National Council on Public History Putting History to Work in the World 2016-12-02T17:04:14Z http://ncph.org/feed/atom/ WordPress editors <![CDATA[Around the field Nov. 20, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22040 2016-11-21T00:10:41Z 2016-11-21T00:09:33Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Awards for public history projects; oral history conference in Finland; memory studies in Amsterdam; corporate museums in Russia; spring and summer preservation classes in New Jersey, Italy, and online; new book on videogames as historical practice

ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • “Blind Dates: compiling and producing the London Rebel History Calendar,” Public History Discussion Group – 11:30 am, Nov 26, 2016, London, UK (Institute of Archaeology Room 209)
  • American Women’s History Museum Commission Releases Report to Congress and the President

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular listing, email us at historyatwork@ncph.org. Read More

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newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Awards for public history projects; oral history conference in Finland; memory studies in Amsterdam; corporate museums in Russia; spring and summer preservation classes in New Jersey, Italy, and online; new book on videogames as historical practice

ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • “Blind Dates: compiling and producing the London Rebel History Calendar,” Public History Discussion Group – 11:30 am, Nov 26, 2016, London, UK (Institute of Archaeology Room 209)
  • American Women’s History Museum Commission Releases Report to Congress and the President

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular listing, email us at historyatwork@ncph.org. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

 

 

 

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James Brooks <![CDATA[America’s  best  unfolding idea]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21701 2016-11-28T20:02:30Z 2016-11-17T13:30:27Z cover38-4Editor’s note: We publish TPH editor James Brooks’s introduction to the November 2016 issue of The Public Historian. The entire issue is available online to National Council on Public History members. Readers can also find a blog post on one of the essays on the University of California Press site. Read More

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cover38-4Editor’s note: We publish TPH editor James Brooks’s introduction to the November 2016 issue of The Public Historian. The entire issue is available online to National Council on Public History members. Readers can also find a blog post on one of the essays on the University of California Press site.

We can’t always choose our landmark moments. The one hundredth year of the founding of the National Park Service, commemorated here in this special issue, may be among the more striking illustrations of the maxim. The centennial year of the founding of the first national park in the United States–Yellowstone–in 1972 might have served history better since at that time the service itself stood near the high-water mark in its organizational history. Mission 66, a massive public investment of some $1 billion to improve infrastructure, research, and interpretation toward a fully three-dimensional visitor experience had created more than one hundred new visitor centers, thousands of miles of improved access roads, and had recently grown the “green and gray” regiments to their largest numbers and greatest social diversity in history–then or now. The 1973 fuel crisis, which would dramatically constrict leisure travel, was yet to arrive, as was the Sagebrush Rebellion but a murmur of discontent on the western horizon. 

Yet 2016 it is. On August 25, 1916, president Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act creating the National Park Service (NPS) as a new bureau within the Department of Interior to manage the thirty-five parks and monuments that had somewhat haphazardly created something entirely new in the modern world-publicly held lands that would “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and . . . provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” The service now stewards 412 units across the fifty states, as well as the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, and the Virgin Islands, encompassing some eighty-four million acres. More than one hundred other nations have adopted variations on this model of “stewardship for the public good,” featuring more than one hundred thousand parks and preserves. More than 22,000 permanent, temporary, or seasonal employees serve NPS visitors, along with an additional 221,000 volunteers who donate millions of hours of their own time to the mission. More than 307 million visitors experienced our national parks and monuments in 2015, the first 300 million plus year in history.[1] We ought, it seems, to rightly celebrate the success of “America’s Best Idea.”

Few do, however, whether within the organization, or from without. The reasons for our restraint vary from the historical to the contemporary–from our knowledge, seldom publicly acknowledged, that the creation of public lands in the United States entailed the dispossession of tens of thousands of indigenous people from their Native lands, in processes violent or bureaucratic or both. Some of our most celebrated units–Yosemite, Yellowstone, Glacier, Mesa Verde, to name but a few–followed this relentless colonizing logic. So too did the establishment of many parks or monuments require the removal of generations of immigrant settlers from lands they had long stewarded for their own survival, as in the cases of Great Smoky Mountains (on a massive scale) or Catoctin Mountain (lesser, although the same pattern). That the service has attempted to address these facts through interpretation—and the more formal establishment of co-managed “Heritage Areas”–is to its credit, but broad discussion remains muted, given a present political climate intensely critical of federal lands more broadly.

