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Author: Brooke Bryan

Brooke Bryan / Author

Brooke Bryan is Dean of Cooperative, Experiential & International Education as well as an Associate Professor of Writing, Aesthetics & Digital Studies at Antioch College. She specializes in phenomenological oral history and undergraduate research pedagogy. With expertise in the digital humanities, philosophy, and research interests in material and immaterial culture, she develops partnerships and field-based research opportunities for Antioch students— scaffolding their intensive engagement with communities through interview projects.

Find Me


Brooke advises students across a trans-disciplinary interstice that straddles the humanities (philosophy, history), the humanistic social sciences (community studies), and media arts and communications (journalism, radio, film and documentary). She serves as Dean of Cooperative, Experiential and International Education.

My Work


Supported by the Great Lakes Colleges Association, Brooke directs Oral History in the Liberal Arts— a three-year initiative funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that supports undergraduate oral history research by providing open source workflows and technology stacks for tools in the digital humanities, and articulating pedagogical strategies for ‘high stakes’ teaching and learning through faculty-mentored oral history projects across 13 institutions.

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Fetching the Quilt Home

May 03, 2021

About the Project

Do quiltmakers find ‘flow’ in their practices of making, and how do they value their quilts and expect them to be cared for? Are quilts signifiers of family heritage or cultural property? What ethics gird quilt preservation practices today, and how are they changing? What does it mean to ‘save’ a quilt?  

Brooke Bryan is an oral historian with interests in aesthetics, material culture, and the philosophy of conservation. Beginning a two-pronged research project in Winter 2016, she will first index and thematize oral history narratives from the Quilters Save Our Stories collection, a project of the national Quilt Alliance. Within these collections of narratives, Brooke is seeking to understand how quilters ascribe meaning and value to the quilts they make, how the practice of making impacts their habits of mind and daily patterns, and how they feel the quilts they make should be used and/or conserved. The narratives and assorted key word indexes and summaries will be published in the Quilters S.O.S. collection online, using the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS) as a viewer and finding aid that allows other researchers and listeners to search for content of their particular interest within the collection of narratives.

In the second phase of the project (2016-2017), Brooke will conduct a series of oral history interviews with quiltmakers and antique quilt collectors in an investigation of value, flow, and technologically-mediated arts practices, which will also be indexed and published using OHMS.

The third phase of the project (2017-2018) will see the entire archive published and indexed, with published teaching modules to help other researchers explore the themes in the archive through disciplinary lenses of use to scholars and students in fields such as Material Culture, American Studies, Quilt Studies, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences.[/vc_column_text]

At the heart of the Fetching the Quilt Home project is a philosophical concern with the aesthetics—the phenomenological experience— of making and collecting. Guiding this inquiry is an attempt to explore skill transmission, ‘flow’, and how people value handmade objects in a era of mass production. How we imagine ourselves to care for and preserve quilts is a special question at the heart of the project— be they signifiers of a family’s material culture and stories, or pieces with a presumed historical value as cultural heritage.

Exactly what does it mean “to save” something? For 20th century philosopher Martin Heidegger, we have lost its deeper meaning:

“Usually we think that it means only to seize hold of a thing threatened by ruin in order to secure it in its former continuance. But the verb ‘to save’ says more. ‘To save’ is to fetch something home into its essence.”

In establishing the field of Quilt Studies and proving quilts to be items of our shared cultural heritage, we have certainly “seized” many quilts that may have been lost to the stretches of time. We now have conventions for “securing” these quilts in “their former continuance” through our methods of conservation, preservation, and restoration/repair. We have housed quilts in fine arts and cultural institutions where we may be sure that they will remain ‘safe’ for future generations. But how can we know if we are merely seizing quilts or if we are saving them?

The first indexed narratives, in partnership with the Quilt Alliance, can be navigated beginning in February or March of 2016. Interviews conducted by Brooke in Fetching the Quilt Home are forthcoming in late 2016, continuing into 2017. An interview with Juanita Shockey Harris, an Appalachian quiltmaker, is here provided as an example of the kind of interviews that will be archived for other researchers in this project.

