National Council on Public History Putting History to Work in the World 2017-11-17T17:14:15Z http://ncph.org/feed/atom/ WordPress Joana Arruda <![CDATA[Reimagining the history of the (Inter)National Park Service]]> http://ncph.org?p=29808&preview=true&preview_id=29808 2017-11-15T23:30:40Z 2017-11-17T13:30:00Z

National Park Service logo. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

On May 13, 1918, less than two years after the National Park Service (NPS) was established, U.S. Interior Secretary Franklin K. Lane wrote to first National Park Service (NPS) director Stephen T. Mather regarding ways in which the new federal agency could interpret and expand its mission. Read More

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National Park Service logo. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

On May 13, 1918, less than two years after the National Park Service (NPS) was established, U.S. Interior Secretary Franklin K. Lane wrote to first National Park Service (NPS) director Stephen T. Mather regarding ways in which the new federal agency could interpret and expand its mission. Lane urged Mather: “You should keep informed of park movements and park progress, municipal, county, and State, both at home and abroad, for the purpose of adapting, wherever practicable, the world’s best thought to the needs of the national parks.”[1] Specifically, he suggested that Mather create ties with Canada’s park system (1911), “and assist in the solution of park problems of an international character.”[2]

The idea that international work shaped the NPS as early as 1918 may appear surprising because popular imaginings of the NPS traditionally center on the mystique of Western parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. The parks are often perceived as the stronghold of the uniformed figure of the knowledgeable, but fun, park ranger traversing the West’s expansive landscapes. These fascinations are best illustrated in Ken Burns’ documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea (2009). “America’s best idea,” a phrase coined by writer Wallace Stegner, drives Burns’ portrayal of the parks. It focuses on the “invention” of the national park “idea” to preserve American natural landscapes, and later, in the 1930s, its cultural sites. However, Burns and even the agency itself have failed to engage as rigorously with the remainder of the agency’s twentieth-century history. This type of institutional amnesia makes it difficult for some narratives to make their way into the larger story. For example, where is the equal focus on cultural parks, which by the way, make up two-thirds of the NPS’s 400+ units? And more intriguingly, what about that bit about international engagement?

My research has examined the NPS’s engagement overseas, specifically when it founded the Division of International Affairs (DIA) in 1961.[3] In that time, NPS Director Conrad Wirth began to expand the agency in time for its fiftieth anniversary in 1966. Sweeping changes—and $1 billion in federal money over a decade—included buying new lands to build parks, building accessible roads, and revamping visitor centers and interpretation capabilities to make the agency bigger, better, and more equipped to host an unprecedented influx of park visitors in the postwar years. But this vision spilled over domestic borders, as the NPS sought to expand its work during Wirth’s Mission 66 initiative. The DIA was established to create an overseas support network regarding conservation issues and broadly about national parks, but it was also organized to provide technical assistance to nations seeking to build their own national parks.

Historical and archaeological base map of the borders of Petra National Park, as assisted by the national Park Service Jordan in the 1960s.[5] Image credit: United States Agency for International Development

In one compelling case, scholars Lary Dilsaver and Terence Young briefly describe the first official DIA trip to Jordan in 1966 to the ancient site of Petra. Twelve NPS employees and their families relocated to Jordan, where they were tasked with rebuilding six historic sites and teaching Jordanian officials to manage this park system in the future. In 1968 the NPS “Team” developed an interpretive plan to meet this purpose.[4]

Ultimately, these projects were fueled by larger Cold War anxieties. Often funded by the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, these technical assistance projects fit into larger American concerns about containing communism and other political pressures. The idea that national parks were used as nation-building at the height of the Cold War is a compelling story on its own, but even more importantly, it shows the NPS is not a neutral entity, nor its individual parks neutral spaces. Public historians should be aware of and interrogate the degree to which the NPS has shaped both American and international landscapes, both spatially and ideologically.

The NPS Office of International Affairs manages “Sister Park” relationships between parks in the U.S. and overseas. Here is an agreement between Denali National Park and Mongolia, 2017. Image credit: National Park Service.

In August 2016, the NPS celebrated its centennial. This time of reflection and future projections invited questions into the perceived simplicity of the NPS origin story and later history. I kept thinking about the success of the NPS as an “idea,” but as a former seasonal NPS employee, I began to see a lot of the issues that scholars raised in the 2014 Imperiled Promise report about the state of the agency. It identifies issues such as lack of support, low funding, and poor historical interpretation, just to name a few. Advises the report, “The more central history can be to the NPS’s missions and activities, the more relevant and responsive NPS can be to the needs of twenty-first century American society.”[6] “How things are normally done” won’t work for the challenges presented by this century.

The story of NPS’s international engagement serves as an important tool in reimagining the agency’s future. First, it propels us to think about how its mission has shaped and been shaped by global forces. If we can begin to understand how the NPS has contributed to American power structures domestically and internationally, contextualizing its history within our national narrative can push the NPS to do better history by embracing interpretations of how it has shaped park sites at home and abroad. Secondly, it can strengthen the decreased capacity of today’s renamed Office of International Affairs, as well as engage with global narratives at sites for better interpretation and audience engagement. Finally, rethinking NPS history complicates a simplistic, overtold narrative. If we re-examine a complicated past that challenges what we think we know, we can create something better for the future. Receiving Congressional support in these times is a feat in and of itself when the NPS is under attack on several fronts—lower funding levels, pushback against climate change policy in the NPS’s operating agenda, possible de-nomination of various national monuments, and visitor fee increases in parks, just to name a few.

The NPS is imperfect, but its work is worth doing, now more than ever. As concerned, invested, and engaged American residents and history professionals, let’s rethink how it can thrive and make a persuasive case for its importance.

