Conservative History?

The history depicted in today’s reading reminds me just how much I dislike stereotypes of any kind. I am a self defined conservative woman and I do not approve most of what I’ve read here. I’m going to focus on the Lincoln article to save some time. I don’t think it would be a surprise to most who know me that I don’t really appreciate people taking Lincoln’s words out of context. Lincoln and his view on the Constitution and it’s writers is extremely complex. To say that “He respected and followed the text of the Constitution, rather than interpreting it as a “living” and evolving document or simply scrapping it altogether” would be a blatant lie. Lincoln understood the flexibility of the Constitution in times of war and at times completely ignored it. He committed many unconstitutional acts in his attempt to protect it. But I digress. Postell picked and chose what speeches to quote Lincoln from and ignored his actions. History without context is worthless. Instead, this history is purposefully narrow in order to support his point. Any and all history can corrupt itself if written this way. To corrupt history for one’s own purpose is upsetting to me. I think it defeats everything we have studied and worked towards as historians and public historians. If I were to create a museum exhibit of the Lincoln depicted in Postell’s work it would, by necessity, have to end at his election. The Lincoln of the Civil War would not support his supposition whatsoever. As historians and public historians we have to make sure that we’re telling the whole story no matter if we are red, blue, or purple.

Unprotected Heritage

King’s book seems like a good introduction to the issues involved with the different protection agencies and rules within the US. If I wanted to be scared away from getting a job working with, as, or against these different agencies then this would be the perfect book! He had me running scared when he compared workers to the Nazis that took Anne Frank. Like most thinly veiled insults in the book he quickly laughed off his words, but Godwin would certainly be pleased.

King’s book seemed to be constantly at odds with itself. Albeit, his topic is complex and obviously not easily solved as years of governmental attempts have proven. In his first chapter he points the preverbal finger at Bush and his administrations lack of legislative action on environmental issues and then a few paragraphs later observes that putting the federal government in charge of these laws “…put foxes in charge of guarding the henhouse…”(I don’t know how to post footnotes for Kindle books…). Each and every example showed what was wrong with the system and the dastardly people who got in the way of progress. He did of course put a disclaimer that the people within the system most likely weren’t purposefully clogging the system, but the disclaimer was often very little and then quite late. I have to agree with Zach that his tone comes across like that of a conspiracy theorist. I find that quite unfortunate because I think he may have had something worthwhile to say when he wasn’t blaming the Bush administration for the world’s problems.

The Constitutional Amendment, likely to most people surprise, is probably my favorite solution provided. The rest seem overly optimistic (i.e. asking Pres. Obama to tell everyone to do better at their jobs) and I fear the public won’t be quite as helpful should their attention be brought to the matter. Amending the Constitution on and providing a firm foundation for the “right to a clean, safe, and sustainable environment” would be the most functional solution. I personally error on the side of a smaller federal government, but perserving the natural beauties of Montana while protecting the citizen’s rights and livelihoods does appeal to me.

I certainly believe that preservation of our land’s natural beauty and heritage is a worthwhile cause or else I wouldn’t be aiming for the career I am. However, the consequences of our actions and and prospective of our decisions do need to keep in mind current people too. King’s examples were worrisome and (as he admits in his “A last word about Objectivity”) biased chosen to prove his points. I will be interested to hear what everyone else thought of the book and their different (and likely passionate) positions on the issues and solutions presented.

Related to last week’s discussion

I noticed this article and thought I’d post it on our site. This is exactly what we were talking about last week. Even though the illegal artifact was purchased for an exorbitant amount, Spain wasn’t required to purchase it back.

“Today’s repatriation is an example of what can be accomplished when law enforcement partners from around the world work together in the effort to ensure that stolen and looted priceless cultural objects like this are returned to their rightful owner,” said ICE director John Morton.

Artifacts dated late 15th-early 16th century
are displayed on September 15, 2011 in
Florence, Italy. A 16th century religious
tapestry stolen from a Spanish cathedral
in 1979 and sold at auction three years
ago for $369,000 was returned to Spain on
Wednesday by the US customs service.

Reflection: Ethical dilemmas, Part I

The purposeful ignorance of the Sons of Confederate Veterans did not surprise me. It was their influence on other parties that caught me unaware. That anyone would write a history book based mostly on Internet research quickly makes me wary, but to rely on cites written by so obviously bias individuals is nearly shameful! As a high school student I had an especially proactive teacher who took the time to point out the mistakes in our textbook and make us question what we were taught as “Truth.” I remember laughing with my class at the positive characterization of the book defeated General Custer who fought bravely until his death. History that was local to us earned a poorly researched paragraph in our textbook. When people complain about the lack of quality in the US education system perhaps the education department should start with raising the quality of literature being used to teach. Perhaps actual historians should write the history books? I would assume biologists would write the biology textbook, but maybe this is too high of an expectation. While it may be easier said than done, one quick fix here is to allow historians to write history textbooks or at least allow the creation of a collaborative textbook.

