National Council on Public History Putting History to Work in the World 2018-01-19T15:34:32Z http://ncph.org/feed/atom/ WordPress Jackie Clarke <![CDATA[Afterlife of a factory]]> http://ncph.org/?p=29310 2018-01-08T17:25:02Z 2018-01-19T13:30:42Z Editor’s note: This is the fourth 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. 

'The remains of the Moulinex factory in Alençon, France, photographed by the author in 2014.

The remains of the Moulinex factory in Alençon, France, 2014.

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Editor’s note: This is the fourth 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. 

'The remains of the Moulinex factory in Alençon, France, photographed by the author in 2014.

The remains of the Moulinex factory in Alençon, France, 2014. Photo credit: Jackie Clarke 

Living in Scotland but researching and writing about France, I’m often struck by the differences in the way in which deindustrialization figures in the public imagination in these two places. In Scotland, deindustrialization is very much part of popular understandings of the national past, and the 1980s figure as the key moment in a national narrative of the loss of industry. In France, on the other hand, deindustrialization is much more part of the present: industrial closures have been a recurring object of media attention and political debate since the turn of the twenty-first century, as a crucial confrontation between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen during the 2017 presidential campaign amply illustrated.

Another feature of the French situation is that some of the most revealing struggles over the implications of deindustrialization have taken place within the cultural sphere, prompting a wave of films, memoirs, novels, theater performances, and heritage projects in recent years. What is apparent in this cultural production, as well as in the struggles of workers to save their jobs, is a concern that deindustrialization is consigning working-class people to a new form of social invisibility. In this context, cultural projects are often seen as an important space for resistance, a space in which (in some cases at least) working-class voices can be heard more readily than in mainstream media discourse.

In some cases, the physical space of the factory site has been at the heart of such struggles. Take, for example, the situation that unfolded in the provincial town of Alençon following the collapse of Moulinex, France’s best-known domestic appliance company, in 2001. Moulinex (or at least the sister company that preceded it) had been based in Alençon since 1937 but had really taken off between late 1950s and the 1970s, during the postwar consumer boom. France underwent a new phase of industrialization in this period, as agricultural jobs disappeared and manufacturing expanded in what had traditionally been rural regions. At its peak in the mid-1970s, the Alençon factory had employed well over 3,000 people—many of them women—the equivalent of around ten percent of the town’s total population.

Yet while the industrial past has been central to local identities in the mining and steel regions of eastern France, and industrial heritage has had an important place in the cultural regeneration of those areas, the same cannot be said of Alençon or Lower Normandy—a region still more identified with orchards and dairy products than with manufacturing. This doubtless rendered the ex-Moulinex workers’ sense of their place in the town’s history all the more precarious once the factory’s closure condemned many members of the workforce to a form of forced early retirement.

Some of these workers formed the Association Moulinex Jean Mantelet, which has campaigned for the creation of a museum or memory space on the factory site. Moulinex was of historical significance, they argue, because it embodied a series of important social changes that shaped postwar France: industrialization, the advent of mass consumer society, shifting gender norms. But this project brought the association into conflict with the mayor’s office, which, under the then center-right administration, moved quickly to demolish the factory buildings and redevelop the site for a mixture of residential and commercial use. For the local authorities, demolition represented an attempt to turn the page on a conflictual memory of the struggle over the closure of the site, which was deemed incompatible with the town’s efforts to market itself to new businesses. The association’s demand for a museum was rejected as backward-looking, even though the administration’s proposals for a new business park also made use of the Moulinex past, using the name of the company’s founder, Jean Mantelet, to project an entrepreneurial image. All in all, the approach taken by the mayor’s office exacerbated the sense of betrayal among members of the association, who read the destruction of the factory as a willful erasure of working-class history.

More recently, a new center-left administration has been more willing to invest in preserving the memory of Moulinex, developing an oral history collection in the municipal archives and using it as the basis for activities such as temporary exhibitions. Yet in many ways the physical space of the town remains marked by decisions made in the initial years following the factory closure.

Alençon lace, France, mid-eighteenth century, Diacollectie Kunsthistorisch Instituut Universiteit van Amsterdam [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.

Alençon lace, France, mid-eighteenth century. Image credit: Diacollectie Kunsthistorisch Instituut Universiteit van Amsterdam via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed by CC BY 3.0

The same administration that had dismissed the proposal for a Moulinex museum had in fact been actively engaged in promoting a rather different aspect of Alençon’s industrial heritage. In the years after Moulinex’s closure, a series of municipal initiatives sought to valorize the town’s past as a center for lace making, and in 2010 UNESCO recognized le point d’Alençon as part of the “intangible cultural heritage of humanity.”  While this technique is still practiced today by a handful of specialists, its history is intimately tied up with Alençon’s past as a religious center: the guardians of the technique as it developed in the nineteenth century were the nuns of a local convent. The memory of a craft activity, traditionally recognized as women’s work, linked to domesticity, Catholicism, and preindustrial forms of production, was considered less contentious than the more recent industrial past, and more appealing to tourists. Lace making now takes pride of place in the municipal museum in Alençon’s historic center, while on the town’s periphery, the only visible physical remnant of Moulinex is a deserted workshop.

