Interpreting History

In reading this week’s post, I believe I have reinforced the same belief that many others have come to before me, both conservatives and liberals approach not only historical events, but current events in a manner that coincides with their own unique beliefs on how the world should run. Reading this articles and watching multiple news channels really shows this. What they write or report on and the angle they go with really shows how our two party systems cover a wide spectrum of ideological beliefs, be they political, social, or religious.

One of the articles that caught my attention was “Gun Control—Not According to George Washington.” In the article Ken Taylor makes reference to a quote that George Washington said. The basic summary of the quote being that a free people should be able to have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain some status of their independence from anyone who tries to take it away from them.  These made me think of the Whiskey Rebellion. Though the Federal Government did not take their arms away, poor farmers in the western portion of the United States felt that the government had assaulted their freedom by imposing upon a tax that attacked their lively hood. Though not much came out of this event in the end, Washington did not view this tax as an attack on an individual’s freedoms or independence. It is that view that very much centers on any argument pertaining to the second amendment. In this post, Taylor argues that all legislation impacts law abiding gun owners, not criminals. Watching the news I know that is the very core of the conservative argument. I would imagine in an anti-gun blog, the blogger would use current events and laws to support their claim for gun legislation. What they both have in common though is that they both see themselves as defending the second amendment in the way they have come to interpret it.

            Every blog, article, and book out there shows an individual’s interpretation of the event and hopefully of some primary source material. One of the greatest appreciations that I have drawn from reading both conservative and liberal articles over the course of the class is the ability to be able to freely express ones belief in generally any matter you can come up with.

Ethics, Part II

Thomas F. King really dived into the issue of protecting our heritage in his book, but that is a very obvious observation giving such the title of his book. Interesting aspects of his book were, as others have mentioned, laws and bureaucracies. While both laws and bureaucracies bring about their own unique problems to heritage protection. Being able to examine and pick apart the issues within those two aspects of the King’s book allows the reader to come to a common conclusion in order to protect our heritage. We must not only actively participate as an individual to save our heritage, but work to get the community involved as well.

Dealing with government agencies can seem like an impossible task at times. Everyone has some story about the inability of some government agency to accomplish any task in a quick and efficient way. The ineffectiveness of certain bureaucracies and the individuals within them seems to create a stereotype that people easily accept. The stereotype being that the various bureaucracies and the laws that they use are inept to adequately handle the tasks that lay before them or to deal with the people who come to them. As Jim pointed out, King’s pessimistic attitude toward bureaucracies hides the fact that there are people within the system who want to help protect places of historical or cultural value.

Although the book King wrote has an agenda in terms of heritage sites and development, he does manage to convey to the reader the difficulties present in conservation. I think having spent a part of his life battling aspects of the system in order to protect heritage sites created a pessimistic, or defeatist, attitude within King. When you witness something destroyed and felt that the system in place proved incompetent at procuring the goal you wanted, it can become soul crushing. Knowing this perspective helps to show people the portion of the reality that exists in conservation and having this knowledge prepares one to undertake this, at times, seemingly hopeless mission.

Ethical Dilemmas, Part I

After having read this week’s
articles and a few of the responses already posted, the discussion in this
week’s course should be lively and passionate. Moving on from that, the
articles brought up many issues that exist within the teaching and sharing of
history. Issues of how far History can be distorted, especially when agendas
are involved. From the “Conservative Class” article to Sons of Confederate
Veterans, distortion takes many shapes and forms. One thing that does come from
these articles is that as many people as there are that distort history, so
many more simply want to learn. The issue with that is what they are learning,
or more importantly how ignorance spreads like a virus. One person learns
something and they spread it along to someone else and it just continues on.
For the public historian, or any educated individual, this is an issue that
raises the blood pressure. Personally, a lot of the time when I read articles
like the ones for this week, I remember a movie titled ‘Idiocracy.’ Within the
movie, the only people who exist on the world are idiots, all the smart people
have died off. Stupid was the virus that just kept spreading through procreation.
At times it seems like there are so many educators in some form spreading
distorted history to any audience that will listen to them, but then, as Molly
wrote in her blog, it is important to remember that it is our job to make sure
that the “actual history is readily accessible, understandable, and relatable.”
As long as the correct information is out there, people who actually want to
learn will seek out the actual history.

