Reflections on Conservatives Doing Public History

After skimming the titles of the required posts for this week, I landed on Klugewicz’s article, “Hungry Souls and Brave Hearts: Heroism, History and Myth,” and I thought it would be an interesting read. In studying the history of the American West, I have learned to acknowledge the challenges of reconciling the dichotomy of the region’s actual history with that of the “Imagined West” (which is characterized as paternalistic, individualistic, timeless and placeless etc.). I figured that this article would promote a similar approach and would encourage readers to question their perceptions of the past, especially those perceptions clouded in myth. I thought the author would be reiterating the importance of recognizing the convoluted relationship between the history and myth. I was so wrong.

How can anyone seriously advocate telling “history as a great myth?” This approach creates so many problems, and I think this is why students dislike history to the extent that they do. They have grown up with a mythic understanding of the past, and at some point in their academic careers they are introduced to a less exaggerated, less epic, uglier version of the past, and I think they feel cheated. Why would they be interested in studying something that in no way resembles what they thought they knew about history? At this point, it is easier for them to disregard a truthful interpretation of the past and stick with the version of history that Hollywood created.

Western American historian Richard White provides a thorough explanation of the role that the “imagined West” plays in Western American history. While White acknowledges that it is difficult to separate the mythic West from the historic West, he recognizes that the two do need to be identified as distinct entities, both capable of providing insight into the past. But this insight is only visible when both versions are made available. While this is rather a long explanation, I think it is so well written and phrased. To not include it in this post would be most unfortunate.

Richard White writes, “Myth means falsehood; however in a second, deeper sense, myths are not so much falsehoods as explanations. Mythmakers draw from history: they use real people or actual incidents. They have no compunctions, however, about changing details, adding characters, and generally rearranging events in order to make the meaning of their stories clearer. Historians also draw from history, and they, too, are selective. Historians necessarily select from among numerous available facts in order to create a story about the past. Historians, by the code of their discipline, put great store in facts, but facts are rarely at the heart of historical disputes. Instead, historians argue over the relationships between largely agreed upon fact, for it is the relationship between facts that differentiates one historian’s story from another historian’s story. Historians and mythmakers thus both seek to order the past in a way that conveys meaning. Both tell stories. But, historians, also by the code of their craft, cannot reorder facts or invent new one. Historians are thus more cramped and constricted than mythmakers in their attempts to explain what the past means.”

“If we differentiate history from myth solely on the basis of facts, we will, however, run into conceptual difficulties over what a fact is, and more significantly, miss a larger difference. For a good historian, as the cliche goes, the past is another country. People in the past operate in a different context than we in the present. Any lessons the past teaches are those about processes and change. Myth, for all its attention to the past, denies this and thus denies “history” itself. Myth refuses to see the past as fundamentally different from the present. In myth, time brings no essential change. The past and the present are not only connected, they are also metaphorically identical. Myth rips events out of context and drains them of their historicity. How a cowboy acts in a myth is how an American male should act regardless of time or place. A man has to do what a man has to do. Myths thus are antihistory, for history above all depends on context.” (White, “It’s Your Misfortune and None of My Own: A New History of the American West, 615-616.)

Aside from the lunacy of Klugewicz’s support of myths as an acceptable form teaching the past, he has the audacity to further explain his asinine approach. He writes, “We understand that though good and evil most definitely exist, men themselves are neither black nor white but rather some shade of gray.” Teaching history as a myth creates a justification for ignoring these gray areas. In the classic “Western” movies of the 1950s and 1960s, at the height of Hollywood’s reign on Western American history, directors and screenwriters depicted Cowboys and Indians as the poster children for the quintessential Western myth. It was apparent that film makers expected audiences to aspire to be John Wayne and grow to despise the “uncivilized, dangerous, and savage” Indians. The plot of good versus evil is about as black and white as it gets; and in this story there is no room for grey. Audiences are supposed to ignore the realities behind these stories; realities of natives being killed, marginalized, and herded onto reservations; among other realities about the region. History tells us that living in the American West was not an easy feat, nor was it as fun as Hollywood pretends. All of these nuances stories disappear when the only version of history that is made available is the myth. I cannot even believe that Klugewicz would be advocating that we teach kids history this way without at least providing (and thoroughly explaining) that there is another version of the story that is a more truthful portrayal of the past!

