Building Trust.

Tom King: Our Unprotected Heritage

There are better ways of improving federal cultural and natural resources than writing a book littered with negativity, accusations, and blatant disdain for the hard work of civil servants who are employed to help you, me, and American resources.

Valuable reader’s time is invested (wasted?) in case studies that point fingers at various agencies…only to arrive at King’s last chapter that is a sketchy outline of the “problems” with a neat outline of suggested solutions. To say I was irritated is an understatement. Then, for King to acknowledge that he is a paid consultant – although he states not paid as handsomely as others – somehow therefore makes him any less of the problem…ugh.

Let me me really clear here: I am a retired federal employee of two of the agencies that King says represent the “bright” and “light” green laws of the United States: the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and Fish and Wildlife Service. Don’t get me wrong: there is plenty of room for improvement in both federal employee work and the laws themselves, but ditto that for the consulting agencies, federal contractors (including King), elected officials, and U.S. citizens. Everyone is responsible for our system, and everyone needs to step up to the plate. Seriously. There is plenty of blame to share – and quite frankly, King hit on very few of the solutions. Possibly if there was less complaining and finger-pointing, and if we work to BUILD trust, not TEAR IT DOWN, we may end up with more positive situations.

I simply cannot ascribe to a published rant that directly works to build distrust. Why? Consider the following:

Governor Butch Otter paid handsomely for mishandling dredge from his property in Star, Idaho, that ruined wetlands and threatened the Boise. No permit, and conservative politics on his side. Trustworthy federal – and state – employees worked within the law, and Otter paid over $50,000 in fines for his multiple violations, although he spent plenty money charging that he was cruelly and unusually fined. That is trust in your laws – and the civil servants who work to uphold those “process-laden, thank you Mr. King,” laws – regardless of whether they are “light or bright.”

If we – including Tom King – build distrust, we end up with Idaho’s brilliant Feb 2014 legislative bill that was introduced by Idaho Rep. Paul Shepherd who was unhappy with federal gold dredging laws. [NOTE: Shepherd’s attempt was to strip federal government authority of the EPA, specifically, but this also then defacto all the other consulting agencies such as Forest Service, BLM, Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife Service, AND the state. This proposed bill supported mining’s dreadful environmental impacts on Idaho’s streams n the name of distrust of our government and it opened the door for more harm than good, based over personal rights. Shepherd’s words: “It appears the EPA bureaucracy has an agenda in its interpretation of what pollution is,” and the intent was to strip the feds of their “authority.” It is shared authority, and if members of the public work to tear it down, you get what you work for…even if you are a Tom King who leans more left than right. Eventually, Congress actively worked to deny critical funding to EPA, and ALL of the other agencies unless it touched ocean fishing, wildland fire protection, oil and gas drilling, or grazing rights. In the name of distrust of our own federal government. Got us far, right?
(Remember Cliven Bundy, all? Damn those feds, difficult public processes and closeted attempts, yes?)

So King thinks it is acceptable to just pile on more distrust? The net effect is vicious circle of litigation – no progress, as King blithely suggests his solutions will be. By the way FOIAs – which really are most cases are not necessary! Just ask and you receive. There is little that would ever not be released, unless they are records of internal discourse – which occurred every minute amongst federal employees in my experience, working to build trust in the system and collaboratives with – not against – the public, with one goal: to uphold natural resource conservation.

Government agendas…King agrees, obviously: “..even if you learn the systems, learn the specialized language, and push the right buttons, at the end of the day you’re still likely to see government agencies agree, over your head, to let your heritage go down the drain,” as if governments actively work to against its citizens. Or…another of King’s brash assumptions about the laws: “They apply mostly to federal agencies – in many ways they’re designed to protect us, the public, from our government.” Oh, please…

“The federal and state agencies responsible for overseeing the studies and keeping them honest usually view themselves – though they’ll seldom admit it – as being in the business of making sure projects go forward with as little impediment as possible from the environment. Or they’re mostly concerned with processing paperwork and protecting themselves, or they’ve turned into petty tyrants…” Huh. Let’s see, an example in Boise’s backyard – the foothills. Fish and Wildlife Service, BLM, NRCS, the State of Idaho – and several private property owners and Native Plant Society – were distraught over ATV use in the foothills that was tearing up precious sagebrush steppe, harming and taking rare plants and small ground mammals (damn that halfway light/bright Endangered Species Act, yes?), and causing habitat fragmentation, not to mention causing a visual and auditory blight. Solution: everyone worked together, trustfully. Public education, such as interp signs, workshops, and handouts, plus social media went up. One biologist, who barely weighs as much as the huge tractor tires that he lugged single-handedly to the foothills and joined with the rancher to place them strategically. A BLM raptor rec planner personally set posts for interp signs. A pregnant botanist worked overtime to help the rancher, and her counterparts worked one-on-one with the public to improve ATV use on private and public property. I can count handfuls of federal and state biologists, botanists, and public affairs people who worked tirelessly beyond just “processing paperwork” and being “petty tyrants” to achieve on-the-ground solutions- with TRUST. Oh, and no FOIAs needed. Net result = environmental protection, personal property rights upheld, and no “impediment” attitude.

King charges federal “Petty dictators” with “pro-forma public comment and public hearings are substituted for meaningful consultation with concerned parties.” Or…”Public hearings on the whole, are a water of everyone’s time – much like hearings in Congress. I’ve been in a lot of public hearings, both on the floor and at the podium, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that’s made any difference whatever.” Well, I have no idea if I have been to – or organized – more public hearings than Mr. King, but over 25 years I would be bet near fifty kept me working hours and hours – on and off that federal clock that King sees as wasteful….. Talk to the people of North Idaho who showed up for multiple public hearings and meetings over critical habitat for the Selkirk Mountains Woodland Caribou. That’s Randy Weaver territory, folks…people who may be on King’s other spectrum, but distrustful of government is an understatement. hundreds of citizens met on-on-one with Fish and Wildlife Service, not to mention the Forest Service and two Native American Tribes. County Commissioners also worked diligently with citizens and the feds to BUILD TRUST in their government, despite claims that the proposal would wipe out recreation, logging, and other personal rights to earning an income on public land. Third party review also happened ad infinitum, as occurs more often than King’s assertions, and respect for the “opinions of ordinary citizens” that King also charges does not occur (Chapter 8). Net result of Caribou public-government interactions: no FOIAs, productive meetings, no loss of personal income, and a final proposal that was 9/10 less than the proposed! Everyone won, including the caribou. Imagine that.
Lastly, USFWS and BLM are required right down to most administrative support personnel, to honor Native American tribal treaty rights. Mandatory training occurs, and that status s improving. With Caribou, bull trout, wolves, native plants, and more… respectful multicultural engagement is on its way to productive relationships on and off sacred cultural tribal grounds.