Also in our present lies the fact that the service itself faces an organizational crisis, ranging from failures of leadership ethics at the highest levels to widespread evidence of cronyism, cover-ups, and a culture that allows superiors to intimidate or extort favors from their subordinates on a patterned basis. The year 2016 has seen these depressing truths brought to daylight. All organizations, public or private, harbor these negative potentials, but the NPS seems particularly prone to them at this critical moment. Even bold experiments in “collaborative interpretation” (such as a project that invited students to create video reflections on the history of women’s rights) provoke a vitriolic response from some public sectors. Relentless political and budgetary attacks on the NPS core mission over the last three decades have, it seems, shaped a foxhole mentality that, on the one hand, has protected the organization from dissolution, yet on the other has forestalled critical self-evaluation and transformation.[2]

Yet, “what thou lov’st well is thy true heritage.” I grew up an hour’s drive from Rocky Mountain National Park and first heard the piercing clarity of pika calls on Trail Ridge Road. I visited what is now Chaco Culture National Historical Park at the age of eight, when the access roads regularly closed due to flash flooding—happily experienced when they required an extended stay in the canyon. Two years later, the sight of “Esther” at Mesa Verde National Park (a two-thousand-year-old mummified young woman) on display in the visitor center haunted my imagination–and reminds me now that NPS often does do the right thing, having removed her in 1970 in response to a request from the American Indian Movement.[3] Many years later, I accepted an invitation to join the board of directors of the Western National Parks Association (WNPA, founded in 1938 as the Southwest Parks and Monuments Association) and last year concluded a three-year stint as chair of that board. The WNPA supports sixty-seven NPS units in thirteen western states with some $4.5 million toward staff, research, publication, and interpretation, primarily at parks too small to have their own cooperating associations, and under a model that distributes resources from high-revenue locations to those, such as Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas, or Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Colorado, whose ability to serve their visitors is dependent on aid beyond that available through the NPS. Our funding has grown increasingly vital to parks with the annual constriction of federal funding that has left a legacy of some $12 billion in deferred maintenance, severe cuts in research and interpretation in order to meet the security demands of Homeland Security, and a shrinking, dispirited workforce. Cooperating associations have long been the respectable alternative to what began with coziness between the agency and early industrialists, severed during the Franklin D. Roosevelt years. They can continue to provide an alternative to the centennial’s corporate sponsorship campaigns that, at least for me, seem counter to the spirit of truly public lands.

Surely, there rides a bright star in these gloomy heavens? And yes, I believe so. My decade of WNPA service has afforded me opportunity for dozens of in-depth visits to our NPS partners. In many of these I’ve spent hours with deeply dedicated NPS personnel in the middle ranks of the service, rangers in their thirties who were drawn to work they “lov’st well,” despite the organizational hardships. These represent a pool of extraordinary talent and energy with edgy and plural notions of how our parks might be reborn as community and national incubators of scientific and humanistic inquiry–led by our citizens themselves. We (and they) know that a wave of senior level retirements will follow in the wake of centennial celebrations, a clearing of the house that we can hope will open organizational ceilings and unleash their promise. They carry environmentalism, activism, and a commitment to community in their DNA. They may also assure the National Park Service will thrive to see a second centennial.

[1] Annual Visitation Summary Report for: 2015, National Park Service Visitor Use Statistics, NPS Stats.
[2] Peter Feinman, “The National Park Service Centennial: An Imperiled Promise,” August 25, 2016, IHARE (blog), Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education.
[3] Kathleen Fine-Dare and Bryanna N. Durkee, “Interpreting an Absence: Esther’s Legacy at Mesa Verde National Park,” special issue on Interpretation and the National Parks, Journal of the West 50, no. 3 (Summer 2011): 43–50.

Editor’s note: Since this issue of The Public Historian went to press, the number of units in the National Park Service rose to 413, with President Barack Obama’s designation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine

~ James 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[A response to the election]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21829 2016-11-12T16:25:25Z 2016-11-11T13:30:24Z March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. Photo credit: National Archives.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. Photo credit: National Archives.

How should public historians respond to the new reality of the incoming political leadership in the United States? Representative democracy in the United States has survived the bitter partisanship of the Early Republic, the Civil War, corruption and scandals, the rise of international fascism, and the paroxysms of protest against the Vietnam War, so it is likely to endure. Read More

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March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. Photo credit: National Archives.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963. Photo credit: National Archives.

How should public historians respond to the new reality of the incoming political leadership in the United States? Representative democracy in the United States has survived the bitter partisanship of the Early Republic, the Civil War, corruption and scandals, the rise of international fascism, and the paroxysms of protest against the Vietnam War, so it is likely to endure. Historians know well, however, that democratic governance does not always lead to increased justice for all or reflect humane moral principles. History is not unidirectional toward progress, nor is it doomed to repeat itself. Instead, it is the manifestation of the actions of people, including us.

