Gruesome suffering or heroic battleground

While reading the articles, I could not help the thoughts of what truly is dark tourism from running through my mind. Although most of the authors cited some form of what they either claimed to be dark tourism, or at minimum argued against others that saw it that way, the article that really peaked my interest was Numinous Objects by Rachel P. Maines and James J. Glynn. They brought up a couple of sites, though not necessarily in the exact context of dark tourism, such as Gettysburg. Although the clear mentality of Gettysburg as a battle for the North makes it a very different site than say Alcatraz, I couldn’t help but see a number of similarities. One, in both places people suffered and died. Two, I can hardly see anyone “wanting” to be involved in such an endeavor. Three,  they both can be said, as can any of the examples brought up in the articles, to have at least a hint of dark tourism involved with the location. Four, they can be viewed in different ways by the public.

Maines and Glynn say of Gettysburg, “Gettysburg and Atlanta for northerners are inspired by victories at great cost; for southern whites they are haunted by a specter of bitter and humiliating defeat.” (14) The United States’ Park Service has attempted multiple ways to push the natural beauty of the island of Alcatraz rather than its seedy inmates backgrounds. ( Carolyn Strange, and Michael Kempa. 2003. “Shades of dark tourism:Alcatraz and Robben Island”. Annals of Tourism Research. 30 (2): 386-405.) With these ideas in mind is it just a place of dark tourism or is it that the public simply wants to see it that way. Gettysburg is certainly not the iconic poster child for dark tourism, but could it be if it were presented or thought about differently? I think it is less about dark tourism and more about the morbidity of the human mind when forced to reflect on its own mortality. That being said, I think dark tourism, although it certainly has the capability of being based in part by supply, is more of a demand driven ideal.


Objectivity is dead, and we have bought and paid for its death

So, you want to build a railroad through land covered in Native American tradition and culture? Just hire someone that will say that it will not actually “hurt anything”. If that doesn’t work, all one needs to do is put more money in to debunk any significance, take a few pictures of it and say, “we saved it.” If that is all too much for you, simply declare that there is no reason to even look at all of that in the first place. One way or another you can buy your way out of objectivity too and today only for the low, low price of $2995.

As a absolute representation of what consumerist culture is, strives to be, and what it does, Thomas King shows a million and one ways to overlook any kind of culture, history, and environmental concerns about what you want to build in the name of….(wait for it)….”progress”. That is right. I said it. Need a railroad built but don’t think you should have to deal with pesky laws? Put the burden of better ideas on the other side, completely avoiding any and all responsibility.  “It’s really pretty simple. When a specialist is hired by a project proponent, no matter how skilled, professional, and even honorable that specialist may be, he or she can’t help but be influenced by the client’s interest in moving his or her project forward quickly and at least cost.” (43)

Think the idea of that is wrong. No problem. let’s bring in an unbiased third party. But wait, there’s more. Is the unbiased party unbiased? Even when the BLM brings in a third party, “The proponent pays, but the agency calls the shots. Sometimes, however— as we’ll see in Chapter Seven— the ostensibly independent “third party” contractor for the agency turns out to be the very firm that is also under contract with the proponent.”(43)



Better yet, just bury everyone in a bunch of jargon that you choose to not bother defining gumming up the entire works for anyone even attempting to figure out what you are doing.(74-77) You may even get lucky and have no one to show up to speak out against your project, as long as you make sure that it is a public hearing and that you create paperwork that you can later ignore.(114)

If none of those work to get you to the place you need to be, just wait. Over the next four years it is likely that we will see such a cutback in the systems in place to protect these places, you may be able to just do whatever you want and there will be no one there to even stop you. (

With these steps, you too can destroy the Earth, other cultures, and resources in five easy steps… assuming you have the money and where you want to build is in an area of regularly marginalized people.

Stanford versus Brown

When comparing the Digital Humanities Advancement Grant and the Digital Projects for the Public grant I chose to look at two extremely well known colleges’ grant proposals, Brown University and Stanford University. Although in comparison the Stanford requested budget was huge, almost $300,000, I found the two very similar on a number of topics.