 It is also an utter shame that at the end of the post, Klugewicz writes, “Scholars must compose sweeping narratives of the past that will appeal to a general audience…. And, finally, let us not forget to include humor in telling the story of America to the young, which will help to avoid boring them. Kids like people who can be funny.” It is people like Klugewicz, who advocate using backwards methods to teach history thus disgracing the discipline, who make good historians and scholars shy away from using humor and engaging narrative. When Klugewicz supports an approach to providing historical knowledge that completely disregards, in the words of Richard White, the “code of the discipline,” no one is going to side with him when it comes to writing techniques and style. He should have stopped while he was …behind, and left giving useful advice to the historians who are credible and know what they are talking about!

And on a side note, I think the emphasis on African American history, as seen through this week’s articles, stems from the fact that many of the nation’s conservatives and liberals involved with politics are based on the East Coast. There is less of an emphasis on the West and the West’s role in American history simply because of the legacy of the geographic bubble where these people live and work. In the East, the turning point in American history was the Civil War and all comes with that (slavery v. state’s rights, discrimination etc.). They need to take a lesson from Frederick Jackson Turner and recognize that the importance of the history of the American West in the larger narrative of American history. I think that would result in more discussions on broader topics from both liberals and conservatives alike.

Reflections on Ethical Dilemmas, Part II

After reading Thomas King’s book, Our Protected Heritage, I am more convinced than ever that I do not want to work for the federal government. Although I have a passion for public lands, and I understand the need to promote awareness and stewardship of these lands, I have no desire to seek out a career that is so laden with problems and self-induced headaches. King points out that the policies that are in place (NHPA and NEPA) developed with the hopes of protecting “our national and cultural heritage in the environment – the places and things that we citizens cherish” (King, 13). However, King argues that “we’ve drifted away from the intent of the laws, making them more and more pointless, less and less useful in protecting anything, except the profit margins of some companies and the jobs of some government employees.” While I can understand King’s frustrations with the outcomes of these laws, I do hope that he has realized that these are not the only policies that resulted in less-than-desired outcomes. Most of the laws and policy that Congress created did not workout the way they were supposed to. The 1942 Migrant Worker Legislation and the 1965 Immigration Legislation are prime examples of this. The 1942 legislation created the Bracero Program, a migrant guest worker program with Mexico, however, this program created significantly more problems than it ever intended to solve. Similarly, the 1965 legislation attempted to undo the discriminatory quota system that the government used to regulate immigration since 1924. However, this law also led to unforeseen consequences and even further complicated the immigration process. These are just two of many examples of problems that federal policies have created. And yet, King seems to think that the environmental policies the only policies that have been unsuccessful. What is even more infuriating, however, it that King thinks he can determinately point the blame for these failures on development companies hoping to seek a profit (King, 14). Not only is King’s attack on business narrow-minded, (and rather liberally biased) but I find it extremely difficult to think that the possible destruction that cultural and historic sites currently face is the result of the greed of one single stake-holder. Although I agree with King that our cultural heritage is in danger, I can hardly agree that business alone is the reason for this predicament.



Reflections on Ethical Dilemmas, Part I

I wish I could say that I was shocked after reading this week’s blog post and articles, but unfortunately, I somewhat expected this level of stupidity and ignorance, especially in light of this week’s topic: Ethical Dilemmas. Out of all of the articles, I took the most issue with the situation at the Baron Von Munchausen Historic Home. Having worked as a tour guide, I could relate with Larry Cebula’s reactions. Tours, regardless of the location, historic or not, are meant to be informative and entertaining, but they have to be accurate! On many occasions when I was a tour guide I would have guests come up to me and question what they heard on my tour, saying that they had taken the Celestial Seasonings tour before and other tour guides said _______ about ________. (This happened enough times that I do not have just one example, thus my reasoning for using “Blank”). I would kindly and gently explain to them that what they heard before was an exaggeration or was untrue. While some guests felt affronted and taken off guard by this new information, the majority of them thanked me providing accurate information and seemed eager to verify other facts that they had remembered from previous visits to the facility. My reaction to these encounters, however, was a bit different. The first time this happened, I was rather shocked, especially in light of the fact that all tour guides received the same 80 page “script” and manual and that we were supposed to take all of our information from that document. I can say it was not a pleasant position to be in. That being said, I can understand that the docents who volunteer at the Baron Von Munchausen Historic Home might have been unaware of the inaccuracies in their own tour. However, once Cebula politely confronted the Historic Home’s staff about these blatant inaccuracies in interpretation, I expected the home to respond with a little more tact.


