Sunday, October 18, 2009

Readings for October 18th

For this week we took on Horton and Horton's Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory and Launius's "American Memory, Culture Wars and the Challenge of Presenting Science and Technology in a National Museum".

One theme that both of these texts stresses is that there is not necessarily room, time or desire for new or forgotten interpretations of particular histories, whether that be technology, slavery or the causes of the civil war. The current presentations (historical societies, museums, schooling, what have you) just do not provide space for varying, and potentially undesired, interpretations. However, both also stress that, through continued discourse and education, public historians have the best hope for the incorporation of these new narratives. Public historians and places of public history are where these interpretations will be found and discussed.

Other than that I have a few questions just to think about and which we will possibly end up discussing in class anyway.

If memory is the springboard for history, can history realistically live up to the desire to be factual and accurate (words that came up more than once in these readings)?

As stressed in many of the essays, is education in these areas the answer to promoting more open discourse and further presentation of different or forgotten interpretations? Will education alone do this, or do we need public historians to push these discussions into the general discourse?

Part of any NPS interp training, and I'd assume any other public history training is know your audience. However, the Horton text also stresses know your interpreter. How often in visiting museums, or other places of public history, do people take into account the race, class, background, etc of the interpreter? Or is historical interpretation supposed to be a place where those things are supposed to not matter/be ignored?

I will write further on this, particularly in relation to possibly my favorite book from undergrad. However, the thoughts haven't fully solidified. Give it a few days.

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