Fresh out of graduate school with a Ph.D. in American History from the University of Virginia, Patricia Click joined the department when it was known as the Humanities Division.  At that time, the department was evolving to include more courses that focused on the history of technology.  With specialties in United States Social and Cultural History and Southern History, and an interest in the social and cultural context and consequences of technology (broadly defined), she focused on what physicist Arnold Pacey would later call “technology practice” (as opposed to mere artifacts or machines).  Consequently, she offered a unique approach to the history of technology.  Her incorporation of social and cultural history in the history of technology became apparent in the first courses that she designed and taught, “Technology and Social Change in the U.S. in the 19th-Century,” “Cathedrals, Bridges, and Malls: Technology and Society,” and “Technology and the United States’ Civil War.”

As her involvement in the Division led her to a fuller understanding of the intertwined nature of the social, cultural, and technological, she became more aware of the scant attention that traditional historians were giving technology practice.  She worked to ensure that she did not make that mistake in her first book, The Spirit of the Times:  Amusements in Nineteenth-century Baltimore, Norfolk, and Richmond, and in scholarly articles that followed, sometimes to the dismay of editors operating within the confines of traditional history.  Her most recent book, Time Full of Trial: The Roanoke Island Freedmen’s Colony, 1862-1867, and the website that she created to accompany the book recount the history of a colony of former slaves, a pre-Reconstruction experiment that took place on North Carolina’s Roanoke Island.  During its existence, the freedmen’s colony was the subject of a great amount of national and international attention, but its history had been lost over the years, languishing in thousands of documents in numerous archives.  The book and website emphasize the significant role that education and technology played in the colony.  

Professor Click’s goals in uncovering the history of the Roanoke Island freedmen’s colony illustrate her beliefs about the purpose of academic research.  First, she wished to add to scholarship about freedmen’s camps.  At the time of her book, only a handful of historians were conducting research into this rich Civil War and Reconstruction history, and thus she became one of the nation’s experts on the freedmen’s camps.  She communicated her discoveries with other historians in academic talks and published articles, and also used her ideas to enrich her classes.  Second, she also wanted to share the history of the Roanoke Island freedmen’s colony—and freedmen’s camps in general—with the general public.  Numerous articles, presentations, television and radio interviews, consultations with museum curators, and book signings have propelled her research to a wide and varied public.  Her work inspired others to erect a monument to the freedmen’s colony on Roanoke Island at the National Park Service’s Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, a park that is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year.  Similarly, historian and photographer Marvin T. Jones was motivated to nominate the Roanoke Island freedmen’s colony for recognition on a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker.  That highway marker stands near the site of the freedmen’s colony, celebrating history that was barely known before Professor Click undertook her research.  

In the early 2000s, after the Humanities Division became the Department of Science, Technology, and Society (STS), Professor Click’s interests broadened to include the theoretical STS frameworks that were being expounded in European universities.  Over the years, she shared the STS frameworks with her fourth-year students in the required STS4500 and STS4600 courses, using the theories to approach historical case studies in class.  Students, in turn, used the STS theories as springboards to the undergraduate thesis work that they undertook in the courses.  Click also incorporated the STS frameworks in some of the recent 2000-level STS courses that she developed, including the popular but challenging “Technology and Race in the United States” and “STS and World’s Fairs in the United States,” a January-Term course.

During her time at UVA, Professor Click served as a Senator in the University Senate and coordinator of various core STS courses.  She was a member of numerous departmental and SEAS committees, as well as the University of Virginia’s Jefferson Scholars Selection Committee.  Although she was successful in her research work and in obtaining grants, and she won awards for her work and teaching, she thinks it rather silly to include such boasts in a post-retirement biographical sketch.  Even before retirement she never dwelled on those accomplishments because she always believed that her greatest legacies were her former students and her contributions to historical scholarship.  

Since her early retirement, Professor Click has been busy consulting on historical projects (books, exhibits, and films), conducting historical research, and writing.  She is completing the manuscript for an edited and annotated book of letters written from the Roanoke Island freedmen’s colony, and she has commenced research on several other items on her list of books to be written.  She has also finished the manuscript for a novel and is working on its sequel.  Sometime in the future she hopes to find time to update and modernize her freedmen’s colony website.