There are several things I liked in Nancy Proctor’s presentation. First, I thought her emphasis on the experience and content of using mobile devices in a museum setting, instead of just concentrating on the technology was insightful. I think it can be easy to get wrapped up in the latest and greatest technology and as a result, lose sight of the purpose behind using the technological platform. The second topic that provoked me to think was Proctor’s emphasis on using mobile devices to facilitate conversation, instead of mere interpretation. I think mobile devices can be wildly successful at bringing people together and produce a truly wonderful collaborative product.
As far as the my group’s and my project, I think one of the advantages of using a mobile devices is, as Proctor mentioned, that it really can bring people from a variety of backgrounds together. Our project brings a face to a local farm through a mobile device and it caters to a “niche” of people in the Treasure Valley. One of the hardships I think that a mobile device brings to the project is that some farmers can be wary of its use in relation to their trade.
Like many of my classmates I think using mobile devices in classes is a good idea in theory. Like others mentioned, it can turn into a distraction rather than a learning tool. One thing I think BSU should look at (if they choose to push mobile device usage in classes) is there demographic. There is a sizable amount of non-traditional students and some (but certainly not all) might struggle with the application of mobile devices. I’ve encountered some who struggle with BroncoWeb or Blackboard, so if BSU did choose to push mobile devices they need to take the necessary precautions to make sure they educate all students on their usage. That being said I think the use of mobile devices in public history projects are fantastic, especially as Proctor pointed out, if they are targeted at niche topics people enjoy.
Like many of my classmates I too struggled with the acronym laden text. Despite this I enjoyed King’s organization of the text, using specific examples to explain the multitude of difficulties that face those attempting to preserve both natural and historic environments. This being said, like Anna, I would have REALLY liked at least one positive experience or example.
Something that struck me while reading was what seemed to be an immense lack of understanding when it comes to landscapes by government entities. I’ll admit that my knowledge of landscapes was limited before Everyday America at the beginning of the semester, but I would expect much more (perhaps foolishly) from programs and people whose job is to essentially preserve cultural and natural landscapes. The lack of knowledge on landscapes is quite frightening to me and makes me think more should be done to educate the populace on the importance of landscapes.
I thought King’s discussion on cumulative effects on the environment was especially well done. Many people are not conscious of what their actions can do to environment and the startling ramifications they can have.
Lastly, I couldn’t help but think that not all employees working in the bureaucracy are pleased with the procedures that are in place. As King writes on page 142 some professionals working in EIA or CRM are “just going to keep on keepin’ on” because as mentioned they could be flipping burgers. Even with all of King’s brimstone and fire, when it really comes down to it, I find myself in an ethical dilemma. When I get out of college and have to start paying off the student debt, I don’t know that I could resist a job even if it required me to sell my soul the black hole of bureaucracy. I mean is fighting the good fight worth a diet of Top Ramon? These are the type of questions that keep me up at night. And on those awful nights when I really start spinning out of control, I put on City High’s “What Would You Do?” and remember, life could be a whole lot worse.
First things first, I am a proud Eastern Eagle alumni on this Friday night. Larry Cebula (public historian at Eastern Washington University) did a truly fantastic job dealing with the mis-information presented at the Baron Von Munchausen Historic Home. He exemplified what it was to be a public historian by respectfully pointing out where the museums “facts” should be corrected. When working with the public it takes a certain tone and I believed he achieved it in his open letter.
As far as the response back from the curator…I had a mixed bag of reactions.
First, I thought to myself, “This is what I am signing up for. This is the reality of what I will be facing on the front lines of public history.”
Second, I came to the realization that this is exactly what I want to do. The curator’s response all but validated the need for fundamentally trained public historians. Cebula said it well in the comments section, “someday there will be a changing of guard” and as naive as it might seem I’m excited to be a part of it.
I anticipate in class that discussion on how the public can damage history will be addressed. I personally struggle with this. Yes, pseudo-history is simply disgraceful and should be smacked down WWE style. But as far as volunteerism and interpretation—I believe the public should be there, helping out, being active. You can’t simply say history is for historians. That’s like saying “seats taken” to Forrest Gump on the school bus. But on the other side of the coin, is no interpretation better than bad or or just plain wrong interpretation? I guess I will have to continue to work out my public history philosophy.