~Joana Arruda is a public historian whose research interests include twentieth century U.S., material culture, and the National Park Service. Most recently, she served as the International Exchange participant in Paris, France with the International Council of Monuments and Sites.

[1] Letter of Franklin K. Lane to Stephen T. Mather, May 13, 1918, in Lary M. Dilsaver, ed., America’s National Park System: the Critical Documents (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1994), 51. Terence Young and Lary M. Dilsaver, “Collecting and Diffusing “the World’s Best Thought”: International Cooperation by the National Park Service,” The George Wright Forum 28 (2011): 271.

 [2] Letter of Franklin K. Lane to Stephen T. Mather, May 13, 1918; in Dilsaver, ed., America’s National Park System, 51.

[3] Joana Arruda, “The National Park Service Division of International Affairs: The Case for International Perspectives, 1916 – 2016,” M.A. thesis, Temple University,  2016.

[4] Young and Dilsaver, “Collecting and Diffusing “the World’s Best Thought”: International Cooperation by the National Park Service,” 271.

[5] Master Plan for the Protection & Use of Petra National Park, (United States Agency for International Development, 1968): 7.

[6] Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Marla R. Miller, Gary B. Nash, and David Thelen,  Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service, (Bloomington: Organization of American Historians, 2014): 6.

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Christian Wicke <![CDATA[Deindustrialization in historical culture]]> http://ncph.org/?p=29695 2017-11-14T22:23:13Z 2017-11-15T13:30:21Z Editor’s note: This post, by TPH guest editor Christian Wicke, is the first in a series of posts on deindustrialization and industrial heritage commissioned by The Public Historian, expanding the conversation begun with the November 2017 special issue on the topic.  Read More

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Editor’s note: This post, by TPH guest editor Christian Wicke, is the first in a series of posts on deindustrialization and industrial heritage commissioned by The Public Historian, expanding the conversation begun with the November 2017 special issue on the topic. 

Zollern coal mining complex in Dortmund, Germany, in 1969, before it became heritage protected. Courtesy of the LWL-Industriemuseum/Archiv.

Zollern coal mining complex in Dortmund, Germany, in 1969, before it became heritage protected. Photo credit: LWL-Industriemuseum/Archiv.

In our ever faster-paced society, most histories go untold and many others are unheard. While every student of modern history studies the causes and effects of the industrial revolution, few have thought about the significances of deindustrialization, which has also been a fundamental feature of the globalizing world. The social and personal consequences of deindustrialization can be heartbreaking, and romanticizing such a historical process would be immoral. Nevertheless, deindustrialization can also be very exciting! I am not thinking primarily of the postindustrial aesthetics that have attracted the imagination of artists and tourists, but of the future histories of these spaces, which are so incredibly open.

My fascination with the complexities of deindustrialization developed a few years ago after moving from Australia to Bochum, a former coal mining and steel city in the German Ruhr. In the first half of the twentieth century, Europe’s economic heartland turned into a huge polycentric city larger than Berlin. It is not easy to comprehend the odd urban structure of the Ruhr, which some have referred to as Ruhrbanity. The industrial logic that determined the organization of the Ruhr cities from the late nineteenth century has continued to dominate them during deindustrialization, which began with the coal crisis of 1958. Sixty years later, in 2018, the last coal mine in the region will close.

A protest for the preservation of a workers' settlement in Duisburg, Germany, 1979. Courtesy of Frank Baier.

A protest for the preservation of a workers’ settlement in Duisburg, Germany, 1979. Photo credit: Frank Baier.

In (West) Germany, the deindustrialization of the black coal sector has been reasonably managed, and decelerated, with federal subsidies. Arguably the social consequences and the cultural trauma working-class communities have experienced under conditions of deindustrialization have perhaps not been as severe as in many other nations, including the United States and Great Britain—though they are very visible. The Ruhr cities today remain among the poorest of the German nation, and the environmental costs are tremendous. What is left are the so-called “burdens of eternity” (Ewigkeitslasten): for as long as human beings live in the Ruhr they will, for example, have to artificially pump water to maintain the natural river catchments from sinking and flooding, mutilated by more than a century of mining and heavy industrialism.

How does such dramatic transition affect public memories, histories, and identities? That is a big question I started exploring with Stefan Berger, Jana Golombek, and scholars and heritage activists from around the world at Bochum’s Institute for Social Movements and within the newly established European Labour History Network. The November 2017 issue of The Public Historian is one of the results from this lively collaboration. During the first period of the project I greatly enjoyed taking international visitors on a “tour de Ruhr.” They usually became very excited by the amazing industrial heritage network that developed with the International Building Exhibition Emscherpark (1989–99) across the region.

In other deindustrializing regions, this type of heritage has not usually enjoyed the same status. Still, I am not so sure if the history of industrial heritage in the Ruhr should be told to others as a success story. There currently seems too little space for critical narratives of the past. Looking at the origins of industrial heritage in the region, however, we can learn a lot. In the late 1960s and the 1970s, the Ruhr witnessed a powerful industrial heritage movement. Starting in the form of civil society actions from below concerned about the preservation of industrial aesthetics and working-class life, the movement soon became institutionalized and, since the late 1980s, predominantly a state-sponsored movement from above. Industrial heritage became increasingly valorized and touristified. From that perspective, the shining example of the Ruhr appears in a different light. Industrial heritage has become part of neoliberal urbanism.

And we can also learn a lot from regions where industrial heritage remains even more contested, or where the value of the industrial past has not been recognized. Often it is disclaimed, suppressed, or sanitized as “dirty” heritage. We need to pursue further comparative studies to understand the reasons for such great variations in the historical cultures of deindustrializing regions. It seems that it is usually only under conditions of deindustrialization that the heritage discourse over the industrial past evolves.

