“It’s like trying to guess what Shakespeare was up to,” said Kevin Gardner, author of The Granite Kiss and husband of theater professor Brenda Foley, hence the apt reference. Kevin was referring to the challenges of interpreting the maze of stone walls, pens and cellar holes left by Marlboro’s first settlers. He and local historian Forrest Holzapfel were leading a field trip to the historic Bishop homestead, at the base of Hogback Mountain, as part of a course this fall semester called The Presence of the Past. One of the central lessons in this class was that much of what we call historic “truth” is subject to interpretation.
You will find several perspectives on the past in this issue of Potash Hill, from the minutia of Marlboro’s early history to alumnus Art Magida’s colorful assessment of prewar Berlin. Art history professor Felicity Ratté sizes up medieval monumental architecture of the Islamic Mediterranean, while alumna Molly MacLeod focuses on the recent past and hopeful future of some of New Jersey’s busiest residents. You’ll learn what students and faculty have been doing on campus, and what alumni are doing almost everywhere else. I encourage you to share your own interpretation of what you find in this issue. You can view responses to the Summer 2011 Potash Hill here.
—Philip Johansson, editor
Front cover: Reflection of Carsi Mosque and National Museum on Kosovo Parliament, Prishtina, Kosovo, part of Colby Silver’s fieldwork in the Balkans.