Final Journal Prompt of Spring 2011 Term

For your last journal entry, due next Tuesday May 3rd, please write on these questions:

1) The course objective for this class was:

you will understand how historians work and how history is made. You will also feel confidence in approaching your own historical investigations because you will possess the practical skills and methodological tools.

Discuss how you have met this objective through your class participation, journal writing, and your written assignments.

2) What part(s) of the course have been the most useful, memorable, or interesting to you?

3) In the department we’ll be offering this course every semester and starting next year it will become a requirement of the major and minor. What suggestions for improvements to this course do you have? What do you think majors/minors should learn to do in this course?

History, and Open Access to it, On the ‘Net

Some links for your consideration:

H-Net‘s many lists for historical scholars, which describes itself thusly:

H-Net is an international interdisciplinary organization of scholars and teachers dedicated to developing the enormous educational potential of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Our edited lists and web sites publish peer reviewed essays, multimedia materials, and discussion for colleagues and the interested public. The computing heart of H-Net resides at MATRIX: The Center for Humane Arts, Letters, and Social Sciences Online, Michigan State University

Academic Commons, which describes itself thusly:

With Academic Commons, we seek to form a community of faculty, academic technologists, librarians, administrators, and other academic professionals who will help create a comprehensive web resource focused on liberal arts education. Academic Commons aims to share knowledge, develop collaborations, and evaluate and disseminate digital tools and innovative practices for teaching and learning with technology. If successful, this site will advance opportunities for collaborative design, open development, and rigorous peer critique of such resources.

Making History Podcast

Another podcast: New Books in History

History News Network (George Mason University)

History Carnival (a traveling site for the best in history blogging)

Chronicle of Higher Education, 4/27/11, “New Director of MIT Media Lab Talks of Encouraging Openness

2 recent talks by Dan Cohen, GMU History Professor and Director for the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (CHNM)

Open Access and Scholarly Values” (University of Michigan, October 2010)

The Ivory Tower and the Open Web” (Coalition for Networked Information, December 2010)

Historical Memory, Professional Ethics

What is historical memory? How do historians contribute to it? What is the responsibility of historians and what does it mean for them to act ethically in their profession? What good is history, anyway? And what have you learned this semester about the craft of history? History is, in part, a public trust; what will you do with it?

Reading and discussion for Tuesday: Back to James Loewen for Chapter 10

For Thursday: Williams Ch 19

Next Tuesday May 3rd will be a wrap-up and discussion day, and your final journal entry will be due. I will provide a writing prompt on Thursday for you to consider in the last journal entry.

Your annotated bibliography is due on or before May 10th.

Public History

The start of 5 years of Civil War 150th commemorations is a really interesting time for public history, so this week’s class feels quite timely.

First, what is public history? Public history is history as practiced by people trying to make the past available to various publics. It includes national parks, historical sites, museums, archives, nonprofits, historical societies, and the like. See the National Council on Public History, or the Public History Resource Center for more discussion of the scope and goals of public historians (see also http://beyondacademe.com). The latter site offers this definition (from NYU’s grad program in public history website):

Public History is history that is seen, heard, read, and interpreted by a popular audience. Public historians expand on the methods of academic history by emphasizing non-traditional evidence and presentation formats, reframing questions, and in the process creating a distinctive historical practice… Public history is also history that belongs to the public. By emphasizing the public context of scholarship, public history trains historians to transform their research to reach audiences outside the academy.

This week we are looking at who public historians are, and how they go about making the past (often the past of a particular place like a building or a battlefield) usable to the people who use their site–or their website. How do you balance the needs, capabilities, and agendas of the different “publics” who need to know about that past? How do you create a shared sense of the past that acknowledges the complexity of what happened “here and then”?


Williams Ch 17 is our reading for Tuesday’s class on 4/19 and we’ll lay out the main concepts and considerations of public history, using Williams as a jumping-off point for our discussion.

On Thursday 4/21 we will apply these concepts to two case studies: 1) the Enola Gay exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum in 1993-1995, and 2) the current (this past week!) debate and reframing of the start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. What does it mean to “commemorate” something? How is that different from “celebrate” or “mark”? What is the purpose of a memorial? Who is “the public” and what does it mean for history to be “public”?

Reading: Michael A. Elliott, “Our Memorials, Ourselves,” American Quarterly March 2011, 229-240.

Links for Thursday’s class: explore at least some of these before class to get a flavor of each controversy and be prepared to talk about what the stakes were and who were the stakeholders

Enola Gay Controversy
You can also read the AHA’s formal protest against a later exhibit in 2003 – see also the writeup and links on the History News Network

Fort Sumter’s Website
150th Anniversary of the Civil War Fraught With Emotion” PBS NewsHour, April 12, 2011
Charleston’s Whites-Only Civil War Centennial,” Charleston City Newspaper, April 11, 2011
Few Blacks Attend Fort Sumter Anniversary Events,” Charlotte Observer, April 16, 2011
Fort Sumter: How the Civil War Began with a Bloodless Battle,” National Geographic News, April 12, 2011
Lone Mortar Shell in Charleston Opens 150th Anniversary of the Civil War,” USA Today, April 12, 2011

Image: 2 newly-released stamps from the US Postal Service, commemorating the battles at First Bull Run (but: that’s “Battle of First Manassas” from the Confederate side) and Fort Sumter, courtesy of the Washington Post

Update: One more link: “What’s the Point of a Museum Website?” Koven Smith, from the “Ignite Smithsonian” event, April 11, 2011