The Realities of the Historian Career Market

Doom and gloom, that seems to be an underlying theme in many articles that discuss the potential job market for historians. While other professions may have the greater potential for a larger job market, it seems to me that many individuals who have spent the time and money to acquire a degree in a field such as history are there for their passion. The downside to going for one’s passion is it does not guarantee you a job. I think that is why many of the professors at Boise State promote students, especially history students, to think outside the box when it comes to how to apply your career and yourself to the career market. On the upside of the doom and gloom theme present in some of the articles that discuss it, they did show predictions in job growth in line with other professional fields. Some of the issues present in the career field for historians are issues that we have discussed in class. One being how the potential number of applicants often outnumbers the level of openings present within the market.

One of the greatest benefits that this week’s readings gave was what it potentially took to obtain and maintain a job in the field of history. These articles serve as catalysts to prepare those with an interest in obtaining a job in the field of history. It discusses education, training, and experience. The articles even go into what potential employers seek for in their future employees. Reading these articles shows how important it is to project oneself out into their desired field of employment. Through active participation, history graduates can gain the necessary experience to work in the field through internships and volunteering. Also joining history societies shows potential employers a desire that the individual displays for history. I think when you start to vigorously pursue your career in history, you must be realistic about it. It is highly doubtful that one will obtain their dream job or dream location for a job right away, but having the knowledge of what must be done in order to obtain your dream prepares oneself to undertake the journey to achieve it.

$100 Startup Reflection

In many of the history classes I have taken at BSU, the professors often stress think outside the box with a history degree. As the readings for this week and others have stated, a job in any field is not guaranteed for life. The private and public sectors both hit financial walls or worse, they fall off of a cliff. With a history degree people assume you are either going to teach, go into law, or work within a museum related field. Knowing that an individual may not either obtain the job that they want or hold onto it, the professors at BSU show their students that a history degree gives the individual student an enormous amount of tools that many public and private institutes want in their employees, tools and skills that they would prefer not to have to teach themselves. By understanding the skills that are obtained over the course of time it takes to get the history degree, an individual can come to understand that they are not limited to a perceived narrow line of professions. That the degree braches off in a multitude of directions. In the $100 Startup the author shows the reader the possibilities of career opportunities. The world of self-employment may be positively frightening to many people, but Chris Guillebeau wrote a book that attempts to show the reader they possess the skills to accomplish this task. Even if an individual does not want to go in the direction of self-employment, Gillebeau’s book shows historians that that knowing what skills they have enables them to effectively sell themselves to an employee.

A common expression is when one door closes, another opens. Reading Crafting a New Historian the expression fit the article very well. The author, Tyler Rudd Putman, explains his situation to the reader very simply. Unable to find permanent work within his chosen field of expertise, Putman turned to what he knew, creating historical costumes. Putman demonstrates Gillebeau’s advice given in the $100 Startup. Everyone has skills and these skills have a market. When people are able to effectively recognize the skills they have developed and honed new potential career opportunities appear. Opportunities that may have been missed in the past not because they were not there, but because people do not always see the entirety of what they bring to the table in terms of ability.