Mr. King, in response to your statement that fed natural resource and cultural agencies say, “Please don’t rock our boat,” I say – rock it. Come to the helm, and help steer some trust.

My blood was boiling….but Marc Bloch helped me

Post for 4/14/15

I think my blood boiled on most of these…
And it all brought back the Lynne Cheney effort to “set historical teaching right…”

For my irate tangent, see these:
Lynn Cheney’s moves toward sanitized history education and leftist brain-washing – read this by Paul Gottfried

Lynne Cheney and Gary Nash: Teaching a PC version of History

And this NY Times article, History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past- by Gary B Nash, Alfred A Knopf – NY

Some quotes: “Cheney also charged that the U.S. History Standards presented a “grim and gloomy” portrayal of American history. Why so much attention, she asked, to topics such as the Ku Klux Klan and McCarthyism? “Citing other teaching examples rather than the standards themselves, Cheney found six references to Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who used the Underground Railroad to rescue scores of other slaves. In contrast, such white males as Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee were mentioned only one and zero times, respectively. The standards give no hint, she complained, “of the spell-binding oratory of such congressional giants as Henry Clay and Daniel Webster.” And Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, and the Wright brothers, she claimed, “make no appearance at all.”
“What went wrong?” Cheney asked. Cheney concluded her Journal attack with a call to arms. National certification of these standards, she warned, must at all cost be blocked or “much that is significant in our past will begin to disappear from our schools.” She urged that the standards be stopped in their tracks because they were the rubbish produced by an “academic establishment that revels in . . . politicized history.”

My favorite Nash quote of the article: “History does matter, and it is important for Americans at the end of the twentieth century to understand how the recent history wars have unfolded, how these struggles are connected to earlier arguments over interpreting the past, and what this tells us about the state of our society…contention over the past is as old as written history itself, that the democratizing of the history profession has led to more inclusive and balanced presentations of American and world history, and that continuously reexamining the past, rather than piously repeating traditional narratives, is the greatest service historians can render in a democracy.”

OK, sorry for the rant…now to my comments abut the readings…

• DeVega Blog: “They Have Blood on Their Hands: The Sons of Confederate Veterans”

Secession Ball- I was horrified at the invitation: “a joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink.” Public announcements can be devastatingly revealing: ignorance, or arrogance?

I identified with his thought that “History does political work. As a corollary, memory is a function of power, selective forgetting, and intentional remembering to advance certain ends in the here and now.” This gave me room to think both about politics and memory – and the power of both. Sometimes, they lead us to forget or remember erroneously.

The NY Times link with comments by Lonnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina N.A.A.C.P. addressed the more terrible thought: “I can only imagine what kind of celebration they would have if they had won,” and was dumbfounded by “all of this glamorization and sanitization of what really happened.” The terrible facts of slavery and human chattel should be indelibly seared in everyone’s history – not just a select few, and not skewed by select memories or belief systems…

• The Virginia 4th grade textbook story by Kevin Sieff in the Washington Post, Oct 2010
My question: Who is responsible for truth in history?
Misrepresenting history is even more of a danger when it is aimed at schoolchildren, with moldable minds and very often, parents or caregivers who really don’t know what is happening in the classroom or in assignments. Or conversely, what power do “concerned and actively involved parents” have to question and rectify errors in historical memory that end up in the classroom? (“The issues first came to light after College of William & Mary historian Carol Sheriff opened her daughter’s copy of “Our Virginia” and saw the reference to black Confederate soldiers.” “It’s disconcerting that the next generation is being taught history based on an unfounded claim instead of accepted scholarship,” Sheriff said. “It concerns me not just as a professional historian but as a parent.”) It seems to me that parents must educate themselves, and they must help in accountability for truth. Sadly, I fear, many do not know enough to be able to assume this role. So, then, who is? Great discussion thoughts….

• NW History “Open Letter to the Curators of the Baron Von Munchausen Historic Home” by Larry Cebula, 2010 (two reads)

I just cringed at this!!! I think this letter shows the need for honest and constant debate in the teaching of history. (Thank you, Mandy, Michelle, and Dr M-B!)

Good for Mr. Cebula calling out poor history, misinformation…but, respectfully so.
I can’t image what the reply wuld have been if he not been so kind with his words.

This discussion of “the biggest problem with the interpretation at the Baron Munchausen House was the absence of slavery,” and then the “sayings” origins that were inaccurate elicited three thoughts from me:
– The perpetuation of myths is something anyone can be guilty of. I probably have done the same thing…BUT if you are in apposition of interpreting the past for the public, and schoolchildren, you are responsible for historical accuracy. It would be fine if the myths were called out as myths, but to purposely repeat myths or distort the truth is just not acceptable in the public arena.

– The issue of docents and volunteer training is also very important. I know not every volunteer is watched carefully, but proper education and training should be required in all public forums. This won’t tackle the whole problem, but it could help tremendously, and it can put hose who tend to veer form the truth on notice that it’s unacceptable.

– The need for updating: The Wisconsin State Historical Society story about out-of-date Native American history and the Idaho Historical Society’s ancient exhibits call to mind the fact that today, public historians MUST be current, vigilant, and yes, participatory, so that at least the vocal visitors can set the record straight.

Lastly, “You as a Professor should stop bringing into the 21st century all this negativism.” I could not believe this reply that was sent to Mr. Cebula!
The “hateful subject” was cruel. It also was hateful. Perpetuating that by avoiding it, or by disguising it as a kind and benevolent action is just ludicrous.

I liked this Blog reply: I certainly look forward to teaching “World History 101 (No Negativity: only the nice bits)”

• Washington Post article – Conservative class on Founding Fathers’ answers
By Krissah Thompson, Washington Post Staff Writer , Saturday, June 5, 2010

Made my blood boil again!! The thought of people inculcating young, impressionable minds is just reprehensible. I guess that is how Hitler trained his youth, or how cults do the same with children. I don’t want to tread to much on religion, but it surely has been used for centuries to propagate hatred, fear, and misinformation.
“We’re trying to flood the nation . . . and it’s happening,” said Taylor, 63, a charter school principal….and “That led him in 1995 to create Heritage Academy, a public charter school where he teaches American history. He has a master’s degree in Christian political science from Coral Ridge Baptist University in Florida, an unaccredited school.”
Can someone tell me about the state of American charter schools, or home-schooling?

