Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Sunday, April 11, 2010
As a southerner and student of Southern history, I couldn't let the recent decision of Robert McDonnell, governor of Virginia, to proclaim April 'Confederate History Month' slide by without note. It's been commented upon by NCPH on their Facebook page and by the NY Times (as well as other media outlets). Jon Meacham, author of the Times piece, makes a good point about McDonnell's move being part of a tradition of southern intransigence in the face of racial or social unrest (think Reconstruction, the Populist movement, and the Civil Rights movement). In this case, supporters of 'Confederate History Month' are responding to our new administration: "Whitewashing the war is one way for the right — alienated, anxious and angry about the president, health care reform and all manner of threats, mostly imaginary — to express its unease with the Age of Obama, disguising hate as heritage."
I would argue, though, that the bent on Confederate heritage hasn't really ebbed all that much during the course of the twentieth century, although it has faced growing opposition. From a public history standpoint, as Jennifer Eichstedt and Stephen Small made clear in their work on southern plantation museums, the Lost Cause myth is still alive and well, for example. McDonnell's decision seems but one iteration of a diffuse, long-standing assumption among many southern whites about (white) southern valor and rightness during and after the Civil War.
Most troubling to me is the implicit violence here. To whitewash the past is its own violence, of course, a coerced "forgetting" of the truth of slavery and oppression that cannot be separated from stories we tell about our national history. But beyond this, state-sanctioned recognition of Confederate "honor" is in danger of spurring on the growing number of hate groups in the South and elsewhere in the nation - check the Southern Poverty Law Center's "hate map" to see just how widespread these groups are. And, as exemplified by the recent attacks on black senators by Tea Party protesters, acts of violence are not limited to fringe groups.
Friday, March 26, 2010
My first panel on Friday (we didn't arrive until Thurs. night) was the roundtable, Promoting Community Engaging with Service Learning. I'd never heard the term 'service learning,' but it refers to "a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning exprience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities" (taken from the Learn and Serve Clearinghouse). It's a missive that seems to fit neatly within goals of public history education and practice. The panel was made up of undergraduate educators - Rebecca Bailey from Northern Kentucky U., Katrine Barber from Portland State U., Denise Meringolo from U. of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Gregory Smoak from Colorado State U. - all of whom engage in service learning projects.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
This year's NCPH conference took place in Portland, Oregon from March 10th until the 14th. Under the theme of "Currents of Change" scholars and practitioners of public history gathered to present and exchange ideas about their profession. The next few posts will report on some of the sessions and discussions to give the reader an impression of what was going at the conference.
· Primary Research ·Secondary Research ·Oral History Interviewing
· Artifact and Material Culture Analysis and Interpretation ·Grant Writing
· Management ·Digital Technologies and Fluency ·Evaluation/assessment
· Communication ·Teaching/mentoring ·Written communication in various genres ·Mastery of historiography and historical context of selected subfields or topics ·Mastery of foreign language
· Ability to embrace research agenda set by others · Comfort level interacting with various audiences, including general public · Ability to work independently
· Personnel skills: delegate, supervise, comfort with hierarchy · Critical reasoning
· Awareness of how historical interpretations can be presented in many different
realms and genres · Diverse interdisciplinary interaction · Teamwork ·Project
conceptualization, planning, budgeting, and execution ·Entrepreneurship
TRAITS OR QUALITIES
· Curious · Adaptable · Outgoing · Disciplined work habits¾time management
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
By doing that we hope to get to know other colleagues who deal with history – in what ever way, form, and shape – and to create awareness about and connections within the existing virtual community. Like a finding aid, our regular introductions, will serve as an orientation through the growing landscape of historical websites and blogs.
Of course, if you wish to introduce your own blog or website, we would be happy to post your introduction!
