderate today’s discussion, said Jackson and Campbell each bring a  different perspective of King’s legacy and can speak to the differing impacts of his work.

“One of the ways we honor Dr. King in this 50th anniversary of his assassination is to connect as personally as we can with both his experience, but also the experience of those around him,” Robinson said.

Robinson said he’s interested in hearing Jackson’s thoughts on not only the legacy of the civil rights movement, but also how modern movements like Black Lives Matter compare to the work King did.

“So where does the movement stand now, and how is it different now?” Robinson said. “We can point to some gains, in terms of an emerging black middle class and African-Americans being named to all kinds of rather grand positions, but going back to our theme — what should we have learned that we didn’t? What did we learn momentarily that we actually forgot?”

Robinson said Campbell will speak to the impact King had on her own life, as well as the “indirect impact” King had on various communities he visited. As pastor of the first white Cleveland church King visited, Campbell witnessed the “enormous effect on that community,” Robinson said.

“Just his presence, just the announcement that he was coming, sent people into a flurry of activity,” Robinson said.

Robinson said an important part of today’s conversation will be a point that has echoed throughout the Week Eight interfaith lectures — King was more than his “I Have a Dream” speech or his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” To honor the legacy of the man is to “dwell not merely on how Dr. King died, but also on how he lived,” as Jackson wrote in an April opinion piece for The New York Times.

“We owe it to Dr. King — and to our children and grandchildren — to commemorate the man in full,” Jackson wrote in the Times, “a radical, ecumenical, antiwar, pro-immigrant and scholarly champion of the poor who spent much more time marching and going to jail for liberation and justice than he ever spent dreaming about it.”

ABBA: The Concert to bring groovy pop favorites to Amphitheater stage


Emma Francois & Cat Hofacker

Friday night and the lights are low.

For those Chautauquans looking for a place to go, look no further. ABBA: The Concert is taking the stage at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater.

“ABBA: The Concert is a ridiculously fun show at Chautauqua, and it functions as a gigantic sing-along for so many,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts.

Founded in 1996, ABBA: The Concert “brings one of the greatest pop phenomena back to life,” according to its website. The tribute group has been performing Swedish pop band ABBA’s hits for over two decades to audiences of all ages — not just those “young and sweet.”

“Whether you like it or not, everyone has heard ‘Dancing Queen’ at least once,” Christian Fast, lead guitarist and founding member of ABBA: The Concert, told MetroWeekly.

The original ABBA group released more than eight albums during its 10-year career, and the band’s influence continues to live on.

“It’s pop evergreen,” Fast said to MetroWeekly.

More than 30 years after the group split in 1982, ABBA tributes are alive — and not just in acts like ABBA: The Concert. From the official ABBA fan club, formed in 1986, to the 1991 musical, Mamma Mia!, and its 2008 and 2018 movie adaptations, audiences continue to keep the iconic songs like “SOS” and “Waterloo” alive.

In fact, the 2018 film “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again,” which features a star-studded cast that includes Meryl Streep and Cher, is one of the reasons Moore wanted to have this “top” ABBA tribute band on the Amp stage this summer.

“The movie has driven a lot of increased excitement about the songs,” Moore said, “and I think we are in for a joyful evening of dance and song.”

Tonight, ABBA: The Concert, which has performed in over 30 countries, will sing hit favorites including “Money, Money, Money,” “The Winner Takes All” and “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme.”

Chautauqua last enjoyed ABBA’s hits in 2014, when tribute group Sweden on Arrival opened the season in an “upbeat and uplifting way,” according to a previous Daily article.

Fast told MetroWeekly the band has “fun on stage,” and that the energy and vibe is the “closest thing” audiences will get to the original ABBA.

He also said his favorite song to perform is “When All Is Said and Done.”

“I really love that song,” he said to MetroWeekly. “It’s a nice moment in our concerts.”

Clara Ester reflects on memories with Martin Luther King Jr. in interfaith lecture


Clara Ester will never forget the look on Martin Luther King Jr.’s face as he lay beside her on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. However, even 50 years later, she still can’t manage to describe it without nearly falling apart.

At 2 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15,  in the Hall of Philosophy, Ester gave her lecture, “Spirituality, Advocacy and Activism: an MLK-Inspired Life,” presented in conversation with the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Chautauqua’s vice president of religion.

Ester, a retired deaconess of the United Methodist Church, is also the founder of People United to Advance the Dream. Her lecture was a part of Week Eight’s interfaith theme, “Not to be Forgotten: A Rememberance on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Ester has dealt with the effects of racism her entire life, but it wasn’t always clear to her that was what she was facing.

She grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, in an all-black neighborhood and attended all-black schools and churches.

“I could ride anywhere I wanted on the bus because the bus came to our neighborhoods to take us downtown,” she said.

Once she arrived downtown, she was always dropped off at the back door of her destination.

“We would enter and go down into the basement, never understanding that they had seven to eight floors in that store that we were not allowed to shop in,” she said.

When she was 5 years old, her mom took her and her brother to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to see Lookout Mountain. Because of her Native American ancestry, Ester’s mother could often pass as Caucasian, so when they arrived at Lookout Mountain, the employees said nothing to her. Ester believes this is only because they could not see her and brother at the time.

Once the family was inside the park, Ester and her brother went into the bathroom.

“It looked like a mansion,” she said. “It was spotless, clean, they had tables to change the baby, they had mints on the counter.”

But then the two of them were spotted, and Ester said the entire day changed.

“A gentleman came over to my mom with his nger in her face and said, ‘You know better,’” she said.

Therefore, Ester’s family left the park and went across the street to eat breakfast at a cafe, but Ester’s brother was forced to wait outside.

“My mother would not allow my brother to go into the cafe,” she said. “It was not the thing, in those days, for a young, black male, 7 years old, to look at a white woman.”

Ester said she remembers asking her mom what happened that first day in the park. But all her mother would say was “one day,” she would tell Ester.

Ester’s church pastor was James Morris Lawson Jr., a leader in the civil rights movement who advocated for the use of nonviolent tactics.

“Jim was into everything civil rights,” she said. “He even came back from India and shared with the staff and Dr. King the nonviolent concept.”

Ester said in the wake of the Freedom Rides, her church became a “holding ground” for travelers so they did not have to sleep on the highway at night. Many of them were white, and Ester and many others helped make food for them and their families.

“It allowed you to understand the urgency that some white people had for things that are not correct, for injustices,” Ester said. “There were young couples that wanted to stand up and say this was wrong.”

During her junior year of college, the sanitation strike began. It all started on Feb. 1, 1968.

There was a thunderstorm, but in Memphis, the Public Works Department required all of their black sanitation workers to continue working. That day, two sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, took shelter from the rain in the back of their garbage truck. As Cole and Walker rode in the back of the truck, an electrical switch malfunctioned, the compactor turned on, and they were crushed. The Public Works Department refused to compensate their families.

“What happened from that, from their death, was 1,300 sanitation workers stood up a week later and refused to go to work,” Ester said. “The strike took a very active role in the city. Can you imagine garbage not being picked up around here for a couple months?”

Lawson contacted King about the strike, and King came to speak with the sanitation workers. When he left, he promised he would return soon.

When King returned to Memphis on April 3, 1968, the first thing he was told was that there were threats against his and his wife’s lives. Ester said King declared those threats were meaningless to him.

“He talked about seeing the mountaintop and that we as a people will get there one day,” she said. “He said he was not afraid of anything because his eyes had seen the glory.”

As a way to get involved in the movement, Ester would leave school to prepare food for sanitation workers to take home. On April 4, 1968, a member of the church staff came into the room to invite everyone to get catfish that night.

Ester arrived at the Lorraine Motel grill for catfish, and King was exiting his room.

