Conservative History

Opinions are great, even if they differ from my own. However, blatant lies and twisting history is uncalled for. While not every article contained it, many of these articles used history as their playground. They climbed all over it and abused it in order to fit their political argument. When we read Chauncey’s articles, some were concerned with the evidence he used and said it was poor. While I did not like everything he said, and felt there were elements of his arguments that contained more opinion than fact, he at least included some sources.  Well for the majority of these articles I ask where is the evidence at all? Many of them contained no facts to backup their opinions. Without facts you have no argument. A lot of the articles contained hypothetical arguments such as if George Washington lived today he’d allow Americans to own any gun they wanted. Or that if Martin Luther King were alive today he’d stand next to Rush Limbaugh in protest of big government. I think it’s pointless to make a statement that someone who lived hundreds of years ago would agree with something you are doing today because it’s impossible to prove.


Allan Carlson used sources to backup his claims, however he used the same author for most of his evidence. He made a good point that FOX News contributes to the narrowing of thought and closes people off to a healthy debate. When you watch Hannity and O’Reilly, there is no debate. They are right and you are wrong and they prove this by shouting at you rather than providing facts and debating in a polite way. However, FOX should not be solely targeted. MSNBC is guilty as well, as is CNN. Like Chauncey said, the corporate media networks are not interested in telling the truth but are interested in viewers so they stir the pot. What is shocking is how many people believe their pot stirring statements.


Moving on to Carol Scott’s article on the Constitution. She claims there are only three types of Democrats when it comes to the Constitution: Those who don’t support it, those who sort of support it but secretly don’t, and those that do. First off, it’s more complex than that. Just because someone does not support every single piece of the Constitution does not make them anti-American, or against the Founding Fathers. She basically said that those who do not support the Constitution 100% do not understand the Federalist papers and are not supporters of the Founding Fathers, which is a simplistic and ignorant statement.  Her agenda is clear; to make Liberals seem anti-American and against the Founding Fathers, while at the same time make Republicans the true patriots carrying on the legacy of the founders. She stated the “so-to speak supporters” are misleading the public. What is her argument doing then? Exactly the same thing.


The Optimistic Conservative provided us with an article on how everything in this country is tied to God. While everyone is entitled to their religious beliefs, we are a country that was founded on the separation of Church and State. Meaning state should not influence religion, and religion should not influence the state. However, I feel the latter is not as condemned as the former. The rights in this country were created by men, not God first of all. Secondly, to clump all the founders in as Church going Christians is a misrepresentation of what they were. While the majority identified as Christians, to assume they all practiced the same way and with the same passion is, again, a generalization. We have freedom of religion in this country, which means saying this country was created under God (which means the Protestant version of God) is infringing on the rights of Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Taoists, etc. If government is not allowed to make decisions which infringe on religion, then why is religion allowed to make decisions which dictate legislation (abortion, gay marriage, creation taught in school, etc)? Seems hypocritical to me.


Ken Taylor’s article may have been the most biased out of the group. Not only did he include zero citations or evidence, but his argument is hypocritical. He blamed the liberals for using the founding fathers to back up their political claims, yet what is he doing in this article? The same exact thing. Not only is he taking words spoken by Washington out of context, he is forgetting that the second amendment stated guns should be available for a “well regulated militia.” A militia is not every single person who wants a gun. While the right to bear arms is clear, the right to bear any arm is not clear. He’s comparing the guns of 1776 to the guns of 2012? Sorry, but there is no comparison. I don’t agree when people say things like “Well George Washington would have agreed with me today” when they really have no idea what he would think. What would Washington’s reaction to the second amendment be if he saw we had automatic weapons, semi-automatic weapons, and clips that could hold 100 rounds? Even 30 rounds would seem like an assault weapon to him. I don’t think Taylor should be so confident that Washington’s reaction would be supportive of total gun freedom. He also said there has never been a successful case of gun control in any country, which is false. Australia instituted gun legislation after the massacre in Tasmania and haven’t had a massacre since. Before that, they saw eight massacres within the last thirteen years. Europe is another example where gun violence is down. So it has worked in other countries Mr. Taylor.