Historic Preservation, Part II

This week’s readings showed me just how much I do not know about historic preservation. It doesn’t help to begin with that my knowledge of the subject was very small to begin with. What caught my eye early on in chapter 4 was the Penn Central decision and how the author stated how “it forms the legal justification for most historic preservation ordinances” (pg. 123). To understand how historic preservation laws have both grown and stayed in existence is important for historians and many others also. We must understand how these ordinances and laws have grown and existed in order to both effectively use them and explain them to others, to the public. By this point, I think we all understand that the local and federal government is involved in historic preservation; they’ve both helped to create the laws, fund portions of historic preservation, and enforce them. The important fact that the Penn Central decision demonstrates to us is how the government is able to enforce these laws in the face of private ownership. From the Penn Central case we come to understand that historic preservation laws or ordinances are an appropriate tool used by cities to accomplish a government goal, in this instance preservation of a building. At the same time, this case shows the conflict between private owners of recognized historical sites and the government; especially private owners who fall under a more direct historical preservation ordinance. Both entities exist with their own goals in mind. One wants their revenue increased and the other wants a space saved for current and future generations. At the end they both managed to achieve their goals within the defined city ordinance. The Supreme Court upheld the historic preservation law which led to the owner of Penn Central to abandon one plan and institute another, which proved successful. Some people may view this as government stepping across some line and enforcing its will upon the private landowning citizen, but in this instance it was needed. The owner knew what kind of property Penn Central was and I am sure they were fully aware of the preservation ordinance in place; the only thing I do not know is when the station was designated as a historical site and who the owner was at the time. Penn Central demonstrates how grassroots support and historical preservation laws can help to save landmarks that are both representative of a people and time. If people look in Boise in the Basque block it’s evident. With both local support from the people and government funding/support, a piece of Boise culture has been both restored and preserved for everyone to enjoy.

Wiki Reflection

When I began to write my articles on both the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia, I took very different steps in selecting topics. On the Boise Wiki, there is so much to write on, to create from scratch. I decided I was going to write on an individual who had provided something to the community. Looking online and through the newspapers, I came across Gene Harris; an individual who created an impact in both the educational and musical scenes in Boise. From that point I noticed no article on the Wiki existed for this famous jazz musician; to be fair Gene was mentioned as having played in the Idanha. I had free reign over the information I would get to put into an article for this man. It made me both excited and nervous. On one hand I get the opportunity to create my own article, on the other I was completely unsure of how it would be accepted in the Wiki community. After having both written the article and posted it to the Wiki, I awaited any potential issues to arise that would bring my article down. None came. At this point I was relieved; my article had managed to make a successful contribution to the Boise Wiki. This represented my first wiki article ever.

Having gained confidence from a successful contribution to the Boise Wiki, I moved onto the daunting task of attempting to make a productive input toward a topic on Wikipedia. Unlike the Boise Wiki were I had chosen a famous individual, in order to choose a topic on Wikipedia a new strategy formed within my mind. I looked at the talk pages on each topic. From that point, I gained an understanding of the scale system used by Wikipedia that gauges the importance of each topic. I did not want to choose a topic that was of high importance, but at the same time I did not want to choose a topic of no importance, with this in mind I came to the conclusion that I would write on a small town I had went to high school in. Glenrock, Wyoming, it had a page with all the basic information within it. It told the current population, the climate and other information like that, but it lacked any true sense of the history of the town. More importantly it lacked the historical sites. Having recently read articles for class on Wikipedia, I made sure my sources were only secondary or local government based. I figured my chances were good to make a successful contribution to Wikipedia. I was right. In total, I added roughly between 300 and 400 words of text to the Glenrock page. After I submitted my edit of the page, I waited for the execution of my contribution. After days of waiting, it never came. I was elated. Not only had I successfully made a contribution to the Boise Wiki, but I had now made an effective contribution to Wikipedia. With this experience came new wisdom.

Having not only submitted both my contributions, but have had them both stay up has made me feel as though they were considered fairly. The process was so incredibly simple, the only technological hurdle I faced was figuring out how to put links and sources into my Wikipedia contribution. To figure that out, I merely looked at how others had done it before me. I submitted the changes I wanted to do on Wikipedia through the talk page before I made them and followed the Wikipedian rules. Taking those steps made contributing to Wikipedia incredibly easy. The advice I would offer to future editors of both the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia is research your topic, follow the rules on the wiki, and communicate with the wiki community. I think if most people follow that simple advice, they will probably find success.

Finally, the last thing I need to address is how I feel about wiki’s now that I have contributed to them. Before I provided any sort of contribution, I always viewed a wiki as source to either get a basic idea on something or gather sources from. Now that I have written for two different wiki’s, I still pretty much feel the same way. It is a great feeling to contribute some knowledge to a large online encyclopedia, but both wikis felt different when I went to contribute to them. Wikipedia, with how large it is I felt like my contribution was small, and it was. The Boise Wiki on the other hand felt more significant to contribute to than Wikipedia did. Being so much smaller, creating a whole page felt like a real contribution; not like on Wikipedia where I just added a relatively small body of text to. I am glad I had this assignment. Without, I seriously doubt I would have added to either online encyclopedia.