“He was laughing and talking to everybody and telling Ben Branch to play his favorite song, ‘Precious Lord,’ ” she said.

Then she heard the gunshot.

“I remember seeing people ducking and somebody hollering, ‘Get down, get down,’ ” she said. “The whole time, I was looking up.”

Ester said she doesn’t remember how she got there, but she arrived at the top of the balcony, stepped over King’s body and began to feel for a pulse.

“There was maybe something moving, but it didn’t appear that his stomach was even moving,” she said.

To aid his breathing, Ester unbuckled his belt and pants. She then asked for a towel to press against the wound on the right side of his neck.

The thing Ester said that has stuck with her all of these years later is the expression on King’s face as he lay beside her.

“He talked about the mountaintop and his eyes were open, and he had the most pleasant expression on his face because he was talking and laughing,” Ester said. “So his eyes are open, with a smile on his face. ‘I may not get there with you, but we as a people will get to the mountaintop.’ I will never forget his face.”

Ester said the church staff went to the hospital with King, but before they returned, she knew he was no longer with them.

Ester still does not believe it was solely James Earl Ray who assassinated King.

“I am not making a public statement saying this was a set up, but deep in my heart, how does a man who is in prison escape from prison and have enough money to stalk Dr. King in Atlanta, and then make his way to Memphis without some kind of support?” she said.

Ester said there are still many details that do not add up, and even five decades later, more details are still surfacing.

According to Ester, Lawson met with Ray on many occasions and even performed his jail cell marriage and, later, his funeral service.

At one point, Lawson told Ester that Ray did not do it.

“Will that ever change?” she said. “Who knows. Fifty years later, we are getting information. We are seeing the information the government holds on to.”

Ester said she struggled with hating white people after King’s death, but the lessons he left behind helped her heal.

“That hate started building up in me,” Ester said. “He changed my life because I could see those eyes; I could see them looking toward those pearly gates and saying we are going to get there and realizing we couldn’t get there through hate. How can I hate people and make this world any better?”

Apologizing for her previous animosity toward white people, Ester told the audience that she wants to work on creating a better world together, regardless of differences.

“We have to get busy building relationships, quicker and faster,” she said. “I have to love everybody in this room before I leave Saturday morning to start making a difference in this world. It has to be personal. Together, if we work together, we can change and make this world better.”

Kent State President Beverly Warren discusses lasting impact of May 4 shootings

  • President of Kent State University Beverly J. Warren delivers her lecture "Kent State Beyond the Shootings: Journey of the Wounded Healer" during the Morning Lecture, Wednesday, August 15, 2018, in the Amphitheater. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Kent State University is a “wounded healer,” said President Beverly J. Warren.

Warren discussed the remembering, reflecting and redefining of the May 4, 1970, shootings at her 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Wed., Aug. 15, in the Amphitheater, marking the first time a Kent State president has publicly addressed the tragedy outside of Kent’s campus.

Kent State University is located in Kent, Ohio, in the northeastern corner of the state. With more than 39,000 enrolled students across its main and seven satellite locations, Kent State is highly ranked in the Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report. Warren has served as president since 2014.

Her lecture, titled, “Kent State Beyond the Shootings: Journey of the Wounded Healer” continued Week Eight’s theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century.”

“Like the students we lost, Kent State suffered a terrible, indelible wound,” Warren said. “Since 1970, we have seen every emotion on the spectrum, from rage and despair to, perhaps unaccountably, serenity. Frankly, we have not always honored all those honest reactions. We have seen the impulse to erase history, to move along. We have seen the high price of remaining chained forever to one terrible minute.”

Warren recounted the events of May 4, 1970, through the experience of then-freshman Dean Kahler, whose curiosity about the anti-Vietnam War rallies led to a life of consequence.

National attention turned to college campuses across the country on May 1, 1970, when protests erupted in reaction to the United State’s sudden invasion of Cambodia. Kent State at first experienced mild, peaceful protests, Warren said, but May 1 ended in vandalism, and by May 2, the ROTC building was set ablaze. By then, Ohio Gov. Jim Rhodes mobilized 850 members of the Ohio National Guard, vowing to restore law and order to Kent State’s campus by “any means necessary.” By the morning of May 4, the protesters numbered in the hundreds, Warren said.

“There was tension,” she said. “Rocks were thrown; tear gas canisters were fired, picked up by protesters and thrown back. There was angry shouting. And around noon, it was time for the change of classes, and many more students came out (to) the Commons — perhaps 1,500 more. Some were curious to just see what was happening on their campus, many were merely passing by or heading for lunch. Dean Kahler would remember thinking, ‘I expected a bigger protest.’ ”

At 12:24 p.m., 67 gunshots pierced the Commons, killing four students: Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, William Schroeder and Sandra Lee Scheuer. Kahler was 300 feet from the National Guard, Warren said. He was among nine wounded, shot in the lower back. Now paralyzed from the waist down, his steps toward the Commons that day would be his last.

The year 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shootings, and while Warren’s institution is working to remember, it is also looking to move forward — “(stewarding) the story of May 4, 1970, for a new century as a moment in time and a call to action,” beginning with examining individuals’ relationship to the event.

This starts with the question, “Where were you?” she said. Although Warren remembers hearing about the Kent State shooting as a senior at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the majority of its current student body wasn’t born during Vietnam, and it is likely their parents might not remember the 1970s. By 2045 — the 75th anniversary of the shootings — most of the baby boomers will have died, along with their memories of the late 20th century.

“As the date recedes into history and the events grow less vivid in our communal memory, we have to do more than ask ‘Where were you?’ ” Warren said. “If we don’t do more, we risk allowing May 4 to become one more dusty, abstract date in history. We are determined to avoid that. We have to keep it relevant, make it mean more, put our wound to work.”

However, Warren’s mission to “remember and renew” the lessons of May 4 was not the charge of her predecessors; following the massacre, the Kent community grappled with emotional, physical and financial pain. In 1975, President Glenn Olds motioned to end official commemorations but, Warren said, no one forgot the “the drumming, four dead in Ohio,” — a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young refrain, which cut through America that summer.

This was the genesis of the “May 4th Task Force,” a group that took over the job of remembering; their efforts continue to this day with an annual candlelight vigil at the site of the shootings after walking the demonstrators’ path. The university also created the May 4 Visitors Center devoted to the history and impact of the shootings, as well as commemorating the site of the protest as a historic landmark.

Such efforts pay off in two “insights,” Warren said.

The first: information surrounding the Kent State shootings is incomplete, despite fierce or conscientious remembrance; Warren acknowledged the narrative is messy, with dozens of conflicting accounts, gray areas and no conclusion of who ordered the gunfire.

The second: the wound is not yet healed — an open wound for victims, families, the community and the campus, in part because of the messy narrative and lack of closure. Kent State’s reflection and pain is relevant in the current political climate, Warren said.

“One way to view the shootings is as a terrible product of missed signals and failed communication,” she said. “That doubles as a fair description of the environment we find ourselves in today, where our leaders talk past one another, … outrage is the norm, insults and mockery blow away civility and respect. As we learn to live with the wound of May 4, 1970, we at Kent State strive for different values.”

Examples of Kent State’s values, Warren said, include its School of Peace and Conflict Studies; a recent Second Amendment protest where students brought guns on campus and engaged in peaceful discussions with students, faculty and the community; and its Wick Poetry Center, whose Traveling Stanzas exhibit is in residence at Chautauqua Institution.

Warren encouraged the audience to reflect on the Kent State shooting through the Poetry Makerspace located in the Colonnade.

But after reflection, how does Kent State move forward to “renewal”?