  1. A multidisciplinarian approach
  2. A clear timeline
  3. A clear sense of who was involved and their qualifications
  4. A clear sense of its relevance

The larger Stanford project, which sought to add a contextual basis for letters written by many great authors, covered not only a number of linguistics, but even a Digital Humanitarian Librarian. I had no idea such a thing even existed. The Brown grant, which was looking to expand a localized project on the four elements, included among its members anthropologists, historians and a local curator. Both projects used history as a way to open their abstracts to reference a broader humanities overtone.

The really impressive topic in both was the timeline they provided. Each proposal gave a timeline of when the project would be at certain milestone points as well as what this would mean for patrons. Whether seasonal or  actually dated, both projects made it clear when their work would be done as well as who would do what and when.

The most fascinating similarity was the qualifications of the people involved. Both schools had lists of awards and accomplishments for the professors and grad students that was phenomenal.

Lastly, both projects made a clear statement of what they believed to be missing in the world and how their projects would look to fix it.

Although the two projects were very different in the scope of what they intended, they both clearly showed relevancy to a number of groups of people, why the should be the ones doing it, and a realistic but ambitious timeline for their projects.


The age old question… what are you going to do when you grow up?

Pretty much every non-historian I know has at some point asked me the dreaded question…. What are you going to do with a history degree…. teach or something? I find that the lack of understanding of what it takes to write history/ be a historian in the world outside of to end up feeling quite uneducated and even condescending.  As stated in the post “What Employers Seek in History Graduates” points out, “…students of history develop skills in the ability to assess evidence, ability to assess conflicting interpretations, and experience in assessing past examples of change. I believe these skills are most effectively taught within the university setting.” Personally I would add to that the ability to think critically (a dying art form in my opinion), an understanding for what the world really was, and possibly most of all, passion.

Having come from the business department early in my academic career, I found the in generalized lack of passion disturbing. It seemed to me that all too often people were there because they thought it would make them more money or that they were doing what they were supposed to. In the history department I see every member of each class I have as passionate about something. Possibly this stems from the fact that history is not the pathway to fly cars, gold necklaces, and the easy life. In that I find the history department to be refreshing.

I think that “Crafting a new Historian” has it the closest that I saw to correct. Really being a historian is like most jobs “you fake it until you make it” or as Tyler Rudd Putman more eloquently puts it, “Craftsmen move from mimicry to mastery.” There is no golden ticket. There is no right way to life. Life tends to take your plans and crumple them up and throw them away. The trick is not to let it get you down and to keep moving even when you feel beaten down.

Prejudging people you don’t know is prejudice…

Wow!…. Just wow! After reading the articles I had a completely different idea in my head of where the conversation would go about them. After reading some of the responses I was shocked to see that it turned to the prejudice (and yes as what I saw I believe was judgement of people that no one of us knows personally i said prejudice…) idea that these “older white males” were looking for a time when they were in charge. As a historian, I thought of the idea of reenacting as a way to keep history while also escaping one’s own grinding life as something both harmless and possibly exiting. I find it ridiculous that the practice happens to be more popular with a certain race, age range, and gender inherently makes it exclusionary, especially when both articles showed more inclusion on the part of the reenactors by far. I found the most important part of the article to be the idea that,”But what all institutions focused on the Civil War (era) all have in common is a belief that history matters… And in doing so, they believe that our lives and those of our communities are greatly enriched.”(“Why Doesn’t Anyone Think It’s Cool to Dress Up Like a Confederate Soldier Anymore?”) History is full of unfortunate things like racism, slavery, genocide, and general atrocities but that does not mean that people reenact certain times because they believe that these things are right but because they want to escape their own existence, which too has all of the aforementioned terrible things. Nor should it mean that we simply choose to forget the past. This video shows how even a single claim that a Civil War reenactment by Middle schoolers could be canceled by a single claim of racism or sexism. ( )Are their racists and misogynists among reenactors? Probably, but that is in line with the fact that there are racists in the world today.