This story illustrates at a local level much of what is at stake in France today in the development of industrial memory and heritage. If, as the French historian Xavier Vigna has argued, the working classes attained a certain centrality in social and political life in France in the course of the twentieth century, this has been steadily eroded since the 1980s. Closing factories have become a potent symbol of these developments and hence a site of struggle. Policy makers concerned to rebuild communities in the wake of such closures would do well to recognize this and to reflect on how best to promote inclusive public histories in the context of deindustrialization.

~ Jackie Clarke is a researcher and teacher specializing in twentieth- and twenty-first-century France. She is currently senior lecturer in French studies at the University of Glasgow, where her research focuses particularly on questions about work, consumption, and the legacies of deindustrialization. She has recently published articles on the aftermath of factory closures in France in History Workshop Journal (2015) and The Deindustrialized  World: Confronting Ruination in Postindustrial Places, edited by Steven High, Lachlan MacKinnon, and Andrew Perchard (UBC Press, 2017).

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GVGK Tang <![CDATA[Project Showcase: Still Fighting For Our Lives]]> http://ncph.org/?p=30749 2018-01-14T20:42:16Z 2018-01-15T13:30:21Z

Still Fighting For Our Lives uses artifacts of multiple mediums to highlight the central role that visual culture has played in Philadelphia’s HIV/AIDS history. Photo credit: GVGK Tang

Still Fighting For Our Lives, an exhibition sponsored and hosted by the William Way LGBT Community Center, commemorates the thirtieth anniversary of the Philadelphia AIDS Library. Read More

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Still Fighting For Our Lives uses artifacts of multiple mediums to highlight the central role that visual culture has played in Philadelphia’s HIV/AIDS history. Photo credit: GVGK Tang

Still Fighting For Our Lives, an exhibition sponsored and hosted by the William Way LGBT Community Center, commemorates the thirtieth anniversary of the Philadelphia AIDS Library. Founded to disseminate information on HIV/AIDS to community members, the AIDS Library is housed at Philadelphia FIGHT, a local AIDS service organization. Still Fighting highlights the central role that visual culture plays in HIV/AIDS activism, education, and prevention in the Philadelphia community, with a special focus on its impact in communities of color.

The John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives (housed at the William Way Center) is the largest repository of LGBT primary source material in Philadelphia. In the summer of 2017, I processed the AIDS Library Graphics collection, which the archives inherited from the AIDS Library several years ago. The collection contains nearly 5,000 posters, flyers, pamphlets, and comic books related to international HIV/AIDS activism.

These materials became the foundation for Still Fighting For Our Lives. John Anderies, archivist for the Wilcox Archives, formed an advisory committee of community leaders and elder activists, local scholars, and staff from William Way and Philadelphia FIGHT. We helped refine which materials would be included in this community-based exhibit.

Most histories of HIV/AIDS focus on white gay men. But Still Fighting showcases materials from groups like Unity, Inc., the first grassroots organization in Philadelphia run by Black gay men for Black gay men. Unity addressed needs not being met by the city’s AIDS Task Force. Early in the crisis, Tyrone Smith, Unity’s co-founder, saw HIV/AIDS “marketed as a white gay man’s disease.” Unity’s campaigns, along with those created by other organizations like Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (founded in 1989) and AIDS Services in Asian Communities (founded in 1995), were essential to preventing the spread of the disease in communities of color.

The exhibition title highlights the fact that not everyone in the community has access to health care. One recurrent political narrative (often propagated by white gay men) is that the LGBT community has arrived. But queer people of color (QPOC), especially poor and homeless youth, do not have equal access to PrEP, medical support, or housing. QPOC history needs to take precedence because our legacies have been doubly obscured and destroyed by homophobia and racism.

In Philadelphia, several recent controversies—ranging from the use of slurs to the exclusion of POC from governance in LGBT organizations—exposed racism in the local community to the wider public. We hoped the exhibit would be especially empowering for QPOC and educational for young people who feel disconnected from this part of our community history.

Still Fighting contextualizes contemporary battles through the devastation, courage, and pathos of early HIV/AIDS activism. The exhibit gives our audience the opportunity to empathize with this history through engagement with its artifacts, a material culture shaped by the lives of activists, created and used for protest. If an exhibit can encourage our audiences to have a more personal connection to their past and feel inspired to do something for their communities today, then we’ve succeeded as public historians.

~ GVGK Tang is a public history MA student at Temple University in Philadelphia with a specialization in transnational queer history and politics, nascent community-building, and identity construction. Tang is a member of NCPH’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force.

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Aaron Cowan <![CDATA[Yoga among the ruins? The challenges of industrial heritage in postwar Pittsburgh]]> http://ncph.org/?p=29253 2018-01-08T17:28:00Z 2018-01-12T13:30:13Z Editor’s note: This is the third 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. 

Downtown Pittsburgh and the Duquesne Incline from Mount Washington.

Downtown Pittsburgh and the Duquesne Incline from Mount Washington.

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Editor’s note: This is the third 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. 

Downtown Pittsburgh and the Duquesne Incline from Mount Washington.