In recent decades, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, we have witnessed mass deportations, human rights violations at home and abroad, and persistent racial and gender inequality. What distinguishes the current moment is the extent to which the president-elect has relished demeaning not only opponents but also some of the most vulnerable members of our society, as well as his willingness to use rhetoric and imagery that is both covertly and overtly racist, sexist, and xenophobic. His campaign was built on a pledge to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico and deport all undocumented immigrants from the country. He also discussed temporarily banning all Muslims from entering the country and prohibiting Syrian refugees from entering as well.

Border fence. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia Commons

Border fence. Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wikimedia Commons.

Whether these pledges will be fulfilled are great threats hanging like the sword of Damocles over our society, especially for those of us who contend that immigrants are a net positive for U.S. society and that providing refuge and asylum to both political and economic migrants is a moral imperative. Under the current administration, the idea that the United States benefits from immigration and the contributions of all immigrants has been under threat as well–despite President Obama’s support for comprehensive immigration reform and continued high levels of immigration. Nevertheless, the president-elect’s proposals would mean an exponential increase in zealous enforcement of immigration laws and the certain breaking up of many more families because of disparities in immigration status and the likely revocation of an order that protects undocumented children.

Moreover, there is a high probability that severe human rights violations and increased vigilante intimidation and violence due to xenophobia and racism will occur. Whatever your political persuasion or opinion on immigration, these outcomes are not ones that any compassionate individual should favor and it is everyone’s moral responsibility to condemn such consequences if they do occur and work to ensure that they do not happen in the first place.

Over and above our individual roles, public historians can and should contribute to these efforts. In the past several decades, our field has worked to foreground stories of marginalized people seeking justice and inclusion, stories that become even more important to share more widely now. Notable examples include the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Humanities Action Lab, Bracero History Archive, Museum of Tolerance, #museumsrespondtoferguson, and efforts to give voice to enslaved people, women, workers, and others not typically represented at historic sites traditionally devoted to stories of elites. By showing the present moment as part of longer struggles, we can play critical roles in facilitating and leading educational efforts and direct actions to challenge racism, xenophobia, and violence directed toward immigrants or any other vulnerable population. Humanizing immigrants’ experiences and sharing their narratives with broad audiences continues to be essential. At the same time, advocacy around policy and human rights cannot be ignored. Promoting education and dialogue will likely not be enough to ensure that human rights are respected. Public history exhibits and projects provide people with tools to parse how fear and self-interest can be manipulated, but if we want to walk our talk, our institutions will need to continue to strengthen emerging practices of direct engagement and civic action that we see around the field.

In addition to fears regarding racism and xenophobia, many Americans share grave concerns about women’s rights and LGBT rights under the incoming administration. Although it was difficult to identify many concrete policy proposals in these areas from the campaign, the president-elect’s current opposition to abortion rights is clear and the balance of power in the Supreme Court will undoubtedly shift to the right under his administration. For a significant minority of U.S. citizens, this change is welcome and reflects their moral principles in opposition to abortion rights and same-sex marriage. For many others, however, deep concerns about the Court’s continued protection of reproductive rights and expansion of LGBT rights are now at the forefront of their minds. The sea change in public opinion regarding LGBT rights and same-sex marriage under the current president’s administration may mean that marriage equality will endure–although that is far from certain. Reproductive rights, however, face dire threats under a Republican-controlled government and conservative leaning Supreme Court.

Here, again, public history has a role to play. Public historians of all political persuasions share a responsibility to educate broad audiences about the reasons specific protections of reproductive rights came about and the myriad ways in which women have been subject to oppressive social, legal, and medical regimes. See the 2007 issue of The Public Historian on the public and private histories of eugenics for some examples of this work. Because of the deep moral disagreements around this issue, direct advocacy, at least in a professional capacity, may be more difficult here than in the area of immigration.

Woman suffrage headquarters in Upper Euclid Avenue, Cleveland. Photo credit: Library of Congress.

Woman suffrage headquarters in Upper Euclid Avenue, Cleveland. Photo credit: Library of Congress.

However, all public historians can agree that the continued empowerment of women in the face of persistent sexism is a moral imperative, especially in light of the many demeaning remarks the president-elect has made about women. Public historians will have much work to do simply to ensure that a sexist culture does not damage the self-esteem and life prospects of a whole generation of young women. Moreover, public historians should play critical roles in sharing and advocating for strict enforcement of laws and regulations against sexual harassment, discrimination, and assault in our workplaces and the professional and civic communities of which they are a part. The president-elect’s deeply negative model in this area cannot be allowed to stand as representative of our country’s attitudes toward and treatment of women. Moreover, under the rule of law, it must be clear that no individual is above prosecution for crimes that he or she may have committed.

