Off the Wall

In response to new technologies, visions, and markets, the lines among among education, design, collection, advertising, activism, memorialization, and art are increasingly blurred. This area of the blog will address those kinds of questions by continuing the work of “Off the Wall:  Critical Reviews of History Exhibit Practice in an Age of Ubiquitous Display,” launched by NCPH in 2010.  These reviews aim to expand (or perhaps to explode) our understanding of what constitutes a historical exhibit, and to work on developing a set of conventions for critically evaluating a wider range of history exhibit practice than is currently reviewed in our disciplinary and professional forums.

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Blacktop history: The case for preserving parking lots

In early 1950, developers opened a “park and shop” center in suburban Washington, DC. By 1950 “park and shop” was an established commercial property type, and the phrase was in common usage (by general public and developers). Media coverage of … Continue reading

Museum selfies: Participatory genius or sign of our self-centered times?

I learned about Museum Selfie Day on Facebook just a couple of days before the event. I made a mental note and visited the Harvard Museum of Natural History on January 22. The results were silly and less skillful than … Continue reading

@HistoryinPics brings history to the public. So what’s the problem? (Part 2)

Continued from Part 1. Unlike corporations that use historical images as a marketing strategy, museums, archives, libraries, and national historic sites are caretakers of history whose goal is not to distract from serious investigation but rather to promote it.  We … Continue reading

@HistoryinPics brings history to the public. So what’s the problem? (Part 1)

Suppose you’d never heard of @HistoryinPics, and I told you that a new social media account had grown to more than a million followers by featuring a different historical image in its feed every couple of hours. As a public … Continue reading

The uses of the past at the Olympics

I am a sucker for the drama of the Olympics. Yet while watching the ongoing Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, I have been struck once again by the continuous invocation of the past during the Olympics and­–at the same time–the … Continue reading

More Off the Wall Posts →