I am done rambling now, but for the majority of the articles I just found zero sources or facts to back up any claims. I found ignorance towards historical events from a lot of the articles. Not only did they use history to justify their political viewpoints, but they ignored historical evidence which countered parts of their arguments. Liberals are not exempt either. Both sides use history to their benefit. However, the hijacking of MLK really annoyed me. While they use the argument his niece said he was a Republican, his own son said not only was he not a Republican, he never voted for one in his entire life. Who is a more reliable source? His niece or his son? However, I get the impression it doesn’t matter who said it as long as someone did, which troubles me. If you don’t use critical thinking when faced with facts such as this, how can you be a historian? You can’t say he was a Republican because his niece said so when his son says otherwise.


While 100% objectivity is impossible, I feel that trying to be as objective as possible is attainable. Not only were a majority of these articles not objective at all, but there was not even an attempt. A lack of evidence hurt their arguments as well.  Hardly any of them used any statistics or facts to support what they said. While I didn’t disagree with everything they stated, the way they presented it turned me away. Had they brought in other arguments and considered them instead of the “I am right, you are wrong” argument, it would have helped. And yes, Ms. Bachmann is incorrect, the majority of the Founding Fathers owned slaves including Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Samuel Chase, John Hancock, and Benjamin Franklin.







Our Protected Heritage

King’s book really outlined a topic unfamiliar to me, and he explained his case pretty bluntly: something needs to change in the way sites are preserved and kept from developers. His experience, over 40 years apparently, with lawmaking for the environment, makes him very qualified to make the statements he does, especially about the various administrations which helped ruin environmental protection. The Bush administration, although I am not surprised, was treated quite harshly by King. However, I cannot blame him especially for the policies which ignored environmental protection (21). I don’t understand why environmental issues are tagged with negativity by certain people. These lands are important to us, this is the world we live in and if we don’t take care of it, how is that going to help future generations? I think it is a very selfish thing to only concern oneself with the present and not the future. I think King showed that level of selfishness when talking about the sponsors who only care about money, not what you can do for the environment. Like he said with that caption “Your project means the world to us!”, does it really? I have a hard time trusting lots of companies and administration because it seems their target is profit and taking advantage of people, when it really should be helping and making a difference.

But the one thing I really came away with from the book was how hard it is to get anyone to listen to you, if you are small time. If big companies want to do something, it is really hard to stop them. As seen from the situation in Abo Pass and Buckland, it’s difficult to stop development from occurring when they have the ear of the government. King pointed out that the system is corrupt, and I couldn’t agree more. However, corruption is pretty much everywhere, so it didn’t surprise me. I think he made a good point though on page 44, that they’ve grown so accustomed to corruption that they don’t even notice it. I think that is true at a lot of levels in historical protection and preservation. There is corruption both from the government in the sense that is the money really going to the project? And there is corruption with how they deal with developers. But with such a bleak outlook in stopping corruption, King makes it hard to feel like one can make a difference. I think if more of the public in America became involved, it could make a difference, but it’s hard for the little communities who are trying to stop developers from coming in to make a difference.


Historical Ignorance at its Finest

This weeks readings really touched a nerve with me. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s blatant ignorance and these articles were filled with examples of it. Staring with the articles concerning the celebration of the South’s secession, I knew the ignorance groups such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans had towards the Civil War. However, the public history and the education system in some of the southern states was appalling to me. The textbook situation in Virginia reaffirmed my viewpoint that Americans are not getting the truth, and this is not only in southern states, it’s happening nationwide. Textbooks come under fire in many states, either for their controversial passages such as the blacks fighting for the South, or because of a complete absence of important information such as slavery and the Native Americans. While Charles Pyle, the spokesperson of the Department of Education said because the book was approved didn’t mean they agreed with every sentence, shouldn’t they be more careful as to what books they allow? Although that is one part of the book, it’s an  inaccurate representation of a very important period in American history. Even if the teachers refused to teach that passage of the book, students are able to read it for themselves. There’s a reason many young people don’t see a problem with believing in conspiracy theories such as the 9/11 inside job, or the fake moon landings, and it’s because they’re being flooded with controversial and inaccurate information from textbooks, from television, and from the internet. While it’s impossible to eliminate inaccurate and controversial history, as historians we should do everything in our power to try and eliminate as much of it as we can.