Finally, public historians face a moral imperative to take a stand for freedom of the press and against bullying–both in online environments and in-person interactions. Social media is only the latest outlet for negative, hateful, and destructive rhetoric; newspapers, books, museum exhibits, pamphlets, film, and television have all been platforms to spew venom at fellow human beings. The scale, scope, and immediacy of social media, however, have made it exceptionally dangerous in undermining civil discourse. Yes, it can also be an instrument for organization, protest, community, and empowerment, but its negative fruits are currently outweighing the positives. Is it possible to imagine a Trump presidency coming to pass without the existence of social media? When a bullying personality finds the perfect medium of expression, the foundations of our society can indeed be threatened. Public historians must find ways to combat this bullying culture and encourage all people to value respect and civility above base self-interest.

~ Will Walker is co-lead editor of History@Work. He is an active public historian and author of A Living Exhibition: The Smithsonian and the Transformation of the Universal Museum.

~ Adina Langer is co-lead editor of History@Work and the curator of the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University. You can find her on the web at www.artiflection.com and follow her on Twitter @artiflection.

~ Cathy Stanton is a senior lecturer in anthropology at Tufts University and an active public historian. She serves as digital media editor for the National Council on Public History.

~ Modupe Labode is associate professor of history and museum studies and public scholar of African American history and museums at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. She serves as copy editor for History@Work.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Nov 8, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21819 2016-11-09T01:45:13Z 2016-11-09T01:44:23Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Fellowships and grants for studies of race and ethnicity, invention and innovation, George Washington’s life and legacy, Holocaust studies; symposia on disability rights in history and memory, personal digital archiving, black women and activism; oral history workshops in Ankara, Washington DC, California

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

Read More ]]>
newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Fellowships and grants for studies of race and ethnicity, invention and innovation, George Washington’s life and legacy, Holocaust studies; symposia on disability rights in history and memory, personal digital archiving, black women and activism; oral history workshops in Ankara, Washington DC, California

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular listing, email us at historyatwork@ncph.org. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

 

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Adina Langer http://www.artiflection.com <![CDATA[Project Showcase: Georgia Journeys]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21555 2016-10-31T22:44:30Z 2016-11-01T12:30:42Z Featured individuals posing at the opening of Georgia Journeys. Photo credit Kate Daly

Individuals featured in “Georgia Journeys” posing at the exhibit opening. Photo credit: Kate Daly

Last Sunday, October 23, 2016, marked the opening of Georgia Journeys: Legacies of World War II a new permanent exhibit at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University. Read More

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Featured individuals posing at the opening of Georgia Journeys. Photo credit Kate Daly

Individuals featured in “Georgia Journeys” posing at the exhibit opening. Photo credit: Kate Daly

Last Sunday, October 23, 2016, marked the opening of Georgia Journeys: Legacies of World War II a new permanent exhibit at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University. The opening reception brought together educators and the interested public with nine of the twelve veterans, home front workers, and Holocaust survivors featured in the exhibit.

After working on the exhibit for the past year, it was such a joy to watch the featured individuals enjoying their “celebrity status,” standing in front of their biographical panels while visitors asked them questions and requested photographs. These are all special people and they are also ordinary people. The exhibit is built on their stories, which they shared with the museum through its Legacy Series oral history program.

Although the Legacy Series and its participants provided the material inspiration for the exhibit, we were also motivated by two big ideas, one about the content and another related to the experience. Finding a narrative anchor for this exhibit was challenging, in part because of the diversity of its human subject matter. Featured individuals’ stories were all tied to both World War II and Georgia, but the stories did not connect with one another. Rooting the exhibit in place led us to consider how World War II was a catalyst for change in Georgia. Even more interesting is how the experience of the war illustrated a fundamental characteristic of history: places and events are affected by individual people, just as people are affected by the places and events they encounter. Depending on your perspective, those effects can seem more or less significant, but change cannot happen without them. This idea led us to include President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a mini-exhibit as the thirteenth “Georgia journey.”

