Eleven-year-old Liza Temnikova, as the character of Lubov (the Russian word for “love) during the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The ceremony, titled “Dreams of Russia,” was meant to evoke a child’s dream-like journey across her country’s landscape and history. Photo credit: www.kremlin.ru
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 limited historical consciousness exhibited by the International Olympic Committee, national organizing bodies, corporate sponsors, and host cities. The Olympics cry out for the interpretive and presentational tools of public history. We should recognize and resist the tendency of the Olympics to mine collective identity, commemorative ritual, and public memory for national glory and material gain.
The case of Southern Öland provides a rather dramatic case where visions of heritage preservation and renewable energy development collided, but it is certainly not unique. Other communities have faced similar challenges, including the World Heritage sites of Mont-Saint-Michel in France (where an off-shore wind project was blocked by the French courts), and Britain’s Jurassic Coast. In the United States, the Cape Wind project proposed for Nantucket Bay off of Martha’s Vineyard has generated a fierce legal and political struggle that has spanned more than a dozen years. Cape Wind’s Construction and Operation plans received approval from the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement in 2011 despite a determination by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that the wind farm would negatively affect thirty-six historic sites and districts, and six resources of cultural and religious significance to the region’s Indian tribes.
The many compelling arguments in favor of renewable energy projects makes opposing them challenging. Continue reading →
Öland’s landscape reflects 5,000 years of human habitation. Photo credit: Kim Bach
Off the east coast of Southern Sweden, a battle is raging between competing visions of sustainability. On the most unlikely of battlegrounds, bucolic Öland island, a desire to promote renewable energy has brought local officials committed to promoting a sustainable society into conflict with island residents, preservationists, farmers, environmentalists, and local business owners who believe that protecting the island’s character and cultural resources is incompatible with a proposal to expand industrially generated wind power on the island. Continue reading →
Ironbound residents march up Ferry St. June 1, 1984, in opposition to the construction of a huge garbage incinerator in the neighborhood which would have emitted dioxin and other toxic chemicals. Photo credit: Ironbound Community Corporation
Ironbound Community Corporation, a non-profit community organization in Newark, New Jersey, which celebrates its 45th anniversary in 2014, began working on an archive in 2011, partnering with the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. ICC’s unique environmental justice history, which gained it an early national reputation, is important to its city, state, and the country at large. Over the years, ICC has been the subject of inquiry from residents, organizers, and students of all ages throughout the US and even beyond.
From the beginning, those of us working at ICC knew that when we said ”archive,” we wanted something accessible, which would not just gather dust. A key partner has been the local branch of the Newark Public Library, which agreed to house the archive, help with the public access, and host special kick-off events for each part of the project. Each year ICC has added something new to the archive, and it now has three parts: Continue reading →
Norkunas’s 1993 book was an early contribution to the literature focusing on silence, history, and power.
When I was researching the The Politics of Public Memory: Tourism, History, and Ethnicity in Monterey, California (State University of New York Press, 1993) in the late 1980s, I was deeply affected by the disparity between the haves and have-nots in Monterey. Nearly every day I saw Jaguars, BMWs, and Mercedes on the streets, and from time to time I saw a Rolls Royce. Pebble Beach and Carmel (and the then-mayor of Carmel, Clint Eastwood) joined with Monterey to create an atmosphere of wealth: old wealth, new wealth, and the wealth of those who knew great places in the world.
Where, I wondered, did the workers live? How could they afford an apartment anywhere near their places of work? Who lived in Monterey? Who once lived there? I could see that many of the workers were of Mexican or Latin American heritage. I knew there had once been a significant Chinese population on the peninsula, that Native peoples lived there, that African Americans lived in the area, and that there were other ethnic and cultural groups in the past and present. Continue reading →
The back of this postcard reads “Engineers at Ruskin College Oxford, 1906, sent and supported by their fellow trade unionists at a cost of 1d each.” Photo source: Hilda Kean
The newruskinarchives database website has recently been launched in response to the destruction last year of most of the archive of student records at Ruskin College, the historic trade union and labour movement college in Oxford.
There was much press coverage of the scandal and widespread criticism of the actions of the (now former) Principal, Audrey Mullender. The international petition drew over 7,500 signatories including those of many public historians. However the vast bulk of the student records, as well as dissertations, were unnecessarily destroyed. Continue reading →
Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park, Key West, Florida. Photo credit: Matthew Paulson.
~ Christine Arato, Chief Historian, National Park Service, Northeast Region
After Imperiled Promise landed with something of a magnificent thud almost two years ago, I liken the NPS response to a progression along the five stages of grief articulated by Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. I’m not sure where the agency is as a whole, though I think that our public conversations at Rutgers-Camden earlier this month intimate that some members of the family are striding towards healing and new life. And while I’m not certain if the grieving metaphor is entirely apt—since the Organization of American Historians (OAH) report suggests that the patient was merely moribund—I do think that the OAH’s rather grave prognosis has helped us to introduce some healthy exercise regimens, including the initiatives described by my colleague Lu Ann Jones, both at Rutgers-Camden and again, here, in this virtual forum, which articulate and embody the assertion that history is at the heart of the NPS and, more importantly, is a pillar of civic life. Continue reading →
~ Seth Bruggeman, Associate Professor of History and Director, Center for Public History, Temple University
I’ve been fortunate to have had several points of contact with the Imperiled Promise report since its release, from attending early conference sessions with its authors to being a conversation facilitator myself and, most recently, speaking about where it may lead the NPS’s history program. From the outset, I’ve worried that the report, like so much grey literature commissioned by the agency, would languish on some forgotten shelf. So far, at least, that is not the case, thanks largely to the authors—especially Marla Miller and Ann Mitchell Whisnant—and others who’ve played a critical role in ensuring an audience for the report.
Who that audience is, however, and how it discusses the report, raises another set of questions. Continue reading →
Editor’s Note: On November 6, 2013, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) at Rutgers University-Camden convened a public forum to explore the changing presentation of history in US national parks. The gathering took as its starting point the 2011 report “Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Parks,” which has sparked other similar conversations over the past year and a half (for example, this one a year ago in Boston).
In this three-part series, some of the participants in the event reflect on the state of the conversation about history in the Park Service and their personal and professional takeaways from the gathering.
Outline of Benjamin Franklin’s house, Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo credit: Shana L. McDanold.
Charlene Mires, Director, Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities
At the forum at Rutgers-Camden, the Imperiled Promise report framed the conversation, but it was clear that we had turned a corner from reviewing its findings to thinking about its implications for our work. The event created time and space for discussion and reflection on individual practice. Whatever may occur at the level of agency reform, change will require action on the ground by individuals such as those who participated. I hope that ways will be found to highlight their transformative work as models for the future. While I was glad to see how the conversation is evolving, I also came away from the forum concerned about the need to widen the circle of participation. Nearly all of the university-based scholars who attended were faculty in public history programs — what will it take to interest more of our colleagues? If the state of history in the national parks cannot muster greater attention within the profession, what are the chances of building public and political support for the resources that the Imperiled Promise report identifies as essential? Continue reading →
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 →