Monday, November 19, 2018

History Comics Club: Connecting Students to the Heritage One Panel at a Time

Clermont is an inspiring place. On any given summer morning, you’ll find painters in the parking lot, carefully unloading their oil paints and easels, trekking down the sheep fold to capture views of the Hudson that have inspired artists for centuries. Countless couples choose the views of the mountains and gardens as the backdrop for wedding photos that will grace their walls for a lifetime. On the walking trails, DSLRs are more commonly strapped to necks than scarves are draped-- a quick search on Instagram will reveal just how many iPhone photographers capture small moments on the grounds every day.
The natural beauty of Clermont is ever-present and well known. The Livingston family, from The Chancellor to Alice, worked hard to make the grounds and buildings beautiful, impressive, and inspiring to friends, family, visitors, and passersby.
But, personally, I find the stories inside the house just as inspiring as the grounds surrounding it.    
History Comics Club: Origins
Hi! I’m Emily!
Proof that you can in fact be addicted to a historic site.
When I was 7 or 8 years old, I attended Junior History Club at Clermont for the first time. I had been to other history-based summer camps before, but none of them grabbed me the way Clermont did. Looking back, I see it was the narrative: Clermont tells the story of 7 generations of an unimaginably complex and interesting family, with the point of entry being two little girls who, a century ago, were about your age and had pets and played with dolls and did kid things that kids still do today. Back in the early 00s, the narrative at Clermont was the most kid-accessible one I had come across, and it immediately endeared me to the story. Throughout my childhood and teen years, I’d come back every year, as a camper, then a camp counselor, and eventually a tour guide. I’d write and illustrate stories that were clearly derived from the history of Clermont as well as the grounds.
Nowadays, I’m the Education Assistant and Camp Director at Clermont State Historic Site. I’m also a professional comic artist and author.
The Birth of History Comics Club
The inspiration for the program came from, well, inspiration! Clermont is an inspiring place, and I
knew from my own experience that this was a wonderful way to get kids invested in local history. With the motto of “Connecting students to their heritage, one panel at a time” we started History Comics Club at Germantown Central School in the fall of 2016. Since then, we’ve run 8 History Comics Clubs at local schools and libraries, served 4 summer camps, and one field trip. In total, the program has worked with about 800 students in the Hudson Valley, ranging from second graders to seniors in high school.
2018 has been our most exciting year by far.
This year, we ran 5 History Comic Clubs, the most we’ve ever done!
Students created biographical comics following the lives of Livingstons.






Others created fantastic adventures about the dogs of Clermont throwing parties and running detective agencies.















For the first time ever, History Comics Club had a booth at a convention!
The Hudson Children’s Book Festival hosted us. We gave out nearly 200 copies of student work.
The success of History Comics Club created a professional spin-off series called Captain Clermont! Written by curator Geoff Benton and illustrated by Kevin Nordstrom























Finally, HCC made it’s debut at New York Comic Con!



I hosted a panel at NYCC for education professionals about History Comics Club this past October!
About 50 people packed into a small classroom at NYPL. It was a wonderful experience.
It’s been a wonderful year for History Comics Club. We just started another Club yesterday with a record number of students. They spent the day reading student work and learning about the Livingstons. As they left, they excitedly told me about who they connected with and why (Margaret Beekman, Katharine, and Punchy are always popular.) We live in a time where being a comic fan has never been so acceptable or accessible, while history is so easily rewritten or brushed aside. I’m overjoyed to see so many young people taking a genuine interest in both.





We already have two History Clubs planned for this winter and summer. if your school, library, or organization is interested in hosting one, feel free to reach out to me via email: Emily.Robinson@parks.ny.gov


     

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