Warren hopes May 4, 2020, will be a day of renewal for the campus and the country through Kent State’s plan to distribute interactive mobile museum installations, as well as middle and high school teaching materials that “honor the past and renew the future.”

Kahler is a man renewed, she said. After being shot in the back and losing the ability to walk, Kahler was grateful to be alive. He finished his degree, pursued a life in politics and was elected to public office, where he lobbied for wheelchair accessibility. His — and the energy of survivors who found strength in the atrocity — is the energy Warren wants to grow from May 4, 1970, and continue through generations of students.

Quoting Mary Oliver’s “The Summer Day,” she said: “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

“We choose to remember, reflect and renew,” Warren said. “We will remember vividly, but not live in the past. We will honor all emotions and perspectives that forever will resound around us, but be consumed no more by grief or anger. And we will raise our voices using lessons of May 4, 50 years ago, to convene people, heal conflict and create a more inclusive and more peaceful future. If we do that, we and Kent State will be transformed. So that then is our plan for using our history and making it forever meaningful and making the most out of our wild and precious lives.”

After the conclusion of Warren’s lecture, Emily Morris, vice president of marketing and communications and chief brand officer, opened the Q-and-A by asking how the relationship between Kent State and the City of Kent has evolved since May 4, 1970.

“It was very hard for the community members of Kent,” Warren said. “Many were resentful at the time, and perhaps rightfully so, but what has happened over time is we have tried to bring down fences and the differences that divide us, and we’ve really worked to develop a partnership that shows that we are better together than we would be as separate and isolated institutions.”

Morris then asked how the National Guard’s voices are represented in Kent’s history, specifically the May 4 Visitors Center.

“I think what we’ve tried to do with the May 4 Visitors Center and with our language and our actions, we’ve tried to have all voices heard,” Warren said. “As I said, guardsmen cannot be painted in the same stroke any more than the Kent State students and protesters can be painted with a general stroke. And so it’s a complex matter of dealing with both sides and perspectives and trying to honor them.”

Violinist Joshua Bell returns to the Amp, performing “The Red Violin” with CSO under Michael Stern’s baton


In January 2007, world famous violinist Joshua Bell — casually dressed in jeans and a baseball cap — played six classical pieces in Washington, D.C.,’s L’enfant Plaza for a less-than-captive audience. It was part of a social experiment conducted by The Washington Post, designed to see who, if anyone, would stop and recognize the musician on their morning commute to work.

For his second performance at Chautauqua, Bell — in a tuxedo — will be impossible to miss.

Joshua Bell

This summer, Bell has embarked on a national tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of “The Red Violin.” Under the baton of Michael Stern, Bell will take center stage as soloist for a live performance of the film with Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 16, in the Amphitheater.

“The Red Violin” shows the journey of an instrument from its 1681 creation in Cremona, Italy, to its present-day discovery in Montreal, Canada, by an appraiser, played by Samuel L. Jackson. Over the course of the film, the titular violin travels across four continents, leaving a mysterious impact on its many owners.

Michael Stern

The film, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Score, numerous Genie and Jutra awards, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film, is rated R for some sexuality, and includes brief nudity.

Bell, who recorded the 1998 film’s soundtrack, said that the making of “The Red Violin” differed from most films, as the score was written before the actors ever arrived on set.

“This film is unusual because most films, you do the music after the film is done,” Bell said in an interview with The Violin Channel. “We did a lot of the music beforehand, and then the actors had to match what I had done.”

Bell credited the film’s popularity to composer John Corigliano’s score, which balances many musical styles.

“There aren’t a lot of composers who can pull off this idea,” Bell told The Violin Channel. “It’s amazing. There’s classic, Baroque and avant-garde, and (Corigliano is) able to tie it all in these seven chords.”

Stern said that performing alongside a film live presents a challenge to musicians, as they are unable to take many creative liberties with the film’s strict pacing.

“We have flexibility in performance and then we want to breathe, but the celluloid is moving and you’ve got to hit your mark,” Stern told The Violin Channel. “You have to find a way to actually be creative and free and also accurate.”

Stern said “The Red Violin” shows how an instrument’s value stems from its potential and not its outward appearance.

“The emotional life of the instrument is not the value itself, but what it can become,” Stern told The Violin Channel.

Bell’s instrument of choice is a 300-year-old violin called the “Gibson ex-Huberman Stradivarius.”

It was twice stolen from its previous owner, Bronislaw Huberman, and was sold to Bell for $4 million.

Born in Bloomington, Indiana, Bell began playing violin at the age of 4 after his mother caught him plucking music on stretched rubber bands.

After making his solo debut with Philadelphia Orchestra at 14, Bell has since gone on to record over 40 albums and is the subject of an HBO documentary.

Bell previously performed with the CSO in 2016, sharing the Amp stage with trumpeter Chris Botti.

Vice President of Performing and Visual Arts Deborah Sunya Moore said she is excited for Chautauquans to hear Bell play with the CSO again, adding that “The Red Violin” directly relates to Week Eight’s theme.

“Being a part of the film’s 20th anniversary tour is an honor and a thrill. François Girard’s film is a perfect match for our week on the forgotten as we follow the violin through countries, families and lives.”

Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president, performing and visual arts

“I hope that many will come to see Joshua’s spectacular performance with our Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra,” Moore said.

Writer, scholar Abby Smith Rumsey to talk on archiving digital memory in the modern era


When Abby Smith Rumsey started working at the Library of Congress, she was worried about the amount of information being produced digitally.

“I was very aware that inside the library, people who knew about the technology and librarians and archivists understood that there was this avalanche coming of digital data that no one knew how to preserve and, in fact, this occurred very quickly,” said Rumsey, who worked with the Library of Congress’ National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program. “ … Over time, I became more reassured that more people were aware of this — that more technology could solve some of the problems of preserving.”

Abby Smith Rumsey

Wanting to document that worry and ways to deal with it in the future led Rumsey to write When We Are No More: How Digital Memory Is Shaping Our Future. Rumsey will give the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Thurs., Aug. 16, in the Amphitheater as part of Week Eight’s theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century.”

During her lecture, Rumsey will touch both on the fundamentals of memory and the artificial memory humans have created.

“As far as we know, no other species records and accumulates information and knowledge the way we do,” Rumsey said. “It’s actually one of the keys to our success as a species. Why we are spread across the planet is because we actually can accumulate knowledge and share it with other generations — and now with digital, across time and space.”

Now with social media and the 24-hour news cycle, people have been exposed to an information overload, but Rumsey said the world experienced a similar flood of information in the 1800s. When people created the technology to record sound, they couldn’t just hold up an LP and be able to hear what was on the disc; they needed a machine. The same goes for digital memory, Rumsey said.

The concept behind digital archiving is that there is an endless realm in which people can save information, but it’s difficult to know long-term value in the digital era, she said.

Now, Rumsey said, there is one question that is repeatedly asked: What should we save?

“There is very, very little surprises and hard lessons in the digital realm that humans have not experienced before,” Rumsey said. “We’ve always been able to solve the problems of how to manage too much information, how to organize it in such a way that we can find it and that, like today and the past, sometimes we invent technologies to solve one problem, then create an entirely new set of problems that we hadn’t anticipated.”

Rumsey spent time in Soviet-era Russia researching the country during the 17th century. She encountered some documents that had been made inaccessible by the Soviet government, and said it hadn’t occurred to her that the political happenings of tsarist Russia could warrant censorship during the Soviet era.

Rumsey knew it was routine for people in charge of totalitarian regimes, like that in Soviet Russia, to erase people in photographs or censor documents. That’s how leaders controlled the population. Even when people tamper with documents, that gives insight into society of the time, Rumsey said.

With digital memory, she said it’s harder to discern what has been manipulated, but that’s only because the technology to figure it out hasn’t been developed yet.