Downtown Pittsburgh and the Duquesne Incline from Mount Washington. Photo credit: Dllu via Wikimedia Commons.  Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

At its peak, the Carrie Furnace of the massive, sprawling Homestead Steel Works was a bastion of American industrial might, belching flame and smoke around the clock and employing hundreds of men in the dangerous, grueling work of producing more than one thousand tons of iron per day. Such a scene would be difficult to envision when, on a recent Sunday, 250 area residents gathered at the now-abandoned furnace for a “Beer + Yoga Blowout” event. The incongruity of tank-top clad hipsters sipping craft brews under the roof where workers once shaped molten metal is a fitting symbol for the state of industrial heritage in twenty-first-century Pittsburgh. While the memory of the industrial past remains strong, efforts to rebrand Pittsburgh as a tech hub and “livable city” have risked limiting the industrial past to little more than a backdrop for postindustrial economic visions.

For much of the post–World War II era, Pittsburgh’s industrial heritage was conspicuous by its absence. In a city defined in the global imagination as the historical center of steel production, landmark events in industrial and labor history such as the Homestead Strike and celebrations of the history of industrial powerhouses such as Alcoa and US Steel were largely absent from public interpretation of the Greater Pittsburgh region’s history. In the 1950s and 1960s, historical interpretation and heritage-based tourism in the region focused on reconstructed British forts of the French and Indian War, antebellum homes and taverns, and the early nineteenth-century utopian settlement of Old Economy.

Of course, the evolution of industrial heritage interpretation in Pittsburgh took place within a larger state and national context. The early Cold War was the height of the market for colonial, revolutionary, and “frontier” history that celebrated the nation’s democratic political ideals and self-reliant individualism. At the same time, most Pennsylvania industrial and mining communities, including Pittsburgh, sought to shed regional and national images of their communities as polluted, grimy, and lacking in cultural amenities. Like a working-class kid striving toward upward mobility, the city slicked back its hair, put on a preppy sweater (or, perhaps, tricorne hat), and tried to minimize evidence of its embarrassing blue-collar roots.

The silences regarding the industrial past began to change in the late 1970s, ironically the era in which much of the industrial production of the region was beginning to decline. Carolyn Kitch, in Pennsylvania in Public Memory, her comprehensive book on industrial heritage in the state, identifies the 1976 national bicentennial as a period when industrial heritage was reevaluated. The industrial past became more recognized, Kitch argues, and simultaneously more personalized to focus on individuals, social history, workers, immigrants—invariably described as “hard-working” people with unique “culture” that could be celebrated. This trend became especially prominent in the 1990s, when the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) focused heavily on industrial heritage; more than two-thirds of all PHMC historical markers about “Labor/Working People” were installed in that decade. The state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) also launched its Industrial Heritage Areas program in 1990, focused around economic development through the preservation and interpretation of industrial heritage sites.

Gears, in the blowhouse at Carrie Furnaces

Gears, in the blowhouse at Carrie Furnaces. Photo credit: Roy Luck via Wikimedia Commons. Licensed under CC BY 2.0

As in many other areas, federal funding and private foundation support played a role in advancing this shift in interpretation. The most significant development in the Greater Pittsburgh region was the successful establishment of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area (RSNHA) in 1996, under the supervision of the National Park Service. Encompassing a seven-county region around Pittsburgh, Rivers of Steel’s objectives included promotion of cultural tourism as economic development for deindustrialized regions. One of the earliest initiatives to interpret the sites within the RSNHA was the development of docent-led bus tours of industrial towns and the training of local people, especially former steelworkers, to draw from their own experiences and memories to interpret this history for the public. Rivers of Steel continues to preserve and interpret former industrial sites, and also offers self-guided driving tours and digital collections and exhibits and administers a heritage mini-grant program for the region.

In the mid-1990s, the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center opened. The History Center communicated a greater recognition of the city’s industrial heritage both in its choice of site—a rehabbed seven-story nineteenth-century brick warehouse in the city’s Strip District—as well as with its curatorial decision to prioritize social history. Its inaugural permanent exhibit was praised in The Public Historian for an interpretative focus on “the issues of family and work, of life and death within the immigrant steelworking community.”

Despite these advances, industrial heritage has struggled to capture the kind of support and promotion that went into the Cold War–era sites of colonial and antebellum history. Hopes in the late 1990s for a large-scale comprehensive museum of industrial history at Homestead, for example, never got off the ground due to relatively modest support from area foundations and other private funders. By contrast, in 2004, the city’s corporate and political leadership created French and Indian War 250, Inc., an organization tasked with the national commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the war.  From 2004 to 2008, this included multimillion-dollar expansions of western Pennsylvania historic sites and museums, events headlined by popular historians like David McCullough, the development of a national public school curriculum, and production of a $14 million four-hour PBS documentary “The War That Made America.”[1] The group eventually coordinated a total of $50 million in public and private funds devoted to education and tourism development around the anniversary.

The “Carrie Deer,” a guerilla art sculpture created in 1997 using wire and metal at the abandoned Carrie Furnace site, became a rallying point for the cooperation of the city’s arts and heritage communities.

The “Carrie Deer,” a guerrilla art sculpture created in 1997 using wire and metal at the abandoned Carrie Furnace site, became a rallying point for the cooperation of the city’s arts and heritage communities. Photo credit: Jay Ressler.