And then, politics and history again…
“Inspired by conservative commentator Glenn Beck, Republicans, home-school groups and people affiliated with militias. Here in Springfield, the day’s students sipped coffee and chewed on peppermints while seated at folding banquet-hall tables. They included a lawyer, a farmer, a local politician and a project manager for a construction company. Except for one man, all of them were white. Most were middle-aged, and there was nary a Democrat to be found.”
!!!! I was bouncing off the walls with this excerpt, and the ties between politics, militias, and the search for political purity (is that code for racist?): “Taylor spun stories of Benjamin Franklin as a praying man who wept after signing the Constitution, and Thomas Jefferson as a conflicted soul who wished to abolish slavery but because of his benevolence was reluctant to free his own slaves. “If you’ve been to Monticello and you see how Jefferson cared for them, they didn’t want to leave,” Taylor told the class. He avoided what he called “negative stuff” about the Founders’ “supposed immorality.”

• Jeff Robinson, 2012 Public History Commons

This was perceptive: Locals have no choice but to look to their history for answers, resources, and inspiration, no matter what side of the debate they’re on.

• The Civil War Isn’t Over, Atlantic Article
“150 years after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Americans are still fighting over the great issues at the heart of the conflict,” by David Blight. April 8, 2015

“Over time, the Civil War became the subject of great romanticization and sentimentalism in cultural memory. No one can grow up anymore at their Civil War veteran grandfather’s knee, learning deeply mythic stories of the Blue and the Gray, or hearing of slavery times from a formerly enslaved grandparent….The Civil War epoch has always resonated as a family affair for many Americans, transmitted through the generations.” This made me reflect on the importance of oral transmission, and generational perspectives being passed along…

The “Past and present are always utterly interdependent.”
What a great application of this thought, correlated to Marc Bloch, history’s founding father: “Misunderstanding of the present,” wrote Bloch, “is the inevitable consequence of ignorance of the past. But a man may wear himself out just as fruitlessly in seeking to understand the past, if he is totally ignorant of the present.”

YES. OK, it took Marc Bloch to help me re-center.

It’s a big world out there…let’s go for it!

Post for 3/30/15
I often hear that there are few federal jobs in our field. While it’s true many are higher-graded jobs, if you are willing to relocate for a bit, opportunities exist! My experience with the feds was that once you were in the door, and proved yourself a hard worker, many people work to help your career along. One of my regrets was that I never did work in D.C. As Dr. Madsen-Brooks noted, what an opportunity to work at the Smithsonian as a museum tech, or even for a summer at a national park!

Versatilephd – neat site! I love the community aspects of this –vesatilephd group opportunities for discussion and connection Hoping Dr Madsen-Broosk talks more abut this resource and how it has helped her.

The field of history
Out most recent experience at Boise State with the history department’s fate is a great example of a failure to understand the depth and breadth of history. As can be seen by the AHA Careers site, professional careers are as diverse, complex, and hopefully – rewarding – as any person could ever want. What I can’t help but think is we need to step up more to “defend” the relevance of history. If we buy into myths that there are not opportunities, or that history is narrow in scope, the demise of this amazing field is sure to occur. The beauty of public history is its flexibility, and applicability, to everyday people in the “real world.” It gets us in the public, in the classroom, and in communities – not just within a small academic scope. That, I believe is where our greatest impact can be made.

Personal Histories:
Wow! I loved this APH “The Life Story People” site! Does anyone want to do something like that here with me? I had no idea that there was an organization of people who work to tell life stories. I love oral history, and have enjoyed the honor of interviewing Basque people. Preserving the stories of others is one way to help preserve the historic record. This made me get really excited to try something like this in a more dedicated way. I recently went to Portland Oregon for a day-long documentary film I am working on about a program I help with in Boise that gets kids outside and watching birds. The filmmaker and I were talking about wanting to do oral histories in Boise, so I will share this with him as well. One thing we asked about, which is a huge issue for oral history is the state of technology and the preservation of film records. Digital technology is a double-edged sword, and he was saying it is the most troublesome issue for him today. He is absolutely high-tech as most film people are, and incredibly creative…his points about preserving digital images are good:
– You are only as current as the most recent software (or hardware) update.
– If you fall behind, there is often no way to preserve the record (consider computer disk floppies)
– If someone can not access your files, they are “lost”
– It seems once something is digitized it can often be forgotten due to intangible record storage. Think about back-up hard copy storage.
– Sharing visuals is one way of perpetuating stories and sharing the power of memory – if access is limited to a select few, is this really accomplishing that?

Consulting as a Profession
I know Barbara and Elizabeth, and they have worked darned hard to get where they are today! Their business has had its ups and owns, ins and outs, but they are rock-steady professionals. I appreciated their two tips: try to get some federal/state experience and learn about business before attempting to strike out on your own. I took some courses at the Small Business Association Women’s Small Business program, and the tips such as writing a business plan were really good. There is help for women especially, but it’s hard to wrangle through the federal red tape for some of it. Meeting small business criteria can also be difficult. Partnerships are good ways to enter into consulting, but they can also be very difficult if you have divergent work habits, perspectives, or methods of accomplishing goals. I do a little freelance business, and my biggest issue is underestimating the time it takes to do something very well. Oh, and saying “yes,” when I should say….”let me think about it,” then really do take the time to think about it and if it is worth your energy to do 120% well. Consulting is hard work, but it can be gratifying and very creative. I have enjoyed trying consulting and want to do more because I have skills in several areas, like graphic design and interpretive signage, and it’s hard to find people who can write and design. They are my two loves. Carving out a niche to do that takes time and flexibility. I am forever grateful for the experiences I had in a government agency because it taught me a lot about organizations and how individuals work in teams to accomplish great things.

Great food for thought! I appreciated the perspectives about training, and business, especially. Barbara and Elizabeth also mentioned the need for business training of some sort. I don’t know the local Stevens firm, but they seem like they ahev built a nice business, too. One thing for sure, an independent consultant must be organized and disciplined, and must also have good “people skills” to be able to communicate vision. I learned most recently that some people though not intentionally, may take advantage of your skills and/or underestimate the time and talent you may have to accomplish their project. My solution: a contract. It spells out the scope of work, expectations, and rough cost estimates. Specialized skills can may or break a professional project – that’s sometimes hard to sell. BUT! Contracting is often, as the article says, a good way for institutions to accomplish their goals and stay within tight budgets, without having to hire an employee and pay overhead and wages. It may be worth trying to pick up a few little projects to see if you like this.

Graduates and Careers
Good advice! Join associations! Learning from others is so great, and the networking is very helpful, even if it’s uncomfortable at first. I am thrilled to have joined NCPH…
I also printed out their 8 tips and hung them right y my computer where I can read them very day to remind me of my intentions in public history.