Public historians Jennifer Dickey and Julia Brock stand beside artifact cases and a vinyl newspaper "touch table" at the opening of Georgia Journeys. Photo credit: Kate Daly

Public historians Jennifer Dickey and Julia Brock stand beside artifact cases and a vinyl newspaper “touch table” at the opening of Georgia Journeys. Photo credit: Kate Daly

Even as we wrestled with the central ideas in the exhibit, we built it with a diverse audience in mind. We wanted the experience of the exhibit to appeal to different kinds of learners, so we embraced content repetition delivered through a variety of access points. The exhibit includes, among other elements,  people-focused text, images and artifacts for linguistic, inter- and intrapersonal learners, timelines and maps for spatial and mathematical learners, excerpts from radio broadcasts and 1940s public service advertisements for auditory learners, and scrapbooks and newspaper reproductions for kinesthetic learners. These exhibit elements provide a built-in set of stations to create a new and unique structure for school group tours.

Educator Andrea Miskewiczs demonstrates Georgia Journeys digital exhibit on an iPad during the opening reception. Photo credit: Kate Daly

Educator Andrea Miskewicz demonstrates the “Georgia Journeys” digital exhibit on an iPad during the opening reception. Photo credit: Kate Daly

We are also proud of our Georgia Journeys digital exhibit which enables visitors to follow the stories of those featured in the exhibit through space and time. This website, built on Omeka running the Curatescape theme, illustrates an especially important point: you can’t understand World War II without understanding the Holocaust, and you can’t understand the Holocaust without understanding World War II.

We are hopeful that our various exhibit elements and themes will come together to inspire teachers, students, and everyone interested in World War II to seek out new opportunities to meet history face-to-face.

~ Adina Langer is the curator of the Museum of History and Holocaust Education at Kennesaw State University. You can find her on the web at www.artiflection.com and follow her on Twitter @artiflection.

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Cathy Stanton <![CDATA[Standing Rock and Sitting Bull: Where is the history?]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21541 2016-10-28T01:42:41Z 2016-10-28T12:30:19Z A gathering at the Dakota Access Pipeline blockate in Cannonball, North Dakota, August 15, 2016. Photo credit: Shane Balkowitsch

A gathering at the Dakota Access Pipeline blockade in Cannonball, North Dakota, August 15, 2016. Photo credit: Shane Balkowitsch

As I’ve watched the groundswell of protest at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota over the building of a new pipeline carrying “fracked” oil from the massive Bakken oilfield, I’ve been surprised by the lack of mention of what seems to me to be one of the most striking things about this action: the fact that it’s taking place on the same reservation where Sitting Bull was killed in December 1890 by federal Indian agency police who came to arrest him as part of an attempt to suppress a wave of Indian resistance. Read More

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A gathering at the Dakota Access Pipeline blockate in Cannonball, North Dakota, August 15, 2016. Photo credit: Shane Balkowitsch

A gathering at the Dakota Access Pipeline blockade in Cannonball, North Dakota, August 15, 2016. Photo credit: Shane Balkowitsch

As I’ve watched the groundswell of protest at the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota over the building of a new pipeline carrying “fracked” oil from the massive Bakken oilfield, I’ve been surprised by the lack of mention of what seems to me to be one of the most striking things about this action: the fact that it’s taking place on the same reservation where Sitting Bull was killed in December 1890 by federal Indian agency police who came to arrest him as part of an attempt to suppress a wave of Indian resistance.

The story of the day after Sitting Bull’s death is better-known. At another reservation to the south, as many as 300 people, including some who had fled from Standing Rock, were killed by federal soldiers near Wounded Knee Creek. Sometimes referred to as a battle but more often as a massacre, the event has been a touchstone for indigenous resistance ever since, including in a 1973 occupation of the town of Wounded Knee by activists from the American Indian Movement.

There’s an incredible resonance here with today’s civil disobedience actions at Standing Rock. A very broad alliance of indigenous groups and non-indigenous allies and environmentalists has taken a stand against the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but also against the expansion of extractive processes and infrastructure on indigenous lands more generally. As with other pipeline and anti-fracking protests, they’re warning about specific problems like potential spills and pollution of water sources. But they’re also talking about the overall moral relationship of humans to our environments as well as making very broad statements about sovereignty and stewardship. It’s this broader message that seems to be sparking such wide solidarity and support.

It is not, however, garnering as much media attention as you might expect at this point. In fact, journalists are being very actively discouraged from covering the story, including through arrest and threats of arrest (a warrant was recently issued for independent broadcaster Amy Goodman on the charge of trespass and “riot,” based on the argument that she was sympathetic to the protesters and was therefore a protester herself).