With the Wikipedia articles I felt quite different. It was made clear that people’s ideas were being suppressed because of their views, ideas or gender. Therefore I think that Wikipedia needs to reevaluate their process and goals. (Of course I do not really care for Wikipedia anyway nor ever have due to the idea that I have known people that think they know a lot more than what they do because someone told them so…)The only other thing I can say is somewhat of a repeat of what I stated above which is, the world was not and is not a perfect place. In opening Pandora’s Box of equality there is always a blow back of sorts from those that were/ are privileged.“It is ironic,” he said, “because I like these things — freedom, openness, egalitarian ideas — but I think to some extent they are compounding and hiding problems you might find in the real world.”(Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List) Lastly I would say that I understand the idea that Mrs. Gardner said it best in the idea that all people should be encouraged to put their voice forward when she said, “Gender is a huge hot-button issue for lots of people who feel strongly about it,” she said. “I am not interested in triggering those strong feelings.”(Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List)

enticing people to keep history

Although I am aware that historical preservation costs money, I found that much of second half of the book was an attempt to give historians a financial argument as to why it could behoove someone. That being said, I find it ridiculous that people not only want, but actually expect a financial gain as a reason not to destroy historical buildings. Even my favorite part of the second half of the book, Revitalizing Downtown, felt littered with facts like “The Main Street Center recently tabulated that the program led to the rehabilitation of 60,000 buildings (instant happy thought for me, over 174,000 jobs, and to $35 for every $1 spent.” (174) Why do we still look at our collective history in dollars and cents rather than with just sense?

Page 201 clearly shows a list of an entire budget of a project, including tax benefits of doing such a rehab. To me, if you don’t want to live in a historic district ( or own a business in one), then by all means do not. If you do, I feel it ridiculous that it takes an entire spreadsheet of cost accounting to help someone determine…. what exactly? Whether or not or history has value?

The other thought that consistently came up for me was that, what about areas that are historic to a certain group of people but are overlooked by others? With the idea of a commission in charge of what is historical and what is not, what about places like Garden City, known for its beautiful gardens…. that were built and maintained by the Chinese who, as second class citizens of their time, have conveniently been written out of that narrative? Those that have power are the only ones that seemingly can tell us what has history and what does not. Only fairly recently has history started to put into the narrative the significance of many race, class, and gender in the building of America. With this in mind I would hate to lose the history of these other disenfranchised groups simply because they were disenfranchised.73-106-5_garden_city_panorama

Garden City was known for its Chinese gardens. Strawberries and onions were just some of the vegetables grown on the land.
Credit Idaho State Historical Society, Photo 73-106-5 (taken from on 3/13/2017)

Privatized preservation

During the reading of Historic Preservation, I found myself thinking about the ideal of Private efforts to preserve historical sites. Although I prefer the idea that our federal government would not allow our local history to be demolished, I believe that only the local people who actually know and care about it are likely to save a larger number of sites. That being said, I find that there are some companies and groups that are taking this preservation into their own hands. I recently ran into an article that proves this.In the article, getimagephp.jpg__800x600_q85_crop, Smithsonian Magazine shows that even businesses such as McDonald’s are taking some sense of historical responsibility. This idea fills me with a sense of relief. The “George Washington slept here” technique as the book calls it, is one of the few ways that we can actually work to save our history on a local level.(42) I wish that there were better avenues for this but unfortunately all too many people just really could not care less.

The other thing that really intrigued me was the talk about Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It did so because I found myself in awe of the idea that a historical area or landmark could become so popular that “its character would change into that of a boutique center and lose its original character as a somewhat scruffy everyday market run by local farmers and small entrepreneurs.” (23) Not only the fact that a historical site could be so popular but also the idea that someone actually recognized saving it for what it originally was took me back. I wonder how many times that this has actually happened throughout history. Do we truly remember historical sites as they were or simply as what we wanted them to be? Does history tell us more about the people who lived it or those of us that choose to look back at it?JS121409112_Mauro-Consilvio-E-mail-maoconsi40gmailcom-large_trans_NvBQzQNjv4Bqek9vKm18v_rkIPH9w2GMNpPHkRvugymKLtqq96r_VP8

Inclusion or exclusion? Where is the line?