Regarding the desire to reenact the South’s rise to power, I always find that troubling. Yes, it is their right to reenact it, but there are a lot of things I have the right to do, but that does not mean I do it, or should. As the article “They Have Blood on Their Hands” showed, they are celebrating slavery, bloodshed, rape, oppression, and racism by celebrating the rise of the Confederacy. What if the Nazis were allowed to recreate the Holocaust? Or what if, as a comment said on that article, if Muslims were allowed to reenact the events of 9/11? Is it not the same thing?


The article that really got me was the one on the class about the Founding Fathers. Lots of Americans love to use the Founding Fathers when it suits them in politics, however most of them who do that don’t understand the Founding Fathers at all. They have a warped view of them because of their political ideologies. Earl Taylor may mention that they wanted a separation of church and state, or that they wanted Americans to bear arms, but does he mention that Thomas Jefferson was a deist, not a Christian? Does he mention Washington’s warnings towards getting involved in foreign affairs, or his warning about the two party system? Does he mention how much Benjamin Franklin loved and admired France? Probably not because it wouldn’t fit with his political agenda, which I find happens a lot in this country when trying to debate someone who has already made up their minds about the Founding Fathers. I think it’s time we got our history right, instead of what we want it to be. As historians, it’s our job to put aside our political bias and teach history truthfully, which has been a problem for many years in this country.



Careers Reflection: Depressing? Not Really.

Some might get discouraged from the statistics shown by the BLS, but I was not one of them. I didn’t pick this degree because I wanted to be guaranteed a job, I chose it because I loved it. Although, I am certain that my career will be historical in some way, there are a lot of ways to go about that. As the American Historical Association showed, historian can find jobs in museums, publishing, academia, contracting, archives, preservation, etc. There are a lot of options for us, so we shouldn’t ever get discouraged and depressed when we hear it’s competitive. Getting a job anywhere is going to be competitive, it’s not unique to historians. Staying positive is going to get you a job a lot easier than if you are discouraged about it. Some of the readings actually encouraged me, such as the American Historical Association. Academia is one of the areas I am interested in finding a job, but the section on consultants and contractors really caught my attention. Working for the various entertainment outlets would be ideal. Also hiring myself out as a contractor to do historical research was another career which interested me. So the options are very open for historians in my opinion. Competition just means they are not going to allow anyone to get the job. You have to be proficient in your field, and you have to be passionate and dedicated. Competition weeds the less passionate, the less proficient, and the less dedicated out, so in a sense we should not get so discouraged from it.


The short articles from Stroh and Beatty provided good tips on how to achieve the goal of getting a historical job. Stroh said he looked for a positive outlook and enthusiasm. He wanted to hire those that wanted to learn. Companies don’t hire the down and outer, they hire the positive learner who wants to contribute, not complain. This is where being humble comes into play. Even experts in their fields don’t know every single thing about that particular field, every day is a learning process. I agree with Stroh that enthusiasm and a desire to learn are good things to look for when hiring someone for a historical job. I find that lots of people who do not enjoy history had unenthusiastic teachers. Even people who are not history buffs, or who had no interest in history before, enjoyed classes with enthusiastic professors, or enjoyed tours with enthusiastic guides and museum employees. Evoking that passion to those you are trying to educate really impresses them. Beatty showed me that I am on the right track in getting my MA because it places me above those competing for jobs without an MA. So while it can be easy to get discouraged by looking at those stats, it will only make the process worse. Staying positive and enthusiastic about your opportunities is the best way to make it in struggling job markets.