Reenactment, Wikipedia, Historical Relevance


Historical reenactments have always bothered me. I have not been able to understand why people would dress up and act out historical events for the sheer pleasure of “playing.” It seems to me more “valid’ somehow if there is a reason for reenactment, such as a theatrical performance that is aimed at teaching a history lesson or imparting a key message. So the reenactment articles were really interesting to me.

I know a person who does reenactments, and he is enthusiastic about his group’s forays into the historical past. He believes this practice makes history relevant because it brings it into the present – somehow, it’s more “real.” The Levin article raises questions about making the Civil War more real through reenactments. Is this really connecting the past to the present? This part of the article gave me serious pause: “Its preferred view of history flies in the face of the last 40 years of serious scholarship, but more importantly, its narrow view of what it means to remember a Confederate past will likely only continue to pull in folks who place themselves within a larger morality play that blurs the
distinction between past and present.” I thought a lot also about the statement that this practice is “the desire to live in the past – not the present.” How can romanticizing the past be present-focused?

Kowalcyk’s embedment with the reenactors brought me right back to what I think is a core issue with this practice: What is real? What is reality? If this is, as Kowalcyk says, “The hobby of historical pretending,” is it just childhood play amongst adults who choose to tell one version of history? What happens when the facts are wrong, left out, distorted to meet present views? Is reenacting a valid way to remember the past? If yes, whose [historical] memory is it?

Having expressed all of this I must admit these two bloggers’ statements convinced me to go easier on reenactors.

Blogger: “I don’t think there’s anything disreputable about reenacting, but it is more a world ofbuffs and enthusiasts rather than something undertaken by professionals.”

Blogger: “Making history personal: It seems to me a great way to get students more engaged with the past – to envision it as something real and concrete as opposed to a list of dates and events in a book. They want to find something of themselves back there – so the trick is, to me, to do it in a way that doesn’t glorify or hide oppression, but rather uses to reveal something about what it means to be human.”

My final question: Does reenacting make history relevant?

Pingback: Moving History Forward

Great opening: “The terms “historian” and “entrepreneur” are not often mentioned in the same sentence. The historian studies and writes about the past, while an entrepreneur is focused on innovating for the future and taking risks—and in many instances ends up being the one making history. Historians are not traditionally taught to be entrepreneurs. In the age of new media, however, this is starting to change.”

More thoughts about relevance:
I enjoyed this article, and obviously because I am in the public history program, I believe that we do need to work “outside the academy” to make everyday history relevant to the public. Case in point: the current situation of our beloved history department! I think one thing we can all do is look at history more like a business. It must be grounded, scholarly, and truthful. It must also have the energy of the present. History is not for behind closed doors, or the pages of scholarly journals. It is for us all. If that is true, it must move beyond the walls of academe and into people’s homes and psyches.

The entrepreneurial spirit, such as using technology in our study – and craft – of history, can strengthen our relevance by making it interesting, current, and yes, more accessible to the public.

Wikipedia Articles

This statistic surprised me that the public is increasingly going to Wikipedia as a research source: 42%. The issue of source verifiability (secondary or primary, as we learned with the articles) is one to consider when searching for information about which we are unfamiliar. I agree with the use of Wikipedia as an initial “go-to place” to find other direction, but never trust it without being a good history detective.

Good blogger quote: “Despite its flaws, Wikipedia is my initial go-to source for information on virtually any subject that an encyclopedia would be expected to cover. NOT because I expect consistent accuracy — but only because it’s a handy tool for priming the pump of my own thinking, AND for offering me links to other sources. Therefore it’s irrational to criticize WP for “obsessive footnotery.” Good grief, the more footnotes, the better — because that just means more resources for the reader to

The CopyVillain article was great education for me. I had no idea how Wikipedia worked, so to learn about the editing practices and “reliable sources” was great.

So, do we agree with this? “What Messer-Kruse is missing is how the reliable source policy allows Wikipedia to use the larger scholarly process of peer review for its own benefit. By preventing the use of self-published sources, and preferring secondary sources to primary sources, Wikipedia attempts to ensure that information has been subjected to the most vigorous review possible by scholars before being included in the encyclopedia. This is an important potential problem for Wikipedia. It is an even more critical problem for a web-using public that too often allows Wikipedia to serve as their primary, or only, source of information on a given topic.”

I appreciated this blog thought about personal responsibility with Wikipedia and how we can look at ways to influence its accuracy and credibility: “ I think that if you want to influence Wikipedia, it is best to create a profile and be open about your identity, potential conflicts of interests and biases. I actually recommend putting your full name in your profile. I’ve found that having an established track record of high-quality edits
goes a long way. Often, when people see a new edit that they don’t like, they look at who
added it, often to check if it’s vandalism or sloppy scholarship.”

Historic Preservation 2

Meggan Reflections 3/02/15

Historic PreseBoiseLandmarkBldgsrvation 2

The more I read and explore, the more I realize what I do not know, or misunderstood about historic preservation! Again, my post could be way too long on this subject after poking around the NPS website and reading the Tyler, et. al. book.

I was getting confused between National Historic Landmarks and National Register of Historic Places designation criteria and governing responsibility. Shows how ignorant of this stuff I am! So now I understand that NHLs have official Dept of Interior recognition and therefore are designated by the Secretary of Interior as the most significant national historic places: “buildings, sites, districts, structures, and objects that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States in history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.” It has a much higher criteria than NHP. Majority power to object (with more than one property owner) was interesting, too, in that it can stop the Secretary of the Interior from designating. I didn’t realize that these places can be within units of the National Park System, or not. I found it interesting that one of its objectives was educational: “because it leads to increased public attention to and interest in a property.” And, again, after reading, I now know that upon designation, National Historic Landmarks are also then listed in the National Register of Historic Places. National Register of Historic Places is the “official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture. National Register properties have significance to the history of their community state, or the nation.” These are nominated more locally, from State Historic Preservation Officers (SHPOs), Federal Preservation Officers, Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (tribal lands), private individuals and organizations, cities, and Tribes. Also, not until I read all this did I understand the issue of local control, not necessarily government control regarding private property. Community engagement is really important, but it can also be really subjective and weighted without strong guidelines, reviews, and individuals. (Sorry to bore you all with this but I had to type it up to better help me remember it all and to have for reference!)

Here are a few issues that were raised for me, and a bunch of URLs that were cool to explore!