Of note to peer researchers is the difference of content and form between the highly produced 6-minute documentary video made for her family, and the full length oral history interview it was excerpted from below. In producing the excerpt video, many important aspects of Juanita’s experience were necessarily left out as the producer (myself) was forced to conceive of an audience and determine what of Juanita’s sentiment would make the final cut. While the piece is a lovely overview of Juanita’s life, family, and quilting practices, items of particular value to researchers are not accessible. Publishing the full-length interview as a highly-searchable multimedia experience provides entry points to other researchers that the original interviewer might not have even imagined.



No Sugar in My Coffee—Actually, No Coffee at All: De Leon ’20 at Phillip Brigham in Chicago, Illinois

Jul 24, 2018

After six years of travel and relocating to two states and five different countries, I never thought I would be susceptible to culture shock in the midwest. Working as a legal assistant for Antioch alum Phillip Brigham has proven otherwise. What I mean to say is this: for someone who has never had 1) an interest in studying law and 2) any office experience, I signed up for this job knowing it would be something new and challenging. I don’t regret it at all.

The first time I visited Chicago was in August of 2017. It was the weekend of the Charlottesville protests. I remember walking into a bar serving happy hour prices to meet a longtime friend in Rogers Park. It was only a few minutes before I, along with everyone else in the bar, was facing two flat screens displaying live coverage of the violence that broke out. Weirdly enough, I was relieved to be in a big city during such a time of disillusionment. The five days I spent in Chicago evoked a patience for growth both personal and political.

I returned to Antioch in the haze of rust belt humidity on a Sunday afternoon with four other students, slipping in and out of a mid-quarter crisis and entertaining my next big move. When the time came to apply for jobs, I was so sure about moving to Chicago that I only applied to one co-op, where I would be working as a legal assistant—something completely unfamiliar to me. Like I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never had an office job, nor did I own any work attire. The closest I’ve come to bringing any decent court appearance outfit to life is wearing a beige faux-suede Tommy Hilfiger blazer, a white cotton turtleneck, and chunky black platforms with tassels, aware of how people might not look twice at my outfit when they are already staring at my siren red pixie cut and nose ring combo.

On my first day on the job, I photocopied God knows how many bank statements and uploaded them to Smokeball, a very popular software among lawyers that organizes and shares legal files. I went through hundreds of text messages (googling Spanish internet slang as I did so) and decided whether or not there was something more to them than I previously thought. It was tedious, it was thrilling, and it felt important. Telling my family and friends that I was working for a lawyer was both surreal and rewarding. But the next morning, I woke up worried about what important “somebodies” would think about my clothing in court or how I would keep up with the constant responsibility to complete tasks with little experience in a legally bound high-paying service industry. I put on the outfit I bought at Macy’s for my second day at work and looked at myself in the mirror. Instead of feeling like Dana Scully’s semi-casual sister, I asked myself, “Is this the best you can do? How do you expect to hide that you’re inexperienced?”

Drowsy and insecure, I bought a coffee to power through a midday dip. That was a bad idea—it all felt like a bad idea. Moving to a big city was a bad idea, working in an office was a bad idea…

There aren’t many things that make me anxious like coffee does. It took less than an hour for me to feel my heart in my throat and tears in the corner of my eyes. That was when I decided to go on my first and only hour-long lunch break. I walked into a Barnes and Noble cafe, bought some quick eats, and did the best thing I could think of: I called my mom.

I think she’s used to it. I think she’s used to me living in different places every six months. I think she’s used to me working for very rich people, the same people she cleans houses for. My mom has heard me call myself inadequate plenty of times before and this was no different.

I apologized to her for not appreciating the sacrifices she made when she moved to the U.S. from Guatemala thirty years ago. I told her that I was afraid of failing others. And that’s when she stopped me and said, “Jamás te olvides de tu meta, enfócate en tu meta y lograras el conocimiento y experiencia que necesitas.” Never forget your goal, focus on your goal and you will achieve the knowledge and experience you need. She’s said this to me before, and it certainly won’t be the last time she reminds me that, despite the many odds against me, focusing on my personal efforts will get me to where I need to be. She reminded me that I was exactly where I needed to be doing exactly what I needed to do. I don’t really care how cheesy it sounds, this really is how I was able to wipe away my tears, take several sips of sparkling water, return to work, and enjoy my first Friday in the city.