The written response that Cebula received made me cringe. Aside from the blatant misspellings, poor grammar, and awkward sentence structure that plagued this letter (all of which, by the way, contribute to making the writer seem less than intelligent. How is she in charge of this place if she cannot write?!) her defensive stance was uncalled for. This approach might have been appropriate had Cebula tone been nasty or abrasive or had written a letter condemning the home or the people working there. But he did not. He was simply trying to bring to light his concerns regarding the interpretation. It is very frustrating to know that many of the inaccuracies or misinterpretations at historic sites are the result of directors/managers who are simply incompetent. What is even more alarming is that these kinds of people still have jobs.

Reflections on Careers

At first glance the readings for this week seemed rather limited in scope. Although I appreciate that most people go into public history in order to work in museums or archives or in a related field, the training public historians receive can be applied to so many different fields. Knowing that I do no plan on taking the conventional route, I tried to approach this week’s reading with an open mind. I also decided to tackle the list of hyperlinks backwards, just to mix things up a bit.

Out of all of the links, I ended up spending the most time reading the forums on Versatile Ph. D. While I have certainly enjoyed my time in school, I have always known that I am not interested in working in academia. For that reason it was encouraging to see a site that promotes non-academic career paths.  I appreciated that they offered realistic advice for young professionals who are trying to decide what to do after graduate school. I also appreciated that they acknowledged that the job market is less than ideal. While it is fine to list statistics (such as those found on the BLS links) to highlight positive growth in the field or to try to make a dismal job market seem better than it is, we all have to be realistic. And I am not trying to sound pessimistic about the situation. On the contrary, I think having insight into the experiences of people who are in similar situations as me makes the prospects of looking for work and building a career more manageable. I know what I am up against. I can learn from the mistakes other have made. It is also nice knowing that if I make mistakes along the way or face unforeseen challenges that I can rely on the advice and support of such a large online community of people (who, by the way practice polite, professional, and engaging discourse!) Plus, having this type of knowledge is much more comforting that reading statistics saying that the “job outlook for historians from 2010-2020 is expected to grow by 18% (about as fast as average)” and that they hope to add 700 new positions in the next seven years. These numbers tell me nothing about my chances of landing a career where I will be able to use my skills and knowledge as a historian.

After realizing that I do not want to be some number used by statisticians to build a façade of false optimism, I read the blog by Bob Beatty “What Employers Seek in Public History Graduates (Part 1): An online discussion in preparation for NCPH 2013.” What I ultimately took away from this article seems to be the take-away message of the semester. History is about people and relationships. I found the mention of the importance of collaboration within the field of public history very intriguing. I know that people in all fields are pushing for us to “work across the aisle” and seek solidarity. And I do agree that this is a necessary and in many instances rewarding part of life. But with any venture (even the solitary work encouraged within academia) you have to be smart about it. Protect yourself, your ideas, and your work. This is a habit that needs to start in college, and at the very least in graduate school! If legal agreements were required of all undergraduate/graduate group projects it would make for more streamlined collaboration later on in life. In essence these legal protections (copyright agreements, etc.) would become part of the assumed etiquette of collaboration.

Reflections on Entrepreneurialism

Although I have focused my academic career within the larger liberal arts curriculum, I do appreciate the private-sector world of business. Without this facet of the economy, life as we know it would cease to exist. Having said that, I also understand and appreciate the need for government-run institutions and I recognize their place within the larger economic and social context. The readings for this week reminded me that there is a very fine line between the private and public sector, however, more importantly I found myself questioning the role that history plays in terms of bridging this gap.

While most people assume that I am pursuing a degree in history in order to teach high school or in an effort to better prepare myself to fight for one of the very few history-related government positions, I am beginning to open my eyes to the possibilities of using historical methods and my own knowledge to meet the needs of small and large businesses alike. I believe that I can apply my skills as a historian (research, organization, communication, editing) to help businesses, regardless of their field or clientele, succeed. I believe that my interest in business, although limited, stemmed from my experience as a child. Growing up, my parents owned and operated their own insurance brokerage agency. My dad received his bachelor degree in business and my mom was a trained paralegal. They both put lots of time and energy into their business and enjoyed the flexibility associated with this lifestyle. Although the insurance and financial planning industry has the potential to be very lucrative, I never remember my parents talking about their business practices in those terms. My mom always said that “life insurance is about keeping promises.” It was always about the services she could provide to her clients to help them keep their promises to their business partners, friends and family. As I read The $100 Dollar Startup I realized that this people/relationship oriented approach was a central facet of Guillebeau’s argument, and one that I whole heartedly agree with.