Global comparisons also show that the histories of industrialization and deindustrialization are highly place dependent. It is very difficult to globalize industrial and postindustrial eras. Both are incredibly uneven processes, with overlapping and differing temporalities from place to place. Often we tend to think of industrialization, industrialism, and deindustrialization as a linear process of the modern era. Combining micro- with macrohistorical perspectives, however, we can see that different industrial places have very different experiences, although they are economically, politically, and culturally connected to various degrees. This ensures that comparing industrial heritage movements around the world will remain a challenging enterprise.

The Brass Band of Petrila, Romania, in front of the Petrila Coal Mine. Photo courtesy of Andrei Dăscălescu.

The Children’s Brass Band of Petrila, Romania, in front of the Petrila Coal Mine shortly before its closure. Photo Credit: Andrei Dăscălescu.

The current issue of The Public Historian comprises academic and activist perspectives on Detroit, Glasgow, three regions in Australia, the Romanian Jiu Valley, and the Ruhr. With this post, we begin a series that adds Melbourne, two cities in Canada, provincial France, Pittsburgh, and the smaller cities of upstate New York to the conversation. These examples demonstrate that our historical cultures are being shaped by multiple actors outside of academia and we need to think out of the box to forge networks of critical memory activism to overcome silence in the public histories of deindustrialization. The hegemonies of narrating the past are not static; they can be manipulated and need counterbalancing by radical democratic action. Donald Trump’s election and his campaign, promising to reindustrialize America, are a symptom of national nostalgia, deindustrialization, and its mismanagement.

While Trump is in denial, I wonder for example whether human-induced climate change will encourage us to further change the public memory of industrialism and the meaning of industrial heritage. Paul J. Crutzen’s influential notion of the Anthropocene, beginning with the invention of James Watt’s steam engine, might one day unite industrial memories around the world. Imagine provincial coal mines as humanity’s lieu de mémoire, where the distinction of planetary and human history would be overcome! Yet, for now, industrial heritage remains closely connected to very local, regional, and national identities—as these articles and posts make clear.

~ Christian Wicke works as a historian at Utrecht University. He is the author of Helmut Kohl’s Quest for Normality: His Representation of the German Nation and Himself (New York: Berghahn, 2015).  He is active in a research network on historical cultures under conditions of deindustrialization and is currently working on a history of urban movements in the 1970s.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the Field November 15, 2017]]> http://ncph.org/?p=29890 2017-11-15T14:11:30Z 2017-11-15T13:00:17Z

From around the field this week: New York is holding public hearings about the city’s monuments and markers, and New Yorkers are invited to sign up to testify; Early Americanist group blog The Junto is seeking new contributors; more information on the upcoming cycle for the NEH’s Public Humanities Projects grant is now available online, with a deadline of January 10; the Midwestern History Association is inviting nominations for its Alice Smith Prize in Public History; Proposals for the National Association of African American Studies conference are due November 30; AASLH’s “Basics of Archives” online course starts today. Read More

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From around the field this week: New York is holding public hearings about the city’s monuments and markers, and New Yorkers are invited to sign up to testify; Early Americanist group blog The Junto is seeking new contributors; more information on the upcoming cycle for the NEH’s Public Humanities Projects grant is now available online, with a deadline of January 10; the Midwestern History Association is inviting nominations for its Alice Smith Prize in Public History; Proposals for the National Association of African American Studies conference are due November 30; AASLH’s “Basics of Archives” online course starts today.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

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To submit an item to this regular listing, fill out the form at http://ncph.org/around-the-field-form/. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

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Jonathan Schaffer <![CDATA[Re-encountering the Jewish past in Ukraine]]> http://ncph.org/?p=29545 2017-11-13T15:02:16Z 2017-11-13T13:30:02Z

Bogdan Stanislawski standing at the former site of a storehouse that had used Jewish headstones as its foundation, October 2017. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

A thoughtful, though limited narrative prevails today of Jewish Americans returning to the lands of their ancestors in Eastern Europe.  Read More

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Bogdan Stanislawski standing at the former site of a storehouse that had used Jewish headstones as its foundation, October 2017. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

A thoughtful, though limited narrative prevails today of Jewish Americans returning to the lands of their ancestors in Eastern Europe. Articles abound, including in The New York Times recently, that follow a certain trajectory: a Jewish American boards a plane to find themselves in a strange land that time forgot. Upon arrival in a former shtetl (village) of family importance, now a mix of rundown pre-war structures and dystopian Soviet-era buildings, the Jewish American visits: 1) the desecrated and overgrown Jewish cemetery—stones are toppled or non-existent, buildings encroach or even cover the cemetery, the occasional cross or Christian shrine makes an appearance; 2) the former synagogue—if it exists at all, it has been re-purposed for current-day use; 3) the mass grave of the former Jewish inhabitants–typically in the nearby woods where they were shot at close range.

If there is any interaction with the locals, it’s with old “babushkas” who share stories of the Jews they once knew and who pepper their Ukrainian with otherworldly mentions of “Rosenbaums” and “Schneiders.” It’s astonishing to hear Jewish surnames spilling from the lips of elderly people in these remote places. The Jewish American departs with a head full of unshakable images of devastation, cruelty, and neglect.

I know this archetypal visit well, because I experienced it myself in 2010. While these articles convey authentic reflections of sorrow and loss, what concerns me is that no one revisits these places a second time after the rawness and immediacy have subsided in search of context and meaning in today’s world.