To conclude this overly verbose post, I’ll make my pithy comment on the Virginia textbook. Lauriann is correct, there is a serious issue with peer-review and even more so with people failing to do their jobs. As historically flawed as Masoff is, unfortunately, she can write whatever she so chooses…I mean she is “fairly respected.” The fact that his book passed through boards and committees is just embarrassing.
 What does this even mean? If someone asks what type of birth control you use, do you respond, the “fairly respected” kind? This simply baffles me.
I’ll admit it. I was duped.
But then I started to think about why I was duped. It wasn’t so much the information, because obviously the students did an excellent job researching to support their hoax, it was how the information was delivered to me. In the comments section of the edwired.org entry someone articulated what I could not…trust networks. The source of information matters a great deal. I’m a skeptical person by nature but the fact that Dr. LMB assigned this reading and it was on our syllabus I automatically thought this was legitimate.
I think the ethical dilemmas The Last American Pirate project raises are relevant and extremely important to the Public History field, especially when trying to define the practice of public history.
For the readings this week I have two suggestions…the first is an article on the same website Tabatha suggested everyone check out. It is about funding public history through grants (as you might guess from the title).
My other suggestion is a visit to the Washington Women’s History Consortium. It is a really fun site to explore, it has digitized collections from a number of universities and museums in Washington, thematic collections, oral histories, and lots of resources. You can explore at http://washingtonwomenshistory.org/.
Once again I found the assigned chapters in Historic Preservation both interesting and informative. I specifically enjoyed chapter 11 with its discussion on heritage tourism and areas as well as cultural and natural landscapes. The case study on the Illinois & Michigan National Heritage Center was of particular interest to me with its explanation of a “hybrid model” in respect to “park development and management” (333). I think the idea of a cooperative agreement to manage a heritage site is integral to a sites success. It promotes participation from a number of agencies and people who offer a diverse set of skills. Additionally, it negates a narrow preservation or interpretative ideology. While the book provided an excellent example of how a partnership can excel, I would have liked a bit more discussion on what difficulties collaborations often face. Cooperative agreements require a great deal of patience and I can image not all achieve their ultimate goal. Furthermore, relationships might be strained or broken if an agreement took a turn for the worse.
On a different note, while I was delighted with most of the book’s content I was disappointed with its lack of footnotes on specific sections. Selfishly (for my thesis project), I would have liked references in chapter nine under the section of “Urban Growth Boundaries and Rural Preservation” and also in chapter 11 in respect to heritage interpretation associated with natural landscapes.
I’ve always been interested in historic preservation and was thrilled when we were assigned this book. So far it has been an excellent introduction into the field and has provoked quite a bit of thought.
At first I was slightly taken aback when in chapter one there was a brief discussion about Clem Labine and his “seminal article from 1979 titled ‘Preservationists Are Un-American’” (12). While I think Labine was slightly over top in his rhetoric, there is some merit behind what he is saying about our society’s mentality. I agree that culturally, some Americans abide by the traditional “pioneer way…to use it up [and] throw it out” (12). I often find myself fighting tooth and nail with Parks and Recreation with their seemingly never-ending desire to tear down historically relevant structures to put in a skate park. It’s not a threat; it is a promise when I tell them I will chain myself to the Jensen Farm House if they attempt to tear it down. (After all, my mother promised the same thing to protest nuclear submarines first arriving at Bangor Base in Silverdale, Washington. Ironically, her future husband and my father, was working on those same nukes she was protesting, thus exemplifying my strange childhood.) Nevertheless, chapter one brought to light the frame of mind some Americans have to look only to our future, while not sufficiently consulting the past.
I also thought the section of the differing philosophies of preservation was fascinating. The discussion cemented my wanting to research into the different philosophies and contrasting two for my final paper. I think the research will prove beneficial in defining my own preservation philosophy and also provide an avenue to find the philosophy that best suits my thesis project.
I also found the terminology of all the preservation political entities at the local, state, and federal levels as well as their roles were extremely helpful for anyone attempting or thinking about getting funding for a project.