The $100 Startup

I found The $100 Startup to be a very informative, and helpful tool to use. For a while I’ve wanted to either start a record store, or start some sort of shop where people can hang out, drink and listen to vinyl records all day. The part on making your passion marketable really spoke to me because of that. Then I realized history is another passion of mine, and so by writing about history I am making my passion marketable, to a degree. However, the one part of this book that really jumped out to me was the importance of value. Providing a service for others, instead of simply wanting to cash in was one of the themes of this book. Instead of simply giving people what you want to give them, or what you think they should have, give them what they want, provide a service for them. As historians, that is a great goal to have in the sense that we should be helping others. While we shouldn’t give the people what they want all the time when it comes to history (since it will amount to Searching  for Sasquatch), providing a service is a good model for us to follow. It seems a lot of companies today are more interested in giving us what they want to give us rather than what we want, so I felt the portions of the book where he talked about providing a service was valuable. He did mention the importance of making money, which I agree with, but there was more than just making money.

Another reason I appreciated this book had to do with the uncertainty in the job market, so being more creative with your options opens your possibilities. With history there is no guarantee to making money once you get a degree, it’s helpful to learn other ways to put that degree to use besides finding a museum or a school to work for. It also encouraged me because it made me realize there are many options to pursue in your job hunt. You shouldn’t feel tied down to only one or two options, and making a passion like history become a career can be more accessible than many might realize. Guillebeau combined great advice and encouragement with an easy to understand approach.

Historic Preservation, Part II

Reading the chapters for this week showed me how much goes into historic preservation. Having no real background in it, I was amazed at how much goes into it, and how many different styles of it exist. Chapter seven gave a brief overview of the many styles of preservation. One thing mentioned in chapter seven that I important was “A guiding principle of good restoration practice is that an original element, even if in poor condition, is preferable to a replicated element (195). And a few lines later, the author took issue with Viollet-le-Duc’s interpretation that historic works should look how they were designed to be, which is confusing in itself. How many historic buildings that we take for granted as historic were altered to fit the designer’s assumption of what it should have been? There are a lot of recreated historic buildings in this country, how do we know if they are supposed to look that way or not? Examples spring to mind like Williamsburg and Jamestown. Sometimes the ruins are as important as the recreations. If Troy was reconstructed, or Knossos on Crete, would that really benefit more than the ruins? Although they are ruins, they are the original ruins. Should the Colosseum be renovated? I don’t believe so because you are taking away the originality of the building when you do that. If the Colosseum was rebuilt, it would not have been built in 80 CE, but in 2013. I think that is important to consider before jumping to the conclusion that we need a perfect visual of what the town, or building, looked like instead of the original foundations or ruins.


Another chapter that interested me was the chapter on historic significance, chapter five. The author proposed that McDonald’s is a historic building, and was added to the National Register (142). At first I was a little perplexed why McDonald’s of all places was historically significant. It’s one of many fast food restaurants in the country. Will Wal Mart and Best Buy become historic buildings on the National Register as well? I certainly hope not. However, I realized it represented something about life in 20th century America. Not only is McDonald’s popular, but it has become a part of our culture being one of the first fast food chains in America. Fast food, regardless of what one feels about it, is an important part of American culture. It represents the fast pace many of us live, and therefore is historically significant, for a positive or negative reason. Although I still find it odd to put it on the list, I understand in a way why it was added.

Wikipedia/Boise Wiki Reflection

I was a little unsure at first how to go about editing, or writing a new article for the Boise Wiki and Wikipedia. Having never done it before, I observed other posts first before contributing to see how the articles were generally written. For the Boise Wiki I wrote an article on stagecoach robber Talton B. Scott. For Wikipedia, I contributed to the article on La Hire, one of the French military leaders during the Hundred Years War, and one of Joan of Arc’s men-at-arms. I decided to do the one on La Hire because the portion on his military career had about three sentences, and he achieved much more than that so I wrote about the other battles and campaigns he was involved in.