The “Conservative class” article actually got my blood pressure up as much as anything else. When I started reading I applauded those wanting to learn more about their constitution since most people in the US wouldn’t even be able to explain what the Bill of Rights is. The more I read, of course, the more upset I became. Hiding the continuation of ignorance under the guise of furthering people’s knowledge is horrible! I love studying the founding era and what the motivation was behind the different decisions made at the time. For someone to create a conference claiming to have the answers in his research of the Founding Fathers while glossing over or simply ignoring certain facts defeats the entire purpose. The unfortunate fact is that this man has every right to conduct the different conferences and to present his information in any light he wants. The constitution he ‘teaches’ also protects his freedom of speech and right to gather. As a historian I have equal right to call him out on his falsehoods, but the effectiveness of that action is questionable. I fear charlatan ‘teachers’ will always be the bane of a historian’s life. Like the man who wrote the letter to the museum about the mistakes, it is unlikely that our ‘helpful suggestions’ will always be taken well.

I do think, however, that historians who have enough knowledge to counter falsehoods do have a duty to at least attempt to help. Our corrections may not always be welcomed, but that doesn’t mean that we should just give up at the first angry response letter. Our actions, however, really should be done in a helpful spirit instead of one of conflict.


Historians beyond Academia

While I can perfectly understand why this weeks readings might not be as useful to others in our program, I found them quite helpful. In my undergraduate history program I learned about various eras in extreme detail but never participated in internships or volunteered at historical institutions. I watched my political science, social work, and psychology friends work in their internships while I continued to write papers. While I don’t regret anything about my undergraduate education, I do wish that an internship had been included or at least a course including some of the different items discussed by Beatty and Stroh. Jim made the point that the percentages presented by the Dept. of Labor were not particularly in our favor as historians and I think that history students need to be given the tools to get ahead of their peers aiming for the same jobs. As Graduate students we need to be unafraid of fighting for internships.

Stroh mentions what he looks for when hiring: “When hiring, I seek passionpositivity, and energy. I expect a service orientation, and a smile.  I crave individuals who are curious and want to learn, but more importantly, those who take action on these intentions. I seek people who have confidence, courage, and faith, and who are willing to take risks.” While many of us may not have any problem displaying these features in public, applying for jobs online do little to show our personalities. occasionally has a job that I will apply for, but selling myself online is difficult. I have to be very intentional in my pursuit of internships and jobs with phone calls and personal interactions. Including different items discussed in this weeks readings will only aid my interaction and search for positions. After gaining my Masters I will certainly take this weeks advice and pursue my career through (hopefully) more successful venues.


$100 Startup to Craft a New Historian

People often joke about thinking outside the box of changing your paradigm, but Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup promotes that train of thought at a whole new level.  With today’s economy and such stiff competition in the history world it doesn’t bode well for us to think in simple linear methods for our future career paths. Over and over again we’re told by our professors that getting a degree does not mean we’ll get a job. Guillebeau’s depiction of so many different people turning their passion or talents into moneymaking enterprises is encouraging. While I wish there were more examples of recent graduate students becoming successful rather than professionals with ready learned skills to take into the world, his message is readily applicable for people in our positions. Putman’s “Crafting a New Historian” could easily transition into Guillebeau’s book as one of his examples. All Putman needs to do is take this surprisingly successful (if unexpected) career path, apply Guillebeau’s different suggestions, and focus on the value his enterprise brings and he’s the next chapter of Guillebeau’s book.
I think there is incentive for us in all of these examples and suggestions laid out in $100 Startup. Personally I hope to apply this frame of thought and emphasis on value to my graduate project. Even before that I plan to integrate it into my everyday frame of mind and presentation. With summer approaching I’ve started looking towards internships or summer jobs in the history field. Adopting Guillebeau’s view on the value of the skills I have to share with the world, I will present myself in hopefully a new manner. I have no strong desire to become my own self-made entrepreneur in the historical world, but that does not mean that I can’t use these formulas in my resume and self presentation while I’m applying. These are skills we can bring to different institutions. While reading Guillebeau’s book I kept picturing different ways I could have applied it to my museum back in Billings and how the littlest suggestions could have helped promote and present my museum to its patrons. While I don’t plan on becoming a traveling yoga instructor, the values and message of $100 Startup will be something I use personally as well as professionally in the future.