• What is in Boise’s Backyard?
Local information points to some resources we have right here in Boise:
Could we ask Dan Everhart (Preservation Idaho), John Bertram (Planmakers and Preservation Idaho), or Barbara Perry-Bauer (TAG Historical Consulting), to speak to us, or join our walk? The Preservation Idaho website is very good:

The annual “Onions and Orchids” event will be in Sandpoint this year if anyone wil be there March 30. That’s been a good “pulse-check” of what is good and not-so-good in the world of historic preservation:

Does anyone want to join me June 20th for the “Up on the Roof Deux” (second year) event in support of Preservation Idaho? Kinda cool event on rooftops in Boise to learn more about old and new Boise buildings, with food, drinks, music.
I settled for this Wiki site on Boise (Ada County) NHP list for dates, places:,_Idaho

I learned a bit more about Historic Districts, too! The City of Boise’s website had a decent way to search each:
We have nine historic preservation districts: East End, North End, Hays Street, Warm Springs Avenue, Harrison Boulevard, Hyde Park, Old Boise, South Eighth Street, Spaulding Ranch. Maybe we could visit one or for our class walking tour?
This was new to me – the impact of living in an Historic District: “For most homeowners, living in an historic district has little impact on the use and improvement of their property. Under State and local law, property owners must secure a Certificate of Appropriateness for external alterations to houses and structures. Major alterations (including demolitions and new construction) are reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission in public hearings. Anyone want to go to one of those? I may! Maybe that is what happened with the castle? Historic Districts can be prey to subjective power, money, or “groupthink” on designations, approvals, alterations…the book makes the case clearly that community surveillance and action/neighborhood protection is preferred.

Idaho State Historical Society (ISHS) Sites and National Landmarks map:

I downloaded “Shaping Boise,” about Boise’s Landmark Buildings fro the City website – TOC (graphic) is attached here. URL if you want a copy of the publication, which is really helpful:

Did you know that Boise was a blog topic over Valentine’s Day in the NTHP “Preservation Nation” Blog? Yep…
Titled “CityLove, Boise” – Feb 2014

• The Heritage Initiatives section: “Your Story,” marking national diversity (origin, ethnicity, race, language, etc.) made me think of the cultural importance of recognition initiatives such as Minidoka in Idaho for Japanese-Americans. I was surprised to see there was a Kooskia Internment Camp. The table indicates it is undesignated, no markers. I had no idea, which makes me more aware of the public historian’s role to increase public education.

• NPS website “Shared Places” is great! I really liked the public history approach to this – encouraging people to develop their own self-guided travel itineraries to see NHR places, diverse places across the country. Wouldn’t that be a great family focus for NPS to really push publicly?

• The chapter on Legal issues was stimulating, especially regarding precedent-setting case studies such as the issue of religious properties – the Frank Lloyd Wright Unity Temple in Oak Park, Illinois. I didn’t realize inside space could be considered as with this church, and also that an easement (purchase of land with specific use intent for preservation, just like a land easement), would protect the place.

• The “Significance Thermometer:” Kinda weird and simplistic, but a good visual way to literally “gauge” significance sue to age, style, unaltered, historical.

• “Themes and Concepts:” The movement in 90s comes through with the expansion of the circles’ scope in 1994 to include “everyday” life and “ordinary people.” A huge shift from designating only the nations’ “important people and places.”

• I went to Grant Park Stadium – Soldier Field (1924) in Chicago two years ago to see a Cubs game. I thought it was an odd mix of old and new, and wondered about the historic preservation aspects of it. Well, again, the readings helped me! It was a NHL “Dedesignation!” How awful, what a sad thing.

• Ch 7 – More distinctions to consider. This made me thik back to the re-do of the CJU House on the Basque Block, with Restoration (inside and out), reconstruction, preservation technology/construction, conservation – paint colors, repro items in the house, wallpaper. Plus the archaeology aspects – all covered in our readings. The more interdisciplinary, I think the greater success.

• I thought of Mandy’s archival interest with the ways to search info for designations: maps, plats, literature/ docs, Sandborn fire maps, city directories, drawings, blueprints, searching…Love “Bird’s-eye’ lithographs!

• Public safety and accessibility are huge concerns, and so I enjoyed reading about considerations such as fire/sprinkler systems, egress means, accessibility. Museums really must invest wisely (and upgrade regularly) due to liability concerns of visitors, staff, and collections.

• Let’s start this here I Boise! (Ch 9 – the 1980 “Main Street Health Program,” by Ntl Trust for Historic Preservation. To revitalize, yet preserve, downtowns is important, and yes it also dovetails with economic vitality. Boise is part of the comeback of downtowns with these elements: city planning, existing infrastructure, community focus, functional diversity, employment, sprawl reduction, downtown health.

• Historical streets exhibits in Ann Arbor– pg 324 – This is a bit like my rephotography idea for the Basque section downtown! Neat.

• Cultural landscapes – pg 327. This is critical to my Basque landscape study…
Harder to define than historic buildings, or even groups of buildings in historic districts, cultural landscape “include larger areas of interest where details of the human story or the impact of cultural settlement are evident. Often it is the concept of place, or personal experiences with an actual place, that create very real and palpable associations larger than life – certainly larger than the visual panorama f existing materials and landforms.”

• The nexus of heritage and economics/politics – role of economics and marketing in historic preservation and heritage tourism:

Example: 1988 Nation’s first official Heritage Area (as opposed to a corridor) Pennsylvania America’s Industrial Heritage Project (AIHP)…Diverse and dispersed landscape – partnerships, municipalities, 8,000 sq miles. Goals to “achieve widespread, large-scale preservation, to promote tourism, and to encourage economic activity.” Economic impact critical to justify to Congress the need for federal designation and funding.

I see that the “Visit Idaho” Dept of Commerce/Tourism site has this: read the Idaho Business Review?

I liked the “Experience Economy” thoughts by by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, from Starbucks coffeeshops to other ‘experiences,” we need to think about this for historic preservation, museums, etc. Isn’t this really all about “participatory” experiences – mixed with economic considerations?

I am set to attend a Heritage Tourism workshop this week, as well as the NEH grant workshop. Our readings confirmed what I have been suspecting lately about historical business, whether we are thinking about museums, education programs, interpretive sites, or historic preservation: money matters.

Good Job, Boise, on historic preservation!

Historic Preservation

Reflections on both Norman Tyler et. al Historic Preservation book and the 2010 “Endangered in Boise” blog for Preservation Nation (Timberline High School). This week’s readings were super interesting to me, and reminded me of the value of historic preservation law, at all levels, plus more so, the importance of community awareness about historic buildings as part of our cultural heritage.