The first thing I noticed about the Boise Wiki was the ease at which one could edit and figure out how to edit an article. It was not difficult at all to figure out. The articles varied in construction style. I noticed some used actual footnotes with a number, others were just sources listed  at the bottom of the page.  The articles I observed tended to be shorter in length than ones I found on Wikipedia. Creating a new article was very simple on there, and I got the feeling that it would be easier to deal with any problems that arose from the article. Overall, it was a good experience and I felt comfortable creating an article for the Boise Wiki.


Wikipedia made me a little more cautious because of the stories I’ve heard from the readings in class, to others who have told me they can be difficult to deal with. I wrote that article thinking it would get removed within a few days. However, so far the article and the changes I’ve made are still up, and I did not have any problems with the Wikipedia staff. The difference between Wikipedia editing and Boise Wiki editing was that Wikipedia’s editor was a lot more confusing. I had to look in the help section of Wikipedia to find how to insert sources. Apparently they use a code to insert the footnote with the sentence, so learning how to write all that and being able to see where the sources were in the article became confusing. It seemed the editing catered to computer savvy individuals, or those with computer code knowledge which makes it more difficult. Editing that article I just made it very descriptive, not analytical, which Wikipedia wants. I included sources from a variety of scholars and once I got the hang of the editing style, it became easy. I enjoyed the Wikipedia experience because I contributed to an article which was lacking in information.

When Wikipedia articles are constructed properly, using sources and accurate facts, I don’t see the problem with it. The article I edited had information that did not have sources attached to it, but the information was still correct. Analysis is not needed to make Wikipedia better, it is designed as a general encyclopedia for the public, and when I see articles with factual information, I think it is a success. While they may not include the most radical and sudden changes to the field of history, they do mention them if a group agrees.

After I completed the article on Wikipedia I kept checking to make sure my edits were still there, and they were. Besides the confusing nature of the editing, I had a hard time seeing how women felt editing Wikipedia excluded them. While it may not be a top priority of spending time, it did not seem to indicate women could not edit. I’d say the biggest turn off was the editing style, which was very confusing at first. Overall I found the process enjoyable and beneficial, almost as if I gave something back to the public. I think contributing to Wikipedia, when they have time, is a good activity for historians to get involved in because it is another form of bringing history to the public. It also brings history in ways the museum never could. The sheer amount of information located on Wikipedia could never be replicated in a museum. Wikipedia, while it is easy to read, does not “dumb it down” for the public like museums do, which in some ways makes Wikipedia (when properly cited and accurate) a more informative outlet for the public.





Historic Preservation

Reading the first few chapters of Historic Preservation really shocked me, specifically the second one. I had no idea Independence Hall was saved from demolition, a scary thought. Then again incidents such as that happen today. Norman Tyler stated in the introduction that Americans in the last few decades have become aware of the importance of our historic structures (11). However, when we live in a city where a large portion of downtown’s history was destroyed to make room for modern buildings, it’s hard to see his point. Boise’s example is not unique either. In Northern California, the small town of Coloma ,where gold was discovered in 1849, relies solely on dedicated volunteers. Many of the buildings are neglected within the area, and for a time it seemed Coloma was going to decay and be forgotten. Thanks to volunteers the town is still a tourist attraction and historic park. A building near Coloma called the Bailey Mansion along CA Highway 49 is neglected and has a sign on the fence that says “Save the Bailey Mansion.” The windows are boarded up, and the building looks like it could fall apart. Maybe a reason for this is, as Tyler pointed out, a lack of understanding as to the importance of the building. Yes, knowing what occurred within a building is an important part of history, however many buildings whose histories are unknown should not simply be torn down. So I have a hard time seeing how Americans have moved towards respecting their historic buildings when cities across the country have undergone demolishing historic buildings to create space for a  shopping mall, or something similar. Maybe there is more respect now than there was before, since in the 19th century the wilderness was the focus, but it still seems there is not enough respect shown to our historic buildings.