“It’s not as if this hasn’t happened before. People have solved these problems before,” Rumsey said. “People used to forge papers all the time until it became just a matter of vital importance to the state and other people that forgeries be detected. It will be the case with digital.”

Rumsey said there is no right answer to what people should forget or remember in the digital age because memories change.

“How we choose to remember people is fluid. It will change with time, and we are in charge of it. It’s we who remember,” Rumsey said. “We think our machines remember for us, but we are the ones who remember things. Machines don’t erase the past; humans erase the past, and they do it all the time.”

Chautauqua Cinema to show ‘Fire in the Heartland’ documentary on Kent protests, shootings


On May 4, 1970, Thomas Grace was attending classes at Kent State University. Anti-war protests were scheduled to continue on the campus for the fourth day in response to the United States’ invasion of Cambodia.

Grace was asked not to attend by his then-girlfriend, whose brother had died in Vietnam. Grace wasn’t going to go to the protests that afternoon until someone in his class stood up and encouraged everyone to attend. Grace had been active in the anti-war movement up to this point, so why should he back off now?

The walk to the Commons, the usual gathering place for protests on campus, was only five minutes. Within minutes of Grace’s arrival, the National Guard announced that everyone needed to disperse. Grace found his roommates, and stood his ground. That’s when the tear gas was

The National Guard herded the activists up and down one of the hills to the practice football field. Students started shouting and throwing rocks at the National Guardsmen. Grace was about 200 feet away when he heard it.

“You could hear an M-1 rifle being shot,” Grace said.

Grace was knocked off his feet. He had been shot in his left heel. He tried to sit up to assess the injuries, but his roommate, who was about 20 feet away from him, told him to stay down as bullets rained over them.

Four people died that day, nine more were injured, and Grace has dedicated his life to telling the history related to the incident.

Grace was a key historian and screenwriter for the documentary film “Fire in the Heartland: Kent State, May 4, and Student Protest in America,” which will be shown at 2:45 p.m. Wed., Aug. 15, at the Chautauqua Cinema. After the screening, there will be a panel discussion in which Grace will speak.

At 10:45 a.m. Wed., Aug. 15, Kent State President Beverly Warren will present the morning lecture, incorporating the Week Eight theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century.” Warren’s address will be the most important speech given by a Kent State president since the rallies in 1970, Grace said.

“For the first 20 years, (Kent State administrators) did everything to bury (the memory of the shootings),” Grace said, “and now they have moved toward embracing it.”

“Fire in the Heartland” acts a “companion film” to Grace’s book, Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties. Instead of setting the film on the day of the Kent State shooting, the movie and the book go back to the origins of protesting at the university, leading up to the events of May 4, 1970.

In the film, Grace provides personal testimony, as well as the history behind student activism at the university.

Grace didn’t want to write a memoir about the Kent State shooting, so he decided to talk about the political repercussions of the events and provide background on the history of protesting. Grace will speak about his book at 1 p.m. Wed. Aug. 15, in Smith Memorial Library.

The movie includes more than 20 voices of people who lived through that era and participated in the social and political movements of the ’60s and ’70s.

Grace and director Daniel Miller have screened “Fire in the Heartland” in many locations. Journalist Carl Francis Penders was doing a story about Kent State when he met Grace. Penders and Grace are both from Buffalo, and Penders helped screen the film at Burchfield Penney Art Center.

Penders said “Fire in the Heartland” is a film that fits with Chautauqua, which is why he and Grace decided to screen the movie here.

“It fits the theme of the week,” Penders said, “and it feels like the kind of thing that fits Chautauqua.”

David Grann discusses forgotten history through Osage murders


A panoramic photo, a missing panel and a plot against a Native American tribe — the elements of a forgotten, rather removed, piece of American history.

In 2012, The New Yorker staffer David Grann’s interest piqued after visiting the Osage Nation Museum, when he first saw a seemingly innocent, 1920s image of Osage and white settlers gathered together; a panel was discretely removed. When asked why it was removed, the director shuddered. It was the “devil,” she said.

Her terror sparked Grann’s most recent book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, an account of sinister injustice in early 20th-century America. His first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, was a 2010 Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection.

Grann summarized Killers of the Flower Moon at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Tuesday, Aug. 14, in the Amphitheater, continuing Week Eight’s theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century.”

The Osage’s history is “tangled,” he said; they owned territory stretching from Missouri to the edge of the Rocky Mountains until the early 19th century when, within a few decades, the United States government forced the secession of over 100 million acres of land from the people.

Confined to a reservation in Kansas, the Osage people fell under siege by white settlers looking to claim land during westward expansion in the 1860s; one of those settlers was Laura Ingalls Wilder, Grann said; Wilder’s father said in Little House on the Prairie: “white people are going to settle all this country, and we get the best land because we get there first and take our pick.”

The “squatters” became more aggressive, Grann said, massacring Osage people. By the 1870s, the Osage, in the most dire of straits, sold their land to the government and relocated to rocky, infertile land in Oklahoma. In 1906, the United States government forced “allotment” — distribution of land parcels to Native Americans — onto the Osage. When negotiating with the government, the Osage added a clause to their contract: “We shall maintain all the subsurface rights, mineral rights to our land.”

“Nobody thought the Osage were sitting upon a fortune,” Grann said. “ … And the Osage very shrewdly managed to hold on to this last bit of their territory — a realm that they could not even see. … They had become the world’s first underground reservation.”

They were indeed sitting on a fortune, he said. The Osage settled on oil-rich land, striking metaphorical gold with every tap. In 1923 alone, Grann said, they grossed $400 million, making them the wealthiest people per capita in the world.

“As the Osage’s wealth increased, it provoked increasing alarm across the country from whites,” he said. “The U.S. Congress went so far as to pass legislation requiring many Osage to have white guardians to manage their fortunes. … This system of passing legislation requiring guardians, it was not abstractly racist — it was literally racist.”

After the introduction of such systems, the Osage suspiciously began to succumb to mysterious circumstances, specifically the family of Mollie Burkhart, who were well-endowed from “headrights” — oil production royalties allocated during allotment.

“One night in 1925, (Mollie) had a party at her house, and her older sister Anna attended,” Grann said. “Anna left the party that evening, and she disappeared. … About a week later, Anna was found in a ravine with a bullet in the back of the head. It was the first sign that her family had become a prime target of this conspiracy.”

Within days, Burkhart’s mother grew ill; within two months she stopped breathing, he said. Evidence indicated poisoning.

“Within the span of two months, Mollie had lost her older sister … and her mother,” Grann said. “ … One night, at 3 a.m., Mollie heard a loud explosion. She got up, and went to the window and looked out. And there in the distance, she could see an orange fireball rising into the sky. It looked as if the sun had burst violently into the night.”

It was the house of Burkhart’s younger sister, who moved closer to town in fear of the killings. She, her husband and their live-in housekeeper were killed.

Burkhart turned to cattle baron, reported “king of Osage Hills” and deputy-sheriff William Hale — the uncle of her husband, Ernest Burkhart, Mollie Burkhart’s ex-chauffeur and her legal financial guardian — for help. Law enforcement at the time, Grann said, was extremely corrupt; local authorities did not pursue investigations into the systemic, targeted murders. Hale issued rewards for information, going as far as to hire private detectives.

With no leads and no results, the Osage Tribal Council pleaded for federal authorities to step in. The case was taken up by an “obscure” branch: The Bureau of Investigation, modernly known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bureau, under the director of J. Edgar Hoover, enlisted field agent Tom White for the Osage murder investigation.

White put together a ragtag team of undercover agents who were deployed in Osage County. They posed as cattlemen and insurance salesmen — who sold actual insurance policies, Grann said.