Guillebeau described microbusiness as a “way of earning a good living while crafting a life of independence and purpose” (xiv). However, he also argues that the freedom (what we are looking for) and value (the way to achieve freedom) are key themes to successful microbusiness ventures. Within this context, value equates to “helping people.” So often the general public is quick to dismiss business ventures because of the stereotypical “money hungry” persona of big business. What Guillebeau reminds us, however, is that not all business ventures meet this stereotype, and that more importantly, successful businesses do not focus all of their energies on this money making aspect. As Guillebeau’s research suggests, many microbusinesses do not follow this model and instead fall in line with a “follow-your-passion” model. However, despite the external differences between the microbusiness industry and the field of history, it is obvious that the key to being successful in either requires a sincere understanding and appreciation of people and an ability to foster lasting relationships.

Reflections on Historic Preservation, Part 2

This week’s readings presented a thorough explanation of the approaches and methods used in historic preservation. Although some of the statements throughout the readings seemed like common knowledge, Tyler did bring up some interesting points about the process of nominating and establishing a site on the National Register of Historic Places. I found Tyler’s presentation of the “criteria” that sites need to meet in order to be considered for preservation quite useful. While I had some idea about the conditions and parameters that sites need to meet in order to be considered historically significant, I appreciated the clear and direct categorization of these requirements. I can see now see how listing and describing such criteria would greatly facilitate the national register program in selecting sites for preservation. While I found Tyler’s explanation of these standards sufficient, I do wish that he would have spent more time elaborating on the concept of “minimum levels of significance” and provided examples (139). In many regards this comment was quite troubling. I understood this situation to mean that established pro-preservation communities are destined to lose places of historic significance simply because by their own actions, they have set the bar too high. On the opposite end of the spectrum, communities that did not have the foresight to save historic buildings are now more likely to preserve places of “limited” historic significance. It seems like pro-preservation communities are being punished for their own efforts to preserve historic sites. It also seems likely that communities that lack a precedent for preservation might save more buildings now, but what are the odds that those buildings will retain their historic significance, especially in light of the fact that people outside of the immediate vicinity simply might be unaware of the presence of such sites because of the community’s anti-preservation past.


I also found the concept of “dedesignation” quite fascinating. The idea of removing the historic designation from a site was not part of my limited knowledge or previous assumptions about preservation. With so much attention given to criteria needed for designation and the long, drawn out process of designation, I wish that Tyler would have spent more time discussing the methods and processes that must be followed to dedesignate. Although he did list and explain the reasons that a site might be considered for dedesignation, he gave but one throw away sentence about the process. Tyler wrote “Though rare, the Secretary of the Interior may find it necessary to remove the designation of NHL or National Register…if they lose too much of their historic integrity” (152). Is this the only way for a site to lose designation? And if so, is this the appropriate process considering the lengthy means of being designated in the first place?

Wikipedia Reflection

I have always questioned the purpose and usefulness of online, community-edited encyclopedias. Professors have constantly reminded me to question the reliability of such sources. Aware of these initial prejudices, I realized that this assignment would be a good way to gain a new perspective about the role that Wikis play within academia; however, more importantly I also hoped to gain new knowledge about the inner workings of Wikis and the process through which Wikis are created.

Before beginning this assignment I did a quick search on Wikipedia and the BoiseWiki and quickly realized that although both sites are “Wikis” they are completely different in style and subject matter. Realizing this, I then assumed that the process for submitting articles to these sites would be quite different as well. I decided to tackle the assignment separately, focusing first on my contribution to the BoiseWiki. I tried to make an effort to choose a topic that had both historic significance and relevance to my research agenda. I eventually decided to write on the Cecil Andrus Center for Public Policy. After doing my research on the Andrus Center, but before I started writing my article, I went through and reread some of the articles already posted on the BoiseWiki. I wanted my post to fit in with the other articles on the site so I paid special attention to the style, tone, and syntax of the other articles. The more I read, however, the less impressed I became with the overall quality of the articles. At that point, I decided that I should stick with a fairly academic approach in writing my article so that it would sound more authoritative. It was also my hope that by choosing such a style my article would aid in increasing the caliber of the BoiseWiki in a broader sense.