As the blog on Preservation Nation showed, many sites in Boise are in danger of being demolished, and almost all of those listed have been neglected to some degree. That only strengthened my opinion that Tyler’s statement seemed a bit false. How many people in Boise even know about those buildings, or even care? More specifically, how many young people know or care? However, there are times when demolition is necessary, but many of the buildings on the list, specifically the old courthouse, should be cared for. It is hard to expect people to save a building, no matter how old, if the significance of the buildings seems unimportant. In that regards, Tyler is correct because without a significant purpose, it’s just another building to many people. Tyler brought up another point about architecture. The architecture of the building is historic in itself because certain styles represented certain times. Even though a building may have been unimportant inside, outside it reveals  historical significance. For that reason alone many buildings should not be torn down.

I did appreciate that Tyler mentioned the Presidio, a site I have visited many times, and its important to the city of San Francisco. It’s a beautiful location where the citizens of the city can enjoy themselves in a historic environment. It should serve as an example, and hopefully it already has.


Reenactments and Wikipedia: A service or a disservice to history?

This weeks articles discussed two sources average people use to access history: the historical reenactment and Wikipedia. One of the questions that kept popping up while reading the articles was are they providing a service or a disservice to history? They are both two very different ways to access historical information, yet there seems to be a lot of controversy surrounding their relevance or their honesty to history.

The reenactors for example are providing viewers with a visual on what historic battles were like. Sure, they are able to get the tactics down, the look of the uniforms and the weapons, and they are able to recreate the sequence in which the battles took place. However, are they providing the public with valuable information? “Embedded with the Reenactors” seemed to say no, they are not. Nick Kowalczyk mentioned how the battle seemed to be just a lot of yelling, gunfire and smoke. Well, how does that contribute to a positive understanding of history? Sure, war is terrible, but it didn’t seem so bad to the little kid who kept pretending to kill enemies on a battlefield. That part really jumped out at me and made me question whether or not the reenactments of these brutal battles is a service or not. As Little pointed out in “The Limited (and Queer?) Vision of American Historical Reenacting,” we have plenty of brutal battles in today’s world with wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, why do we feel the need to recreate those of nearly 300 years ago? While battles are important as far as how they shape history or a specific war, how often is that conveyed to the crowd watching a group of men charge at one another with weapons? Something is lacking within reenactments, especially if the only thing that occurs is yelling, gunfire and smoke. Add to that the SCV’s song about killing Yankees,  and you have a public history source that seems to lack interpretation and any positive influence. If done properly, reenactments are an important tool in bringing history to the public.

Wikipedia is another source that, although has its own set of problems,  contributes both a positive and negative service to historical study. As “Define Gender Gap” showed, Wikipedia is a male dominated website. Definitely a negative aspect because women should contribute and should feel invited to contribute more. However, I don’t feel that it is a gender issue in the sense that men don’t want women to contribute, it’s just that women feel they are not welcome to contribute from what Cohen said. Instead of complaining about how “Sex and the City” has little detail on each episode, change that. There were no situations mentioned where a woman tried to edit something, only to be turned away because of her gender. There are many articles on Wikipedia that men find interesting that are short and lacking in sufficient information. Articles on  medieval warriors like La Hire and Jean de Dunois, who fought alongside Joan of Arc in the Hundred Years War, have articles with little information on them. I did not feel the issue had to do with a sexist editing policy adopted by Wikipedia, it had more to do with women not feeling comfortable doing it, which is a shame.

However, the issue of Wikipedia’s honesty was tackled by “The Undue Weight of Truth on Wikipedia” and Weighing Consensus.” I understood Timothy Messer-Kruse’s frustration and argument, however I side with Wikipedia on the issue for many reasons. While I understand his position on the events of the Haymaker riot was the correct one, he expected Wikipedia to allow him to edit their article by using his own sources to replace a majority view with a minority view? Yes, Wikipedia will state the sky is green if the majority say it is, however the minority is using their own works to state the sky is blue. As Famiglietti stated in “Weighing Consensus,” the scholar may have an ax to grind or is wanting to find a soap box to then rant off their biased viewpoint. By acknowledging the large body of work scholars have done on a certain subject, Wikipedia really is respecting scholars in the sense that they take what the majority of them say seriously. There are many scholars out there trying to promote a biased agenda, trying to grind that ax, and how can you tell which ones are honest or not? The Wikipedia editors have to deal with many self-proclaimed experts, many of whom are probably frauds or conspiracy theorists. Allowing one scholar to change what a majority of scholars have said, all while using his own source, could lead way to conspiracy theorists changing articles on 9/11, or the Holocaust, because they have sources as well. While Wikipedia is not the place for scholars or students to research history, it provides the general public with an overview of what scholars have said about a certain subject. In that sense, it is doing history a service by bringing a consensus on World War II or The Great Depression to the public.