“The investigations had many twists and turns,” he said. “It was less like a criminal investigation and more an espionage case. The agents’ reports were being leaked out to the bad guys. They were being followed. … Ultimately, what you need to know is they followed the money.”

The agents traced Burkhart’s headrights, linking it back those who profited from the murders.

“Now, headrights cannot be bought and sold. They can only be inherited,” Grann said. “ … Ultimately, it led them to a man who Mollie not only knew, but who she knew intimately. It led them to her husband, Ernest. The money had been funneled from each of these killings in the family to Mollie’s accounts, which where managed and controlled by Ernest, who was her guardian. Once more, these crimes and this scheme had been hatched by none other than William Hale, the king of the Osage Hills, the reported man of law and order.”

Grann quoted Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar to summarize this tale of most intimate betrayal: “Where wilt thou find a cavern dark enough to mask thy monstrous visage? Seek none, conspiracy. Hide it in smiles and affability.”

To close, Grann revealed the missing panel from the photo — the genesis of his book. The “devil” the museum director quivered at the thought of was Hale, standing amid Osage people, an innocent smirk swiped across his face with chapeau and glasses in tow.

“The Osage have removed that photograph, not to forget what had happened, but because they can’t forget,” he said.  “And so many Americans — I include myself among them — have never learned about this history or had forgotten it.

“We have excised it from our conscience.”

After the conclusion of Grann’s lecture, Institution Chief of Staff Matt Ewalt opened the Q-and-A by asking how the Osage Nation has responded to the publication of Killers of the Flower Moon.

Grann said sharing this history and making it part of common consciousness is important to the Osage. Unfortunately, many of the cases remain unsolved due to corruption in local law enforcement and conspiracies. What Grann realized through writing Killers of the Flower Moon is that documenting injustices cannot bring justice, but it can bring accountability.

Ewalt then turned to the audience for questions; “what are the complications of (Grann) as a white man telling this story,” one attendee asked.

“All reporting is difficult,” Grann said. “The most important thing is your sense that you’re judicious, you’re fair and you are, as best as possible, truthful.”

To close the lecture, Ewalt asked how Grann’s work with the Osage will stay with him.

“When I began this story … photographs became integral to the project in a way that I had never really used before because I saw this as a working documentation, a work of chasing ghosts, a work of documenting every little bit I could,” Grann said. “ … I kept those photographs on a wall in my office, and for me that was always what the project was about, a reminder of what it was about, and that will always stay with me.”

Rhiannon Giddens, Francesco Turrisi to explore ‘The Forgotten’ through music, origins of its influence


Week Eight’s theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century,” provides a platform for lecturers and performers who have dedicated their lives to uncovering the forgotten pieces of history. One of them is roots music singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens.

At 8:15 p.m. Wed., Aug. 15, in the Amphitheater, Giddens will perform with jazz musician Francesco Turrisi in a show that will feature Giddens on the viola, violin and minstrel banjo and Turrisi on the piano, cello banjo, accordion, hand drums and tamborello.

Giddens said that working with Turrisi seemed like a natural fit because of the way both musicians cover pieces of music that are often forgotten or hidden. Giddens’ work often comments on how African-American music informed and influenced current American music, and Turrisi’s work explores the roots of southern Italian and Mediterranean music in current European music.

“We like to explore the connections between particularly Southern Italy, because (Turrisi’s) family is Sicilian, with early Italian and older banjo styles from America,” Giddens said. “There are some unexpected connections that we found, so we have been building on that. We found a lot that go between what I do and what he does.”

Formally the lead singer, violinist and banjo player of the musical group called the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens has been interested in exploring African influences in American music since she began working with roots music. She was awarded the 2017 MacArthur “Genius” Grant for her work reclaiming the African influence in American music.

Turrisi is the leader and founder of “The Taquín Experiments,” a contemporary jazz ensemble that works with world and early music. He has released six critically-acclaimed albums through Diatribe Records and his own record label, Taquin Records.

The pair began working together in December, where Giddens said they “started exploring musically.”

Giddens performed a solo show last season in the Amphitheater and said she is excited to perform in front of the Chautauqua audience again.

“Francesco and I, this is our second American show and fifth or sixth show overall,” she said. “Any time you have a new project, it’s a little bit nerve-wracking, but the responses we have gotten are really good. We’re excited because the audience here is a listening audience, and we have interesting stories to tell about the musical connections. I think it’s a perfect fit.”

Giddens and Turrisi are not just here to perform tonight. They are in residence at the Institution for the week, during which time they are working with the Nashville Ballet, the company’s artistic director, Paul Vasterling, and poet Caroline Randall Williams to create a ballet performance set to Giddens’ music and based upon Williams’ poem “Lucy Negro, Redux.” The project explores the idea that Shakespeare’s “Dark Lady,” who appears in many of his sonnets, was actually an African-American woman.

“I think when you go back and you read those sonnets again with that in mind, you’re like, ‘Oh my god, how could you think anything different?’ ” Giddens said.

Giddens said that so far, the project has been going well. Commissioned by the Nashville Ballet, it is set to premiere in February.

“It’s actually working out really well considering that the poetry is a mixture as well. It seems to be syncing up really well,” Giddens said.

The show in February will feature 12 dancers from Nashville Ballet in the chorus and three main dancers, who will play Lucy, Shakespeare and the Fair Youth.

“It’s a triangle, and you have different duets within that triangle, and then you have, at the end, all of them together,” Giddens said. “It’s very exciting because it means it’s very portable, and we might be able to do it elsewhere.”

Giddens said that she has enjoyed having time to workshop in the same physical space as the Nashville Ballet and Turrisi.

“It’s great to have an opportunity to be somewhere for a few days and kind of dig in,” she said.

Kent State President Beverly Warren to speak on lessons from May 4, 1970, shooting


On May 4, 1970, members of the National Guard opened fire on a group of Kent State University students protesting the Vietnam War. Four were killed, and nine were injured.

On April 27, 2018, Kent State students staged an on-campus demonstration with various firearms in support of open-carry gun laws. One might have expected “tense confrontations,” said Beverly Warren, president of Kent State. What happened instead was “meaningful conversations.”

Beverly Warren

“The May 4 shootings still speak to us about the dangers of polarization,” Warren said, “the price we pay for shouting at one another in place of civil discourse.”

At 10:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15, in the Amphitheater, Warren will give her lecture, “Kent State Beyond the Shootings: Journey of the Wounded Healer.” Her speech, which marks the first time a Kent State president has spoken publicly about May 4 outside of Kent’s campus, is part of the Week Eight theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the
21st Century.”

Her topic is a bit of both. As the 50th anniversary of the Kent State shooting approaches, Warren and others at the university have used the event to frame “Kent State’s unique answer to a common challenge: how do we keep history relevant?”

The answer, which Warren will share with Chautauquans, involves how Kent State “use(s) our history to drive positive change in the world.”

That journey has led the university to undertake a number of initiatives to reflect on and learn from the May 4 shooting. In addition to an annual commemoration of the date, a visitors center was built in 2013 to host exhibits that “tell the story of the decade leading up to May 4, 1970, the events of that day, the aftermath and the historical impact,” according to the center’s website. The site of the shooting was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2016. Plans for the 50th anniversary include a series of events throughout the 2019-2020 academic year.

“For many members of the Kent State family — including me — the events of May 4, 1970, remain a vivid and emotional memory,” Warren said in a June press release. “ … As we honor and remember the lives lost and those lives forever changed, we reflect on the lessons of May 4 and renew our commitment to lift our collective voices to affect positive change.”

Since taking the helm at Kent State in 2014, Warren has launched a six-year plan that includes a “global exploration” of the lessons learned from the incident.

