Nerd Nite No. 68: Archives Month! D&D, VHS Horror, & the Public History Truck

We’re excited to once again participate in Archives Month! Here’s what’s in store for you:

Matt Shoemaker: Dungeons and Dragons

Archivists working “in the field” with communities to assemble and collect archival collections is a difficult but important process for preserving historic narratives. This is no different with the communities that created tabletop and role playing games (RPGs) in the 1960s, especially Dungeons and Dragons. Over the past four years I have been working with these men and women on behalf of a Dungeons & Dragons film documentary project in order to gather, organize, and describe original and digitized material related to the early history of RPGs. This talk should be of interest to any archivist curious about working with communities to build archival collections and to anyone who wants to learn more about the materials I found while filming the documentary and what it was like to “collect” them.

Matt Shoemaker has worked to build the digital scholarship program on Temple’s campus since 2013. He has created and given workshops in several areas of digital scholarship including making technologies (3D printing, 3D scanning, physical computing, photogrammetry), basics of GIS for digital scholarship, creating digital exhibitions, textual analysis, data cleanup, project design, games for education and as historical models and other DS areas. Prior to coming to Temple University, Shoemaker worked for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania where he led the development of HSP’s digital library, digitization program, and co-authored several successful grant proposals for digital projects. Shoemaker holds an MA in history, focused on French empire in North Africa, and an MLIS with a concentration in archives; both received from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. He is currently assisting with a project at the Philadelphia Museum of Art focused on digital uses for their Marcel Duchamp collections as well as co-producing a documentary on the history of Dungeons and Dragons.

David J. Gary: Collecting Horror and Exploitation VHS Tapes

In early 2015, Yale purchased nearly 3,000 horror and exploitation VHS tapes from a private collector in Ohio. The project was conceived to help scholars explore the connections between the emergence of the prerecorded video industry, the development of the horror and exploitation genres, and the growing concern of materiality in media. This talk will focus on why and how Yale purchased this collection, its importance beyond mere nostalgia, and the problems of managing a VHS collection. With the last new VCRs rolling off the production lines a few months ago, it is an opportune moment to take stock of the role of video tape in the production of culture.

David J. Gary is the Curator of Printed Materials at the American Philosophical Society, where he builds, interprets, and promotes collections. Before moving to Philadelphia in June, he was the Kaplanoff Librarian for American History at Yale University Library. At Yale, David was the liaison to the history, American Studies, and African American Studies departments and performed collection development duties in the area of American history. One of his large projects at Yale was co-founding the Yale Horror and Exploitation VHS Collection, which is the basis for his talk tonight. He has a PhD in American history, with an emphasis on early America and the history of the book, from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

Erin Bernard: Public History Truck

The Philadelphia Public History Truck is Philly’s own mobile museum, but it does not simply bring history to the people. It makes exhibitions with others, sometimes with archival materials, sometimes including archivists! But what do those collaborations look and feel like? How else could these collaborations work? Erin Bernard, the project’s creator, is ready to share all her archives dirt– errr– fuel with the audience of Nerd Nite.

Erin Bernard is the creator of the Philadelphia Public History Truck, a mobile museum which creates exhibitions with people here in the city. Her work has earned her the National Council on Public History’s 2016 Best Project of the Year Award, a John Andrew Gallery Community Action Award from the Preservation Alliance of Greater Philadelphia, and the Best In Real Life Project of the Year from the Philadelphia Geek Awards. She is a Senior Lecturer of Museum Studies at the University of the Arts and an Adjunct Professor of History at Moore College of Art and Design for Women. She is the recipient of a 2016 Individual Project Grant from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to complete the History Truck W.I.C. Work/Shop while the project’s neighborhood work continues for its fourth year, this time in Fairhill. Erin is a Mom of two living in South Philly.

PLUS! Entertainment by Christine Irizarry

The details:
Doors open at 4pm. Show at 7:30pm. We recommend you get there early to ensure getting a good seat!
Wednesday, October 5th
Frankford Hall
1210 Frankford Avenue

Nerd Nite No. 67: Aquatic Insects, Noir Cabaret, and Plant Music!