Thanks to Mandy for mentioning Preservation Idaho’s bike ride tours. Have any of you taken a walk with Dr. Todd Shallat, or Barbara Perry Bauer of TAG History, Dan Everhart, or Mark Baltes in Boise neighborhoods? If not, go for it! What a great way to learn about Boise’s great architectural history, and the mistakes and successes of communities, architects, local design review, and more. The best tour I had was a Craftsman/Arts and Crafts/Bungalow walk with Shallat in Boise’s North End. I enjoyed the architectural styles part of this book, and realized there are so many great buildings/residences in Boise that are representative of these. Let’s hope they are preserved. Just like those great Chicago Tribune buildings, Frank Lloyd Wright homes, and cool bungalows. All in all, I think Boise has done an incredible job saving, restoring, reusing, and protecting our architectural heritage.

Next, here are a few places in Boise that have raised my ire:
-The Castle on Mobley Drive/Warm Springs Ave. (What happened to Historic District design review here? The text offers answers, but geez, come on…)
-The destruction of the Delamar boardinghouse and other buildings during Boise’s 70s urban renewal. Thank good ness it stopped short of the Egyptian, but we lost a lot of cultural heritage through the destruction of buildings.
-The “Hole” – now Zion’s Bank Building. Heritage, or moving forward? The only sign of the historic building history here today is the sign on 2nd floor. Hrrrumph? (And, the “Temple Spire” has ben altered – yes?)
-Teardowns – this is common in Seattle, Portland, and now, Boise. Latest new residence on Warm Springs is one example. Some old 50s home being leveled too . At what point do we lose the meaning of place and time? (See 103-105)
-The Foster’s Warehouse – lost that historic preservation fight. Another hrrrumph.
-What ever happened to the church that was being renovated for the TRICA Arts Center?
-Has the new Owyhee paid homage to its roots? What happened to the neat old photos of the 1910 building? At least it kept the high, decorated ceilings.
-Simplot home on 13th Street by 13th Street Grill – how long has that been in “historic preservation” progress? Can anyone talk to legal/NHPC mandates for these type projects?
-And another Simplot irk…JUMP. And to think the old beautiful train station once graced that area.

And here are a few places in Boise that have raised my curiosity, support, and respect:
-The Basque Museum & Cultural Center’s Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga Boarding House. Ntl Register of Historic Places, and the community archaeological dig that supported the SHPO’s work when building was undergoing restoration. Very cool.
-Russ Crawford’s untiring work to restore the Mode Lounge, sign and all…plus, his search for old architectural and business photos at the ISHS archives. Also, the similar work in the Alavita/Fork lounge areas, with historic photos and restored light fixtures.
-The renovation of the Modern Hotel – keep that Travel Lodge feel, and way to go with adaptive reuse, Linen District!
-Preservation Idaho’s “Onions and Orchids” annual awards.
-So many downtown buildings that are being used for businesses.

2010 Endangered in Boise. What a great thing that high school students are involved in historic preservation! I loved the blog. I was not familiar with all the items, but I think a few “won” and a few became extinct? Some of you worked on Central addition, yes? Out of the woods, or not? Block 44; still precarious, as are many of the Carley properties – what about revitalization just for the developer’s economic interests? 1000 Block – Alaska, etc…it’s too bad Boise State moved out of that and into the really sterile BoDo (“FroDo”) building. Progress is good, but heck, they could have stayed in two places. Speaking of BSU, the article spoke of the University Inn, which was torn down for the university’s most tech building yet, and a formal entrance to the university, and many of the quaint homes in the neighborhood near Broadway have been slashed and burned for bigger, taller Boise State buildings. Not as bad as the St. Luke’s takeover, though. Googie still stands, thankfully not a Sambo’s, and that whole area I predict will be the next renovation area for Boise, along with Garden City’s Chinden Blvd. Bring on more art, wine, beer and nurseries.

Other comments that resulted from the readings:
-City planning and historic preservation, adaptive reuse, etc…”brown and greyfield” areas. Boise is littered with these old, defunct strip mall areas, lots of asphalt, and propensity for damage, crime and worse. They are blights on the land. Some cities are now re-building these areas into combined work/play/living areas. Kind of like the old downtown buildings that are now apartment living complexes, which has “saved” a lot of our architectural beauty and history.
-LeDuc vs Ruskin: restoration of buildings “as they should have been?” or “As they are, in all glory of its age?” Interesting – would love to talk more about this.
-Other cultures: I was fascinated to learn of other cultural perspectives about physical structure: the Japanese life/death cycles and perpetual renewal of structures (tear down and rebuild); Chinese saving through art, images, and writing; and Native American thought that place is sacred, not structure (Mother Earth gives and reclaims). What do the Chinese in Boise think abut the removal of the Hop Sing, or the Chinese Laundry by Gernika, or other cultural sites?
-Really liked the Greenwich Village infill (compatible and contrasting elements)

The Participatory Museum

The Participatory Museum, Nina Simon
MLM Reflections

Oh, how I wish I had read this book years ago for interpretive work and the museum projects I have been involved in! I know Simon is a consultant, and the book is part of her larger business, but her advice stands tall when the real-life case studies demonstrate the principles Simon is professing.

I agree with Simon’s perspective that traditional techniques and spaces need not be thrown out the window totally – just follow her “and” argument! Participatory elements can add to the structure and not be an exclusionary “or” prospect. Her thoughts about information flow “between,” and not “to” participants was also solid. Lastly, her advice follows earlier readings remind us that it’s always better to speak “with” your audiences, not “to,” which ultimately leads to more memorable experiences that may encourage return visits and solid supporters of your institution.

I couldn’t help think of my beloved little Basque Museum and opportunities for increasing participation during Jaialdi, with Basques and non-Basques alike. I also considered advice I received from Jeff Johns during our public history career interview a lot more cogently. A few of Simon’s points especially resonated with me:

– “Scaffolding”
This made so much sense. It’s so important to provide sideboards – my word, (she says “constraints,” which I didn’t like). These help people function within reasonable bounds, and may actually encourage creativity and interaction. It can also prohibit mass confusion with participants by adding clarity of purpose. Of course, to scaffold means to plan, not just fly off with first ideas without vetting amongst a diverse planning group to find the right sideboards.

– Thanks, follow-up, and “perks”
This should be a matter of fact, but her thoughts about staff thanking visitors after their visits, and following-up somehow with personal touches was simple but really relevant. Especially today, with so much emphasis on the bottom dollar, numbers of attendees, and fiscal security, maybe it’s time to just get back to basics: we want you to visit, we want you to participate and join with us, we value you, and by the way – thank you. This is setting expectations that we want you back, and it may be a good way to follow-up which would encourage repeat visitation. The time-delayed cards idea was pretty good, and I appreciated her comment that you can not “delete” a mailed card as easily as an online follow-up. Regardless, how you get personal information for visitors (email or street address) can be difficult – and it can reach far into privacy issues. What do you all think about incentivizing visitorship? Are perks from punch cards, special rates, loyalty programs, “frequent flyers,” good to encourage visits? (They sure work for commercial ventures!) Maybe we need to approach public history more like BUSINESS, with customer satisfaction-type goals and efforts?