An Oct, 22,2016 Google search turned up few sources that show the links between today’s Standing Rock actions and the history of Sitting Bull’s life and death. Screenshot by the author

An Oct, 22,2016 Google search turned up few sources that show the links between today’s Standing Rock actions and the history of Sitting Bull’s life and death. Screenshot by the author

But even in the limited coverage that’s finding its way into the press, I’ve been struck by how absent any discussion of history is. Maybe the historical connections with Sitting Bull’s death and Wounded Knee are so completely obvious to indigenous people that they feel no need to mention them except in passing or between the lines. That’s the approach taken by Standing Rock Sioux chairman David Archambault II in an op ed piece for the New York Times and by Winona LaDuke in an article for Yes!Magazine ( although this piece on White Wolf Pack blog states the connection more directly).

In general, there’s virtually nothing in the press about Sitting Bull, let alone explanations that might suggest how inspiring–and also how alarming–the knowledge of the past must be for the activists who are now preparing to dig in to this deeply resonant place for the winter. If you do a Google search for “Sitting Bull” and “Standing Rock,” you have to click through several pages of hits before you get to sources that could help you piece together anything like the fuller story of broken treaties, violent repression, determined resistance, and forced relocations that underlie today’s protests.

When I polled the students in one of my classes at Tufts University about this last week, only a few were vaguely aware of the Standing Rock actions, something that surprised me given their general attentiveness to questions of social, racial, and environmental justice. Most had heard of Sitting Bull and a couple knew about Wounded Knee. I’m glad that some faculty and students at my institution are holding a teach-in about Standing Rock that’s connecting some of these dots. But there’s clearly much more that could be done–perhaps including by public historians–to get the message out not only about what’s going on in the present but about how it emerges from a long, painful, and very specific history of contestation in this part of what is now the United States.

~ Cathy Stanton is a senior lecturer in anthropology at Tufts University and an active public historian. She serves as digital media editor for the National Council on Public History.

 

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Oct 25, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21532 2016-10-25T23:03:46Z 2016-10-25T23:02:46Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Conferences in Rotterdam (on tourism), Houston (for Latinos in heritage conservation), Spain (on heritage architecture), and Poland (on heritage and society); online class on paranormal investigations in museums/historic sites starts on Halloween; teaching Wikipedia editing at London library; and new open access book on natural and cultural conservation in Kenya

CONFERENCES and CALLS

Read More ]]>
newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Conferences in Rotterdam (on tourism), Houston (for Latinos in heritage conservation), Spain (on heritage architecture), and Poland (on heritage and society); online class on paranormal investigations in museums/historic sites starts on Halloween; teaching Wikipedia editing at London library; and new open access book on natural and cultural conservation in Kenya

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this weekly listing, email us at historyatwork@ncph.org. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

 

 

 

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Alena Pirok <![CDATA[Spirit of the season]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21313 2016-10-24T14:30:07Z 2016-10-24T12:30:55Z Promotional photo for Stratford Hall’s “Stratford After Dark” event. Courtesy Museum's Facebook Page

Promotional photo for Stratford Hall’s “Stratford After Dark” event. Photo credit: Stratford Hall Facebook Page.

It is Halloween time and ghosts are once again a topic of discussion. Last October works like Tiya Miles’s book Tales from the Haunted South and Sarah Handly-Cousins’s post on “Nursing Clio” argued that popular ghost tours depend on stories that demonize those who suffer. Read More

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Promotional photo for Stratford Hall’s “Stratford After Dark” event. Courtesy Museum's Facebook Page

Promotional photo for Stratford Hall’s “Stratford After Dark” event. Photo credit: Stratford Hall Facebook Page.

It is Halloween time and ghosts are once again a topic of discussion. Last October works like Tiya Miles’s book Tales from the Haunted South and Sarah Handly-Cousins’s post on “Nursing Clio” argued that popular ghost tours depend on stories that demonize those who suffer. Their critiques were spot on, but they don’t apply to all ghost stories. The relationship between ghosts and history is much older than contemporary tours, and in most cases, these old tales lack the spooky or violent quality that characterize today’s hauntings. In fact, ghost stories in Virginia helped define homes and sites as historical and deserving of preservation. 

My research into this topic deals solely with Virginia. This is because the state and its people have blurred the divide between the state’s history and its ghostlore. While other states certainly have ghostlore and stories that are informed by history, Virginians used their ghost stories to assert their state’s past. A journalist for the Richmond Dispatch once wrote, “Virginia people can tell more ghost stories than those of any other state.” Every neighborhood, the author argued, “has its story of the supernatural, its haunted houses, its lonely road, where strange sights and sounds have frightened the nocturnal wayfarer.” Unsurprisingly, many of the old colonial homes in Virginia carry ghost stories that complement their historical narratives. In recent years major sites like Colonial Williamsburg and Mount Vernon have posted ghost stories on their respective blogs. While historic sites have tried to tap into the more historical and less spooky side of haunting, tour companies have made good money offering customers eerie visions of popular downtown areas.[1]

Photo of the Wythe House that was in included in Marguerite DuPont Lee, Virginia Ghosts, (William Byrd Press: Richmond, 1930) 23.