After the multiple readings, I could not help but think to myself,” Is the inclusion of a group that is normally overlooked exclusion of other groups?” I find that all too many times movements like the #BlackLivesMatter are severely hindered by this thought exactly. Although they clearly did not intend to exclude people from their movement, the wording alone seems to have charged people both to its side as well as against it almost immediately. From the prospective of the museum, where is the line drawn between these two ideas? Often the traditional narrative of American History has been exclusionary. To allow this to go uncontested is one of the many great tragedies of history. On the other hand, for a museum to get involved with groups that are seen by others as exclusionary due to their own lack of inclusion can spell trouble. Certainly, even just by choosing a theme for an exhibit, a museum can show their own possible bias one way or another, such as the National Museum of African American History and Culture choosing to document the history and artifacts of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, but can a line be drawn between documenting a social movement and the goals and actions of the movement itself? I found myself drawn to the section in the Smithsonian Magazine where it talked about Darian Wigfall, and more significantly where the article discussed the idea that “In addition to the poster (New Age of Slavery by Patrick Campbell) Wigfall also donated a 20-foot wide banner that says, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty.”[1] Also, a sign that said “White silence is White consent” caught my attention. Immediately, being someone who studies the 19th century, I recognized the Transcendentalist overtones in both of these ideas. It made me think of a quote by Edmund Burke (although the source of the quote is argued) “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Although both of these examples were from the #BlackLivesMatter articles, I found the same ideas in the Tenament Museum article only based on the idea of immigrants. The real question to me is, how are museums to walk the thin line between inclusion of often overlooked groups without winding up exclusionary themselves?

[1] Katie Nodjimbadem, “How the African American History Museum Is Curating “Black Lives Matter”,,  December 14, 2015,

Interview with Kathleen Durfee, Manager of the Coeur d’Alene Old Mission State Park


My interview was with Kathleen Durfee, the park manager of the Coeur d’Alene Old Mission State Park. Kathleen has worked for the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department since 1990 when after getting her bachelor’s degree she took a summer job while deciding whether to enter Master’s school. She so thoroughly enjoyed her experience that she decided to stay on with the Parks Department and has remained there ever since. Although there have been ups and downs in her career, including having her position completely removed in 2008 leaving her scrambling for another, her experience with the Parks Department has allowed her to be apportion to four different parks throughout Idaho.

I found her description of the Coeur d’Alene Old Mission Park absolutely fascinating. They have the oldest standing building in Idaho, the Mission of the Sacred Heart erected between 1850 and 1853, as well as 5000 ft2 museum that houses around $10 million in artifacts at any given time.[1] Her job as manager includes the upkeep of both of these buildings, especially the mission itself which requires experts and the interaction of multiple historically based groups to be worked on, as well as the entirety of the parks other amenities including picnic areas, restrooms, a gift shop, and much more. Another one of these duties includes the maintenance of the trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, a 72 mile trail that was established by a joint venture between the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, Union Pacific Railroad, the U. S. Government, and the State of Idaho.[2] She also organizes a fourth grade fieldtrip for all the children in three towns and eight cities in the area. For Kathleen, there is no such thing as a normal day.

Due to the nature of the park and the area in which it is run, Kathleen deals with a myriad of local, state, and federal organizations. Not only does she deal with her own organization, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, on many of her projects, she also deals regularly with the Idaho Panhandle National Forest service, the Coeur d’Alene tribe, Heritage Trust, the Environmental protection agency, the University of Idaho, and even on occasion the Smithsonian Museum as well as other large influential museums to keep a good rotation of the exhibits. She had recently returned to the Smithsonian a full dress of “Buffalo” Bill Cody that she had on exhibit for a few months. Working with such a large number of groups, each with different ideas and ideals, means that Kathleen is remains a busy woman year around.