Historic Preservation

Like others have mentioned in their blogs and by Norman Tyler, 1976 represented a crucial year in terms of United States history and historic preservation. 1976 was the bi-centennial anniversary of our nation, a time that prompted people to remember the history of the United States, both the good and the bad. This remembrance is seen in popular culture such as in the comic books of the day. Archie comic books devoted many stories to various historical figures, buildings, and events throughout their 1970’s stories. That popular culture items promote those ideas and things demonstrates a want or desire to hang onto our cultural heritage. Anniversaries or important dates help people to remember the past or reconnect with it; as important as 1976 stood out to people, for a nation 1966 represented a truly pivotal moment in American history. The National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 showed a step forward for historic preservation. This act had the goal of getting governments, both federal and local, to work together in order to preserve American cultural heritage for current and future generations. Boise stands as a good example of both a failure and success of the National Historic Preservation Act. So much of the cultural sites of Boise were torn down and either replaced or left as eyesores; I have heard some people argue that the buildings that replaced the demolished structures such as city hall are eyesores. A success of preservation in Boise is seen in the Basque community with the preservation of a prominent Basque family house. As others have mentioned historic preservation may convey a feeling of a pet project for historians in America, but I do believe there is a want on some portion of the populace, aside from many historians, on wanting to preserve their cultural heritage. In another class we were giving the opportunity to take an impromptu tour of an individual’s historical home, an individual who, outside of having a passion for history, has no connection to historians or to being a historian.

There feels like there will always be some sort of conflict in preserving historical buildings in the United States. The question that is associated with preserving buildings is the same question that museums deal with. What do we want to represent us? Learning a little bit about the hanging Indian mural located in Boise, I think this question is ever present within American society. Indians were hung in the Boise region that is a part of both the city and the state’s history. The hanging Indian mural also represents some of the difficulties in preserving our past. For some they merely want to show the past knowing that it will better future generations, for others portions of the past should be buried.

It was interesting to learn how architects worked with historic buildings in order to preserve them with new structures. That is definitely a topic I did not know very much about, but is something that is important to know about no matter who you are. At the end of the day, it is up to the community to help preserve the historic buildings within their area. Those buildings are of immediate cultural importance to them first, they live with them. In Boise, residents take pride in their Egyptian Theatre, Basque houses, and various other historical sites. It is through a solid grassroots effort in conjunction with the local and federal governments that will help preserve our heritage for future generations.

Reenactment and Wikipedia

When an individual commits an act, good or bad, others ask why. Nick Kowalczyk asks this question with the reenactors of the French and Indian War in mind with his “Embedded with the reenactors” article. His article shows both portions of the good and the bad that exist within the reenactment world. He is not afraid to make fun of it either. He writes, “Like drag shows, re-enactments hinge on sartorial panache. If a man’s otherwise period-correct outfit includes modern-day buttons or eyeglasses, it might as well have come from K-mart.” That quote demonstrates how strange the world of reenactment can seem to Kowalczyk at times, but it also comes to demonstrate an answer to his why question. Why do these individuals, mainly white, middle-aged men, want to reenact the French and Indian War? For individuals such as Old Hickory, a man who introduced Kowalczyk to reenactment, the answer comes from both his love to reliving the past and feeling as though he is out of place in the present. “’In real life I’m just a wallflower,’ Old Hickory confessed to me, before adding, on a brighter note, “but when I found reenacting everything changed.’” As Kowalczyk finds one answer on the reenactment battlefield, he uncovers other issues seen in on-line encyclopedia contributors and science programs; a dominating gender exists in reenactments.