Wiki Reflection

I was slightly anxious starting this assignment after our class discussing the possible misogyny I might face on the Wikipedia talks pages.  I also prefer to keep my work private rather than post it somewhere that might receive unwanted criticism.  Despite my personal hesitance, I knew exactly the topic on which I wanted to write and exactly where to get my sources.  Idaho Proposition 1 was an anti-LGBT legislation in 1994 that attempted to prohibit city or state government from granting minority status based on ‘behavior.’  For two years a group called Don’t Sign On – eventually renamed No On One – peacefully fought the Idaho Citizens Alliance who pushed the initiative into being.  It’s an important part of Idaho history and was a part of a number of anti-homosexual initiatives that took place in the 1990s through to present day.  I chose this subject because this was the very subject on which I’m creating an exhibit for the Special Archives in the Albertsons Library. I have access to newspapers that aren’t currently digitized – though I am in that process – and was therefore able to provide sources not yet available to the public thanks to a member of No On One who provided them for the Special Collections.



The subject material also fit perfectly into the requirements for both the Wikipedia article and the Boise wiki.  I decided that writing one article that was appropriate for both venues was a bit of a time saver but would also be an interesting experiment on Wikipedia.  While there were a number of separate pages for the anti-LGBT legislation that has occurred over the years, I wanted to see if the Wikipedia editors considered Idaho’s fight for homosexual rights a ‘notable’ enough subject.  I commented on the talk page of “List of US ballot initiatives to repeal LGBT anti-discrimination laws” and they told me that as long as I have the right sources then it was appropriate for the page.[1]  After spending more than the usual amount of time to find the directions to create my own Wikipedia page, I created a sandbox and submitted it for review.  A sandbox, come to find out, does not accomplish much in a short amount of time.  With no movement on the sandbox I decided to risk it and skip a few steps by creating a page and link to the Ballots page.

I checked out the other Proposals pages and copied their simple formatting.  I included the description, the history of the initiative, and some major players.  I told a couple friends I was WikiFamous and sent them the link so they could check out my work for me.  I also reworded the description of Proposition 1 on the Ballots page so that it more accurately reflected the proposition.  Three days later I noticed that my page has been reviewed by ToastyMallows who cleaned up some of the formatting.  With no trouble my page has passed review.  With all the build up, I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to create a Wikipedia page that passed muster.  I don’t know if I had an easier time because I created my own page or if it was the completely lack of information on Wikipedia on the topic, but I’m happy I didn’t run into any of the problems people have before.


Boise Wiki

Having chosen a topic that was appropriate for both Wikipedia and the Boise Wiki, I wanted to make sure my original formatting would work for both locations.  Looking over the Boise Wiki I found a lack of information on Boise LGBT rights and therefore a perfect location for my article.  There didn’t seem to be a uniform format for the site so I kept the original from Wikipedia.  I currently don’t have access to digitized photographs to add to the article, but I will eventually add a number of No On One photographs of the events leading up to Election Day for Proposition 1.  The only sources available for the event, unfortunately, are the newspaper articles from Special Collections.  I searched online for sources beyond newspaper but found nothing.  With the lack of diverse articles beyond Idaho newspapers, I had to be aware of the bias presented by the articles as well as the bias of the person who preserved specific articles over others.  Purposefully keeping my descriptions as unbiased as possible, I hoped to present a consensus of information on the topic.


For future authors

Posting on the Internet for others to criticize is unnerving.  Those online purposefully spending their time looking for articles and opinions to critic are often unfriendly.  This assignment, however, brought me out of my comfort zone and forced me to put myself out there for criticism.  The lack of negative reaction, or any reaction for that matter, forced me to realize that posting online is not as difficult as it is described.  My advice for future possible posters is to simply follow the rules.  Wikipedia posts their rules and regulations for posting everywhere through their help topics.  While figuring out the language of Wikipedia is not easy, a small amount of ‘googling’ for helpful videos or walkthroughs will eventually get you posting on Wikipedia.  Having posted an article with reliable sources and information, I am reconsidering a historian’s role in online encyclopedias.  The Boise wiki, especially, deserves the influence of locals with good information.  Local wikis are helpful in a number of different venues and deserve the chance to provide for those living in or visiting the city.  Online encyclopedias and local wikis consist of consensus articles.  I would suggest not using them as sources but I truly believe they provide an appropriate starting point.  Locals, not just historians, should work to create as comprehensive of a wiki as possible.  Providing local insight on food, activities, and history can only serve to promote the area for everyone involved.