When faced with the issue of hiring new help Kathleen repeatedly stated that the number on attribute that she looks for is a good hard work ethic. Both in her seasonal employees and the park rangers that she hires, Kathleen said, ” We can teach them almost anything except the willingness to work hard.”[3]Above and beyond work ethic, she also looks for specialized skills that are needed from time to time around the park, such as ability to work with computers, communication skills, and mechanical, or other maintenance/restoration skills. With regard to advancement in the field, education is generally considered a bonus but much of the deciding factor is hard work and following of the training goals program that each employee is given with their career goals in mind.

One of the largest problems facing the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is funding. Kathleen herself, after her position was eliminated in 2008 by budget cuts, has been worried for her job and became the manager of the Coeur d’Alene Old Mission Park in order to retain her employment status with the department. She said that by cobbling together money from the parks passes, a $1 charge to fourth grade students, viewing fees, and expansion of the gift shop, the state has managed to keep most of the parks open and a majority of the positions active even through a 2008 budget cut from nearly $14 million to a measly $1.4 million a year. This idea of doing more with less has become a motto of sorts for the department in recent years.

The interview with Kathleen allowed me to enter a world I have much interest in but, until recently, understood very little about. The history of and prospects of future budget cuts, the massive number of organizations, and astonishing value of the artifacts and land at their disposal was truly eye opening. At the end of the interview Kathleen stated,” No one joins the Department of Parks and Recreation to get rich, but they do join to live a richer lifestyle.”[4]

[1] “Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission,” Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, accessed Feb 9, 2017,

[2] “The Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes,” Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, accessed Feb 9, 2017,

[3] Kathleen Durfee (Manager of Coeur d’Alene Old Mission State Park) in discussion with Eric Overzet, February 2017.

[4] Ibid.

Irony of freedom

I must say that one of the most intriguing ideals of this book is the irony of a country “pining for freedom” yet so quick to take it from those they can. Slavery is still such an issue today because, well because it really always was. Personally I do not encourage anyone to live a life filled with guilt and regret about something that they themselves did not take part in, but… I do feel it is important to see why African-Americans see the deck as always stacked against them. It kind of always was. Having been to multiple places throughout my life where racism is not only prevalent but unfortunately it winds up really being the only thing to do for many people on a Saturday night,  I find the shock of Caucasians that African-Americans are still not “over it” appalling. The largest problem that I see is that we, as historians, are constantly  trying to battle against a group that has a firmly held belief with logic. To me this is no different than trying to argue with a fundamentalist Christian that God doesn’t exist. Although I agree with the Ira Berlin completely when he states, “All of which is to say that what is needed are not only new debates about slavery and race but also a new education— a short course in the historical meaning of chattel bondage and its many legacies.”(5) The problem I see is that education does not always change people’s minds.

Although Berlin is clearly an expert on the subject of slavery, I was disappointed that his description of slavery as, “the story of the power of liberty, of a people victimized and brutalized,” seems to just outright stop at the end of the Civil War until the last paragraph of the essay. (13th,14th and 15th amendments)In may ways, sharecropping was just as brutal and victimizing as slavery was. Sure African-Americans were now “free” but really what does that mean if many are in no better condition than they were before? This too, I believe, adds to the “deck is stacked against us” attitude that one can see in many African-Americans even today. Even when their freedom was realized, the face of oppression simply changed. This being said, I found at least some solace in the essay by James Oliver Horton. He addressed the idea that slavery had a long lasting reputation (at minimum) well into the 20th century( by looking at Bill Clinton and J.F.K.) and by so doing explains in some ways why it is still a conversation. The only thing that I can add to this is the idea that slavery and its legacy reached well into the 20th century and the idea that we as a nation should just forget about it makes me cringe…