More recently, Pittsburgh’s industrial heritage sites have served as a hub for the city’s arts community. In 2016, Rivers of Steel Heritage Corporation established Rivers of Steel Arts (RoSA) with a stated mission to “support artistic projects that further the interpretation of local history and re-imagine the future of familiar places.” RoSA is based at Homestead’s Carrie Furnace, where it offers metalworking workshops, “photo safaris” and urban art tours, and an annual “Festival of Combustion” featuring art and interactive activities around metalsmithing, glassblowing, and ceramics. The furnace has also hosted events such as “Happy Hour with Carrie” that appeal to the leisure preferences of young middle-class professionals, but for which the level of focus on historical interpretation is unclear. Furthermore, as the generation of Pittsburghers with direct experience in industrial labor begins to pass away, it remains to be seen whether the region’s public will continue to sustain an interest in the industrial past.

In one sense, the interpretation of Pittsburgh’s industrial heritage has never been stronger, and partnerships with creative arts communities offer innovative opportunities to reach new audiences. On the other hand, such programs run the risk of “mission creep,” of heritage-as-branding for “authentic” hip consumer experiences that fail to engage deeply with the historical narrative of industrial production, labor, and deindustrialization. In the face of funding challenges and the need to appeal to new audiences, it will remain the challenge of Pittsburgh public historians to connect to the larger community while still maintaining a meaningful, critical engagement with the past.

[1] Allegheny Conference on Community Development, Annual Report: 2005.

~ Aaron Cowan is associate professor of history at Slippery Rock University. He is also the founder and co-director of the Stone House Center for Public Humanities.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the Field January 10, 2018]]> http://ncph.org/?p=30988 2018-01-10T16:01:15Z 2018-01-10T15:51:58Z From around the field this week: the International Federation for Public History (IFPH) seeks nominations for their steering committee and proposals for their 2018 conference in São Paulo, Brazil; applications are now being accepted for this cycle’s Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Competition; submit a proposal for the 2018 World Humanities Forum in Busan, South Korea by January 31; sign up for next week’s free “Historical Storytelling through Technology” webinar from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Read More

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From around the field this week: the International Federation for Public History (IFPH) seeks nominations for their steering committee and proposals for their 2018 conference in São Paulo, Brazil; applications are now being accepted for this cycle’s Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Competition; submit a proposal for the 2018 World Humanities Forum in Busan, South Korea by January 31; sign up for next week’s free “Historical Storytelling through Technology” webinar from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

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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Pamela Curtin and David Trowbridge <![CDATA[Project Showcase: Clio]]> http://ncph.org/?p=30711 2018-01-08T16:50:29Z 2018-01-10T13:30:10Z

Image credit: The Clio Foundation

History is all around us—in the streets, buildings, and artwork that make up the landscapes of our everyday lives. Recognizing the potential of mobile devices to connect us to these pieces of the past, historians at Marshall University developed Clio, an educational website and mobile application. Read More

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Image credit: The Clio Foundation

History is all around us—in the streets, buildings, and artwork that make up the landscapes of our everyday lives. Recognizing the potential of mobile devices to connect us to these pieces of the past, historians at Marshall University developed Clio, an educational website and mobile application. Named for the Greek muse of history, Clio is an innovative digital platform that allows public historians to use GPS technology to engage audiences and document historical narratives.

The project began at Marshall University in 2013 as an experiment in digital mapping of regional history. It soon grew into a national project with nearly 30,000 individual entries and over 200 walking tours. These entries and tours have been created by three thousand volunteer contributors and 400 institutions ranging from historical societies and volunteer-operated museums to universities and the National Park Service. Funded entirely by grants and donations, Clio has reached six million page views. It is not-for-profit and free for everyone to use.

As a public history project, Clio invites all organizations, universities, and individuals to share stories of the past. Emphasizing collaboration allows for entries that include the expertise of scholars and the perspectives of local residents. To mitigate the challenges of a platform that invites public contributions, Clio entries and suggested edits are reviewed prior to publication. Clio offers special accounts for educators and institutions that make it easy to create, vet, and improve entries with their students, staff, volunteers, and members.

Each Clio entry begins with a concise summary followed by a more detailed narrative about a historic building, museum, monument, landmark, or other site of cultural or historical significance. In addition, “time capsule” entries allow users to learn about significant events from the past lacking a marker or historically important sites that no longer exist. Entries blend text with images, maps, videos, oral histories, and other media, along with links to relevant books, articles, and websites. Clio has become popular with university professors, historical and cultural institutions, as well as tourists and locals who enjoy learning about history around them.

Individual entries can be linked together in walking and driving tours that incorporate Google Maps and step-by-step directions. Examples of these tours illustrate Clio’s potential to make connections between historic and cultural sites. Graduate students at West Virginia University created the West Virginia Women’s History Tour, which corresponded with an art exhibit. A number of walking tours highlight downtown historic landmarks, such as a tour of Old Towne Petersburg, Virginia created by the Petersburg Preservation Task Force. AmeriCorps members serving with Clio have created tours of historic mansions and estates in Washington, D.C., the 1864 Missouri Expedition of the Civil War, and major battles of the American Revolution.