Photo of the Wythe House that was in included in Marguerite DuPont Lee, “Virginia Ghosts,” (Richmond: William Byrd Press, 1930), 23.

The impulse to feature historical ghost stories is not a new trend; these tranquil specters are staples of Virginia’s place-based historical narratives. When researchers traveled throughout the state looking to catalogue old homes in the 1910s and again as a part of the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, they considered ghost stories as part of homes’ significance. As author Robert Lancaster wrote in 1915, “no old Virginia mansion is quite complete without a ghost.” He explained that the Wythe House in Williamsburg boasted “no less than three ghosts.” The phantoms were the home’s owner George Wythe, as well as George Washington, who stayed in the house, and Lady Skipwith who dramatically flung herself off the home’s staircase in a fit of jealousy. Each spirit brought a bit of legitimacy; George Wythe’s ghost affirmed that he loved his home so deeply death could not stop him from visiting it. Washington’s ghost reminded people that the home was witness to important people and events, while Lady Skipwith’s ghost offered evidence of the exciting and dramatic social world of elite eighteenth-century Virginians. [2]

210 Prince Street House in 1933. The photo was taken for the HABS project. Historic American Buildings Survey, Creator. Colonel Michael Swope House, 210 Prince Street, Alexandria, Independent City, VA. Documentation Compiled After, 1933.

Colonel Michael Swope House, 210 Prince Street, Alexandria, Virginia. Documentation compiled after 1933. Photo credit: Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress).

In 1938, Virginia Daingerfield was one of many WPA writers to submit the details of a haunting as historical evidence for the Virginia Historical Inventory project. Like Lancaster, she saw hauntings as significant. She profiled 210 Prince Street in Alexandria, the home Colonel Michael Swope, built in 1756. The homeowners and visitors claimed the apparition of an executed American spy roamed the garden and attic. [3] Daingerfield noted that many visitors claimed to see “the uneasy spirit” and found him to be a “dashing tragic figure.” The haunting, she said, made 210 “the most admired house” on a street lined with old colonial homes.

As with most historical specters, the one at 210 Prince Street was not scary and did not seek vengeance; rather it asserted the home’s age and significance. While most of the buildings on Prince Street were constructed in the eighteenth century, survived the Revolution and Civil War, and lasted into the twentieth century, only 210 could claim a special connection to the past through the spirit of a martyred patriot. [4]

These haunts were not exclusive to homes, or buildings for that matter. Ghostlore worked well to define and explain the significance of otherwise unremarkable sites. Take, for instance, the “Haunted Woods.” Virginia ghost story author Marguerite DuPont Lee included the tale of the “Haunted Woods” among her entries of haunted homes, because like the stories attached to houses, the wood’s tale recalled historical narratives.

She reported that as far back as 1798, residents spoke about ghosts in and around the woods. DuPont Lee stressed that the woods were “reputed” both “far and near” as notably haunted. The wood’s spooky nature came from people’s habits of hiding out and burying things under the cover of the dense pine forest. The people DuPont Lee spoke with said that among the runaways and treasure chests the woods harbored ghostly skeletons, armor clad soldiers, “two officers and four men” from Cornwallis’s army, “murdered royalists,” and from time to time, a flying pirate ship. While the list may seem exaggerated, DuPont Lee assured readers that it was historically accurate. She explained that pirates were known to hide out in the bay. Further, Sir William Berkeley, Philip Ludwell, Lord Dunmore, and others sought escape by crossing through the woods to waiting ships during times of upheaval. The diverse group of haunts illustrated locals’ sense that their occupation of the area was in context with multiple narratives, events, and people who made the woods remarkable. [5]

These kinds of stories fell out of favor after World War II, when historical sites began to hire professionally trained workers rather than rely on volunteers and local traditions. Today ghostlore is making a return to historical areas and homes across the United States. As Miles, Handly-Cousins, and others have rightly pointed out, the old stories that these events are built on can promote cultures of oppression and impede critical thinking. However, if we look at these stories critically and actively fight against ignorant narratives, we can free ghostlore from its macabre prison. These stories are unique approaches to historical experience and illustrate an under-acknowledged sense of place. This Halloween I encourage you to seek out a ghost tour, or a historic site’s haunted event and ask yourself: What is this telling me about the past? What does a haunting add to this place? You’ll find that the best stories change the way you understand place, and speak more about things that can be explained than the things that cannot.

