Slippery Rock University students selecting images for HistoryPin at the Lawrence County Historical Society. Photo credit: Aaron Cowan.
The digital humanities are rapidly transforming both the discipline of history and the pedagogy of public history. When I taught my first Introduction to Public History course six years ago, my course schedule had two weeks devoted to digital history; today it occupies more than half of the semester.
And yet, just telling students about all the possibilities of digital history and demonstrating some tools on a classroom screen seemed flat and sterile. I wanted more experiential learning and some way to allow undergraduates to understand the potential of digital history and create a presentable public history project, without the technical skills proving an insurmountable barrier.
South Carolina’s monument to its troops offers a smoldering defense of states’ rights. Photo credit: Jill Ogline Titus.
In July 1963, tens of thousands of visitors flocked to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle widely touted as the turning point of the American Civil War. Despite the profusion of toy souvenirs and 19th-century garb, the fact that this anniversary coincided with heightened street confrontation over civil rights, increased international condemnation of racial injustices in the US, and shifts in Cold War politics did not go unnoticed. Political leaders, heritage enthusiasts, and members of the general public all offered interpretations of the battle that advanced their own positions on the contemporary issues confronting the nation.
Some of these interpretations have proven more lasting than others, for they are inscribed in stone. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the vast majority of monuments – regimental, state, and individual – erected on the Gettysburg battlefield marked key moments in the Union defense. In the mid-20th century, Confederate heritage groups and southern state governments began to claim space of their own on the field. Of the 11 southern state monuments on the battlefield today, four were erected during the Civil War Centennial, and two – Florida and South Carolina – were dedicated during the actual100th anniversary commemoration. Continue reading
Even where local food is abundant (as at the Monterey Farmers Market, shown here) sourcing conference meals locally can be a logistical challenge. Photo credit: Flickr user Peter Andersson.
November 1 was the deadline for participants in next spring’s National Council on Public History conference to register in order to secure a place in the program. I’m guessing that that has gotten many of us thinking about flight and hotel arrangements. And I’m also guessing—or hoping—that I’m not the only one for whom this raises questions about how my cross-country journey and my stay in a nice hotel relate to this year’s conference theme of “Sustainable Public History.” So I thought it was worth addressing that environmental elephant in the professional room. How can we bring our collective practices more in line with the goal of using energy more thoughtfully and efficiently? Continue reading
Students at the Danville Correctional Center. Photo credit: Rebecca Ginsburg, Education Justice Project, University of Illinois.
It was a June morning when I got out of my car and walked towards the barbed wire and concrete of the Danville Correctional Center, a medium-security men’s prison in central Illinois. The guards behind the plate-glass windows cleared me through the six mechanical locked doors to enter the facility. I walked past the dining hall on my right and the cell-houses on my left towards the education building. Finally, I reached the classroom where I was holding a mock dissertation defense with a committee comprised of 15 incarcerated men. Continue reading
A few weeks ago, I asked readers of History@Work to nominate articles on historic preservation and place from The Public Historian for a yearlong conversation in honor of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) in 2016. Several of you submitted nominations via the comments on that earlier post (thank you!). More of you contacted me directly. There’s still time for those of you who haven’t made your nominations yet to do so—but not much. The deadline is this Friday, November 1.
Many people have asked me how it’s going so far. How hard is it to create a curated list of 15-20 articles on historic preservation and place from one journal? Pretty tough, as can be seen from this chart, which I created using JSTOR’s Data For Research, a great tool for those who are interested in light data mining within scholarly materials. Continue reading
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.
As a kid growing up in New York City in the 1980s, I was aware of an offensive perception of Haitians.The only images that the media portrayed about Haiti were negative and misleading: corrupt government, poverty, terrible rumors of Haiti being the origin of HIV, and thousands of people fleeing on boats. In school, kids would call Haitians “Boat people!” These harrowing stereotypes forced me to deny who I was in grade school just to spare the bullying.
Rachelle Salnave (age 14), her Mom, and Uncle Eric. Photo courtesy Rachelle Salinave.