Once I had completed my article I was somewhat apprehensive about posting it to the BoiseWiki. Having never contributed to such a site, I was unaware of the process. I decided to use footnote citations and list my references at the bottom of the article, but I was not sure if these citations would transfer into the post. I was happily surprised to see that not only did the footmarks stay in place, but that the hyperlinks I created also worked. The process for submitting an article to the BoiseWiki was streamlined and very user-friendly. Having realized the simplicity associated with submitting, I would be much more likely to contribute another article to this site in the future.

After my positive experience researching, writing, and posting an article to the BoiseWiki, I began familiarizing myself with Wikipedia. I quickly learned that this part of the assignment was going to be much less enjoyable. I did not have trouble finding a topic, or doing the research, but I noticed right away that the interface of the Wikipedia and the jargon used on the site was very confusing.  Setting aside my apprehensions about the submission process I focused my attention on writing the article. I made a conscious decision to write in the same style I had used for the BoiseWiki. Since the statistics show that women make up less than ten percent of Wikipedia contributors, I decided to repeat my stylistic choices so that as I build my repertoire of Wiki articles, my voice as a Wiki-contributor will remain constant and noticeable. It is my hope that if I decide to continue to contribute to such sites that my contributions will be consistent and uniform.

After finishing my article for Wikipedia on The Center of the American West, I created the necessary account in order to post. I read the Wikipedia FAQ page regarding their suggestions about the notability of the subjects and the restrictions on sources, and although I had read these pages prior to writing my article, I found that I was questioning what I had written. Did my article fit within these parameters and did it meet the requirements? I struggled here but ultimately decided that yes, I had followed the Wikipedia guidelines, but it did make me wonder if the confusing and jargon filled “How To” pages are detrimental to Wikipedia’s attempt to increase the contributions from females. At least, that is the affect that these pages had on me. I do not think that I will be making any more contributions to Wikipedia, and I am sure that other women have reacted to the submission process in a similar fashion.

In an attempt to ensure that my page would be approved by the Wikipedia conglomerate, I took the effort to link my page to pre-existing Wikipedia pages, and I formatted my footnotes and reference list. I then saved my page. I was rather shocked at what appeared on my screen after I submitted my article, however. I was told that it was under review and that there were 2225 articles ahead of mine! I had assumed that the creation of a new page, much like edits to existing pages would appear instantly. (Maybe the digital age has spoiled me and I need to readjust my expectations!) I thought that the page would be live and if any editors were dissatisfied with my work, they would then make changes or remove my page. The excitement of contributing to an online encyclopedia all but disappeared when I realized I would have to wait a few weeks to learn if my hard work would be considered worthy of a Wikipedia page.

The experience of writing Wiki articles made me reexamine the usefulness of Wikis in a general sense. Again, knowing that they are not academically acceptable sources, I have come to appreciate the immense and instantly-accessible amount of information that Wikis provide. And after subjecting myself to the complex and convoluted submission process I will no longer take for granted the fact that Wikipedia has a page for almost anything. I now understand the effort and time involved in creating such an online encyclopedia.

Reflections on Historic Preservation, Part 1

Understanding the development of the field of historic preservation is an essential key to understanding the methods and practices that are currently used by historians, architects, and preservationists. I wish I could say that I was surprised to learn that private sector women’s groups were the unofficial founding “mothers” of historic preservation, but I was not. I find it very fitting that the movement for preserving important culture and historic buildings began as a “grass-roots movement” driven by the awareness and desires of different stakeholders and interested parties (12).  And yet, within 175 years, the process has taken on a much more bureaucratic approach which now requires comments and approval from review boards and nomination committees. Author Norman Tyler did a sufficient job explaining how the movement progressed from its humble beginnings into a process that is currently being dictated by government agencies and non-profit organizations. Although I acknowledge that government support is a crucial component for successful preservation projects, and the reasons for this are many, such as financial support or campaigns to increase public awareness; however, this does make me question the presence of alternative motives or political agendas in determining projects worthy of preservation. I would hope that by maintaining a strong community component in such projects, that the historic and cultural reasons for preservation remain the deciding factors in project approval and commitment. Knowing that the roots of this movement began with the efforts of local community organizations is comforting, especially in light of uncertain financial times and increasing budget cuts. I am confident that with the presence of small localized affiliates the field of historic preservation will continue to prosper and provide a genuine and necessary service.