Although it was not understood at the time, Warren said many now consider the Kent State shooting to be the “pivot point that turned mainstream American public opinion against the Vietnam War once and for all.” The incident was a spark that ignited similar events at universities across the country — such as the nearby Ohio University, where National Guardsmen were also summoned on May 15, 1970. The school closed for the remainder of spring quarter.

Despite that importance, there are many questions about May 4, 1970, that are still unresolved.

“Who gave the order to open fire? Why did those rifles have live ammunition?” Warren said. “We have to make peace with a certain lack of closure.”

This presents another challenge, Warren said. Although the lessons of the shooting have “never been more useful,” the majority of Americans now were not alive to witness it.

“The shootings are embedded in our history,” she said. “It is vital for Kent State to keep the memory alive … Sharing the painful lessons of May 4 is a vital path to healing and renewal.”

U.S. Holocaust Museum Director Sara Bloomfield talks power of narrative in memory



Sara J. Bloomfield spoke to collective and individual memory in relation to history at the 10:45 a.m. morning lecture Monday, Aug. 13, in the Amphitheater, opening Week Eight’s theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century.”

“Memory is important, necessary, complicated,” Bloomfield said. “It’s a very powerful force that speaks to our deepest notions, and its power is insufficiently understood. The world is  complex, messy, mysterious, evolving and often cruel. We all use narratives to create meaning and help us navigate this world. Narratives give order to disorder. … Memory is a form of narrative, a way we package the past in order to ease the present and make it more useful for the future.”

As director of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., Bloomfield is a curator of such memory; her institution raises awareness, deepens understanding of the Holocaust’s lessons, and advances genocide prevention efforts. She joined the museum in 1986, holding a number of positions prior to director.

Bloomfield paraphrased Holocaust survivor Cecilie Klein-Pollack, who documented her story for the museum. Klein-Pollack said ordinary, mundane memories associated with normal, mundane objects became impossible following the genocide of over 6 million European Jews:

“If anybody comes to the museum and will see the mementos we left behind, whether it’s a little shoe, whether it’s a letter, whether it’s a torn prayer book, remember these are our precious valuables. Remember that from these books, children studied; from these prayer books, our families chanted their prayers and remember them when we are gone. And remember the agony of the survivors, who had to live with these memories and could never touch them — could never have them back.”

Bloomfield said memory is practiced in a variety of ways: monuments, museums and religion. It is exercised through religion by recounting Biblical or spiritual events like the celebration of Passover, when the Jewish people were liberated from slavery in Egypt, or Easter, when Christians recognize the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Museums serve as vehicles for memory; each institution honors its history in unique ways, she said. The Smithsonian Institution’s 1994 exhibition on the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber airplane known for dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, was met with backlash. Critics said the exhibit was sympathetic to the Japanese and did not distinctly explain the justification for the bombing, nor did it honor fallen American soldiers.

Critics expected a display that reflected their memories of WWII, Bloomfield said; curators wanted to honor those memories while accurately portraying history.  

Bloomfield, who was consulted on the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, said she opposed the memorial’s construction because it was too recent. The Sept. 11 memorial opened 10 years after the tragedy; the museum followed three years later. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, comparatively, opened five decades after WWII.

“If the Holocaust Museum had opened in 1958 rather than 1993,” Bloomfield said, “I suspect it would have been a very different institution, shaped by the freshness of the survivors’ memories from the old country, the need of the survivors to rebuild their shattered lives in a new country and America’s focus on the Cold War.”

A difficult issue for the Sept. 11 memorial was the inclusion of the perpetrators, she said, which the museum has limited to one section. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is also selective in its commentary, but the museum asks a greater question — “What made the Holocaust possible in an advanced, educated nation with a democratic constitution, a rule of law and freedom of speech?”

The National Museum of African American History and Culture offers a unique perspective on the role of memorials in history; the museum abstained from using the term “memorial” in its description, instead opting for a “contemplative court” experience so visitors can reflect on its documentation of African-Americans’ lives throughout centuries, including exhibitions on slavery and the civil rights movement.

Bloomfield reflected on the role of monuments in the Civil War, quoting author and historian Drew Gilpin Faust:

“A war about union, citizenship, freedom and human dignity required that the government attend to the needs of those who had died in its service. … National cemeteries, pensions and records that preserved names and identities involved a dramatically new understanding of the relationship of the citizen and the state. … By the end of the (19th) century, the dead had become the vehicle for a unifying national project of memorialization. Civil War death … belonged to the whole nation. The dead became the focus of an imagined national community for the reunited states.”

By the end of the Civil War, Bloomfield said, Confederate General Robert E. Lee denounced the erection of war memorials and monuments, so as “not to keep open the sores of the war,” but many in the South never fully embraced his call.

President Ulysses Grant later acknowledged the South’s unwillingness to forget the war, Bloomfield said, amid growing nationalism in Europe and mass immigration, which revitalized racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in the United States; between 1905 and 1915, more Confederate statues were commissioned than any other point in history.

European nationalism eventually led to World War I, Bloomfield said.

“German leaders hid the truth of the war from their citizens, which meant that a population who — in 1914, full of national pride and unity, expected a glorious victory — in 1918 was suddenly presented with a very different reality: defeat, division, humiliation,” Bloomfield said. “The trauma of the war and (the Treaty of Versailles) would feed a new narrative that appealed not only to nationalists, but also to the middle classes.”

Following WWI, Adolf Hitler built on deeply rooted xenophobia with intense Nazi propaganda.

“All nations use memory and history to articulate and reaffirm their values, identity and compass,” Bloomfield said. “ … Totalitarian ideology depends on total control of national memory in support of their singular idea that explains and ultimately fixes all human problems. For the Nazis, it was race; for the communists, it was class; and for Islamic fundamentalists, it’s religion.”

The Soviet Union controlled memories of WWII, Bloomfield said, by denying collaborating with Nazis in the division of Poland; investing in monuments and museums to promote Soviet victory; and denying the murder of thousands of Poles. Instead, the Soviet Union presented the war as a “titanic struggle between fascism and communism,” she said.

Lithuania dedicated a museum to the Holocaust and the fall of communism — two events the country perceived as equal. Ninety percent of Lithuania’s Jewish population was killed in the Holocaust at the complicity of many Lithuanians. Bloomfield played the testimony of a 20th-century Lithuanian mass executioner.

In the video, the man described leading Lithuanian Jews to mass graves and shooting them one bullet at a time. He described parents’ attempts to protect their children, only to be executed themselves; the ex-militant said it was humane to kill the parents so they wouldn’t experience the trauma of their child dying in their arms. When asked if he told his children and family about his crimes after the war, the man said “no,” that it was “shameful and scary” to tell them.

Bloomfield shared a letter from a 19-year-old Jewish man who buried a letter among treasures in the Warsaw Ghetto amidst impending deportation. It read:

“What we were unable to cry and shriek out to the world, we buried in the ground. … I would love to see the moment in which the great treasure will be dug up and scream the truth at the world, so the world may know all. … We may be the fathers, the teachers, the educators of the future, … but no, we shall certainly not live to see it, and therefore I write my last will: May the treasure fall into good hands, may it last into better times, may it alarm and alert the world to what happened. We may now die in peace. We fulfilled our mission. May history attest for us.”

Even threatened by death, the people of Warsaw left remnants of themselves and their cultures for the future; they saw themselves as part of history’s continuity, Bloomfield said. To close, she left the audience with a question:

“What are we as individuals and communities doing to ensure that continuity so that future generations can responsibly handle the obligations and challenges, as well as the complexity and power of history and memory?”

After the conclusion of Bloomfield’s lecture, Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill opened the Q-and-A by asking how the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will continue to tell its story without living survivors of the Holocaust.

