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Skidmore College

Student historians to share research on Church of St. Peter

January 24, 2014

A milestone anniversary of a Saratoga Springs church parish became an independent study project for two Skidmore College seniors, who will present their research Jan. 31 to the public.

“Saint Peter’s Church: Parish of the People” will be presented by Madison Lehrhaupt and Roz Rothwell at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 31, at the Church of St. Peter, 241 Broadway, Saratoga Springs. The students will chronicle 180 years of the history of St. Peter’s and more than 370 years of Catholicism in Saratoga County. The public is welcome.

Tillman Nechtman, associate professor and chair of Skidmore’s Department of History, was a key to this ambitious project. He explained that the pair had done an earlier project at the Saratoga Battlefield and then took a public history course on sacred spaces in Saratoga Springs, taught by Jordana Dym. “They were so interested in public history that they asked me what else they could do. Because I am working on the planning for St. Peter’s 175th anniversary, I coordinated an independent study for them,” Nechtman said.

The parish of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church marks its 175th anniversary this year; the church has been in existence for 180 years.

Lehrhaupt and Rothwell needed to find the regional church archives that would help them tell the church’s history. These files were located in an elevator in the church rectory. Their presentation, which will take the place of a final paper, not only tells the story of St. Peter’s parish, but also details larger threads of national and world history, including the international history of Catholicism, using stories from the parish.

Nechtman said, “This a really good example of the kinds of work history students can do when they engage the wider world. These two have gone to real archives, asked real historical questions, and produced historical narratives of their own, just as academic historians do. They have used what they learned in lower-division classes and applied it in ways that allow us to think of them as owners of their own education. They have fostered the town-gown relationship as they have gotten to know people in the parish.”

He continued, “They have interviewed parishioners, and they have worked with local historians at places like the Saratoga Room in the library. They had to digitize outmoded media that was housed in the church archives (old VHS tapes, old records) in order to access them, which has allowed the college to help another local institution preserve its history as well.”

Nechtman added, “Their project…. has helped these students see the town as part of their world from this end of Broadway, which is a great outcome of their work. We are really proud of them.”

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