We are having a bonus Nerd Nite at The Rail Park! Joining us for this evening of outdoor nerdery will be:

Stephanie Kroll will present “Amazing Aquatic Insects: Adaptations for Living in Water.”

Did you know that a caddisfly knows how to fish, or that many beetles are actually scuba divers, taking their own air stores into the water? Streams and rivers are often thought of as calm, relaxing places, but the physical environment within waterways can be a tough place to live. Aquatic insects have been facing the challenges of living in water for millions of years, and they have a diverse array of adaptations that have made them successful.

I am Assistant Research Professor in Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES Department) at Drexel, and a Project Science Director at the Academy of Natural Sciences for a collaborative program that protects clean water, called the Delaware River Watershed Initiative.  The Initiative works with over 50 non-profit organizations working to protect water resources.  My group does research and takes samples from streams throughout the Basin, and I also have a laboratory to identify aquatic insects.  I have been living in Philly for 3.5 years and before that I lived in Spain for 8 years, where I worked as a translator and interpreter until I started graduate school there.  I’m from Central New York, and grew up fishing and camping in the Adirondacks and saving spiders from getting squashed.

Jeremy Gable and Sam Tower will give a talk entitled “Distressing the Damsel

Playwright Jeremy Gable and creator/director Sam Tower will discuss the history of film noir, as well as how the genre’s tropes were reconfigured for the shows 901 Nowhere Street and Nowhere Fast.

Sam Tower and Jeremy Gable are opposites to an almost sitcom-like degree. However, their mutual love of genre-bending, dance-infused, female-focused theatre has united them as director and playwright under the sobriquet of Sam Tower + Ensemble. Their 2015 production, 901 Nowhere Street, featured a host of badass femme fatales and, among other things, a dancing unicorn.

Finally, Loretta Maps Bolt will take us on an adventure all about “What if you could talk to plants? Or better yet what if the plants could talk back to you…

Here at Cannatunes we hope to discover and archive all the music the earth has to offer us directly and make it available to the public. The knowledge and wisdom of the earth is being given in the form of musical notes and harmonies that can be corelated to a form of language. Cannatunes creates state of the art galvonic response music instillations for those in plant based industries who want deeper relationships with thier products and customers.
Long time traveler and student of the indigineous wisdom story of her ancestors, Loretta has created a new paradigm for living. Forever Farmer, compassionate reiki healer, and creator of plant music; Loretta takes these skills and uses them in a holistic way to impart the mysteries of ascension.

PLUS! A tie-in with Jeremy and Sam’s talk, Alec MacLaughlin will perform a set featuring his unique brand of gritty guitar ambience. MacLaughlin’s music scored the theatrical worlds of 901 Nowhere Street, Nowhere Fast and New Paradise Laboratories’ 27. Jess Conda, BRAT Artistic director, will perform some of Nowhere Fast‘s rock noir inspired cabaret covers, accompanied by MacLaughlin.

The details:
Wednesday, September 21st

PHS Pop Up Garden at the Viaduct Rail Park

10th and Hamilton, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19123

7:30 pm. $5

See you there!


To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, we’re excited to change things up a little bit: we’ll have four presenters giving you the ins and outs of Star Trek. Our very own Chris Cummins will be taking on TOS, returning researcher Suraiya Haroon (previously of Mitochondria disease: From worms to humans) will be talking ’bout TNG, cartographic champion Henry Bernberg (previously of Mapping the Galaxy Far, Far Away) will discuss DS9, and first time speaker Marshal Staggs will review Voyager.

Chris Cummins is a Philadelphia-based writer and comics historian who regularly contributes to Den of Geek and Uproxx. He is also the producer/host of Sci-Fi Explosion, a cosmic cabaret of craziness that explores the wacky world of science fiction. You can follow him on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.

Suraiya Haroon with Star Trek: The Next Generation – from across the other pond!

