Oral Histories

Claiborne Skinner and Christian Nøkkentved

Streaming Media


Claiborne Skinner and Christian Nøkkentved



Dr. Claiborne Skinner came to IMSA as a member of the history faculty in 1993. In preparation for his first classes, he says he wanted to make an impression, so he came up with activities, including historical re-enactments. A lesson on the American Revolutionary War involved two-dozen broom handles to serve as rifles for patriots and redcoats, while teaching democracy in Ancient Greece involved rowing across No Pond. At the time at least, Dr. Skinner says he felt the emphasis in the curriculum was on trying new things and any interaction was better than lecturing.

In his first years at IMSA he remembers volunteering to supervise student overnight lock-ins in the main building. He also shares fond memories of fellow history faculty member Dr. Victory - how they would be the first in the building at 6am and the conversations they had about teaching. At some point, Dr. Skinner's students started participating in the Chicago Metro History Fair and did quite well. He liked it because it encouraged independent research projects, and also because when they got a trip to the national competitions he got to take them on side trips to Civil War battlefields. He took students on trips to see historic battlefields in Illinois as well. He and several students spent four years creating a model of Fort St. Louis, which was located at the site of preset-day Starved Rock State Park, and the model, completed in 2000, still is housed in the Visitor's Center. Around the same time, he also worked with students to build a dugout canoe, a project that started as a winter intersession.

He says a challenge early on was realizing the amount of time and energy teaching demanded on a daily basis. It was very different from lecturing at college level, based on his previous experience at UIC. At IMSA he developed much closer connections to students, which was a positive outcome of the more intensive experience. For a long time Dr. Skinner primarily taught American Studies and World History and later added courses covering the history of technology, medieval history, and the Atlantic world. He was interested in the history of technology because of a general interest in how things work, particularly mechanics.

Outside of regular teaching responsibilities, Dr. Skinner enjoyed IMSA's drama productions and helped create some of the sets. In particular, he remembers a play about Scott and Amundsen's race to the South Pole. He also recalls some alumni and the interesting paths they took after graduation.

Duration: 41:20




curriculum, faculty, history classes, humanities, students, research


Oral History


Digital Video Recording


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Claiborne Skinner and Christian Nøkkentved