Now here I am on a Tuesday night during week seven, with a brewski while listening to a tape recording my boss made for Anti-Watt (a student-run radio station) in 1994. I’ve continued to meet judges in their chambers, prepare proposals for clients, and better my Spanish through translating documents. Along the way, I’ve made some friends, learned about Illinois law, had a couple of weird Tinder dates, and other things that you just don’t write in a blog post… oh, and no sugar in my coffee, please—actually, no coffee at all.


The Antioch Word: WYSO Hosts the Co-op Swap for returning students during Community Meeting

Apr 13, 2016

Each quarter, the Antioch community welcomes back students returning from their Cooperative Education work terms with an opportunity to share about their experiences in the weekly Community Meeting space. This past quarter, Co-op student at WYSO, Mari Smith, captured the student’s tales in a podcast for The Antioch Word. The Antioch Word is a monthly podcast that was started by a Co-op student in her time at WYSO and continues to be a project for each new student Co-oping at WYSO.

To learn more about WYSO, its connection to Antioch College, or the Antioch Word, check out this site.




Student Spotlight: Octavio Escamilla-Sanchez ’17

Mar 07, 2016

For his third co-op, Octavio Escamilla-Sanchez ’17 joined the hardworking team at Northshore University HealthSystem as a Research Assistant, working alongside Dr. Sanborn and Dr. Chehab. Located in a suburb just north of Chicago, Northshore University HealthSystem works to provide patients the best care possible, while also having a strong commitment to researching new medical treatments and performing various medical trials. As a Research Assistant, Octavio was tasked with analyzing data and compiling his findings into presentations that helped argue the benefits of the program/solutions for reducing sugar consumption developed by the doctors. “Dr. Sanborn has worked with Dr. Chehab who has created a program called the Sugar Show. This program is meant to educate the students of what is too much sugar. The program avoids using the words fat or obese, and just focuses on the negative health affects.” As a part of the program, surveys are taken, collecting data on student sugar intake, BMI, and other factors. Octavio’s role was to analyze the data collected from the surveys, calculate percentages for obesity levels, healthy weight levels, and more. All of his hard work came to fruition when he had the opportunity to present his findings to the Evanston Town Ship High School’s wellness committee.

*excerpts taken from Octavio’s blog assignment


Student Spotlight: Katie Olson ’17

Feb 19, 2016

Venturing to Detroit, Katie Olson ’17 found herself in the thriving art scene of the city. She worked as a Production Assistant for Mutual Adoration, a small business “that transforms reclaimed wood from local structures and other salvaged materials into furniture, custom installations, and small production goods.” While at Mutual Adoration, Katie was able to use both her past experiences at Crown Point Press and her  studies as a Visual Arts major at Antioch to greatly contribute to the work at Mutual Adoration. Daily tasks included prepping materials, sanding, painting, assembly of frames and more! She expanded her learning in woodworking but also, through getting involved in the Detriot community outside of her work hours, Katie was able to interact with local artists,” gallery owners, curators, and professors” and even volunteered at “Afterhouse, a project started by faculty at University of Michigan who are renovating a partially burned down building into a functional greenhouse in the neighborhood that she lived in.” Katie truly embraced what co-op is all about by applying her learning both from classroom studies and past work experiences, and getting out to explore her new community, meeting new individuals in the arts, and volunteering to build up the area around her. Great work, Katie!

*excerpts taken from Katie Olson’s blog assignment


Student Spotlight: Cristian Perez-Lopez ’17, Katie Zechar ’16, Charlotte Pulitzer ’16, and Eric Rhodes ’16

Feb 10, 2016

With support from Antioch College and the Lloyd Family Fund, four Antioch College undergraduates presented posters at the 2015 Oral History Association conference in Tampa, Florida. The conference theme, Stories of Social Change and Social Justice, aligned with their faculty-mentored oral history-based fieldwork conducted during their fourth co-op in WORK 425: Oral History Practicum. Pictured are Cristian Perez-Lopez ’17, who is currently co-oping with the Oral History in the Liberal Arts initiative as the digital archives coordinator; Katie Zechar ’16, who researched Turkish immigration in Dayton, Ohio; Charlotte Pulitzer ’16, who delved into place and identity through oral histories and live mapmaking; co-op faculty member Brooke Bryan, and Eric Rhodes ’16, who began his research on redlining and its implications to communities in Dayton, Ohio.