Using Clio in the classroom allows professors to work with students as they create and improve draft entries based on feedback from peers and their instructors. Students can create entries that are only viewable to their classmates and professor pending the approval of the instructor. Educators tell us that students are more engaged, creative, and enthusiastic when writing Clio entries than traditional paper assignments because the platform offers them authorship and an audience.

In addition to learning how to write for the public on a digital platform, students have the option of conducting oral histories, taking standard and 360-degree photographs, creating short videos, and writing longer narratives—each of which can be linked within their Clio entry. Some courses have even created walking tours for their communities and campuses, including the University of Richmond and Boise State University. Clio becomes a virtual museum that encourages exploration and discovery of physical spaces, buildings, markers, and monuments.

New entries are added to Clio every day and new website and app features are in development. We recently released instructional videos that guide users through the process of creating entries and tours. The Clio Foundation is supported by generous donors and received a $60,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2017 to develop digital heritage trails.

In addition to resources and information on the Clio website, historians can connect to the project on Facebook and Twitter. Feel free to reach out to us with questions and ideas. We hope that Clio connects you with history and culture in your communities.

~ Pamela Curtin is an AmeriCorps member with the Clio Foundation and a graduate of history programs at West Virginia University and Saint Vincent College.

~ David Trowbridge is an associate professor of history at Marshall University, director of African and African American Studies, and the founder of Clio.

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editors <![CDATA[Project Showcase: Hoosier Women in STEM Wikipedia edit-a-thon]]> http://ncph.org/?p=30432 2018-01-08T00:40:05Z 2018-01-08T13:30:57Z

Indiana University students at work during the Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon. Photo Credit: Sam Opsahl.

In October 2017, historians, librarians, scientists, and members of the general public gathered at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis for the Hoosier Women in STEM Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Read More

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Indiana University students at work during the Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon. Photo Credit: Sam Opsahl.

In October 2017, historians, librarians, scientists, and members of the general public gathered at the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis for the Hoosier Women in STEM Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Hoosiers are inventors, creators and innovators. From the development of TV to the first person on the moon to the earliest video game console, Indiana’s scientists, engineers, doctors, and entrepreneurs have led the way. Yet histories of STEM and innovation in Indiana have either overlooked or poorly represented women’s stories. Teaming up to improve the Hoosier historical record on Wikipedia, Indiana Humanities, the Indiana Historical Bureau, the Indiana Historical Society, the Indiana State Library, and the Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology hosted the edit-a-thon as part of Indiana Humanities’ Quantum Leap initiative.

The participants tackled the project with enthusiasm. Forty-two attendees contributed to 870 edits of 99 articles, adding 35,500 words to Wikipedia. As the first-ever edit-a-thon hosted by the participating organizations, it was a happy surprise that at least three groups of participants left the event with the intention of hosting future edit-a-thons at their home institutions. Thanks to the success of the experiment, it looks likely that another Hoosier Women Edit-a-thon will be held in 2018 with a different theme.

Attendees improved articles on cryptanalyst Elizebeth Smith Friedman and ichthyologist Rosa Smith Eigenmann. The edit-a-thon also created new pages highlighting the achievements of cardiologist Suzanne Knoebel and physician Beulah Wright Porter, just to name a few. Check out #QLeditathon on Twitter for a peek into our day of research, writing, and fellowship.

It might seem a little odd to have a bunch of historians promoting Wikipedia. After all, many historians do not hold Wikipedia in the highest regard. Due to its ubiquity and accessibility, however, thoughtful engagement with the platform benefits a wide audience. In addition, Wikipedia’s content gender gap and editorial gender gap are serious problems. Any attempt to tackle these issues is a worthy application of a public historian’s skill set. The edit-a-thon also sought to attract people that do not normally attend history events. With careful outreach targeting women in science groups, the sponsors achieved that goal.

Interested in seeing how Wikipedia can bring together an audience beyond the usual suspects? Consider hosting an edit-a-thon at your institution!

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Jenny Boulware and Elizabeth Satterfield <![CDATA[Public history: yours, mine, & ours]]> http://ncph.org/?p=27795 2017-11-13T20:58:00Z 2018-01-03T13:30:15Z Editor’s note: The post is the fifth 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. Read More

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Editor’s note: The post is the fifth 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.

WVU students completing a HABS documentation project in Beverly, WV.

WVU students completing a HABS documentation project in Beverly, West Virginia. Photo credit: Jenny Boulware

Day one of each semester is always one of my favorites. Not only do I learn what inspires students, but I also learn why students are taking my Introduction to Public History course. Some students are familiar with the field but many are hopeful that the class will resemble History Channel episodes. While I do incorporate popular history studies during the semester, I begin with a foundational reading of Ronald Grele’s “Whose Public? Whose History? What is the Goal of a Public Historian?” (The Public Historian 3, no. 1 [Winter 1981]: 40–38) This initial reading lays the groundwork for semester-long discussions. Grele’s article also exposes students to our peer-reviewed journal, The Public Historian.

In 1981, when public history was in its infancy, Grele addressed the status of the field by outlining its development and foreshadowing its trajectory. He closed with a call to action to “make historical consciousness a reality in American life.” Thirty-six years later, public historians have successfully effected positive change and reached beyond the confines of academia. Our work in the classroom and within communities has bridged gaps, embraced the local and encouraged inclusiveness and thoughtful inquiry.