[1] The response, “Can you find enough reliable source texts to use to help you write a reasonable-length article on the legislation, covering its full evolution, debate, and effect? If so, go for it. If not, don’t. It’s that simple. All notability means is “is there enough source texts to write a decently complete and indepth article?” –Jayron32 00:01, 15 March 2013 (UTC)”

Historic Preservation, Part II

The section that stuck out to me concerned communities selling their cities as a ‘special experience’ or ‘experience economy”(283).  This is something that I’ve actually really been thinking about for Boise recently. Having lived in the Treasure Valley for more or less 6 years now, I think it is a shame that Boise hasn’t taken advantage of this idea. The city calls it downtown area “BoDo” but then does no marketing within the area about it. In class on Thursday Dr. Bieter told us there were little historical looking glasses in a few spots downtown and I was genuinely shocked. Boise not only needs to stop selling itself short and start marketing itself, but the local historical community needs to wake up and do the same. The historical museum has a horrible marketing program, I didn’t even know there was a Black History Museum in the area, and the lack of local marketing almost gives me the impression that Boise people are ashamed of their own history. This area is rich with culture, heritage, and history but no one really talks about it.

The focus of the section on this experience economy is the community that needs to sell itself to tourists. I think, however, that a city needs to sell itself to its own citizens first. If a tourist asks a local Boise man or woman about the local museums and the only thing they can think of is the Basque museum or the old houses on the North End then that is a failure of the local historical community. The authors should have focused on the sad reality of poor self-marketing of historical communities as much as it did the minute details they went into describing historical preservation and cement. There is a hole in their argument that they don’t cover the sad realities along with the ‘successes’ like Pike Street in Seattle. I think we would have been well served to learn about where it didn’t work just as much as where it did.

Historic Preservation, 1

When compared to most countries the United States has a very short history. The preservation of our history and heritage, as discussed in this weeks reading, has become an important feature of our society. Tyler’s over view of the important moments in historical preservation’s history didn’t really come as too much of a surprise to me. Growing up near Yellowstone National Park (YNP) my family often dug into the history and importance of different preservation acts in that area. Chapter 3, however, is the section that gave me pause. Discussing the three schools of thought included in adding to a historic building or putting a new one in a historic districted deserves some discussion. I automatically assume that anything near or in addition to a historic building should match in order to not stand out or detract from the actual historic building. The compatible approach, however, made me think of the additions made to Old Faithful Inn in YNP. The iconic log building of Old Faithful Inn gained two new wings not much more than a decade after the original was built. These new wings, however, were updated with individual bathrooms instead of communal as well as other modernized upgrades. The new exterior seems to have been designed in this ‘compatible approach’ (107) instead of built to perfectly match the original building. It does not detract from the original icon and yet adds hundreds of comfortable rooms for YNP tourists. I find it surprising to find such an old example of thoughtful designers who complimented the original work. In what cases do designers or architects decide what building deserves which kind of matching, compatible, or contrasting design?

I would also like to question whether all of these designs work as well outside the United States? While visiting Germany i observed a number of different examples of this façadism and it did not do justice to some of these cities’ oldest buildings. Medieval buildings brought down to their facades sat tucked into corners looking forgotten and miserably out of place.  In Bath, England the entire city is required to build their buildings out of the original beautiful white stone that the original builders used. That stone, however, has to be shipped in from miles away since the original quarry dried up and it is also fragile and slowly breaking down even on the newer buildings. Speak to nearly any local and they will roll their eyes and the city’s mandate of matching buildings that they feel really only works for the tourism board.  Which designs or choices will stand the test of time? Or will current choices only become pure annoyance and tourism gimmicks for future generations?

What is History?

Having read Tony Horwitz’s Confederates in the Attic, I had a very superficial understanding of reenactors before reading this week’s articles. Horwitz experienced a civil war reenactment with some ‘hardcore’ reenactors. His perspective on the men was rather different from the opinions of Kowalczyk and Little. Horwitz, while originally seeing their reenactment as playacting and childish, eventually comes to respect the men who devote their time to authenticity and history. Kowalczyk and Little look at the reenactors through the lens of a historian while Horwitz observes as a journalist. This juxtaposition brings up an interesting thought. While historians may not appreciate what they see as play acting at history and escapism, a journalist respected the men and developed a new found appreciation for the history depicted. It’s no secret that certain reenactments are popular draws for tourists. Just how different is reenactment from a museum using reproductions of Tutankhamun’s funerary artifacts in order to draw them to their museum? I personally see little harm in reenactment of certain events, especially if they history is depicted in good faith.

Wikipedia, ironically, worries me more than reenactors. Famiglietti does a great job of pointing out the fault in Messer-Kruse’s argument. The depiction of consensus as Truth is not history to me. How often to historians all agree on one version of history only to eventually reject their earlier convictions? The ‘history’ written during slavery was likely a consensus but not truth. Every teacher and professor in the academic world warn their students not to use wikipedia as a source but not even that is a good enough disclaimer for the website. With the inclusion of footnotes, now, different pages may appear legitimate enough. With the power wikipedia wields on the internet I believe there needs to be more responsibility. Wikipedia needs to reevaluate their motives and influence. They are a website of consensus, not facts or truth and, in my opinion, certainly not history.