Haitian refugees. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Duke University Caribbean Sea Migration Collection, 1994
Since I was the first generation born an American, my connection to Haiti was pretty broken. I had a confusing perception of Haiti even at home. My parents always told me that we were “bourgeois” and that our story was completely unrelated to “those of peasants.” They also had a hard time associating themselves with the struggles of the lower-class Haitians that were constantly in the media. But at the same time, I believe my parents felt hurt by the mainstream media’s negative perception of Haitians because they knew in their hearts that Haiti had a beautiful history with many amazing people. When I was younger, it was these disconnections that lead me for many years to turn a blind eye toward anything that had to do with Haiti, including the Guantánamo Bay experience. Continue reading
Continued from Part 1
Shortly after it was established in 2005, the Muizenberg Municipal Improvement District (MID) Board went to work to eliminate the refugee/renter population. This was obviously not how things were described, but the intention was unmistakable. Moreover, MID insiders were quite prepared to admit this to residents – as long as they were white and middle class – on the assumption that those qualities guaranteed agreement with the board’s course of action. I was one of those regularly taken into confidence by my MID-leaning neighbours because of my skin colour.
Two initiatives stand out. First, the MID filed a flurry of code complaints against the absentee owners of the multiunit structures, as well as some of the row houses in the central village area. Crucially, they were unable to bring action directly against the landlords but rather had to file complaints with the City of Cape Town calling for enforcement of by-laws against crowding, dilapidation, and so on. Unfortunately for the MID crowd, the City of Cape Town had reverted to control by the African National Congress in the municipal elections of 2006. Because of this, the City dragged its feet in responding to these complaints, mainly because the Muizenberg City Council seat was held by the opposition Democratic Party and therefore considered low priority. Continue reading
Vulcan statue, Birmingham, Alabama, built in 1904 to help brand the city and reflect the importance of its iron and steel industry. Photo credit: Flickr user Katie Bordner.
The History Relevance Campaign (HRC), for lack of a better name, is a grassroots movement made up of public historians who say it’s time to show why the study and practice of history develop life skills that contribute to a stronger citizenry and are crucial to our nation’s future. We can say it and write it all we want, but as every writer knows, it has a more powerful impact if we show it.
Certainly the topic of history’s value to society is not new. It has been discussed many times before. This particular effort was sparked in a conversation at the Seminar for Historical Administration (@SHA) last year. A small core of people then instigated an initial working group meeting of twelve people during American Alliance of Museum (AAM) Museums Advocacy Day last February which brought together representatives from the Smithsonian, American Historical Association (AHA), NCPH, National History Day, American Association for State and Local History (AASLH), and three state history organizations. A lively conversation ensued, and it continued at last year’s NCPH conference, AAM annual meeting, at National History Day’s national competition, and most recently at AASLH’s annual meeting, both at the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Forum and in general session. The HRC working group is trying to seize opportunities to gather history folks of all shapes and sizes to hold discussions that will eventually lead to an action plan. Let me provide a brief overview of what the group has done and what it is and isn’t. Continue reading
Passersby in downtown Princeton, New Jersey, stop to inspect the Mobile Bread House on a Saturday afternoon in May. Photo credit: Richard Anderson.
This summer I prepared to facilitate a series of introductory public history workshops for fellow students in my graduate history program at Princeton. In thinking about how to present a range of formats and venues for public history, I planned to highlight alternatives to the usual, institution-hosted projects–an important message on a hidebound campus such as mine. This effort led me to survey various examples of mobile history endeavors, with the hope of illuminating the underlying goals and organizational processes behind them.
My investigation began not with a public historian but with an anthropologist who created a traveling bread-making house as a vehicle (no pun intended) for community building. Continue reading
I moved to Decatur, Georgia, six years ago, after 25 years living in a small neighbourhood of Cape Town, South Africa, called Muizenberg. David Rotenstein’s recent blog posts about his experience in Decatur – which led to his abandoning the suburb – struck me as an interesting opportunity to compare and contrast the politics of gentrification in the two places.
Muizenberg and Decatur are similar in many ways. Both are small, well-defined enclaves of a larger metropolitan area. Both have a history of decline, followed by rapid gentrification. Both communities are riven by disagreements over the nature and desirability of that process. Continue reading