2nd half of Letting GO?

While reading the second part of Letting Go?, I found it impossible to see the major conflict being brought up between art and history. The themes of historians critiquing art as either historically “correct” or not began to seem like a lost cause to me. It parallels the great search for Truth, which I find to be a ridiculous venture. Rather than looking at the art as accurate or not, why not just take it for what it is worth and simply exhibit it as such. There seems to be no way that an artist is truly either wrong or right but rather giving an interpretation of what they see and how they choose to portray it. Although I can clearly see how, if improperly represented in its description, art can lead to a false sense of understanding about history, I feel that as long as it is made clear what kind of a resource it is and is not used to create a narrative that is historically inaccurate then it too can be a resource for opening the minds of the people that look at it.

I also find the consistent worry about maintaining authority over the general historical narrative and who gets included and who gets excluded by some museums to be equally ludicrous. No one group should have complete control over a story that covers so many different points of view. Many of these points of view have not even been in the eyes of historians until the last fifty or so years. What now makes us think that we as historians have all the points of view now after so many years of excluding so many in the traditional narrative? The best comparison I can make is when Fred Wilson discusses the overturning of institutional narratives. He states that, “I think there will always be another layer that can be looked at because they are institutions, just like the government.”[1]I could not agree more if I tried. Much like any other institution, educated people especially will consistently challenge the status quo because as according to Dr. Horrible in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, “The status is not quo.”[2]

[1]Benjamin Filene, Bill Adair, and Laura Koloski. Letting Go?  sharing historical authority in a user-generated world, (Philadelphia, PA: Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011), ProQuest Ebook, 241.

[2] Joss Whedon, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Los Angeles, CA:Mutant Enemy Productions. 2008. Dvd.


The public historian in the world of the world wide web

While reading Letting Go? I find myself intrigued by an idea that most historians understand, but one that the general public does not always seem to grasp; the internet has everything but in having everything, the internet is not always correct and certainly does not always provide a complete story. Even some seemingly reputable sources (ie. Newspapers) often have an agenda of their own that taints the information that they put out. The public, in general, expect the nearly impossible from museums; to give completely unbiased views yet maintain a multitude of different viewpoints. The web 2.0 has added to both the ability to accomplish this as well as the difficulty of such an undertaking. Although the web 2.0 has facilitated the ability for many people to add to the narrative of history, it has also opened a new role for the public historian as an expert that can differentiate between sources with solidly researched information and those sources that are closer to opinion presented as fact. In this there are pitfalls that must be avoided. The public is, in general, often drawn to the stories that we have been told, good or bad, of what and how things happened. Deviating too far from this traditional narrative can put public historians in a position of being more augmentative than as an authoritative voice on the subject. Letting Go?  introduces the thought through Matt Fisher, who explains the  dominant viewpoints when he says, “Introducing different prospectives is vital, but simply criticizing or undermining dominant or authoritative viewpoints is ultimately limited.”[1]I find this interesting in that many of us look at situations in history, and due to its controversial nature, are asked to argue one thing or another but rarely stop long enough to think of whether or not arguing against past indiscretions is actually useful to anyone. Many of these arguments were not only carried out at the time but also tend to either bore or infuriate a large number of people that are less read on the situation and only know the traditional narrative.

[1] Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski, Letting go?: sharing historical authority in a user-generated world, (Philadelphia, PA: Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011), 49.