Interview with Mary Cory

Here is my interview with Mary Cory, curator of the El Dorado County Historical Museum in Placerville, CA, and she is the secretary of the El Dorado County Historical Society.  I chose to interview her because I worked for the museum last summer. Her interview provided insight on working in a small town museum and the difficulties and opportunities that come with it.

What sort of education did you get in order to hold your current position at the museum?

 After college, I eventually got a job working as a paid guide at a historic house museum, and decided that I wanted to make museum work my career.  So, I got a masters degree in Museums Studies from The George Washington University in 1989.


How did you come to working at the current museum? What about that museum attracted you and made you want to work there?

After working in historic house museums, I was interested in working in a more general history museum.  This position was advertised nationally in a Museum publication (put out by the AAM) and so applied.


What projects are you currently working on?

The El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park, of which the El Dorado Western Railroad is a part of.   

Improving the condition of the artifact collection through inventories, re-housing, improving storage conditions, and most recently, the disposition (and deaccessioning) of objects found to be outside the museum’s mission or in poor condition.


In class we’ve been discussing how museums repatriate objects to those they belong to. Has your museum encountered this and if so how often? 

The museum had a human skull that was repatriated to a local Native American group in 1993, before I was here.  So far, no other objects have been identified to be repatriated. 


What do you want people to get out of the museum? What is it you want them to leave with?

More of an appreciation and interest in some, any or all aspects of El Dorado County’s history


In a digital society, how has technology affected the museum? What are the positive and negative aspects of it? Also, how have you incorporated that technology into the museum? 

The Museum has a large collection of historical photographs.  Starting in about 2003, equipment was purchased through a grant to digitize the entire collection of photographs, and to create a catalog.  This was completed in a couple of years, and now all new photographs are scanned and added to the database.

Certainly, keeping complex information in a digital format, such as in a database or a spreadsheet has helped make the information more accessible.  An example is a spreadsheet of all the burial permits issued in El Dorado County.  Genealogists are looking for that information, and the spreadsheet makes it much easier to find.  

However, we continue to use and add to our extensive (low tech) Master Index Card Catalog.  This was started by volunteers in the mid-1970s and has yet to be digitized.  So far, it continues to serve its purpose.

Because I am dependent on volunteers for all of these projects, I do not always have a guarantee that the volunteers, usually older and not very computer literate, will be able to use or contribute to these digitizing projects.  As a result, I’m careful about committing time, money, and energy to a project that may not get completed if it requires a high level of technical know-how.


What aspects of the museum would you like to change in the near future? What are some of the obstacles preventing you from doing that?

More covered or enclosed space  – space to exhibit and store artifacts, space to store archives and create a public reading room (currently our public space is in the middle of the storage space), and covered space for the outside artifacts, more enclosed space for the El Dorado Western Railroad program for storage, restoration and maintenance.  I guess the main obstacles for creating all of this space is the money to build it, and the personnel to plan it. 


What kinds of skills are applicants expected to have for an entry-level position as a curator?

 I focused my master degree classes on Collections Management.  I wish I had taken more classes on planning and installing exhibits.  The degree helped me get an entry level job as the manager of a house museum, and after a few years, I was promoted to Curator of Collections.


Do you get many donations from visitors and from the community? 

All new acquisitions have come to the Museum as donations.  We get, on average, one or two offers of artifacts a week.  We probably, on average, accept about half of what we are offered.  Money donations come in as a $2 request at the door.  Most people seem very willing to give that.