We also review Grele’s list of new approaches in public history. These approaches are no longer new; they are the norm. First, the study of local history has been actively embraced and pursued. Collaboration on numerous exciting and useful community history projects is standard, semester-long work. From documenting neighborhoods to developing content for museum exhibits, students and communities gain practical, tangible public history products.

Secondly, students explore, write, and create their own history. Realizing the power of the local in training future public historians, I utilize what Grele would likely label a “gimmick”—Clio. Far from a gimmick, David Trowbridge’s digital platform has become a powerful tool in making history relevant. For their final assignment I task students with identifying and researching a historic site and developing an online entry. This assignment is easy to complete in one semester, yet its usefulness extends beyond a traditional research paper. Students often select a site within their hometown, which encourages them to see their communities anew. Why isn’t this historic church or theater on Clio? Why is this random historic marker here? How did this neighborhood change over time? Community becomes an actual research laboratory. Through this exercise, students’ place of origin, their current residence, or their favorite community space becomes more valued. One student recently declared: “this whole Clio project has been very fun for me. . . . I’m going to do a “Clio sweep” of [my hometown] during the summer.” This, this is my ultimate goal—inspire exploration beyond classroom requirements. Also noteworthy is Clio’s role in generating unique partnerships and jobs. Organizations are incorporating this website to plan ambitious, long-term projects that cover larger areas and require extensive research while Convention and Visitors Bureaus are hiring local historians to create entries.

Additionally, my students have partnered with local historic landmark commissions and consulting firms to complete neighborhood survey work. Class structure has allowed the educational process to seamlessly blend with a modified professional internship format. I have required students to evaluate vernacular architecture, trends within the neighborhood, and period policies (e.g. restrictive covenants). Fieldwork like this is rewarding for all involved. Consultants appreciate student involvement, community agencies appreciate in-kind work, and students appreciate the ability to add practical work to their resume. These experiences reinforce ideals and goals taught in the classroom, especially shared authority in a collaborative process.

Lastly, while corporate and government work remains important, Grele’s assertion that this one public is the public is no longer valid. Workshops and guest speakers enable students to see the exciting and diverse job possibilities in archives, libraries, museums, and preservation. It is not just about corporate and government work.

Elizabeth Satterfield presenting her summer research on Sunnyside during WVU's SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience).

Elizabeth Satterfield presenting her summer research on Sunnyside during WVU’s SURE (Summer Undergraduate Research Experience). Photo credit: Elizabeth Satterfield

Grele’s article helps students compare public history’s past with the present—what are the trends in the field today? How can we heed Grele’s advice to not become too narrowly focused? One of our undergraduates, Elizabeth Satterfield, completed her first introductory class in public history this past spring. She immediately fell in love with the notion that history can be interactive and relatable to the public. What follows is her assessment of the field and the importance of local projects.

For years, I have heard many people remark that history is boring, impersonal, and frankly pointless to learn. But why do millions flock to museums and historic sites every year? Why are historical movies and books so popular and profitable? Even though the public may say they do not like history, they love public history. People love to learn about their great-grandparents, anecdotes about beloved historical figures, scavenger hunts at museums and the history of their neighborhood. In my university’s town, each neighborhood has a unique history, often treasured and preserved by locals.

One community, however, transitioned from an agricultural landscape to a thriving immigrant and industrial neighborhood to what is now a student rental area, losing much of its original charm and cultural memory along the way. When I was given the opportunity this summer to conduct research on the community in cooperation with my university, I jumped at the chance. Graduate students in the university’s public history program had already researched over thirty properties, which I edited into a public-friendly document with photographs and maps. Now that a substantial narrative has been established for the neighborhood, we are eagerly looking forward to more interactive projects that both engage and educate the public through scavenger hunts, walking audio tours (possibly through Clio), augmented reality smartphone applications, photo exhibits, and school curriculum supplements. In pursuing these project ideas, we hope to collaborate with other departments at the university, local entities such as the historic landmark commission and historical society, educators in local schools and residents.

These types of public projects are modeling purposeful, exciting connections to the past and to people long forgotten—all while shaping confident budding public historians.

~ Jenny Boulware has been working with communities for twenty years. She currently teaches public history and cultural resource management courses at WVU. 

~ Elizabeth Satterfield is a native of West Virginia and a junior history major at WVU. She is hoping to pursue a career in historic preservation after graduation.

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Carrie Knight <![CDATA[Project Showcase: Seward Family Digital Archive Community Project Achievement]]> http://ncph.org/?p=29266 2017-12-20T11:42:31Z 2017-12-20T13:30:50Z

Seward Family Digital Archive staff and volunteers at the Seward House, Auburn, NY, Fall 2017.  Photo credit: Carrie Knight.

Since 2012, the Seward Family Digital Archive Project, under the aegis of the University of Rochester’s Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation Department, has endeavored to digitize portions of one of its most utilized collections—the papers of former U.S. Read More

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Seward Family Digital Archive staff and volunteers at the Seward House, Auburn, NY, Fall 2017.  Photo credit: Carrie Knight.