– “Creators and Consumers”
Participation inequality is not really the way I would have described this, but the thought that we need to address possible barriers to projects upfront, realizing some will be on board 100% with participating and some will not, so intermediate, balanced approaches are the best.

– “Me to We”
Another very simple, but so true concept! Designing meaningful experiences, personalized so as to connect with individuals but yet reinforcing a community experience is the intended outcome. How it’s done requires careful thought, again.
I desperately want to do a take-off of the “Shards of Happiness” Dutch Princessof ceramics exhibit! That was very cool, so “me to we,” participatory on many levels.

I was very uncomfortable with this section…maybe I am hyper-sensitive to commercial tracking online or by businesses, but the thought of a museum tracking how often I visited, how much I spent in their gift shop, and then ask me to wear an identity ID/badge/color-keyed card to single me out or group me in a larger group was not something I would ever advocate. I think if people want to engage with one another, there are many other valid ways to encourage this– and seemingly less invasive. I also do not support the Apartheid “Two Doors” approach – singling out very personal beliefs can lead not to dialogue, but uncomfortable experiences. Although, the Facing Mars exhibit participation didn’t seem to be as invasive – topic areas are critical. Self-identification. This made me think more about how thoughtful we must be in setting up our group “Common Grounds” community conversation.

Cell phones, sticky-notes, and “simple” tools versus flashy, expensive exhibit design, technology and social networking
If we are using simple objects almost universally, let’s use them in the participation! Simplicity sometimes connects with more people, I think. It’s less exclusive. I keep thinking about Jeff Johns, who led million-dollar projects to low-budget projects, noting that the public often does not want the glitter – they just want good experiences. Pencils and crayons, anyone??? Using common tools, though, including social networking, can help lay out guidelines, provide platforms, and share thoughts (without encroaching on intellectual property). I a not sure I agree with her “power to promote” through these platforms, and that it is a way to present preferred behavior. Anonymity of social media is a concern – it can prompt negative actions as much as present positive values. Again, balance.

Back to the Drawing Board
Exploratorium redesign of project – yes! If it does not work , do it again or differently, if you can. Question: Do comment boards really help with feedback? Can negative information really influence re-design? Budgets, staff time, technology all seem to get in the way of genuine responses: we are moving too fast, too superficially.

Pg 191 – chart is really good.

My favorite case studies:
Shards of Happiness
Denver posters
Adirondack Wild Center Climate Conference
Harrah’s loyalty program – ahem, yes
Worcester City Museum Top 40
Iraq conversation with bombed-out car
Brooklyn Museum 1stFans

Last Thoughts
I liked the “contributory, collaborative, co-creative and hosted” sections.
This was full of gems, even in skim mode.
Relevance: Where would our Common Grounds conversation night fall?
Hosted? Co-creative? Collaborative? Contributory?
And what can we add to that experience based on Simon’s book?
I think we definitely need a visual aspect of it beyond the video that night as documentation…
-What about a follow-up photo exhibit across town?
-Key questions for each table posted across town before the night, as banners or pop-up type “tags” to pique curiosity?
-What if we got businesses to join us?

Interview with Jeff Johns

Jeff Johns
Interview Conducted 1/23/15 by Meggan Laxalt Mackey

I chose to interview Jeff Johns as a public history professional because of his diverse public history career. Jeff used the words “interdisciplinary, intergenerational, and creative” throughout our interview, but “collaboration” was his main message. He also reminded me that rough spots will always occur in anyone’s career, so it’s important to keep moving forward, learn from the experience(s), and don’t look back. Jeff also credited mentors and colleagues from previous workplaces who helped him choose – and survive – this field. It was refreshing to hear Jeff speak so highly of those he worked with to bring public history to others, and those who helped shape his public history career: we never do this alone. That was my final take-home message from Jeff.

• Education
Jeff is an Idaho native, and chose Boise State University at a time that public history was beginning to gain ground nationally. He graduated with a BA in History in 1998, and earned his MA in Museum Studies from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, in 2001.

• Basque Museum & Cultural Center, Boise, Idaho. Curator of Collections and Exhibitions, 2001-2006.
Jeff walked out of grad school and into this job. He upgraded this small cultural museum’s collections by implementing an electronic system that digitized artifacts, archives, audio and photo collections, which made it a lot easier for users to conduct research. He worked with the primary museum space gallery, including temperature and lighting filtration, exhibit design, and special events. Jeff’s primary accomplishment was as lead curator of the “Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga Boardinghouse,” an ambitious, grant-funded funded historic preservation project of the small boardinghouse on Boise’s Grove Street, with period-authentic recreation inside of a boardinghouse and family residence. He was responsible for historical research; conservation; curatorial oversight; researching and acquiring furnishings, wallpapers, lighting, props, heat/light, security system, interpretation; and community outreach. The CJU project included community involvement with the archaeological dig on museum grounds, where locals and passers-by were able to learn about history and archaeology “real-time.” Jeff coordinated with SHPO and archaeologists on the dig and structural components of the house restoration, The CJU Project was a Boise masterpiece, and the adjacent museum’s attendance, education programs, language classes, and gift shop sales expanded greatly. This was a great first curatorial for Jeff. Each aspect of this position was complex, but an opportunity to gain experience.

• American Airlines’ C.R. Smith Museum (CRSM), Fort Worth, Texas. Curator and Corporate Historian, 2006-2009.
In 2006, American was the largest and oldest U.S. airline, with the biggest training center in the world and many aircraft on-site, but it had an outdated aviation museum. After 911, the airlines placed security measures on museum grounds, and its 75,000 visitors per year plummeted to 9,000. American Airlines’ response was to invest $1.5 million in a complete museum make-over. This position was much more complex than the Basque curation job, with a huge budget, a supervisory role, and a requirement to learn interactive audio and digital skills, and digital film remastering. When Jeff opened the new “An American Journey” museum experience, it was a wild success. Its 7,000 square feet of exhibit space was filled with participatory elements directed mostly at children, interactive AV stations, fresh graphics and interpretive panels, and an IMAX- style theatre in the round (110 seats) with a newly edited, digitized film, “Spirit of American.” As American’s corporate historian, he managed the museum’s artifact collections, archives, and films. “Life-long Learner” programs were directed at multiple age groups, including seniors, and family/kid programs, with multidisciplinary art, science, and history experiences. CRSM engaged in social media efforts, TV marketing, and various tourist industry tactics to further publicize the revamped museum. The net result was that by 2009, CRSM visitorship was on its way upward once again, with 50,000 visitors a year.