This week's blog:
Name: Public History Podcast
Who: This is the webpage page for the University of Central Florida Department of History Public History Podcasts
What: More than a blog, Public History Podcast – as the name reveals – is a collection of podcasts. Started in April 2009, the website presents new podcasts on a monthly basis. Most of the podcasts are interviews with professors, museum curators, and book authors, exploring various practices and dimension of public history.
Here a few samples from the Public History Podcast collection:
- Interview with Professor Jim Norris, associate professor of history at North Dakota State University, about his history of sugar beet workers, the global history of sugar and the challenges he faced throughout his research.
- Interview with Dietrich Sachs, a lead guide with the Underground Tours in Seattle, Washington.
- Interview with Professor Jack E. Davis at the University of Florida about his recent book An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century.
- Interview with Jack Rutland from the Stonewall Library and Archives in Ft. Lauderdale Florida.
- Interview with Prof. Vladimir Solonari, associate professor at the University of Central Florida, who discusses the Russian Textbook controversy and what that means within the context of remembering the communist past in Eastern Europe.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Ephemeral or not, I had a great time breaking from diss. work today to explore historic tours posted on vimeo. Such a range, from institutionally sponsored tours to tourists' own take on what counts as notable and historic in any given place. I did run across award-winning vodcasts from Steve Bull, who, along with others, received NCPH's Outstanding Public History Project Award two years ago. The vodcasts were a complement to the N-Y Historical Society's Slavery in New York series.
Friday, February 5, 2010
The International Civil Rights Center & Museum opened last week in Greensboro, N.C. -- a recent review of the site in the Times has much to say in praise of the museum, which is housed in the Woolworth's building where the famous February and March sit-ins occurred in 1960. A focus on the resistance of ordinary people -- at the museum's heart is the story of the four young men who led the sit-ins -- and the use of immersive sounds and stark images makes the humiliation and trauma of living under Jim Crow a visceral experience for modern-day visitors, according to the review. But apparently the ICRCM does not necessarily complicate the traditional narrative of the black freedom struggle; it leaves out nuance and detail about institutional faultlines, for instance, or about differing opinions over protest strategy, instead focusing on "broad impact."
I'm reminded of the findings of Owen J. Dwyer and Derek H. Alderman in their work, Civil Rights Memorials and the Geography of Memory (Chicago: Columbia University Chicago, 2003): Most of the sites "do not call attention to the ambiguous motives, painful doubts, or alternative interpretations; the point is to offer public testimony to what happened, to whom, and where."
Their conclusion can be extended to most official memorials, perhaps; I can't think of any, other than those that are part of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, that consciously attempt to not only commemorate the historical event in question but also to comment on how interpretation of the event changes or gains new meanings over time.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
In last month's NCPH newsletter, Briann Greenfield of Central Connecticut State University lobbied for undergraduate public history courses to include advocacy training. Among other guidelines, he pointed to the need for a deeper understanding of the funding structure of history programming as well as for training in the ability to communicate with funding bodies effectively. No doubt that creating a rising generation of savvy public historians is critical, especially in These Financial Times. A different perspective from the arts world - see here for a brief article from ArtsJournal on a recent report by the FineArtsFund of Cincinnati. Lack of funding for arts programming isn't due to the current economic environment or lack of effective advocates, according to findings, but to a misunderstanding of the attitudes of consuming audiences.
And, for a journalist's take on battlefield preservation, see here for a recent article by Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic on his foray among the Civil War battlefields of Virginia. Coates has blogged at greater length on the legacy of the war and on black confederates.
Monday, January 18, 2010
- To be a part of, and help to build, the digital public history community.
- To curate a site dedicated to the introduction of projects near and far.
- To connect those involved in public history projects.
- To think about and promote public history outside the traditional boundaries.
We envision having guest bloggers weigh in on specific issues affecting public history creators and consumers, offering informal interviews with practitioners, artists, and scholars, as well as highlighting digital media such as online exhibits, blogs, and websites. We want to be as broad-minded in our approach to what constitutes public history and want to be creative in our survey of the PH landscape.