After my first visit in 2010 to the towns and villages of my ancestors in what is now Western Ukraine, I, too, struggled with what I had encountered. In 2016, I returned for a second visit which I chronicled in an essay for the National Council on Public History entitled “Recognition of the Jewish past in Western Ukraine: Changing for the better.” This time, my internalization of what I experienced was more measured. I focused on reconciling the past and present through a wider lens that included the reality of today.

Headstones repatriated to the Jewish cemetery in Obertyn, Ukraine, 2017. Image courtesy Jonathan Schaffer

In October 2017, I ventured to Ukraine once again. The catalyst for this visit was to witness the recent repatriation of Jewish headstones to a rededicated portion of the former Jewish cemetery in the village of Obertyn. As I had written in 2016, the headstones had been used as the foundation of a grain storehouse during the Soviet era. A local businessman named Bogdan Stanislawski, 48, who owns a commercial property on the former cemetery, has returned the stones to a prepared section of the cemetery at his own expense. And so, my mother, Susan, and I traveled to meet Bogdan and to learn more about the project which will likely include a fence, a memorial plaque, and a walkway.

The author’s mother, Susan, with an Obertyn woman who shared quince from her garden, October 2017. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

I had seen photos and local news coverage of the rededicated section of the cemetery in Obertyn, but there’s nothing like experiencing progress firsthand. We met Bogdan at his sleek bakery-café in the larger town of Kolomyja before driving with him to the cemetery site in Obertyn. There, locals greeted us warmly as we marveled at the long row of headstones basking in the sunlight after so many years stacked under the storehouse. My mother developed an instant rapport with an older woman who lived directly across the street.  After my mother inquired via our guide/interpreter, Tomasz Jankowski, about what she grew in her garden, this lovely woman raced home and returned with a bag full of quince freshly picked from her trees.

Bogdan explained that it had always troubled him that the cemetery wasn’t afforded any respect. He also grew up near the storehouse and knew what the supporting stones really were. It doesn’t matter whether his motivations behind the cemetery re-dedication are benevolent or commerce driven or both. Bogdan and I are just two years apart in age. He had as much to do with the Holocaust as I did. And while our perspectives may differ, we’re both seeking the same outcome in recognizing the Jewish past in Obertyn.

Classroom in Horodenka, where a student is holding up Someone Must Survive to Tell the World, by Tosia Szechter Schneider, October 2017. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

We then drove to my late maternal grandfather’s hometown of Horodenka. We had arranged to meet with English-speaking children at the local high school in this town of 10,000 people. I’d expected a small group of students seated around a table, but my mother and I walked into a packed classroom. Our interest in meeting was not to lecture the students on their town’s Jewish past and the culpability of their ancestors; we simply wanted to interact with young people living in Horodenka today.

The students spoke English to varying degrees, and they were welcoming and polite. We carried on a lively exchange on lighter topics ranging from their favorite music to after-school chores to future career plans. When asked, they expressed familiarity with the Jewish cemetery and the former synagogue and its past: 2,500 Jews were crammed into the synagogue before being taken by truck close to the Dneister River where they were shot. We gave the class a copy of the memoirs of Tosia Szechter Schneider, a Holocaust survivor from Horodenka living in Atlanta. Their English teacher, Maria, said they looked forward to learning from her experience.

With one exception, none of the students had ever met anyone Jewish. As a result, they seemed to equate all Jews with Hasidic Jews. I was glad to provide them with a real-world connection to Jews which, in our case, meant two secular Jews from America. Perhaps our being there humanized the remaining Jewish places in their town that stand out as vestiges of a lost community from an increasingly distant past.

After the students had left, Maria asked if we could arrange a pen pal program. I was delighted at the prospect of students from my children’s school district in New Jersey corresponding with those from my grandfather’s hometown. Surely, my grandfather’s memories of Horodenka where his father and other family members and friends were executed during the first German “aktion” in December 1941 were defined by grief, anger, and loss. I honor this past, but I am also of a generation that can build bridges with the Ukrainian people living there today. If this interaction leads to a teenager in Horodenka walking by the synagogue and feeling compassion towards the Jews who once lived there and instills a greater sense of respect for the remaining Jewish sites, then I think my grandfather would approve.

Students exercising in the former synagogue in Horodenka, October 2017. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

Before leaving Horodenka, I paid a quick visit to the former synagogue just around the corner from the school. The synagogue now serves as a gymnasium with a large wrestling mat on the main floor and basketball hoops hanging from the walls. The balcony where women once gathered to pray functions as a weight-lifting area.  Unlike during my two previous visits, the former sanctuary was a sea of activity with elementary school children playing games and exercising with their teacher on the mat. If the synagogue had to be re-purposed, then I was glad to hear it filled with the laughter of children similar in age to my own two young boys back home.

I wouldn’t have been receptive to these moments of human connection on my first trip to Ukraine in 2010. Like other Jewish Americans, the overwhelming awfulness of standing at a mass grave of my people defined my initial visit, but that’s not where the story should end. Of course, there is no happy ending to the Holocaust. Nothing will change what happened. Yet, every time I return to Ukraine I see signs of progress toward greater recognition of the Jewish past in these faraway places. And every bridge we build with the people who live in these former shtetls makes us seem less faraway, too. At least, that is my hope.