Since 2012, the Seward Family Digital Archive Project, under the aegis of the University of Rochester’s Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation Department, has endeavored to digitize portions of one of its most utilized collections—the papers of former U.S. Secretary of State and New York governor William H. Seward. In 2014, the project decided to broaden its scope to include volunteer engagement as one of its central goals. This decision has dramatically re-shaped the project, in both form and purpose.

The papers of Seward (1801-1872) came to the University of Rochester in 1951. Glyndon Van Deusen, who taught at the university from 1930-1962, wrote about the collection arriving in “trunks, boxes, and valises, some bound up in bundles, all covered with the dust of decades.” The choice to focus digitization efforts on family letters, rather than the material focused on politics, has allowed the project to shed new light on Seward’s rise to national prominence within the context of personal relationships he maintained throughout his life.

Students engaged in the project have designed and built a website and created databases for persons mentioned in the letters (about 4,000 thus far), places, and literature (upwards of 5,000 titles to date). The project also opens a rare window onto family life in nineteenth-century New York, expanding opportunities for research and scholarship.

Community outreach has been a priority for the project from its inception. When Michael Read, a graduate student at University of Rochester, delivered a lecture before area senior citizens describing the early stages of the project, he did not anticipate the level of interest it would generate. Project leaders, inspired by the response, identified a valuable connection between the needs of the project—accurate transcription of nineteenth-century handwriting—and the skills of the senior community for which reading antique handwriting came more easily than among younger readers.

Supported by grant funding from the Emerson Foundation and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, project staff developed a volunteer program within the larger project whereby volunteers would transcribe and annotate historic letters alongside students and staff.

Senior citizens responded enthusiastically, enjoying the lively conversations the work inspired and the delight in discovering new insights about the family through the letters. They encountered challenges along the way: gaining technical proficiency, deciphering unruly handwriting, and learning the subtle “art” of annotation. Yet these were issues project staff had encountered themselves at various points in their own training. Having overcome (or something close to it!) these challenges, project staff were better able to serve the training needs of the senior volunteers, who in turn helped train new volunteers as they joined the project.

This collaboration has created levels of investment that extend beyond the university and beyond the project itself, investments in one another and across the wider community. In the end, this may be the project’s greatest achievement.

For more information about the project or to access the Seward Family Digital Archive, visit www.sewardproject.org. Hear about interesting trivia and project updates by following us on Twitter @sewardfamdigarc.

~Carrie Knight is a Ph.D. student in U.S. history at the University of Rochester and the volunteer manager of the Seward Family Papers Project.

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Rose Miron <![CDATA[Statues, national monuments, and settler-colonialism: Connections between public history and policy in the wake of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante]]> http://ncph.org/?p=30152 2017-12-17T23:58:04Z 2017-12-18T13:30:16Z

Boston Founders Memorial. In the scene William Blackstone, the first settler of Boston, is greeting John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Native Americans watch the scene, which includes Ann Pollard, the first white woman to land in Boston.

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Boston Founders Memorial. In the scene William Blackstone, the first settler of Boston, is greeting John Winthrop, the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Native Americans watch the scene, which includes Ann Pollard, the first white woman to land in Boston. An allegorical figure representing Boston watches from the far right. Photo credit: ctmonuments.net

In the past three months, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made statements about both statues to settler-colonialism and national monuments that protect important indigenous sites. First, in October, he was asked about the possibility of taking down Confederate monuments on federal land. “Where do you start and where do you stop?” he asked, further supporting his position by saying “It’s a slippery slope. If you’re a native Indian, I can tell you, you’re not very happy about the history of General Sherman or perhaps President Grant.”

Just two months later, President Trump acted on Zinke’s recommendation to shrink multiple national monuments, reducing Bear Ears National Monument by 85% and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by 47%, both of which include culture landscapes that remain sacred to numerous Native nations including the Hopi, Navajo, Uintah and Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute, and Zuni. Though they may seem unrelated, Zinke’s statements and policy recommendations reveal a key connection between public history and policy making.

In his statement about Sherman and Grant, Zinke rightly points out an inherent problem with statues: their reductive nature leaves little room to communicate nuanced histories, and one person’s hero is likely another’s oppressor. After all, people and histories are complicated. Indeed, if we take down all the statues to white leaders who’ve enacted settler-colonialism violence, it is a slippery slope and we’ll be taking down a lot of statues. But that isn’t the problem that Zinke and others in the Trump administration are most concerned about. For them, the issue is that taking down these statues would force us to recognize that the founding of our nation is based on the dispossession of Native peoples, an acknowledgement that would fundamentally undermine many of their policies. Indeed, their recent decision to shrink both Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante, a move that ignored Native land claims and important sacred sites, rests on a failure to acknowledge the historic and ongoing dispossession of Native peoples and their rights as sovereign nations. Even if Zinke himself doesn’t realize it, his statements about statues are in direct support of his policies in Indian Country—both advocate for the continued erasure of settler-colonial histories and thus Native sovereignty.