Mayor’s Aerospace Museum Task Force. Member, 2007-2009.
Due to the great success at American Airlines, the City of Fort Worth began to dream big. Jeff served on the Mayor’s Aerospace Museum Task Force, a committee to determine the feasibility of developing a world-class aerospace museum. The city hired a consultant to work the committee to develop a master strategic plan, and by 2009 Jeff was named the Fort Worth Air & Space Museum Executive Director.

Fort Worth Air & Space Museum. Executive Director, 2009-2011.
Jeff’s new job was to plan, design, and fabricate a $3-million-dollar, 10,000-square-foot exhibition about the evolution of the aerospace industry of North Texas. It was thought that this “test” exhibit would whet the public’s appetite, and encourage further funding of a $115-million-dollar museum that would see one million visitors a year. The exhibit, “When Dreams Defy Gravity,” included an experimental science lab, aircraft flight simulators, creative art stations, HD theatre, and a B36 plane communications ride. Participatory elements included hands-on stations to “out-gun” Rosie the Riveter, a Noise Pollution Lab to compare F18 engine noise to that of a B757, and other cool things. The Museum Board consulting firm and the city advocated for the feasibility of the larger museum development, but the economic climate was not right. Key potential funders withdrew their financial support, and the city lost its pledged investment. The additional resources needed to move further were not realized, and the entire project was scrapped. Careers can have unfortunate occurrences, and this truly was a major heartbreak for Jeff.

Minnesota Historical Society’s Forest History Center. Historical Site Director, 2011-present.
This unique 170-acre environmental history and learning center is in Minnesota’s Northwoods. It has public history programs, living history tours, and field trips, a Visitor Center, classroom, replica logging camp, library, theatre, gift shop, and a1930s U.S. Forest Service cabin. The innovative in-and-outdoors “Into the Woods” program targets Native American Tribes and Norwegian groups, with art/artisan/writing workshops, dogsledding, Shakespeare plays and concerts, and wildlife/bird presentations. To pull this off, the FHC collaborated with locals and state/federal/city organizations. The FHC realized a 36% increase in overall attendance, a 162% increase from this site for membership in the Minnesota Historical Society, and a $50K appropriation from the State Legislature. The FHC plans to experiment more with adventure-based, multidisciplinary environmental learning experiences that tie history to the outdoors.

On what type of education or experience should one have for public history
“During my academic pursuits I learned of the ideals and philosophies of public history and museology. Yet learning how to increase the likelihood of success with audiences and developing/delivering projects out in the field has taken me on an odyssey that often seems quite out of sync with those ideals and philosophies. While I think my education was valuable, I believe my real education has taken place in trying to survive professionally during the last 14 years. … Savor the journey and then go and tackle some amazing projects.”

On why we need to do public history differently
In the U.S., less than 10% of total museum-going audience attend history museums.
Most visitors go only once — or return with relatives when visiting.
Many experiences are boring, static, didactic, text-heavy labels, with no engagement because there is no personal connections.

History is competing with these: more engaging, immersive and technology-based:
1. Science/STEM; 2. Art; 3. Zoos and Aquariums. To change this: make history relevant and exciting to visitors.
– Keep current with technology
– Develop a diverse “customer base” (locals AND other visitors)
– Do community outreach programs
– Make it interdisciplinary and intergenerational
– Work in non-profit world: budgets, small circles, groupthink
– Boards of Director/manager/staff relationships with the community
– Integrating collections and archives appropriately
– Assess reactions from visitors honestly – be willing to change if didn’t work
– Public access: transportation, can your visitor afford it? physical/mental challenges

On defeat, frustration, the need to move forward
“I had to admit defeat occasionally – this paved way for later successful outcomes for entire projects.”

On doing history for the public
“Become an opportunist. Trust your gut – your intuition. Try things out to see if they work – if not figure out why – and try something else, or the same again over time.”

“Never ask for permission – ask for forgiveness later.”

“Push it…gotta push the envelope. We can’t afford to be traditional anymore. Use educational programming everywhere – all places.”

“Be diverse. Offer unique and different ways to learn. Must be inspiring and transformative. Constantly adapt to change and create change…offer what the public wants, need to find ways to support them. With today’s instant information, don’t over-analyze issues, just focus on experiences.”

“Outreach is critical – advertise and connect with communities. You must have public buy-in and participation. Cross-marketing, sponsors, creative outreach campaigns.”

“There is high competition for ‘entertainment dollars.’ Make history more like entertainment – engaging others, participation, interactive, engaging. Think out of the box with creativity. Multi-disciplinary: use everything to support history – and active!
art, music, science, plays, chemistry, match, ecology, energy, biology, wildlife, play, outdoor experiences, sensory. Try to have something for everyone, and change things up, be new and interesting.”

“How does the public perceive history and historians? That is key to visitorship. You must have ownership in one’s community, or if a visitor, ownership in the issues.”

On staffs and staffing, partner collaboration
“Leverage staff diversity and collaboration…create synergy with others, use frequent communication, no withholding.”

“Challenge of competent staff – finding people to do a good job. Senior staffs now are often 20+ yrs – don’t like change, not innovative, out of energy, but younger staff can be too confident, lacking in people skills and communication.”

“Be careful with investments and contracting… The public often does not want polish, they just want an experience, education. And remember…technology is good, but access, wi-fi, economics, who can use technology is still an issue in many areas and with some demographics.”

“Focus on nontraditional groups: vision impaired, hearing impaired, refugee cultures, languages, dyslexia…good history can be transformative for them.”

On strategic planning
“After three major efforts, it is best to plan minimally so adjustments can be made. Take risks and test your ideas out first – then plunge. Don’t pay high dollars for consultant firms: plans often sit on shelves, take too long, and are too costly to implement, mostly because there are good chances those advisors are people outside your spectrum who do not know truly your audience or benefactors.”

The Fallibility of Memory

Since we have talked about history and memory in class, thought possibly this would be of interest. The National Council on Public History posted it, by the way: Public History News Update – February 11, 2015

The fallibility of memories. In light of the recent controversy surrounding news anchor Brian Williams, this article from the New York Times reminds us how slippery and fuzzy the human memory can be. (And didn’t we talk about this memory thing before? Why, yes we did, in December. )

Was Brian Williams a victim of False memory? By Tara Parker Hope