Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Feel the Power

As everyone remarked about Dubin's Displays of Power, the power of the press is undeniable. What is interesting is how the press not only plays a role at the time but how it then shapes the historical record. It was interesting to see how you reacted to these various controversies, sometimes siding with the curators, sometimes siding with the community stakeholders. As you are about to embark on a career path in presenting history to and with public audiences, I wondered whether in the end you found yourself in greater sympathy with one side or the other? Should curators have academic freedom? How do you know when to put the limits on sharing? What makes a topic controversial? What is the job of the curator in terms of the production of knowledge? I look forward to continuing these discussions.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Making a Museum

Thanks to everyone for making our online discussion of Linenthal’s Preserving Memory so interesting and productive. It appears that most everyone had their bubble burst on the process of creating a museum. While everyone recognized the stresses involved, I think it is also important to recognize the sense of accomplishment the makers of this institution felt at its dedication. The blogs also made some nice connections to the first set of readings that focused on theory and methods, in particular sharing authority and inquiry.

I want to give you some comments for further analysis. In what ways does Linenthal place the discussions about the U.S. Holocaust Museum within a larger context of museumology. Is he describing any universal issues for those working in museums? Are museums always political? Are they always about celebrating achievements? What is unusual about this story, or really any story about the making of a museum?

That being said I think it is important to remember when discussing the politics of inclusion or exclusion that the commission was influenced by the politics of the 1970s and 1980s. The politics of forgetting and denial impact Jewish sentiment to maintain a strict boundary even when it might not sit well with historical analysis about other groups targeted by Hitler. Some of the comments on the blogs reminded me of Dubin’s point about generational conflict. Those of us born post-baby boom see things very differently then our predecessors. In addition, I would like for us as a class to tackle the issue of “American memory.” What is Linenthal’s argument about plurality as it applies to the conceptualization and construction of this museum.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Collaboration & Connection

With great pleasure I read everyone’s analysis of the readings for this week. Everyone identified the key concepts: collaboration and connection. As a class everyone seemed in agreement that sharing inquiry and authority were vital to the successful practice of public history. Where there was less agreement was on whether the general public really is ignorant of the nation’s history. Is knowing a personal past the same thing as knowing the history of the United States? In what ways is there overlap? If there is no overlap, is it not important for members of a democratic society to be able to imagine walking in someone else’s shoes? How can public historians help foster a participatory historical culture that would help people connect the personal and the public? I would also ask what happens when you encounter historical topics about which people do not want to discuss their experience? What do we do about topics where people are historically silent? Are they going to get short shrift because they are less easy for people to relate to their individual experience? Lastly, how is Rosenzweig and Thelen’s book a response to the history wars of the 1990s? I would recommend people look at Gary Nash’s History on Trial for an overview of those debates.

Aside from content, please put in paragraph breaks when you have a lengthy entry and watch out for repetitive sentences and typos.

Lastly, can everyone please add a link to the main course blog so that it is easier to go backand forth between our entries.