Bloomfield said the museum is aggressively collecting testimonies from survivors as well as Nazi sympathizers and officers, but “you can’t replace survivors.”

Hill then turned to Twitter: the question asked how to use museums to teach accountability.

“I believe accountability is just one part of it, but remembering history and education have to be a part of accountability,” Bloomfield said.

CSO’s final “Into the Music” concert to feature works of Mendelssohn, Elgar, and Schubert with conductor New, cellist Moser


Cellist Johannes Moser’s approach to music sometimes resembles that of an athlete’s approach to sport. For example, when preparing for performances, Moser follows a diet — albeit not a food-related one.

“When learning I’m preparing a classical piece that has been recorded, I don’t listen to recordings of it for a certain amount of time,” Moser said. “I put myself on a musical diet. I listen to other works of the composer, but works that were written for other instruments.”

Johannes Moser

It follows, then, that Moser has probably not listened to Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, op. 85, in a while.

At 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, in the Amphitheater, Moser will join the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and conductor Gemma New for Elgar’s concerto, and the orchestra sans soloist will perform Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 in B- flat major and Mendelssohn’s The Hebrides Overture, op. 26, “Fingal’s Cave.”

The concert is the third installment in the CSO’s “Into the Music” series, which means the concert will include a discussion of the music and no intermission.

The musical diet, Moser said, allows him to craft an original interpretation of an often-recorded work. Elgar’s cello concerto is generally held to be one of the great cello concertos ever composed, and all of the 20th century’s most famous cellists have given their take on it.

The best way to give an honest and personal performance of a piece like that, according to Moser, is to focus on the minutia of the “text,” — in this case, the sheet music.

Elgar’s concerto, he said, is a meticulously written work, with detailed markings about dynamics and articulations throughout the cello part.

Following the music so fastidiously might appear restricting, but Moser thinks that attempting to be utterly faithful to the “text” — or sheet music — will inevitably result in an original performance.

“The interesting thing is that every soloist will tell you that they are playing exactly what is on the page, and yet everyone sounds different,” he said. “And isn’t that wonderful? That’s because the material that you find on the page is also a mirror of yourself, and everybody is different.”

Moser is no stranger to Elgar’s concerto. He recorded the piece in 2017, and has played it dozens of times with orchestras across the world. Despite that, the cellist hasn’t gotten tired of it yet.

“People often ask me if it ever gets boring to play the some pieces over and over again,” Moser said. “No. Because every place is different and every audience is different, and through audience engagement, every moment has its unique flavor and configuration. It’s very rewarding, actually.”

Gemma New

Conductor Gemma New, who will lead the CSO tonight, will be coming to Chautauqua from the prestigious Tanglewood Music Festival, where she is spending the summer as a conducting fellow (as did many notable conductors, such as Seiji Ozawa and Marin Alsop). New is also currently the music director for the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra in Ontario, Canada, and in her second season as resident conductor for the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.

Both New and Moser have collected praise for their accomplishments at their relatively young ages — New was described by the New Zealand Herald as “a young New Zealander making a mark in North America,” and Moser was called “one of the nest among the astonishing gallery of young virtuoso cellists” by Deutsche Grammophon, so between the two, this evening will be a display of ascendant stars in classical music.

With ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ David Grann to recall forgotten crimes

David Grann, author, Lost City of Z

Too often throughout history, the record and story of what’s told is governed by principles outside of fact and truth. In a growing age of technology and information, more stories are being uncovered and brought into the forefront.

David Grann

David Grann has made a career of doing just that. Through his stories and work, he has helped shine a light on areas of history around the world that have, for too long, gone unnoticed or been forgotten by the general public.

Grann, best-selling author and award-winning staff writer for The New Yorker, will be speaking at 10:45 a.m. Tues., Aug. 14, in the Amphitheater.

Grann’s most recently published book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, was a No. 1 New York Times best-seller and 2017 finalist for the National Book Award.

Killers of the Flower Moon looks into the string of murders of the wealthy Osage people in Oklahoma in the 1920s and the racism and conspiracy that surrounded these crimes. Forced into a rocky corner of Oklahoma, the tribe became one of the wealthiest groups in the country thanks to an abundance of oil beneath the land. Crime and corruption quickly followed.

Grann didn’t know of these tragedies that befell the Osage before visiting the Osage Nation Museum in 2012, but he took notice of a large panoramic photograph he saw there of both of early white settlers and the Osage people — with a panel cut out.

“The museum director pointed to the missing panel and said, ‘The devil was standing right there,’ ” Grann said. “She then brought up the missing panel, and it showed the killers of the Osage.”

The missing image — containing William H. Hale, the mastermind behind many of the Osage murders — was the origin point of his research in many ways, Grann said, and contained a symbolic message for what the overall story would end up being.

“The museum director, the Osage, had removed that photo because they were deeply aware of its history and it was so painful,” Grann said. “So many people didn’t know about this history, including me.”

Through five years of research, pulling records, speaking with victims’ families and documenting timelines, the story took shape. At first, Grann said he began to see the story as a traditional crime novel, with one person as the mastermind behind these crimes — the narrative the FBI and other officials had handed down for years.

Through time and research, Grann began to see this story wasn’t so accurate. Grann said he began to note that there were numerous mysterious deaths and murders that weren’t solved or tied up, and the story quickly became “who didn’t do it.”

“It was really about a culture of killing,” Grann said. “That’s really a more difficult truth to accept and reckon with. My perception and the way I told the story changed dramatically over time as I gathered more evidence.”

Putting more focus and interest on gathering photographs with this project than any other before, Grann said these images of victims and their families became the motivation and driving force for him behind telling this historical tale.

“Each project is different, and the sort of motivations around each project are different,” Grann said. “These photographs, they were reminders of what the project was about for me — remembering and trying to document what had happened to these people. Their lives are a part of our history that we, including myself, for too long excluded and kept out of our consciousness.”

Finding stories like this to tell with either his books or articles in The New Yorker, Grann said, is just a product of listening and talking to people.

“It’s extremely hard to find them,” Grann said. “That’s the biggest challenge. During almost every waking hour, you have one ear tilted thinking, ‘Oh, would that be a good story?’ ”

After finding and diving into a story, Grann said the deciding factor for whether a story becomes an article or a book depends on whether or not he’s willing to live with the subject matter for a few months, or years at a time.

“The methodology in some ways is similar,” Grann said. “You’re kind of following one clue to the next, going from one bit of information to the next bit of information. They both involve a great deal of research.”

Grann said he doesn’t think much about where he wants to go as a writer, and that living in the present keeps him from becoming complacent. Grann said he just feels blessed to be able to do what he does and hopes to continue finding stories that are worth being told.

“The thing that gets me excited is to realize and sink into a story and almost get lost in it, sometimes for too many years at at time,” Grann said.

Grann said he’s honored to be a part of this week’s theme, “The Forgotten: History and Memory of the 21st Century,” something he finds very important. Grann said he was glad to be able to share the tragic case of the Osage killings that for too long has been forgotten.

“I’m glad that places are putting the focus on these forgotten or overlooked parts of our history,” Grann said. “That wasn’t necessary for the Osage. They are very aware of this history. It was very necessary, unfortunately, for many others.”

Grann’s next work, The White Darkness, will be released this fall. Based off a story he published for The New Yorker, the story deals with Henry Worsley, who obsessively modeled his life after famed arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, whom Grann called one of the greatest leaders of his era.

MSFO students to perform Russian symphonic music in final concert of the 2018 season


Monday, Aug. 13, is the last chance of the season to hear instrumental students from the Music School Festival Orchestra perform all together in the Amphitheater.