At a time when sci-fi had not gained as much popularity, TNG allowed young science to go on voyages to explore the unknown.  This talk will reveal a perspective from a country far far away on the TNG series.  Discussions of a few characters will unveil some of the commentaries TNG makes on the human condition and take a look at some predictive technologies the show used.

Suraiya is a postdoctoral researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia with a degree in Experimental Breeding. She is a lover of all model organisms, specially yeast, fruitflies, frogs, mice and worms. Suraiya is always willing to rant about science in exchange for beer and cheese.

Henry Bernberg with The Most Interesting Man in the Alpha Quadrant

Deep Space Nine stands out amongst the Star Trek series as the only one to rely on long form storytelling. Its unique setting and continuous story arc let the show foster relationships amongst the characters, be they heroes, renegades, or villains, while exploring complex social questions in ways that engage the viewer emotionally. All the while each character tries to claim the title of The Most Interesting Man in the Alpha Quadrant.

Henry is a sci-fi, cartography, and Lego nerd and creator of the Online Star Wars Galaxy Map. He holds degrees in Historic Preservation and Urban Spatial Analytics and works for the Philadelphia Water Department Office of Watersheds in stormwater management.

Marshal Staggs with A Boatload of Spocks

This talk will explore how the atypical setting of Voyager is effectively used as a lens through which to examine the history of the Star Trek franchise and the character archetypes upon which it traditionally relies. Through a discussion of selected characters and episodes, “A Boatload of Spocks” will show how Voyager was a natural evolution of the franchise and, as Star Trek shows often are, the Star Trek show that we needed at the time it was on the air.

Marshal is a graduate of The George Washington University and American University, where he completed a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in 2013. Since then, he has been working as an editor and writing his second novel in his spare time. He firmly believes that the best episode in the Star Trek franchise is Voyager’s “Bride of Chaotica!,” and will loudly argue with anyone who disagrees.

The details:
Doors open at 4pm. Show at 7:30pm. We recommend you get there early to ensure getting a good seat!
Wednesday, September 7th
Frankford Hall
1210 Frankford Avenue

Nerd Nite No. 65: ALS, Accents, and Astrology!

We are having a bonus Nerd Nite at PHS Pop-Up Garden South Street! Joining us for this evening of outdoor nerdery will be:

Corey McMillan with “Turning Down the Volume on ALS

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or “Lou Gerhig’s Disease”, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that impacts an individuals’ ability to move and results in a 2-5 year survival from disease onset. In the past decade a considerable amount of knowledge has been gained about the pathology and genetics that causes ALS. However, there still is not treatment for ALA and little is known about the factors that influence heterogeneity in survival time and disease severity. In this talk I will introduce the idea of “epigenetics” — a fancy word that involves turning down the volume on bad genes — and talk about the evidence suggesting that epigenetics may provide a candidate treatment for ALS.

Dr. Corey McMillan is a Research Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and a member of the Neuroscience Graduate Group and Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania.  Dr. McMillan holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience from Temple University, a masters of science in Psycholinguistics from the University of Edinburgh, and a Ph.D in Psychology from the University of Edinburgh.

Josh Raclaw with “Language attitudes: How accents can be sexy, impressive, or literally the worst

We all place different values on the ways that we, and others, use language. A Southern accent might make us weak in the knees, or we may think we know a lot about a person just from the way they say the word “water’. But why? In this talk we’ll look at the science behind language attitudes, the term that linguists use to describe our common understanding of different accents and other features of a language. Come prepared to look at the language of wartime cartoons, learn the truth about our perception of “foreign accents,” and raise a glass to the diversity of English dialects.

Joshua Raclaw is a linguist and assistant professor of English at West Chester University. His current research examines how scientists use language and gesture in their evaluation of high-stakes grant applications. He’s also interested in how language helps construct our relationships and identities and how new technology changes how we communicate with one another, and one time he wrote over two-hundred pages on the word ‘no’. In his spare time he enjoys sitting in front of his air conditioner and spending quality time with his wife, cats, and beloved Netflix account.