The State of Settler-Colonial Statues

According to the Smithsonian Institution’s database of outdoor sculptures, there are nearly ninety Christopher Columbus statues across the country, nearly forty monuments to Lewis and Clark, and another nearly ninety memorials to “explorers.” This doesn’t begin to cover statues to other white leaders that supported settler-colonialism such as Grant and Sherman, who both led troops in “Indian Wars,” nor does it include statues that feature Indian peoples themselves, which according to the Smithsonian’s database, number more than 250. Looking through the images and descriptions, clear patterns emerge. Of the 258 statues in the database that represent American Indian history, 156, or nearly two-thirds of them, feature Indians within groups of white settlers. In these narratives, Indians are typically presented without tribal designations or names, conflating them as useful guides, antagonists, and props in larger narratives about white settlers and the progress of the U.S. nation-state. In other words, settler-colonial statues go far beyond Columbus, Sherman, or Grant; the slope is much more slippery than Zinke likely realizes.

These representations are ingrained into our national identity and collective heritage, and because of the reductive nature of monuments, they often lack the nuance that telling these complicated historical narratives requires. Instead of communicating a complicated history that might narrate transformation and violence in indigenous homelands, these monuments are taken in quickly by those who pass by, and they typically position Indians as an essential, but not central part of our nation’s history. In monuments like The Founders Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts, unnamed Indians are positioned within a group of white settlers. In Syracuse, New York, a not-so-subtle depiction of violence features Christopher Columbus “atop a tall shaft that is adorned around the top with bronze heads of Native Americans.” Even the U.S. Capitol Senate wing features a marble sculpture called The Progress of Civilization, which displays an Indian family and gravesite positioned opposite figures of a globe, a student and teacher, and a merchant with a box of goods, among other things. The contrast is meant to “symbolize the advantages of civilization and liberty.”

“Progress of Civilization” sculpture. Photo credit: Architect of the Capitol

Sculptures and monuments like these are hardly unique. Instead, they decorate our parks, adorn the walls of our government buildings, and serve as tourist attractions throughout our cities. For every citizen that walks past them, every senator that stops to glance at the scene portrayed, and every tourist who stops to take a photo, these statues and monuments celebrate a clear message: white settlement, and thereby Indian erasure, is an essential part of our nation’s progress. While they acknowledge the presence of Indians in our early history, they rarely depict settler-colonial violence, and thus allow white Americans to imagine settler-colonialism as something inevitable that happened firmly in the past rather than something that’s ongoing as is evident in policy moves like shrinking Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante.

The Stakes with Statues and Policy Making

Protesters gathering to “Defend the Sacred” against the Dakota Access pipeline, February 2017. Photo credit: LATimes High School Insider

Though it’s tempting to see these depictions as harmless representations of history, or as Zinke put it in his interview with Breitbart, something that might help us learn how we got here and how to create a better future, remember this: the same government officials who walk past The Progress of Civilization every day are the policymakers that refused to respect tribal sovereignty in land development projects like the Dakota Access Pipeline. They are the same representatives who are refusing to uphold Ojibwe treaty rights to hunt, gather, and fish in their ceded homelands by turning a blind eye to new pipelines that could destroy sensitive wild rice beds. They are the same politicians who routinely attempt to cut funding for tribal programs, like Zinke’s support of a proposal that would cut $64.4 million from Indian affairs education programs. In other words, these statues are not innocent. They reinforce common representations to which we are regularly exposed in popular culture, sports mascots, and Thanksgiving narratives. Moreover, they are especially problematic because as Professor Gabriel A. Reich, an expert on historical consciousness surrounding the Civil War, argues, while they affect everyone differently, monuments influence our collective understanding of who should be revered and thus normalize who matters and who has power in our society. They profoundly shape the way our citizens and elected representatives such as Zinke and President Trump see American Indian nations in present-day society, and their opinions about to what extent these nations matter and hold power.

The influence of these representations shows in their policies and practices. In that sense, it’s no surprise that President Trump almost immediately approved permits that allowed construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline. It’s not shocking that Zinke positions taking down statues to white leaders such as Grant and Sherman as a place where we’ve gone too far, while he drafted a policy recommendation to shrink Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments that was enacted this month by President Trump. Zinke’s statements about settler-colonial monuments and his policy recommendations in Indian Country are in perfect harmony: they advocate for the erasure of settler-colonial histories by supporting monuments that celebrate white settlement, while continuing the process of ignoring tribal sovereignty and taking indigenous land.

Rose Miron is a Ph.D candidate in the department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota.

*This post is in response to the Editors’ call for follow-up pieces about the effects of the 2016 election.

 

 

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editors <![CDATA[Around the Field December 13, 2017]]> http://ncph.org/?p=30507 2017-12-13T15:30:32Z 2017-12-13T14:32:16Z

From around the field this week: the Council of State Archivists has announced their next Executive Director; submissions for the Canadian Historical Association’s prizes are due at the end of the month; AASLH is seeking authors for chapters for their upcoming Interpreting Labor History at Museums and Historic Sites; winter/spring continuing education historic preservation classes are now available at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities. Read More

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From around the field this week: the Council of State Archivists has announced their next Executive Director; submissions for the Canadian Historical Association’s prizes are due at the end of the month; AASLH is seeking authors for chapters for their upcoming Interpreting Labor History at Museums and Historic Sites; winter/spring continuing education historic preservation classes are now available at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities.

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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