Jonathan Schaffer is married with two young boys. By profession, he is a managing director at a tech-oriented IPO advisory and investor relations firm in New York City. He wishes he asked his grandparents more questions when they were alive. To learn more about Jonathan’s public history work, please visit: www.returntogalicia.com

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editors <![CDATA[Around the Field November 1, 2017]]> http://ncph.org/?p=29461 2017-11-01T14:27:39Z 2017-10-31T19:23:25Z

From around the field this week: “Recasting the Confederacy: Monuments and Civil War Memory” panel discussion November 6 in Connecticut; podcast production company Wondery is looking for contributors to a new podcast series on American history; the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is accepting grant applications for two programs in the month of November; upcoming workshop on diversity and inclusion next week in Texas. Read More

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From around the field this week: “Recasting the Confederacy: Monuments and Civil War Memory” panel discussion November 6 in Connecticut; podcast production company Wondery is looking for contributors to a new podcast series on American history; the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is accepting grant applications for two programs in the month of November; upcoming workshop on diversity and inclusion next week in Texas.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular listing, fill out the form at http://ncph.org/around-the-field-form/. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

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James F. Brooks <![CDATA[Rust, recreation, and reflection]]> http://ncph.org/?p=28857 2017-10-30T19:30:05Z 2017-10-27T12:30:56Z Editor’s note: We publish TPH editor James F. Brooks’s introduction to the November 2017 issue of The Public Historian. The entire issue is available online to National Council on Public History members.

I recently spent several weeks exploring the remnants of coal towns in southern Colorado, as well as associated public history interpretive sites like the United Mine Workers’ (UMW) memorial at the site of the Ludlow Massacre, the Walsenberg Coal Mining Museum, the Cokedale Mining Museum, and the Steelworks Center of the West in Pueblo. Read More

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Editor’s note: We publish TPH editor James F. Brooks’s introduction to the November 2017 issue of The Public Historian. The entire issue is available online to National Council on Public History members.

I recently spent several weeks exploring the remnants of coal towns in southern Colorado, as well as associated public history interpretive sites like the United Mine Workers’ (UMW) memorial at the site of the Ludlow Massacre, the Walsenberg Coal Mining Museum, the Cokedale Mining Museum, and the Steelworks Center of the West in Pueblo. The region is most remembered, at least among labor historians, as the location of the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, in which thirteen women and children died. The UMW memorial receives public visitors with a time line of illustrative panels that detail the labor dispute, the strikers’ colonies, and the siege laid by the Colorado National Guard. The museums tend to emphasize the diverse ethnic and racial composition of the coal camps, workers’ life underground and family life above, and aspects of “welfare capitalism” in the Colorado Industrial Plan that emerged after public outcry following the violence at Ludlow.

Gaston Gordillo’s 2014 book, Rubble: The Afterlife of Destruction, also haunted my mind throughout. This anthropological exploration of conquest and industrialization in the Argentine Chaco treats the various meanings that peoples of different classes or races attribute to the visible remnants of these phenomena. A simple rendering of his thesis suggests that we keep in mind a distinction between “rubble”—the detritus that remains after conquest and industrialization of a hinterland—and “ruins”—the affect constructed through historical interpretation of the same remnants (often informed by bourgeois nostalgia)—that smear a pain-masking salve over the past.

This special issue of The Public Historian also occupied my thoughts, since the essays herein illustrate the tensions between “preserving” the hard lessons of our industrial pasts for public enlightenment and redeveloping postindustrial sites for tourism and public recreation. As our guest editors, Christian Wicke, Stefan Berger, and Jana Golombek, make clear, what appeals to many urban-dwelling, tech-savvy, digital-economy visitors as the gritty romance of an era gone by bears little resemblance to the grindingly dangerous toil that unfolded beneath the ground and within the factories in the Ruhr, Australian and Romanian coal camps, post–Motor City Detroit, and Glasgow. In this global view, the guest editors’ contribution reminds us, “industrial heritage . . . is sometimes presented in a self-congratulatory way,” severed from critiques of the experience of the working classes who made it possible.

As gentrification turns the “blighted structures” and industrial flotsam into commercial collectibles of “industrial heritage,” these authors worry that such transformations are perceived as a “universal good,” which in more critical analysis trends toward erasing “the social and material legacies of racism and urban decline from the landscape.” Yet in the southern Colorado coalfields, public history sites and projects suffer thin visitation, since none feature the magnetic appeal of food courts, playgrounds, and recreational options that attract non–historically minded travelers to experience the educational and interpretive work of dedicated local historians.

This special issue illustrates the varieties of critical stances and renditions practiced by public historians on three continents. All suggest that the industrial past continues to resonate, in various ways, in our new-economy present. As we have recently seen, the nostalgia for an industrial past continues to shape self- and national identity and can sway electoral politics. We hope to contribute to a greater understanding of how economic change, memory, heritage, and political symbolism intersect.

~ James F. Brooks is editor of The Public Historian and professor of history and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the Field October 25, 2017]]> http://ncph.org/?p=29240 2017-10-25T16:40:42Z 2017-10-25T16:39:40Z

From around the field this week: Susan Ferentinos delivers a talk on “Presenting the Queer Past” at Rutgers University – Newark tomorrow; applications for the Library of Congress’s Librarians-in-Residence fellowship program open on November 1; proposal deadlines approach for conferences in New York, Delaware, and Massachusetts; AASLH and the OHA are offering webinars next week; a round-up of Rowman and Littlefield’s October publications; and more. Read More

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From around the field this week: Susan Ferentinos delivers a talk on “Presenting the Queer Past” at Rutgers University – Newark tomorrow; applications for the Library of Congress’s Librarians-in-Residence fellowship program open on November 1; proposal deadlines approach for conferences in New York, Delaware, and Massachusetts; AASLH and the OHA are offering webinars next week; a round-up of Rowman and Littlefield’s October publications; and more.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular listing, fill out the form at http://ncph.org/around-the-field-form/. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

 

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Jeff Manuel <![CDATA[“A Shared Inquiry into Shared Inquiry” in the public history classroom]]> http://ncph.org/?p=27517 2017-10-18T21:45:03Z 2017-10-25T12:30:25Z  

Display from St. Louis in the Gilded Age Exhibit, Missouri History Museum, curated by Katherine T. Corbett, St. Louis, Missouri, 1994. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.

