Confirmation Day Procession of 1895. Photo courtesy Ellen Skerrett, author of Born in Chicago: A History of Chicago’s Jesuit University (Loyola Press, 2008).

On October 16-19, 2014, Loyola will hold a conference marking the bicentennial of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1814. In preparation for the four-day conference, Loyola scholars have taken to social media to attract attention to the archives they are exploring and start an interactive discussion about 19th-century Jesuits.

Restored Jesuits and the American experience is the title of both the WordPress and Tumblr blogs, as well as the Facebook page that have been created for the bicentennial conference. The aim of the conference is to delve into the impact of Jesuit activities and institutions in the formation of a new nation throughout the 19th and early-20th centuries.

Stephen Schloesser, an associate professor in the history department, is pleased with the level of interaction between students and faculty that stems from the social media sites.

“By launching it a full two years in advance of the conference, it gives scholars, especially younger scholars who are perhaps in graduate studies, the chance to get some ideas and search some archives. All of that kind of new scholarship and research takes time.”

Creating the blog far in advance of the conference allows collaboration between  faculty, staff in University Archives, undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni to work on this project. Joshua Wachuta, a humanities graduate student at Loyola, as well as a Crown Scholar, is in charge of maintaining all three social media platforms to ensure the conference keeps an up-to-date web presence.

“The posts already at Tumblr demonstrate the breadth of the conference topics, linking historical themes and  documents, and inviting people with very different interests to start thinking about this history and where they might research it further,” says Wachuta. “I encourage people to explore the websites and see what interests them.”

Both the WordPress and Tumblr sites lay out academic work that offers numerous avenues for exploring a topic that many historians have not thought much about.

“In order to catalyze thinking about those Jesuits and have that thinking happen through various lens of recent historical trends such as urban, gender, sports, and emotions history, we set up a blog that lays out a number of various possibilities for thinking, or re-thinking, about the 19th-century Jesuits,” says Schloesser.

Despite the celebration being just over a year away, the use of social media helps promote a robust discussion of new research in the two-hundred-year history of restored Jesuit activity in America.

In addition to the restoration blog, there are several other advancements taking place in anticipation of the 2014 conference. There will be a new exhibition at the Loyola University Museum of Art and a virtual library that Dr. Kyle Roberts, a professor in the history department, has undertaken with the assistance of undergraduate research interns Brian Molitor, Zorian Sasyk, and Ed Englestad. Roberts was also one of the catalysts behind the social media endeavor for the bicentennial restoration celebration.

Check out the WordPressTumblr, and Facebook pages to explore the topics discussed above further.