How has the city of Placerville helped draw attention to the museum, if it has at all?

I can’t think of anything the City has done.  The County Chamber of Commerce (located in Placerville) distributes our brochure, has a link on their website, and will include a blurb about the County Museum in their annual visitors guide. 


What project did you enjoy working on the most?

Recently, I worked with another volunteer on researching and installing two historical quilt exhibits at the County Museum with quilts from the Museum’s collection that have been in storage for many years.  We found one crazy quilt with a ribbon sewed into it that commemorated the coming of the railroad to Placerville in 1888. 


What advice do you have for those interested in the field?

Jobs are so hard to come by.  Volunteer in the type of museum or historical agency that you would like to work for.  Also, volunteering in a larger organization that has some turn over in positions may put you in a better position to get a job there.


What are some of the challenges of your job?

As the only paid person, I’m dependent on volunteers to get the jobs done that I determine are priorities.  However, volunteers come to the museum with a certain set of skills and usually an idea of what they want to do….which may not fit my priorities.  So – staying flexible has been very important in order to take advantage of the people that do volunteer and are reliable and dedicated.


Would you say the museum operates from a business perspective or no?

Since this is a County supported museum, I don’t need to make enough money to fully support the operation.  However, in the past few years, the county budget has been slashed, so now the county covers my salary and basic building support and pays for the utilities.   Our non-profit support organizations have stepped up and funded the Museum’s expenditures above and beyond the county’s support.  The Museum’s Book Store and photo sales, along with the train ride donations, keep these programs, like the El Dorado Western Railroad going. We are trying to operate this in a more business-like manner.


How is the museum funded?

County General Fund, grants, and through the fund raising efforts of the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation and the El Dorado Museums Foundation, the County Museum’s two non-profit support organizations.


Before curator, what other experience did you have with museums?

Guide, Visitor Services Administrator, William Paca House Manager, Curator of Collections for Historical Annapolis Foundation.  My position here is “Museum Administrator” which is equivelent to Director, and includes Curator, Museum Education, Registrar, Volunteer Coordinator, etc.


What are the positive and negative aspects to working in a small town museum?

Positives are having an opportunity to get familiar with all aspects of museum work.  Negative is not having other professional support at hand.


Do you feel the museum is appreciated enough by the public? If not, why do you think that is?

Yes – we can always use more appreciation, but what has always impressed me is the interest and pride I see in the public that does visit.  What we could use is more publicity in order to increase the museum’s visitation. 


How has the museum improved since you first started out there?

One important improvement is I wrote and implemented the museum’s first Collections Management Policy.  That greatly improved the process for accepting artifacts.  It has allowed us to refine the museum’s collection so it reflects the mission of the museum.  


Why do you think it’s so important to bring history to the public?

Having an appreciation of local history helps a community have pride in itself, and museums are a focus for that history, and can have a very positive effect on what is now called “quality of life.”   That’s a somewhat pat answer to what is very hard question to articulate.  The connection that we feel to “history” whether it’s our own or someone else’s, provides an important foundation to understanding the world around us….


What is one of the biggest challenges when setting up a new exhibit? Are you worried about how visitors will interpret it? What goes into the process of creating an exhibit?

For me, the biggest challenge is having enough dedicated time to work on it!  It’s what I enjoy, and I always want to spend more time researching.  My exhibits tend to start with an idea that is inspired by the artifacts, then doing the research, then selecting and arranging the artifacts and then creating the labels and graphics. 

As far as how visitors interpret it, I’m usually looking for something that will trigger their interest and try to convey what makes it interesting to me. 


Is there any other museum you would like to work for and why?

Sometimes I think it would be fun to work for a large museum with many departments and specialties, in order to have a chance to really focus on a particular skill or specialty of knowledge (like being the curator of a particular department at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.)

Another “what if” is working in an art museum with a collection of European Masters.  My undergraduate degree is in Art History, and if my first paying museum job out of college had been as a guide in an art museum….