In addition to recognizing the historiography of the field of historic preservation, I found knowing the physical preservation methods and approaches equally if not more crucial to understanding the challenges inherently found within the field. Prior to reading Historic Preservation I was unaware of the different approaches designers can use to incorporate an old building into a more modern setting. I can see the difficulties that designers face when trying to restore an old façade or build something new in an historic area. Because of challenges steeped in differing opinions and perspectives, it is important for designers to consult with historians prior to completing a design in order to better grasp the significance of place, time, and the previous use of the space. Having a solid knowledge of those components will make the job of choosing a matching, compatible or contrasting design scheme easier to create and will at the same time facilitate in gaining community support needed to move forward with such a project.


Also, on a side note, since Tyler did mention Boulder, CO (my home town) as an example of a “city that accepts regulation as good for the community,” I wanted to share a relatively new preservation project that seems to face many of the challenges and concerns that Tyler raised through the readings. I have added the link to the project website, and also some links to other related issues.


Historic Jaycees Depot, Boulder CO 

Oskar Blues eyes Boulder Train Depot as New Brewpub 

Boulder Junction 

Reflection on Historical Re-enactors and Wikis

Historical re-enacting and living history attempt to provide both educational and informational opportunities for a broad public audience. However, despite this reality, and possibly because of the complicated nature of recreating the past, this type of historical interpretation is not always appreciated or considered a viable option for explaining historical events. The articles for this week brought up many issues and concerns regarding the re-enacting of historical events and tried to shed light on the issues that have limited the success and approval of this form of history.

One of the issues that both Nick Kowalczyk and Ann M. Little mention in their articles revolves around the desire (or obsession?) to re-enact the traumatic and bloody experiences of war. How does recreating a war as a “G-rated” version trivialize the original event? And since there is so much emphasis on ending the wars the United States is currently involved in, how does the American public reconcile with re-enactors’ desires to commemorate past battles through recreation? I did think that it was notable that Little acknowledged that the re-enactors discussed in Kowalczyk’s article were not Civil War re-enactors, but rather the Seven Years War re-enactors. However, her discussion of this distinction was somewhat lackluster. In my experience, re-enactors of past wars approach their roles in similar ways, and their actions mimic each other. In other words, while their uniforms might be different, their desire to re-create battles is markedly similar. Aside from the limited conversations I have had with Corey, I do not know any other “war re-enactors.” I have, however, had the opportunity to meet Clay Jenkinson, who is an author and humanities scholar, and also a Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt “impersonator.” The work that Jenkinson does, mostly in the form of Q&A interviews while in “character,” provides a tangible and useful method of incorporating the ideologies and personal experiences of influential historic figures into current debates about a multitude of issues. I feel that the readings should have reflected the different means of re-enacting in order to reflect on this particular approach. Knowing that Jenkinson is an expert scholar on both Jefferson and Roosevelt, I consider the work that he does as an “impersonator” extremely useful, entertaining, and insightful for both academic and public audiences. I think this particular approach will replace battle re-enacting as the popular form of living history.

I have added some links to some of Jenkinson’s interviews and performance if anyone is interested.



As for Wikipedia….

Noam Cohen alludes to the problem of gender gaps within the larger community of Wikipedia contributors. I was under the assumption that because of the twenty-first century, digital nature of Wikipedia, the contributors would represent a more equal male/female ratio. I was obviously wrong. And while this particular article highlighted the problems of gender inequality in regard to Wikipedia, this is an issue that all women in the workforce are currently facing. Sheryl Sandberg, the current COO for Facebook, has stepped up as a crusader fighting for equal opportunities for women in the workforce. As part of a TED talks series from 2010, she mentioned multiple statistics that show that less than 15% of women are reaching high-level positions within any profession anywhere in the world. These numbers mimic the percentage of women contributors at Wikipedia. She goes on to explain that there are specific reasons why women are not making better strides in the workforce, and she encourages women to take risks, and reach for opportunities. I feel as though this approach is worth hearing, and if it is to be successful for women contributors at Wikipedia or for women in other professions, it must be attempted whole-heartedly.

