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Editor’s Note: This piece continues a series of posts related to the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, a collaboration of public history programs across the country to raise awareness of the long history of the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay (GTMO) and foster dialogue on its future. For an introduction to the series, please see this piece by the Project’s director, Liz Ševčenko.
Fort Snelling. Photo credit: Minnesota Historical Society
Upon entering Fort Snelling, visitors are greeted with American flags, interpreters dressed in 19th-century military attire, and a narrative of patriotism and progress. The historic site in St. Paul tells the story of Minnesota’s founding but in the process obscures a story about Dakota dispossession and genocide. For Dakota people, Fort Snelling is not a symbol of the state’s triumphant founding but rather a testament to American imperialism, a reminder of the women and children that were held there in the winter of 1862-1863, and the hundreds that died in the camp, as well as on the death marches to and from Fort Snelling. It is this “difficult history” that the Minnesota Historical Society struggles to present at Fort Snelling. Continue reading
Well, not quite all. Let me elaborate.
Riding a highwheel bicycle at the Smithsonian Institution. Photo courtesy of author.
How many times has someone told you that you have the coolest job? I’ve heard this comment at various points in my career, and admittedly, I have had the opportunity to work on some really fun history projects. One in particular—the National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Exhibition—was truly one of the best. My friends kept telling me to write about these experiences. The time I received a grizzly bear in the mail. My trip on the Lewis and Clark trail with teachers from reservation schools. The meeting of tribal advisors. I decided that if I didn’t record the stories, I would soon forget them. So I began to write. As I wrote about my Lewis and Clark experiences, I thought of earlier projects that molded my thinking about history. I kept writing. I wrote whenever I felt inspired, in the evenings and on weekends. Ultimately a book idea formed, and I ended up with eighteen eclectic chapters about history projects from throughout my career. Because I have worked at some rather high-profile institutions that a wide audience would recognize, I began to think that just maybe someone would be willing to pay to read my stories. Continue reading
“It was a big war a long time ago.”
That was all that a young man shopping recently at a farmers market in Santa Monica, California, could say about World War I. He’s not alone. Most Americans seem to know very little about the war, which somehow has gotten lost in our collective memory about our past.
That’s why my colleagues and I – all of us former reporters, producers, or editors at National Public Radio – are embarking on what we call the Great War Project. The goal is to produce radio documentaries and shorter pieces, plus a website, making World War I come alive for contemporary audiences. Continue reading
Don Denard is hugged by supporters as he arrives at the Decatur City Commission meeting, February 18, 2014. Photo by author
In December 2013, an African American man was detained by Decatur, Georgia, police after he was seen leaving his home. An officer issued a suspicious person alert based on the “reasonable articulable suspicion” premise–the legal basis for many states’ “stop and frisk” laws.
Don Denard has lived in the Decatur home he was seen leaving since 1987. He is a former school board member and an active participant in Decatur’s civic life. Yet on December 15, 2013, he was just another black man walking in a community that is becoming steadily whiter and wealthier and where all such men are regarded, as Denard says, with the presumption of guilt. Continue reading
Lee White and Angela Sirna during the “New Normal” panel. Photo credit: Max Van Balgooy
“Sequester” was a dirty word during last year’s conference season. At the March 2013 conference of the George Wright Society in Denver, attendance was down nearly 75 percent because of travel limitations put into place right before the meeting. At the National Council on Public History meeting in Ottawa a few weeks later, I noticed a number of my colleagues were absent. Travel cutbacks were just at the top of a long list of issues caused by the recession and then the across-the-board US federal budget cuts known as sequestration. I was deeply disturbed by what I saw in Denver, and this was before I watched the gates close at Catoctin Mountain Park (where I was working at the time) in October 2013 when the federal government shut down. I hoped that public historians could talk openly at this year’s meeting in Monterey and share responses to their “new normal.” Fortunately the program committee agreed, and on Thursday, March 20, we held an open conversation in a session titled “Situation Normal? Ways Past Sequestrations, Shutdowns, and Budgetary Woes.” Continue reading
Regular visitors to the Public History Commons may have noticed that we’ve undergone a slight facelift recently. The History@Work blog, initially the sole occupant of this site, has gradually been joined by other projects: the News Feed, The Public Historian’s digital space, and now our new Library. To try to keep our interface clear and easy to navigate, we’ve bumped the blog down a little bit on the page and simplified the navigation bar. We hope readers are finding their way around without too much trouble.
We’re also excited to introduce the Library to you. Although still in its very early stages, it represents an important step in a larger project of creating flexible platforms for publication and communication and ways for our print and digital projects to cross-pollinate more easily. We’re starting to get a sense of the possibilities through two recent collaborations, one of which revolves around Richard Rabinowitz’s award-winning article “Eavesdropping at the Well: Interpretive Media in the ‘Slavery in New York’ Exhibition.” Continue reading
Edward F. Ricketts in 1939. Photo credit: The Pat Hathaway Photo Collection, California Views Historical Photo Collection, via Wikimedia
Donald Kohrs is Branch Library Specialist at the Miller Library of Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove. For his presentation at the National Council on Public History conference last week in Monterey, California, Don shared his recent findings associated with summer gatherings of the Pacific Coast Assembly of the Chautauqua Literary and Science Circle (1880-1926) in Pacific Grove. The founders of the assembly placed strong emphasis on instruction in the natural sciences, romantic literature, and the arts. During the Digital Project Showcase, Don also told the story of finding the original books that composed the scientific library of Edward F. Ricketts (a collection that the marine biologist had left to the seaside laboratory upon his untimely death in 1948) and his efforts to identify the original contents of Ricketts’ library.
Don has degrees in biology and library science. In addition to his Chautauqua project, he is exploring the history of the Hopkins Seaside Laboratory (1892-1925), and the early years of the Hopkins Marine Station (1917-1950).
An item from New Mexico State University’s digitized Agricultural Extension Service records. Source: NMSU Library Digital Collections
At the third annual “lightning talks” session highlighting new (and some not so new) digital public history projects at the National Council on Public History conference, a dozen presenters showed off their work to a lunchtime audience.
Public history? A Pennsylvania action by the group Marcellus Protest invokes the state’s constitution. Photo credit: Marcellus Protest
After an incredibly engaging and well-attended American Society for Environmental History conference in San Francisco last week, I arrived in Monterey excited to extend the conversation about the connections among environmental history, sustainability, and public history. I did not expect, however, that the term “sustainability” could rouse the activist roots of our profession. “What to do?”, as one of the discussants in the ASEH panel I chaired on “Perspectives on Environmental History” asked in ending his presentation, seemed to be the question for Thursday. Continue reading