Timothy Muffitt, music director and conductor of the MSFO, said he has “mixed feelings” about the last concert after spending a great summer making music with this year’s MSFO students.

“It’s exciting to see (the last concert) as a combination of our work and to hear the extraordinary growth of these young musicians as an orchestra, as they’ve come together,” Muffitt said. “And for me, personally, just to be a part of that is very exciting and powerful.”

It also means, Muffitt said, that he will “be sorry to see them all leave.”

“We’ve been working very hard for seven weeks,” Muffitt said. “ … It would be sad to have these opportunities come to an end for the year.”

The concert at 8:15 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13, in the Amp will present music written by three Russian composers.

“Russian music is good for the MSFO because it involves the whole orchestra in a very significant way,” Muffitt said, “including harp and percussion and brass and woodwind sections. So it’s a very significant level of involvement for every (MSFO member).”

The MSFO will play Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture, op. 36, under the baton of Yue Bao, the 2018 David Effron Conducting Fellow. A performance of Cello Concerto No. 1 in E- flat major, op. 107, by Shostakovich, featuring cello student Daniel Kaler as soloist, and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 op. 100, B- flat major will both be performed under Muffitt’s baton.

Trombone student Stephen Whimple will be playing a second trombone solo, featured in Russian Easter Overture. Whimple said the trombones rarely hold melodies or are in the forefront in the orchestra, which is “usually the job of the woodwinds, or the trumpet or any of the strings.”

“What the trombones usually do in the orchestra is provide some sort of support consistently,” Whimple said.

But Rimsky-Korsakov wrote prominent solos in the second trombone parts in a few of his works, Whimple said.

“It’s very enjoyable for people that do end up playing his music,” Whimple said. “Because then, it is a nice surprise for somebody who is in one of the smaller roles (to be) given an opportunity to step forward and present an actual melodic passage … whereas I’m usually part of larger group and a larger effort to grab attention.”

Whimple will not be the only soloist at tonight’s concert. Cellist Kaler, who has been a member of the MSFO for two consecutive years now, will be performing as a solo cellist for the entire four movements of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto. The solo is part of Kaler’s prize for winning the 2017 Sigma Alpha Iota Competition.

The SAI Competition rotates annually among the Instrumental Program, the Voice Program and the Piano Program. Kaler said the SAI Competition is an amazing opportunity that “we have right here in the Institution.”

Although this is Kaler’s second year in the School of Music, his mother, Olga Dubossarskaya Kaler, has been playing in the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra for 24 years now. Kaler has visited the Institution every summer since he was 7 or 8.

“It’s a very special place for us,” Kaler said. “It’s real treasure to get to come here every summer.”

For Kaler, to be able to play as a soloist on the Amphitheater stage is particularly special.

“It’s so special because I get to play on that same stage where I watched pretty much every concert since I rst started going to concerts,” Kaler said. “That same stage.”

Kaler said the Cello Concerto is “a very grotesque piece, in a way,” written in 1959, six years after Joseph Stalin passed away.

“I think it very much reflects the struggles and the darkness that presided in Russia in those days,” Kaler said.

He hopes the audience will take away an understanding of “how difficult life was in the Soviet Union in the 20th century.

“It was probably the darkest century, for Soviet Russia particularly,” Kaler said. “Not just Soviet Russia, but it was certainly dark there. And my dad is actually from there.”

Tonight’s program will end with Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5.

Tuba student Jacob Moore, who has a solo in this piece, said Prokofiev’s symphony “is actually like a little concerto for tuba.”

“Every note played is important,” Moore said. “This piece is asked on every orchestral audition, so it is a staple in the repertoire.”

Muffitt wants the Prokofiev to be the last work the MSFO performs this summer, not only because it is a piece that can get every member significantly involved, but also because it is the “most extraordinary symphony of the 20th century.”

“It really is unique in its expressive content,” Muffitt said. “I don’t know another work like it. (It is) one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.”

Muffitt said it is hard to know anything specific Prokofiev said about this work, but Muffitt said “(this symphony) does seem to capture a zeitgeist of optimism, (which) would come at the end of such a tragic time of the world.”

According to Muffitt’s personal understanding of the Prokofiev symphony, the piece not only expresses optimism, but also explores “a broad range of human emotion in an extraordinary depth.”

“Part of its extraordinary quality is that there is a sense of optimism as a symphony as a whole, but it also explores tragedy, grief, the unknown,” Muffitt said. “ … We have to realize that this is, I think, a combination of his reaction to what the world has just been through, and also perhaps his hope for the future.”

Calidore Quartet to compare music of First, Second Viennese Schools in chamber music concert


Monday, Aug. 13, will be the Calidore String Quartet’s first time performing at Chautauqua Institution, but violinist Ryan Meehan knows the grounds well. He came here with his family starting at age 14 to study with the famous violin teaching duo, Roland and Almita Vamos.

It was intense, Meehan said — the young violinist had a lesson every day, so he spent most of his time practicing while his sister was at Boys’ and Girls’ Club having fun.

That practice has paid off for Meehan. At 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, he and the other three members of the Calidore String Quartet — violinist Jeffrey Myers, violist Jeremy Berry, and cellist Estelle Choi — will give a concert of the music of Beethoven, Haydn and Webern.

Calidore’s program Aug. 13 is a comparison of the two Viennese schools, Meehan said. The First Viennese School generally refers to Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, three composers who helped to establish the language of tonal music. The Second Viennese School, most notably represented by Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern, were pioneers of atonal music in the early 20th century.

On this afternoon’s program, the First Viennese School will be represented by Hadyn’s String Quartet in G major, op. 54, No. 1, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in C major, op. 59, No. 3, “Hero.” The second will be portrayed by Webern’s Langsamer Satz (“Slow Movement”).

Langsamer Satz is unusual, according to Meehan, because it’s much longer than most of Webern’s works (the composer was known for incredibly short compositions), and also because it bears little resemblance to the atonal music that Webern is most known for. The piece, Meehan said, is actually more of a Romantic work, likely because the composer was young and in love at the time of its composition.

After Meehan’s time at Chautauqua, he attended the prestigious Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, where he met Myers, Berry and Choi. The group formed to fulfill a class credit and is now a world-class touring string quartet.

There’s no one way for a young string quartet to become a professional ensemble, but many groups try to do so by entering chamber music competitions. Important ears will hear their work, and top prizes can include concert bookings and professional management.

The Calidore String Quartet went that route, and it was successful quite quickly. Within two years after its formation in 2010, the quartet won most of the major U.S. chamber music competitions, including the Fischoff, Coleman, Chesapeake and Yellow Springs competitions.

After that, the group had professional management and a regular concert schedule. It wasn’t an easy life, Meehan said — the group had to split concert fees five ways (four musicians and a manager), buy an extra seat for the cello on flights and cover New York City rent — but there wasn’t much point in continuing to do competitions.

That is, until the University of Michigan announced the M-Prize for May 2016. The $100,000 prize was the largest ever for a chamber music competition, and at 172 applicants, it promised to be the most competitive, too.

The quartet decided it was going to come out of “competition retirement” to take a shot at the competition, for obvious reason.

“Whether you know about the classical music world or not, something about a $100,000 prize seems to resonate with our culture,” Meehan said.

They won, and that victory took the musicians from a respectable chamber music career to a sky-high one. The group’s resume looks like a read-out of classical music’s top venues, and it continues to receive accolades — most recently, Calidore earned a 2018 Avery Fisher Career Grant.

That success has certainly come as a result of the M-Prize win, Meehan said, especially because they won the prize in its inaugural year. But while the prize helped the quartet’s career, it didn’t change its mindset, according to Meehan.

“Not much changed about our attitudes after we won the M-Prize,” he said. “It helped us get where we already wanted to go, just faster.”

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