Public History Readings

Last fall when I was in Portland I went to visit the campus of my alma mater Lewis and Clark College. In the last few years a decision had been made to, in some way, recognize the participation of the slave York as a member or the Corps of Discovery. The college commissioned Alison Saar who creates public sculpture connected to African American history. Here’s a link to an interview with Ms. Saar about her work:

I also wanted to share something about an author I really enjoy, Merritt Ierley. He is a social historian. His books include:

Open House: A Guided Tour of the American Home, 1637 to the Present
Traveling the National Road: Across the Centuries of America’s First Highway

With Charity for All: Welfare and Society, Ancient Times to the Present

The Year that Tried Men’s Souls: A Journalistic Reconstruction of the World of 1776

A Place in History: A Centennial Chronicle of North Arlington, New Jersey, Birthplace of Steam Power in America

Wondrous Contrivances: Technology at the Threshold

The Comforts of Home: The American House and the Evolution of Modern Convenience

I have heard him interviewed on NPR, but I couldn’t get to an actual audio recording or even a transcript at the NPR website. What I did find was a New York Times article that quotes one of his books and it made me laugh because it was about front porches.

4 thoughts on “Public History Readings”

  1. I read the front porch article and found it interesting because I have to say that I have never thought about the cultural divide between porch people and deck people. I grew up with porches (front and back) until my parents turned the back porch into a deck and now the front porch is never used. I never remember eating meals on the porch, but we ate frequently on the deck and that became the “entertainment” spot when we had guests. The article provided some interesting things to think about and good memories–thanks!

  2. I never really knew about the possibilities for porches until I lived in a small town in Virginia. I would walk to school and people would already be sitting out on their porches to say hello as I passed. They were there at night when I walked back home. I loved it. In Boise I thought a porch was just a slab of cement preceding the front door where people could wait until you answered the door. Great article.

  3. I enjoyed the article on porches. I never connected the idea of bad eating habits with the back yard decks I grew up with in Pocatello, till reading this. It is true that the deck is meant for a private party generally to have a delicious and calorie heavy bbq, versus engaging your neighbors. I believe what this article and others are really teasing out is the change in social behavior particularly in the America. No longer are we sitting on our front porches waiting to talk to our neighbor, but online checking to see what is happening on facebook.

  4. I really enjoyed the Portland Art article on Alison Saar. I have a strong interest in the intersection of art and history. Public art can be one of the strongest forms of public history, since it can grab the attention of people walking by so easily.

    The front porch article was great as well. I haven’t thought about the transition from front porches to backyard decks before, and what that represents in U.S. culture.

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