Display from “St. Louis in the Gilded Age” exhibit, Missouri History Museum, curated by Katherine T. Corbett, St. Louis, Missouri, 1994. Photo credit: Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.

When Tammy Gaskell posted to the History@Work blog asking public history educators to recommend articles from The Public Historian that work well in the classroom, I immediately replied with several options. Read More

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Display from St. Louis in the Gilded Age Exhibit, Missouri History Museum, curated by Katherine T. Corbett, St. Louis, Missouri, 1994. Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.

Display from “St. Louis in the Gilded Age” exhibit, Missouri History Museum, curated by Katherine T. Corbett, St. Louis, Missouri, 1994. Photo credit: Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.

When Tammy Gaskell posted to the History@Work blog asking public history educators to recommend articles from The Public Historian that work well in the classroom, I immediately replied with several options. At the top of my list was Katherine Corbett and Dick Miller’s “A Shared Inquiry into Shared Inquiry,” which appeared in the winter 2006 issue. I teach an introductory public history course at a regional public university in Illinois. Students in my class are usually a mix of undergraduate history majors, MA students, and those for whom the class fit their schedule. I typically assign Corbett and Miller’s article early in the semester, and it works well for several reasons. First, it offers students a clear introduction to the concepts of shared inquiry and shared authority, which are central to public history. Second, it raises many of the theoretical issues that students need to wrestle with in an introductory public history course, including collaboration, the divide between history and heritage, and the role of funding in shaping historical interpretation. Finally, the article is beautifully written. Students appreciate this in any reading assignment, but it’s especially welcome when I am trying to emphasize the need to write clearly for nonacademic audiences.

Corbett and Miller’s article gets students to wrestle with the concepts of shared inquiry and shared authority, which, in my opinion, are signature pedagogies of public history.[1] The discussion of shared inquiry is often the moment when students realize that a course in public history is more than vocational training to work in a museum or a class about monuments. It forces them to wrestle with public history as a complex, theoretically minded approach to history rather than a body of material to master. It is often when students realize the class will challenge them in a very different manner than other history courses. Corbett and Miller put it best: “honest sharing, a willingness to surrender some intellectual control, is the hardest part of public history practice because it is the aspect most alien to academic temperament and training” (36). Once the concept is introduced via Corbett and Miller’s article, it serves as a touchstone for later discussions and projects. Corbett and Miller raise questions that I continue to ask students throughout the class: Who has power in this situation? Is it possible to do good work as a historian in this project? Once they are asking themselves these questions, they are beginning to think like public historians.

In my experience, students eagerly embrace the concepts of shared inquiry and shared authority once they understand them. At times they embrace them a little too eagerly. A vague and romanticized “community” can become all-knowing and all-powerful. Or discussions can become attacks on “academic history” that lack nuance and sophistication (but occasionally hit the mark). To push back, I now assign Michael Frisch’s thoughtful reflection on shared authority and Andrew Hurley’s excellent description of community-engaged scholarship in St. Louis.[2] We then have the foundation for a rich discussion of shared inquiry and the trade-offs inherent in community participation and marshaling academic expertise.

Missouri History Museum, park side entrance 2. Courtesy of Missouri History Museum, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mohistory/11717434556, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Missouri History Museum. Photo credit: Missouri History Museum is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Corbett and Miller’s article is an excellent introduction to the idea that, “public history is always situational and frequently messy” (19). Public history is practice-based and therefore quite different from other history courses most undergraduates encounter (especially those not in a public history program). There are theories and approaches to learn, but they always play out through case studies that are situational and can’t be generalized. One reason Corbett and Miller’s article works so well for me is that many of their examples are drawn from the Missouri History Museum, which many students at my university know and have visited. For my midwestern students, examples of cutting-edge practices at the Tenement Museum or highbrow European sites are interesting but can feel distant, both geographically and culturally. Public history education is also situational. What makes a good reading depends on the students you teach and where you are located.

When introduced early in the semester, Corbett and Miller’s article is a good launching pad for discussing why collaboration is central to public history. Selfishly, the article gives me justification for assigning group projects. Student aversion to “group work” is common, but Corbett and Miller’s reflections on shared inquiry highlight how any good public history work is shared, that is, collaborative. They give helpful examples of the many hands involved in putting up an exhibit. Discussion of the article has also been a good time to take an inventory of my students’ skills with an eye toward how they might contribute to team projects. I usually ask students to talk about skills they have developed in other courses or outside of school. I’m always pleasantly surprised by students’ multifaceted skill sets, which include exhibit fabrication, multimedia editing, and even quilting or scrapbooking. It takes some prodding, but once students realize their hobbies and passions could be valuable to public history coursework they often engage in the class with a newfound vigor.

As I planned my public history class for this year, I reflected once again on Corbett and Miller’s article and the questions it raises. I knew I’d assign it to my students early in the semester. But with controversy over a Confederate memorial raging in St. Louis and the national debate over so-called fake news, I wonder whether I should assign more readings that emphasize historians’ authority in such debates. More broadly, while syllabus planning I am always uneasy teaching about shared authority without actually sharing authority with the students in my classroom. “Sharing authority is a deliberate decision to give up some control over the product of historical inquiry,” Corbett and Miller write. It is easy to critique this when reading about public history projects somewhere else, but I find it much harder to implement when I’m designing my classes. I have experimented with student-created lessons and even leaving weeks of the syllabus blank for student-led topics. So the debate continues. Nonetheless, guided in part by Corbett and Miller’s article, I look forward to the conversation.

~ Jeff Manuel is associate professor of history at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where he teaches classes in public, oral, and modern US history.

