Ione and Wayne Bennion Seminar for the Perpetuation of Democratic Principles

2024 Bennion Teachers’ Workshop

Objects of War: How Material Culture Helps Us Study and Remember Modern Conflict

USU student talks with a Cold War veteran
USU student talks with a Cold War veteran at the Hyrum City Museum BWH Roadshow event on April 9, 2022. (Photo credit: Molly Cannon)

What can material objects such as the mundane helmet, a religious text a soldier carried, or a postcard sent from war zones reveal about the experience of twentieth-century war? The 2024 Bennion Teachers’ Workshop will explore this question, using the First World War, the Second World War, and the Vietnam War as case studies. Wars are moments when democratic norms are at their most vulnerable as they upend the structures of politics, economics, and everyday life alike. 

While historians of war traditionally rely on texts to understand past conflict, this interdisciplinary teacher’s workshop focuses on the material culture of modern war. We will examine how objects connect us to past events, places, and experiences. Given the diversity of participants in the military, we will showcase the intersectional identities of veterans in terms of age, class, gender, race, and place of origin. A fuller understanding of the participation of civilians and combatants in America’s modern wars through a study of material culture (objects and artifacts) alongside conventional historical texts enables us to appreciate how such conflicts shape our society and the American experience.

Interactive activities, field trips, hands-on workshops, and lectures with prominent scholars, museum educators, and public history practitioners will allow participants to:

  • Learn how to locate and define innovative historical sources including material objects and oral histories,
  • Use innovative sources including material culture and oral history in community-focused classroom projects,
  • Develop skills with digital tools and archives that focus on material objects and oral history,
  • Engage with public-facing history and its role in shaping new perspectives of the past,
  • Acquire a nuanced understanding of war and its legacies which is vital to being a fully informed democratic citizen.


2024 Workshop Information

Dates: Monday, June 24 - Friday, June 28, 2024; Welcome Dinner - Sunday, June 23rd (encouraged but not required)
Time: 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM daily; and two additional evening events
Place: Utah State University, Logan Main Campus, Logan, Utah (Merrill-Cazier Library - Room 101)
Lead Scholars: Dr. Susan R. Grayzel, Professor of History - USU, Co-Director of NEH-funded Bringing War Home Project (2021-2023) and Dr. Molly Boeka Cannon, Assistant Professor of Anthropology - USU, Executive Director Museum of Anthropology - USU, Co-Director of the NEH-funded Bringing War Home Progect (2021-2023) 

Pen to Square

Application and Registration

Apply to enroll in the workshop


Scholarships and Awards

Limited scholarships and travel awards


Course Requirements

Variable credits and requirements



Meet the Lead Scholars and Presenters


Hill Aerospace Museum building and airpark

Daily Highlights

Sun: Welcome Dinner
EVENING EVENT - 6:00 p.m. Utah State University, Logan, Utah. Attendance is strongly encouraged but not required.

Monday, June 24: Introduction to Material Culture 

  • Session 1: What is Material Culture?
  • Session 2: Guest lecture with Zara Anishanslin
  • Session 3: Bringing War Home Digital Archive: Engaging with Objects
  • EVENING EVENT - Keynote Public Lecture with Zara Anishanslin (FREE and open to the public - 5:00 p.m., Library - Room 101)

Tuesday, June 25: Material Culture Goes Big: Memorials, Landscape, and Public History

  • Session 1: The First World War and the Creation of War Memorials
  • Session 2: Memorials Guided Walking Tour on USU Campus and in Logan
  • Section 3: Lunch Lecture on Public History with Nichelle Frank
  • Session 4: Virtual Tour of the National World War I Museum & Memorial in Kansas City
  • Session 5: Designing a Memorial: Collective Project  
  • EVENING EVENT: Tour, Talk and Dinner at the Nora Eccles Art Museum

Wednesday, June 26: Telling War Stories with Digital Humanities

  • Session 1: The Second World War and Writing the Past via Oral Histories
  • Session 2: What Makes a Good Digital Archive?
  • Session 3: Story Mapping: Hands-on Workshop
  • Session 4: Museum Educator Workshop

Thursday, June 27: Visiting the Past: Museum and Memorial Field Trip

  • Tour and Educators’ Workshop at the Hill Aerospace Museum
  • Visit the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall Replica in Layton

Friday, June 28: The Things They Carried: Oral Histories and Object Stories

  • Session 1: Representing and Remembering the Vietnam War with Clayton Brown
  • Lunchtime Book Discussion: The Things Thy Carried (led by Dustin Crawford)

Old Main at USU looking over Cache Valley

Workshop Location, Meals, Lodging, Parking, and Books

The workshop will be held on USU - Logan Campus. (Merrill-Cazier Library - Room 101)

Time: A continental breakfast will be available each day beginning at 8:00 a.m. The workshop will run from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, with two additional evening events.

Meals: Continental breakfasts, lunches, and evening events are included as part of enrollment in the course. There are many dining options available close by in Cache Valley for your evening meals.


Parking Options:

  • If you are driving to campus each day, you may email and request a dash pass for the RED or BROWN lots. The pass will be emailed for you to print out and place face up on your dashboard so it can be easily read in order to avoid a parking ticket.
  • Daily parking is also available in the Big Blue Terrace, Aggie Terrace, TSC Visitor Lot, or Gateway Terrace at hourly or daily rates, payable as you enter/exit, with no in/out privileges.

Books: There will be required readings for the course. The articles to be read prior to the workshop will be available on CANVAS. You can purchase the recommended book on your own or check with the USU Bookstore on the Logan campus. 

  • Recommended Book:
    1. Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried. (Mariner Books, 1990)

Workshop Testimonials

"As a teacher from a rural area, I really appreciate that Bennion is a world-class opportunity that provides scholarly interaction with top-notch students and excellent professors from multiple universities and institutions across the country."

"I love the intense one-week format of Bennion."

"Scholarly engagement with world class professors provides a rich experience"

"Critical for expanding my ability to grow as an educator."

"The only weakness was that the magic had to end, but we will take the magic with us."