Alexis Jeffcoat with “When M.A.S.H. Meets 17th Century Astrology

Will you marry a handsome drunk? Will you be rich as Croesus or have twelve kids? Fortune telling games were not just the staple of many a 90’s childhood. Find out what happens when silly fortunes get mixed up with Greek mythology, 17th century astrology, and early programming to give you the strangest version of M.A.S.H you’ve ever seen.

Alexis is a huge history nerd who loves playing Dungeon and Dragons and enjoys being blinded by science in her position managing public programming for the Chemical Heritage Foundation. An active part of the geek community, Alexis can be found collaborating on projects like Science on Tap and the Philadelphia Science Festival.

PLUS! Be sure to wear your nerdiest T-shirt so that you can participate in the Nerd Nite Philadelphia Dry T-Shirt Contest.

The details:
Tuesday, August 23rd

PHS Pop Up Garden on South Street

1438 South Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19146

7:30 pm. $5

See you there!

Nerd Nite No. 64: Mapping the Arctic, Smoking Grass, and Beanie Babies!

Here’s the lineup for this first August Nerd Nite:

Kelly McCarthy with “Mapping the Arctic from 1500 Feet: A Glimpse into our Changing Earth”

The Arctic, known for its pristine beauty and terrifying isolation, largely unoccupied by humankind, is one of the most sensitive and telling regions of our dynamic Earth. But without setting foot in most of its great expanse how can we understand exactly how it is changing? NASA’s Operation IceBridge uses remote sensing methods from aboard an airborne laboratory to collect data on the thickness, depth, and movement of ice features in the Arctic and Antarctica. Fly along with PolarTREC teacher Kelly McCarthy on the largest airborne survey of Earth’s polar ice ever conducted to learn about how this critical data is collected, life in the field during an airborne Arctic campaign, and the implications of the data acquired from this extensive operation.

About Kelly: Kelly McCarthy has been a science educator in Pennsylvania for the past eight years. With a background in physics and enthusiasm for NASA’s airborne and space science programs, she is passionate about making STEM accessible and exciting for all students. As a 2016 PolarTREC teacher, Kelly worked in the field with NASA’s Operation IceBridge during their 2016 Arctic Campaign in Greenland and recognizes the importance of sharing the processes, science, and implications behind the work this team does year after year.

Katie Bohri with “Smoking Grass for the Environment – Managing native grasslands with fire”

How to maintain a grassland environment: Add fire to it! Each spring land managers across the country set prescribed burns to grassland environments. These fires maintain the health of habitats. Katie Bohri talks about the how and whys of prescribed burns.

About Katie: Katie Bohri works for Mt. Cuba Center, a botanical garden that focuses on native plants and the habitats that sustain them, where she is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator.

Kae Lani Kennedy with “The Secret Life of Beanie Babies

The Beanie Baby craze is one of the most talked about trends of the 1990’s, with Ty Warner being hailed as one of the decade’s most brilliant businessmen. But was Ty Inc.’s success really the result of a well-run company with a genius marketing strategy? Explore how Chicago soccer moms, the rise of a secondary investment market, and the dawn of the Dot Com, all puppeteered by a mad man, turned $5 under-stuffed plush dolls into one of the strangest market bubbles of the 20th century.

About Kae Lani: Kae Lani is a travel writer and photographer whose global exploits are guided primarily by food. She and her partner, Jon, run Foodful Thinking — a site where thousands tune into to watch broadcasts about nostalgic food brands, weird dishes, and anything foodie culture. Kae Lani is also a media historian, an economics nerd, and a trends enthusiast. Recently, she’s been putting her Business degree to work, analyzing and profiling one of the most perplexing multi-billion dollar companies to grace the 90’s: Ty Inc.

PLUS! Music by Pixel8ter!

The details:
Doors open at 4pm. Show at 7:30pm. We recommend you get there early to ensure getting a good seat!
Wednesday, August 3rd
Frankford Hall
1210 Frankford Avenue