‘ChautauqWhat?’: Archivist Jon Schmitz to Talk in Heritage Lecture

A Chautauqua Archives image dated 1876 shows a large crowd seated on benches in Miller Park, the location of the first auditorium at Chautauqua.

JonSchmitz will shine a light on the history of Chautauqua as both a place and an idea when he discusses “ChautauqWhat? A short history of the Chautauqua Movement,”  at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.

The talk is the second in this summer’s Oliver Archives Heritage Lecture Series, a series of 18 lectures about historical events and people that are in some way related to Chautauqua.

“The theory that I have is that just about everything has something to do with Chautauqua, and Chautauqua has pretty much something to do with everything,” said Schmitz, Institution archivist and historian.

The lectures will be about things that were either going on at the same time that the Chautauqua Movement evolved, things that the people at Chautauqua were interested in or affected by at the time, things that were similar to Chautauqua or things directly related to Chautauqua.

Schmitz’s lecture today will be about the history of Chautauqua and the movement that resulted from it — its rise, decline and resurgence.

“I think it’s important to have a historical perspective on Chautauqua in order to understand it,” Schmitz said. “People want a way to be able to tell other people what it is or how the various aspects of the program fit together, and I think, to do that, it really helps to have a historical view.”

Jon Schmitz

Another main aspect he will discuss is the three things Chautauqua can give back to America — things Schmitz thinks the country needs. The first is a physical place for people to gather together to have shared experiences, even when their interests and opinions differ; the second is a special time of rest and appreciation for creation and the completion of work, a sort of “Sabbath time”; the third is a special, spontaneous community of the sort that springs up at the Institution every season.

“Chautauqua has changed a great deal over the years, but it has still maintained a consistency, a continuity, through that change, which defines its identity,” Schmitz said. “It’s important to see history not just as the past, but as the past, the present and even the future.”

The Heritage Lecture Series has occurred every season for about 12 years, Schmitz said. As a lifelong lover of history, Schmitz is glad to have the opportunity to not only work in the Institution’s archives but also to speak and teach about history and its preservation.

“Hopefully (people will get) some view that might help them think more about what Chautauqua is,” Schmitz said.

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The author Julia Arwine

Julia Arwine is a rising junior at Miami University in Ohio, where she studies journalism and interactive media studies. She will be covering the School of Music this summer. Julia’s three main ambitions in life are to write for National Geographic, to be a chef and to own a sheep farm in Scotland — not necessarily in that order.