Checking in with the Cornell Historical Society

The Cornell Historical Society (CHS) started the semester in abstraction. Away with ordinary ice breakers, we proposed a new manner of introduction. In the first floor seminar room of the still-standing McGraw Hall, we asked each other how to draw time. Pointer fingers lifted in the air, our interpretations varied: a zig-zag, a sine wave, a spiral, the hands of a clock. Now finding ourselves in November, CHS might draw time as an exponential graph. Already we’ve made it to the semester’s half! To hear what we’ve been up to, here’s a summary from our staff:

Field Trips

This month, eight members journeyed off campus to volunteer at the History Center in Tompkins County, where they helped move about 2,500 pounds of archival print material to the Ithaca Town Hall. Most of the materials were 19th and 20th century ledgers, some bound in red leather, some belonging to the Trust Company that once occupied the History Center’s current building.

The Saturday visit was freshman Aidan Yen’s first time working with archives, and he says he’s hooked. In addition to the bound bank records, he peeked at the History Center’s collection of textiles, men’s hats, alchemy bottles, and horse saddles.

Ezra’s Archives

In September, Ezra’s Archives, the undergraduate history journal, celebrated the publication of its most recent issue, which includes essays on smallpox in the Spanish colonies, a U.S. army surgeon’s life in letters, and more. You can request more information by emailing

Mentor-Mentee Program

We restarted our mentorship program between history underclassmen and upperclassmen. As seniors get ready to leave campus, they’ll pass down their tips for surviving seminars, making it through monographs, and answering that enchanting question of possibility from their relatives: “What do you plan on doing with a history degree?”

G-Body Meetings

The Cornell Historical Society General Body meets every other Thursday, and the agenda differs every time! One afternoon, we gathered to discuss the process of writing a senior thesis and brainstormed where we might travel to visit archives. Another evening, we attended the first collaboration between the Johnson Museum and the Public History Initiative to hear artist Coco Fusco speak. Afterwards, we headed to grab bubble tea in Collegetown. (The 8pm caffeine rush helped those of us with a take-home exam on imperial Russian history due in 20 hours.)

Get Involved!

Our search for a speaker at our spring event continues. Based on a survey of CHS members, we are especially interested in the history of empire, intellectual history, and the history of Indigenous peoples in upstate New York. However, members have articulated diverse interests. For example, after exploring linguistics, psychology, and astronomy, Sharon Sun chose her major because history can be the study of anything.

This semester, we launched an Instagram and Slack channel, where you can keep in touch. Or, write us a letter, and we’ll add it to our collection!

Written by CHS Officers

More news

View all news
Ezra's Archives Launch Party
photo by K. Esterl