The Emotional Toll of Public History

Amy Tyson, in The Wages of History: Emotional Labor on Public History’s Front Lines, examines the work of the living history site Fort Snelling. Tyson writes that her book “examines museum interpreters as service workers and cultural producers.” (Tyson 4) Tyson, who has a PhD in American Studies, worked at Fort Snelling herself, and in a … [Read more]

Lowell and the Black Museum Movement

Cathy Stanton, in The Lowell Experiment: Public History in a Postindustrial City, builds on the work of Handler and Gabler in The New History in an Old Museum. Stanton, an anthropologist, completed two years of field work at Lowell National Historical Park. She states that the subject of her book revolves around the notion of “reciprocity of disappearance … [Read more]

Attractions as Public History?

Jessie Swigger’s “History is Bunk”: Assembling the Past at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village is an analysis of the history of Greenfield Village, a re-created historical village based on Henry Ford’s glorification of certain aspects of American history and the progress narrative. Swigger says the book “explores Greenfield Village’s long history, from Ford’s initial conception in 1919, … [Read more]

The Inauthenticity of Colonial Williamsburg

Richard Handler and Eric Gable’s The New History in an Old Museum: Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg uses an ethnographic approach to examine Colonial Williamsburg (CW) and the ways in which it produces history. The authors conducted interviews with employees and a few visitors, and analyzed the history of CW, its historiographical approaches from the 1930s through the 1980s, … [Read more]

Oklahoma City and 9/11

Edward Linenthal’s The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory is a cultural analysis of the bombing of Oklahoma City and the ways in which survivors, victims’ families, the community, and nation as a whole dealt with the aftermath and details the memorialization process. Linenthal argues that the bombing “sparked a crisis of American identity in which much … [Read more]

Monuments and Commemoration

John Bodnar’s Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century and Kirk Savage’s Monument Wars: Washington, DC, the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape both take on the tasks of discussing the ways in which public memory shapes Americans’ commemoration of wars and significant national events. Bodnar seeks to focus on … [Read more]

Battlefields and Massacre Sites

This week’s readings focused on places of conflict, namely, battlefields and massacre sites. Edward Linenthal’s Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields utilizes a case study approach to examine Lexington and Concord, the Alamo, Gettysburg, Little Bighorn, and Pearl Harbor. His book “is about the process of veneration, defilement, and redefinition that have characterized public attitudes towards America’s most famous … [Read more]

Competing Memories of Slavery

This week, David Blight’s Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory was paired with Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory, edited by James Horton and Lois Horton. Blight examines the relationship between race and reunion in America during Reconstruction and the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He is particularly interested in dissecting the oppositional … [Read more]

How Power Constructs Silences

In Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, Michel-Rolph Trouillot critiques the ways in which history has been constructed by those who tell it. Trouillot writes that his book “is about history and power” and “deals with the many ways in which the production of historical narratives involves the uneven contribution of competing groups and … [Read more]

Public History as a Public Service

In Museums, Monuments, and National Parks: Toward a New Genealogy of Public History, Denise Meringolo responds to the efforts of public historians and academics to define public history. She uses the establishment of the National Park Service as a lens through which to argue that public history did not emerge in the 1970s but rather was a movement that began … [Read more]