In “Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List”, Noam Cohen summed up the basic structural foundation of Wikipedia when she said, “The difference between Wikipedia and other editorially created products is that Wikipedians are not professionals, they are only asked to bring what they know.” That those who edit and monitor Wikipedia are most likely not professionals can create a feeling of hostility seen in Timothy Messer-Kruse’s article. As Messer-Kruse explains, Wikipedia’s policies are created to be based off of popular consensus. This stems off of the belief that popular consensus is most likely based of reliable written sources, but that is not to say that less-popular views are ignored either. As discussed in “Weighing Consensus”, the issue that arises between Messer-Kruse and the Wikipedian editor is based on consensus. Seeing as the basic structure of Wikipedia is built on the belief that all individuals, professional or not, function within a continually evolving consensus of evidence. The consensus generated within Wikipedia has come from the natural growth of the website and it obviously has its inherent flaws within it.

Cohen does not only bring up a basic structural foundation for Wikipedia, but a larger issue of gender inequality witnessed in the online encyclopedia. Gender inequality present in Wikipedia may very well show the issues present in the United States. Catherine Orenstein was quoted as saying, “When you are a minority voice, you begin to doubt your own competencies.” The site may not be a direct battleground for gender equality or other issues, but it is a tool created for all to use, a tool that can help individuals or groups share their knowledge with others.

Carolyn Ruby, Research Coordinator

I interviewed Carolyn Ruby, the research coordinator at the Idaho State Archive research center. During my interview, I asked Carolyn questions ranging from her description of her job to the recent issues presented by certain materials found within their archives. When Carolyn first began working at the state archives, she began as a library assistant whose focus centered on research. By this I mean her primary job was to be able to answer the questions that individuals would bring before her. Within a short span, her job rapidly changed due to budget cuts. This meant that the research center went from employing eighteen employees, to just five. Fortunately for Carolyn, during this rough transition she was eventually promoted to research coordinator due to her higher education, as well as her vast experience in the field. After having earned her bachelor’s degree in history and completing a master’s in library science, she worked for thirty years mostly in research centers ranging from Micron to a short stint at a law firm.  Like so many other students though, she gave immense thought as to what she wanted to do in life, this question also raised the question as to what good does just a bachelors in history do for her. Before her final semester of her undergraduate degree, Carolyn discovered a love for public history and that provided her motivation to earn her Master’s in Library Science. Thanks to all of the experience and skills she has developed over the years, she has managed to maintain a sense of job security in a world under the continual threat of lack of funds or budget cuts.

When the state archives experienced their horrific budget cut that left the institution with a dismal number of employees, Carolyn discussed how her role in the research center drastically changed. She learned the immense value of becoming a highly flexible employee. No longer could employees merely concentrate within one area of the archives, she and her fellow workers learned the skills required to work within multiple areas of the research center. From this experience, Carolyn described to me the major skills that are important to have currently within the archives. The largest skill or ability an individual could have when working at the archives is being flexible. This skill, important in all fields of work, allows an individual to show importance to the employer. Such as in the case of the state archives research center, when the amounts of employees are cut, those whom remain employed must become flexible in order to succeed in their new environment. As Carolyn explained it, “You must not only be able to pick up the slack or new responsibilities created, but be able to both multi-task and step-up your game.” You do not wait for someone to tell you what to do, you seek out work.

On an educational point, in order to gain employment at an institution such as the archives, individuals need to have some sort of educational background that provides them with the basic tools in understanding history. Like Carolyn, all of the employees at the research center have either a master’s or a PhD; most of their degrees are either in history or library science. When asked if there had been employees with degrees outside of either history or library science, Carolyn answered that to the best of her knowledge there had only been a small number of those employees. Of the current employees, one employee has their PhD in literature.

At the research center, Carolyn explained to me that all employees there stress that “it is a research center and not a research library.” This is mainly due to how it changes the view of state legislators toward the institution depending on the word used. More legislators have fewer issues funding a state research center than they do a state research library. Wording is paramount at the research center; it has the ability to drastically alter the potential future budget of the institution.

At the end of the interview I gained a much greater insight into public history. Three key points I felt were greatly stressed throughout the interview with Carolyn were the financial budget, employee flexibility, and the importance of wording on behalf of the research center.