[1] By “signature pedagogy,” I refer to the literature on the distinctive pedagogies within a discipline that properly prepare students to think and work as professionals in that field. Lee S. Shulman, “Signature Pedagogies in the Professions,” Daedalus 134, no. 3 (Summer 2005): 52–59. The application of signature pedagogies to history is described in Lendol Calder, “Uncoverage: Toward a Signature Pedagogy for the History Survey,” Journal of American History 92, no. 4 (March 2006): 1358–70. Note that Patricia Mooney-Melvin argues that the broader category of “reflective practice” is the true signature pedagogy of public history.

[2] Michael Frisch, “From A Shared Authority to the Digital Kitchen, and Back,” in Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World, ed. Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski (Philadelphia: Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, 2011), 126–37; Andrew Hurley, Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010).

Editor’s note: The post is the third in a series commissioned by The Public Historian that focuses on essays published in TPH that have been used effectively in the classroom. We welcome comments and further suggestions! If you have a TPH article that is a favorite in your classroom, please let us know. You can send your suggestions to tamara.gaskell@rutgers.edu.

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Jerome de Groot and Tanya Evans <![CDATA[International Family History Workshop, Part I]]> http://ncph.org?p=28161&preview=true&preview_id=28161 2017-10-20T12:51:35Z 2017-10-19T12:30:00Z

Alison Light speaks with attendees of the International Family History Workshop. Photo credit: Tanya Evans

The study and practice of family history is fraught with methodological, historiographical, practical, ethical, and cultural concerns for scholars and practitioners alike.[1] In trying to design an event that might respond to and interrogate these concerns, we asked: What new knowledge might be created if we bring scholars together to discuss the phenomenal growth of family history in different nations? Read More

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Alison Light speaks with attendees of the International Family History Workshop. Photo credit: Tanya Evans

The study and practice of family history is fraught with methodological, historiographical, practical, ethical, and cultural concerns for scholars and practitioners alike.[1] In trying to design an event that might respond to and interrogate these concerns, we asked: What new knowledge might be created if we bring scholars together to discuss the phenomenal growth of family history in different nations? The result was the International Family History Workshop held in Manchester, England in September.

The conference sought to address the following questions: Is family history a useful template for public historians? Is it something that can be defined, understood, and studied? How do global systems built for commercial profit but which also facilitate research, investigation, and knowledge gathering—subscription websites and software tools—engage with local practice at a regional, national, city, or town level? Conversely, how does local genealogy engage with the hyperglobalised flow of people, information, and knowledge that we see in the modern world? Is family history a primarily western discourse, or has it (within the academy, within public history scholarship) been given a “centre” weighted around practice in the USA, Europe, and Australia? Does it actively marginalise and create edges, enshrine particular bureaucratic states and colonial gathering of information, support class and gender structures, and ensure the continuing digital divide? Is it fun, emotional, strange, or worrying, and is it practiced and felt the same from São Paolo to Seoul, and from Melbourne to Manchester?[2]

We were also keen to learn more about how social media helps to facilitate family history research and enables collaborations between different communities of researchers across the globe.

Manchester Central Library. Photo credit: Gtosti, CC BY-SA 3.0

Further, we asked what might happen if we sought financial support from one of these major organisations—Ancestry—in terms of research, scholarship, and event development? Might we be able to get towards some kind of working understanding of the phenomenon as it might be studied and discussed, or would we emerge instead with a clear understanding of the diversity and plurality of genealogical culture?

The International Family History Workshop emerged as a one-day conference (with an accompanying special public lecture by Alison Light) in Manchester. We invited scholars from around Europe, from Brazil, India, and Australia to participate, and engaged further with scholars from China, South Korea, and the United States. The event was sponsored by Ancestry.au as part of a developing partnership investigating how family history might be studied and conceived of in the coming years.

The event was designed carefully to ensure as much public participation and engagement as possible. We had a number of speakers who gave brief presentations. These sessions were followed by small round-table discussions amongst the audience, with posters on the tables to ensure their thoughts were captured (some of these are outlined in our second post on this subject). The point was to ensure that the event was discursive and participatory. Eschewing the style of a classic academic conference, we wanted to explore how we might communicate “scholarly” information and facilitate discussion in an informal yet methodologically useful fashion. This was augmented by the fact that the audience consisted mainly of members of the public rather than academics.

Workshop notes and responses. Photo credit: Jerome de Groot

Ancestry staff members were enthusiastic with their support—helping to design the event and contributing insight into marketing, writing for the public, and communications. They were very interested in the research presented and keen to use this in blogs and social media posts for their various audiences. They were extremely generous with their resources and with advice on how to work with their particular audiences. The partnership and relationship is likely to be of significant lasting value. Nonetheless, the relationship with Ancestry inevitably raised some questions about research ethics. It made us think carefully about the ways that organisations such as international businesses and companies might be considered “research institutions” and partners in development work. To what extent is Ancestry a research organisation, a facilitator of education, or a service? How do users of their websites think about the organisation? How should universities work with businesses, particularly those who provide information and data services? Even those that have been working for some time in this area need to be more reflective about this practice, particularly in the humanities. How should scholars engage with companies to produce future work? How might they negotiate writing collaboratively with non-academic partners and for diverse ends?

The conference raised a final important question for us: How is family history uniquely positioned in the intersection between public, “private,” information, data, research, “history,” and heritage to allow these discussions to arise? Is there something particular about this field that forces us to think in precise ways about such issues? Is this, for instance, something that might challenge “public history” methodologies and existing work on such relationships? Might we have to begin to import ideas from other disciplines such as critical management studies or organisation studies in order to develop models for understanding? The specific ways in which the conference answered some of these questions and raised others will be explored in a second post.