If you are interested in hearing this TED talk, the link is below. I have also added some additional links regarding Sheryl Sandburg and her stance on this issue.


Interview with Public Historian, Keith Schrum, Curator of Archives at History Colorado

The field of public history offers professionals interested in historical study an opportunity to work with historic artifacts and collections, interact with researchers and academics, and present innovative and exciting historical interpretations aimed at a broad audience. While I find everything about this profession fascinating, many people are unaware that such a professional field exists. When friends and acquaintances learn that I am pursuing my Master degree in History, I usually get a response that sounds something like, “Oh, you want to be a history teacher.” I sigh, and reply, “no…” Based on this oh-too-familiar conversation, it seems as if the general public is unaware or unable to disassociate history from the profession of teaching. In an effort to shed light on the importance of the field of public history, I have conducted an interview with Keith Schrum, Curator of Archives for History Colorado. I hope to use the information gained through this interview to expand my own knowledge of public history while at the same time increasing the general awareness of public history as a professional field of study.

Although it was my childhood love of history that encouraged my decision to major in history in college, I understand that not everyone follows that trajectory. In fact, as a young child, Keith only had a “passing appreciation of the subject.” This was due to the fact that he grew up in Virginia surrounded by an abundance of Colonial Era and Civil War history. Although this early interest in history was not enough to sway his interests away from religious study, it eventually inspired his decision to add history as a second major.

After college, knowing that his passion was working with the ministry, Keith pursued a Master of Divinity with Religious Education. As part of his training for both pastoral and educational work, Keith had opportunities to study “organizational behavior, administration, as well as counseling and some psychology.” With these experiences under his belt, Keith, at the age of 38, decided to return to higher education to pursue a Master of History degree with a focus on Public History and a concentration in Archives and Records Management.” Keith’s previous experience with education spurred this “minor mid-life change” and he intended to use this history degree to get into teaching. After having an opportunity, however, to intern for History Colorado, Keith decided to “turn his attention to a more business-related approach to history.” His initial work as a graduate student eventually led to an opportunity for full-time employment. Keith is now celebrating twenty-one years of work within the Archives Department, the same department that hired him as an intern, more than two decades ago.

As the Curator of Archives, Keith relies heavily on his training and education; however, he also draws on experience from past professions. Over the years Keith worked in the ministry, retail, sales, and in managerial capacities. Through these experiences Keith developed and maintained “people skills, communication skills, and customer service skills.” He also learned the importance of having  an eye for detail and he understands the importance of maintaining product knowledge. In the museum world, Keith explains that these skills translate more directly into “knowing the collection, where it is, its condition and how to access it.” Keith explains that the Archive at History Colorado currently manages sixteen formats of material, including microfilm and sound recordings, and he estimates that their collection holds over “eleven million pieces of something.” This expansive collection is managed in a way that encourages a “collaborative approach to collection building.” Keith explains that this method in turn allows for “better and more efficient use of space and resources.”

In spite of the many success accomplished through this collaborative effort, Keith is also very aware of the challenges he, and his team, face on a daily basis. Many of these challenges stem from a lack of sufficient financial funding and a backlog of work. Keith also acknowledges the difficulty of staying on task with an assignment, especially in light of the fact that History Colorado places an “emphasis on providing service in a proactive, timely manner.” As Keith explains, “the biggest challenge is remaining focused on the long-view of things and not getting lost or too distracted by minutia.”

Although Keith recognizes that his training for and experiences in the archives usually revolve around material things, he urges young professionals to be aware of importance of relationships and people within the field of public history. Keith explains that history “will always be about relationships.” Keith appreciates that “working with objects, archives, or photos calls for a relationship with the material world.” But he also reiterates that “those things do not exist for themselves – they exist to serve people.” Keith explains that “people want to trust you with their “stuff”- the evidence of life, memory and heritage.”

Having had the opportunity to peer into the experiences of Keith Schrum, I can honestly say that I know I am pursuing a career in the right field for me. With this newly acquired knowledge I look forward to honing my skills and completing my training as a public historian. As Keith so poignantly states, “our work keeps human memory alive,” and that is definitely something that I am honored to be a part of.