Alena Pirok is a doctoral candidate in the department of history at the University of South Florida. She studies public history, museum history, and tourism history. Her dissertation “The Common Uncanny: Ghostlore and The Creation of Virginia History” looks at the relationship between historical sites and ghostlore.


[1] “Virginia Ghosts” Richmond Dispatch, December 9, 1900; Ivor Noel Hume, “Doctor Goodwin’s Ghosts: A Tale of Midnight and Wythe House Mysteries,” CW Journal (Spring 2001); Adam D. Shprintzen, “Great George’s Ghost: Josiah Quincy III and His Fright Night at Mount Vernon,” George Washington: The Man and Myth, Mount Vernon website.

[2] Robert Lancaster, Historical Virginia Homes and Churches (New York: Lippincott Company, 1915), 20.

[3] Virginia Daingerfield, “Garland Lambert House,” March 28, 1938. Computer File. Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia.

[4] Daingerfield, “Garland Lambert House.”

[5] Marguerite DuPont Lee, Virginia Ghosts (Richmond: William Byrd Press, 1930), 38-43.

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Tammy Gaskell <![CDATA[Preserving in place the stories that matter]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21237 2016-11-07T22:08:02Z 2016-10-20T12:30:17Z Slave cabin at Greenfield Plantation, Botetourt County, VA. Courtesy of Joseph McGill and the Slave Dwelling Project.

Slave cabin at Greenfield Plantation, Botetourt County, VA. Courtesy of Joseph McGill and the Slave Dwelling Project.

On October 15, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) into law and formally established historic preservation as a priority of the federal government. Read More

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Slave cabin at Greenfield Plantation, Botetourt County, VA. Courtesy of Joseph McGill and the Slave Dwelling Project.

Slave cabin at Greenfield Plantation, Botetourt County, VA. Courtesy of Joseph McGill and the Slave Dwelling Project.

On October 15, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) into law and formally established historic preservation as a priority of the federal government. Since that time, individuals and communities across the nation have used the structures and powers it established, such as the National Register, state and tribal preservation offices, and the Section 106 review process, to both draw attention to important and threatened places significant to our local, state, and national stories and to preserve those places so that future generations will also be able to connect with the stories that they hold.

To commemorate and reflect upon the legacy of this act, and to ponder its future, The Public Historian commissioned a dozen brief essays that looked back upon articles on preservation published in its pages and considered them in the light of current ideas and practices. It then published these essays on the National Council on Public History’s History@Work blog in 2015–16. Because those essays, in conjunction with the articles they comment on, comprise a useful reflection on the achievements and the limitations of the act, The Public Historian decided to gather them together in an e-publication to make them more accessible for consultation, study, or classroom use. We also commissioned two new essays that look to the NHPA’s future. Mary Rizzo, who conceived of and edited the blog project, contributes an introduction that highlights some of the themes that emerge from these essays. That e-publication, Preserving Places: Reflections on the National Historic Preservation Act at Fifty from The Public Historian (PDF), is available as a PDF, and also as an EPUB (preservingplaces) on the NCPH website.

The NHPA recognizes that history, as rooted in place, plays an essential role in our sense of both individual and collective identity. Because of that, its use and interpretation have changed over time, and it must continue to do so. Though architecture has been and remains an important criterion for preservation, it is the stories that live in these places that ultimately are what matter and what we seek to protect. These stories are what give meaning—to places and to our lives.

~ Tamara Gaskell is the co-editor of The Public Historian and public historian in residence at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, Rutgers University–Camden.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Oct 18, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21356 2016-10-18T20:42:33Z 2016-10-18T20:41:34Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: International Federation for Public History looks toward its fourth annual conference, to be held in June in Italy; special journal issues focus on World Heritage and tourism, ethnographies of material culture; fellowship funding available for mid-career professionals in preservation and allied fields

CONFERENCES and CALLS

Read More ]]>
newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: International Federation for Public History looks toward its fourth annual conference, to be held in June in Italy; special journal issues focus on World Heritage and tourism, ethnographies of material culture; fellowship funding available for mid-career professionals in preservation and allied fields

CONFERENCES and CALLS

FUNDING and AWARDS

  • James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation accepting applications for 2017 Fitch Fellowships – open to mid-career professionals in preservation, landscape architecture, urban design, environmental planning, materials conservation, decorative arts, architectural design and history, and allied fields (DEADLINE: Oct 26, 2016)

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

To submit an item to this weekly listing, email us at historyatwork@ncph.org. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

 

 

 

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