The chapter that resonated the most with me this week was chapter 8, “Southwestern Environments as Hyperreality: The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.” Luke brings up a valid and important point when he discusses the dangers of romanticized (or hyperreality) landscapes and how it can encourage the destruction of authentic nature. While Luke seems to think the very idea or attempt to preserve a natural landscape is ludicrous, I think it’s admirable. Perhaps I’m naive but I can’t imagine Arthur Park and William Carr set out for the result that the museum would perpetrate a false image of the Sonora Desert and thus result in widespread development and urban sprawl. Like last week, Luke’s dissection of this particular example, like a 3-2 zone in basketball, only made me want him to concede just a little and provide an example where this type of preservation was successful.
Going back to Park and Carr and the development of the museum, the fact that the museum was built in close respect to a park made me wonder if park politics were at play. Park management and administrators can sometimes wear “park goggles” (like tunnel vision) and can concentrate on issues they deem supremely important e.g. picnic tables. It would have been interesting if this impeded the original vision Park and Carr had for the Desert Museum.
On a completely different note, I think Museum Politics as a whole could have greatly benefited from the use of photographs to supplement the text. In describing the Desert Museum and the Holocaust Museum it would have behooved Luke to include some visual evidence instead of relying solely on his unique turn of phrase.
Timothy Luke’s book, Museum Politics, intellectually pushed me this week. Despite having a love for museums and attending them across the US and Europe, I never thought or viewed them through a political ideological lens. While Luke’s stylistic approach was rather combative, he brings up relevant questions and issues in regards to museums, culture representation and history.
The two readings that resonated with me were chapter one, “Politics at the Exhibition” and chapter two, “Nuclear Reactions.” These chapters prompted me to ponder how one could successfully balance a national narrative of celebration with a new social history methodology that brings forth untold or formerly unwanted stories. Luke provided ample examples of where exhibitions were unsuccessful at this bridging, but I wonder if there are instances where this was successfully done. And if so, what were their strategies or techniques? More than anything these readings encouraged me to think about what kind of methods have previously been employed and what can be learned from them. It seems more than anything both sides of the cultural spectrum need to be open to opposing interpretations, and energy should be put forth toward solving the problem, not running farther to the left or the right.
A side thought of mine this week was about history in our public school education. Chapters one and two made think about whether or not our education system is facilitating a variety of historical perspectives, e.g. Japanese WWII perspective. Surely introduction of historical diversity would foster the ability to cognitively understand the importance of coupling celebrative and realist perspectives. Wishful thinking, perhaps.
The beginning of my road in respect to the readings this week began with Stanford’s “The Spatial History Project.” Without a shadow of doubt the Project, specifically “Shaping the West,” is an innovative and inventive public history project. The theoretical underpinnings of spatial history are fascinating and the methods they employ in their research are fresh and interdisciplinary. That being said, I couldn’t help but be annoyed. Perhaps it was the BSU chip on my shoulder reading about Sanford research and becoming green in the face with funding envy. But more likely it was passages like “We can use sources that historians would normally pass over as too dense and opaque or as too hard to merge with more literary data” that made me want to send a copy of Resurrecting the Granary of Rome to the “lab.” (For those of you who were not in History 500 last semester the author coupled “literary data” with cultural landscape paintings as source material.) In a field where thesis and dissertation topics are becoming more obscure the use of dense and opaque source material is not an option, it is essential.
If the beginning of the road was like heartburn, the end of the road with Scott W. Berg’s Washington Post article was the Prilosec antidote. What was so refreshing about this piece was the idea that historical scholarship and methods were the driving force instead of technology. The StarTrek emulating Bailey said it well, “it isn’t the technology that’s driving the history, but the other way around.” After exploring apps and brainstorming platforms for the public history project I was beginning to get bogged down in the technological aspects and paying less attention to the historical research. This article helped me realize there are endless technological platforms for a history project but the content of the material is the most important factor. In a word the article grounded me. For the last five years of my higher education I’ve been trained to be a historian. I sleuth, I write, I rewrite, I cite and I cite some more. Technology is a means to convey to a larger audience what I find mind-blowingly fascinating. Public history is still history, perhaps just with an edge.