Jerome de Groot teaches at the University of Manchester. He is the author of Consuming History (2008/ 2016), The Historical Novel (2009), and Remaking History (2015).

~ Tanya Evans teaches public history at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia where she is Director of the Centre for Applied History and President of the History Council of New South Wales. Her books include Fractured Families: Life on the Margins in Colonial New South Wales (2015), (with Pat Thane), Sinners, Scroungers, Saints: Unmarried Motherhood in Modern England (2012), and Swimming with the Spit (2016). She has worked as a historical consultant for charities in Britain and Australia and for the television series, Who Do You Think You Are?.


[1] See, for instance, Benjamin Filene, “Passionate Histories: ‘Outsider’ History-Makers and What They Teach Us,” The Public Historian 34, no. 1 (2012): 11–33 and Jerome de Groot,“On Genealogy,” The Public Historian 37, no. 3 (2015): 102-127.

[2] Some of these concerns were discussed in responses to de Groot’s article, collected here.

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Adina Langer http://www.artiflection.com <![CDATA[Campus Carry and the public history of the gun debate]]> http://ncph.org/?p=28988 2017-10-13T22:31:44Z 2017-10-17T12:30:05Z

Green indicates states with mandatory campus carry laws; yellow indicates states with institutional laws; and red indicates states where guns are never allowed on campuses. Image credit: Theshibboleth and terrorist96 via Wikimedia Commons

In July of this year, Georgia became the tenth state to prohibit public colleges and universities from banning concealed weapons on campus for permit holders. Read More

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Green indicates states with mandatory campus carry laws; yellow indicates states with institutional laws; and red indicates states where guns are never allowed on campuses. Image credit: Theshibboleth and terrorist96 via Wikimedia Commons

In July of this year, Georgia became the tenth state to prohibit public colleges and universities from banning concealed weapons on campus for permit holders. The controversy over campus carry legislation is a relatively small part of the national debate over gun rights and gun safety, but the recent Georgia decision is notable in that the governor used historical arguments in his initial rejection of a campus carry bill.

Gun laws for college campuses vary widely throughout the United States, although all fifty states allow citizens who meet specific requirements to carry concealed weapons. The specific places where such weapons may be carried have been debated extensively. Those debates hinge on two seemingly contradictory notions. The notion employed by proponents of campus carry legislation is that allowing civilians to carry guns makes everybody safer. The notion employed by opponents of the legislation is that sensitive places exist in our society where guns are not appropriate in the hands of civilians. In his veto statement for the 2016 version of Georgia’s campus carry legislation, Governor Nathan Deal called college campuses “sanctuaries of learning” and quoted minutes from an 1824 meeting of the board of directors of the fledgling University of Virginia during which Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and their fellow directors stated that “No student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or venomous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind. . . ” Deal also referenced a 2008 Supreme Court case in which Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that “From Blackstone through the 19th century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” Justice Scalia further states that “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on. . .laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places (emphasis mine) such as schools and government buildings. . .”

So, what does it mean for a place to be “sensitive?” The 2016 campus carry bill included exceptions for specific places on campus including athletic events and student housing. Governor Deal noted that for him to reconsider the bill, further exceptions would have to be made including childcare facilities and faculty and staff offices. The compliance with these exceptions, and the addition of a provision banning guns in classrooms where high school students take classes, made it exceedingly difficult for Deal to veto the 2017 version of the bill. Yet, “sensitive” discussions happen every day in classrooms, commons, and cafeterias on campus. What is the value of distinguishing specific locations as being more or less “sensitive” when it comes to the explosive potential of firearms?

A memorial on the drill field placed after the Virginia Tech massacre, April 21, 2007. Photo credit: Ross A. Cartrow via Wikimedia Commons

On Monday, October 2, 2017, we all witnessed the aftermath of another deadly mass shooting, this time in Las Vegas. The victims were concert-goers, and the perpetrator was a man seemingly without a motive. No citizen with a gun would have been able to reach the man perched thirty-two storeys above his victims. The only security guard who may have tried to stop the shooter was killed an hour before the event transpired. Of the ten deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, two occurred at universities (Virginia Tech, 2007, and University of Texas, 1966) and one occurred at an elementary school (Sandy Hook, 2012). Each, in turn, has triggered a public debate about gun safety and gun control. At the heart of these debates is a larger question about who should have access to deadly force, and when and how such force can keep people safe. This question has been complicated by recent controversies over police shootings that disproportionately affect people of color, many unarmed.

On the specific question of crime and safety on campus, mass shootings have seen precedents that support the notion of colleges and universities as places of heightened tensions. For example, the 1989 shooting of women engineering students at the  École Polytechnique in Montreal, and the 1991 shooting of students, professors, and administrators in the physics and astronomy department at the University of Iowa revealed ways in which university environments might lead certain people to violent actions. Were those actions preventable? And what role did access or lack of access to guns play in enabling perpetrators to shoot and victims to be shot? What has changed over the past thirty years that might lead to and/or justify the enactment of campus carry legislation?

As public historians, our job is to uncover difficult histories and to bridge the gap between the past and the present through skilled interpretation. We do “sensitive” work every day. It seems increasingly clear to me that we must figure out how to bring difficult questions to light without allowing our work to be labeled or pigeonholed by one side or the other in an intractable political debate. Establishing and maintaining an effective social contract is challenging. We haven’t figured it out yet. Perhaps, as public historians, we can illuminate the reasoning of the people of the past, and we can encourage the people of the present to clarify their analogies. Perhaps we can help to light the way forward by pointing out the complexity of the past.

Adina Langer is a public historian and educator based in Atlanta, Georgia. She has served as the curator of the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University since 2015. You can follow her on Twitter @Artiflection and learn more about her at www.artiflection.com. Her views are her own.

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