Although most of the images on this website are stock photos or photographs available in the public domain via Wikipedia, the team that designed my website and I put a great deal of thought into their selection. Not only are they predominately historical in nature, but they are nearly all in some way relevant to my own personal experiences and historical interests. There are several themes that expand across the pages:
As I mention on the About Me page, ancient Egypt fascinated me as a child. I’ve never been to see the pyramids or these monuments like the Karnak Temple featured on the home page, but maybe someday I will!
I’ve chosen several images from the Alhambra in Granada, Spain, because it features prominently in my current translation project, The Crescent Remembered: Islam and Nationalism on the Iberian Peninsula, by Dr. Patricia Hertel. The Alhambra has a unique position in the national mythology of Spain, and, judging by the photographs, anyway, it’s breathtakingly beautiful at all levels: seen from afar—the stunning panorama featured at the top of the portfolio page—to the minute detail—the intricate stonework featured in the header of the contact page.
Stations of my life:
Several of the pictures tell the story of my life. I did not grow up in a cabin like the one on the home page, but it does look a bit like “home,” especially with those rich fall colors which make me a little bit homesick each time I look at them. There are pictures of Munich—a reference to the formative semesters I spent there as an undergraduate: at the top of the disclaimer page, you can appreciate the view of the Palace of Justice and the Neptune Fountain in Munich. It was roughly this view that I regularly had when I took the short walk from our classroom in Munich to eat my bag lunch in the Old Botanical Garden during those semesters. In addition, the references page features the frieze on the façade of Munich’s Glypthothek, which remains one of my favorite museums, and the header of this photo page is a picture I took myself while vacationing in the Bavarian Alps.
The picture of Weimar’s National Theater (now removed) on the biographical page symbolizes in my mind the cultural richness and brutality of German history: when I visited Weimar in 1999, it was the “European Capital of Culture,” and there were lots of extra exhibits set up all over the city detailing its history. The National Socialists sought to appropriate Weimar’s renown for their own purposes, and one of the exhibits included photographs of the National Theater with swastika banners behind the Goethe and Schiller monument.
The pictures of Marburg are testament to the year that changed my life: I lived just next to the castle pictured on the Services Offered page and walked across the market square (on the Home page) just about every day on my way up and down the hill. Jacob Grimm supposedly joked that there are more steps in the streets of Marburg than in the houses, and living at the top of the hill did prove to be a decent fitness routine! The picture on the Marburg tab of the story on the biographical page isn’t actually from Marburg—it’s from a church in eastern Austria—but it does depict Marburg’s patron, St. Elisabeth of Hungary (and Thuringia). Even before she came to Marburg as a young widow, she was known for her altruism. According to legend, she was taking bread to the poor when her husband demanded to know what she was carrying and the bread miraculously turned into roses. That’s why she is often depicted with a skirt or basket full of roses.
The header on the about me page features the main library at the University of California-Berkeley, a place where I spent many hours as a graduate student there. South Hall, further down the page, is one of the original two buildings built on the campus in 1873. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge on the Berkeley tab is, admittedly, taken from a different angle than the view from the kitchen window of the apartment where I lived in the Berkeley hills, but I have stood at just about that same point in Marin looking across the strait to San Francisco on several occasions.
Finally, Kassel, the city where I have lived since 2007: just two years ago, the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe (featured in the Kassel tab of the page about me and the header on the legal info page) was recognized as a UNESCO cultural heritage site. The landgraves of Hesse created the park as their country estate during the Baroque and Romantic periods, carefully creating an intricate system of cascades and fountains which are still fed by gravity from a reservoir in the hills west of the city. The Löwenburg featured on the legal notice page was built in the late eighteenth century to look like the ruins of a medieval castle, and it is within an easy walk of my house!
On the Services Offered page the Wartburg—an authentic medieval castle—refers both to my background as a Reformation scholar and to my new profession as a translator: after Martin Luther famously refused to recant his unorthodox beliefs at the Diet of Worms in 1521, he hid out at the Wartburg and translated the New Testament into German.
At the other end of the spectrum: the stairs in the Vatican Museum in Rome on the references page represent the Catholic side of the dispute and the richness of that tradition with the artistic treasures accumulated over centuries. I’ve only spent a couple of days in Rome, but what an amazing place for a historian! Which brings me to:
The rest of the pictures can be gathered into the broad category of travel.
One of the most frustrating days I’ve ever spend traveling was in Strasbourg, France. When I left, I vowed to return to France one day when I could speak French! That was before I studied the language in graduate school—I was required to pass a French translation exam for my Ph. D.—and I dare say that at least today I would do a better job of orienting the map! The picture of St. Paul’s Church is on the portfolio page because one of the documents referenced there is by Johannes Tauler, a fourteenth century mystic and student of Meister Eckhardt. Tauler was born and lived most of his life in Strasbourg; about eighty of his sermons were recorded and provide the only record of his doctrine, which was more practically oriented than that of his fellow mystics.
The church on the biographical page is of a distinctly different character: it is at the center of the old village on Spiekeroog, a small island in the North Sea off the German coast. Like the barrier islands of my native North Carolina, the islands along the German coast have a charm all their own. Spiekeroog has become my favorite vacation spot, and I’ve been there often enough that getting off the ferry and walking into the village (no cars allowed!) feels a bit like coming home. What do I like most about Spiekeroog? Well, the historical charm of the old fishing village that has been largely preserved, and the play of light and water on the shallow pools created by the tides. My attempt to capture that effect is in the header on the terms and conditions page.
If I’m not mistaken, that leaves only one photograph of a “place” (as opposed to the other images of books, etc.) which I’ll have to visit on a future trip! The header of the blog page is a library in an Austrian monastery, which, frankly, we just chose because it’s so cool!