To address the issue of how to make historic designation and documentation a part of Cliveden’s ongoing dialogue with its various publics, the site sponsored a forum themed around the question “Do National Historic Landmarks Represent Our Historic Values?” This event was an opportunity to bring together community members, museum professionals, and preservationists from the Germantown area to discuss the NHL process, our research for the nomination, and moreover the changing meaning of Cliveden’s history today, all while enlivening what can otherwise seem on the surface to be a closed and static process of filling out a bureaucratic form. Continue reading
Through the support of the Arts of Citizenship Program at the University of Michigan, I recently found myself, along with my team of colleagues, navigating unfamiliar territory in the form of partnership with Cliveden of the National Trust to update the site’s National Historic Landmark (NHL) nomination. The collaboration presented us with many challenges, but two problems we encountered seem particularly relevant to the work of historic sites and historians today. First, could the somewhat bureaucratic process of updating NHL documents be aligned with more public conversations about the meanings of the past? And second, what role could we, as experts but outsiders, play in this process? Continue reading
The Southern landscape and many other parts of the United States remain pockmarked with state historical markers that demand reinterpretation or removal. One state historical marker noting the failure of New Orleans’ 17th Street Canal in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina demonstrates that Louisiana has landed on the right side of this history. Efforts to erect a similar federal marker have twice been stymied, however, as the Army Corps of Engineers, which owns the land in question, has not yet commented on a National Register nomination approved two years ago by the state historic preservation officer. The corps argues that it cannot comment upon the application while litigation over its role in the 2005 flooding of the city remains in process.