From Privates to Presidents

Reading the article From Privates to Presidents by Lenore T. Barbian and Paul S. Sledzik provided details on how the deceased of our land are preserved and studied. I liked how the article discussed various aspects regarding how human remains are reviewed and researched and how anatomical subjects are displayed and protected by museums and researchers. Barbian and Sledzik make statements throughout the article from various museums and experts about how human remains are studied, such as the remains of presidents and Civil War soldiers studied for historical significance. The article also discussed how humans respond differently to human remains depending on their cultural beliefs, where some people find it disgusting and others find it fascinating.  Particularly sacred is the study of ancient skeletons that are protected by the The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), or the bodies of Catholic Saints that are preserved in reliquaries. One question that historians and archaeologists ask themselves is, “What are human remains?” According to the article, the word known as “remaneo,” means “to remain behind.” Only a few groups of individuals in the field of history study human remains. In the National Museum of Health and Medicine’s (NMHM) Anatomical Collections section, the museum has spent over two decades studying the remains of several humans from different cultures. The NMHM of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology is among the few museums in the country that currently collects human remains, and puts them on exhibit for the public. This museum participation gives valuable awareness to studies on human remains, for both museum visitors and workers on how body parts of deceased individuals are preserved.

Another study on remains would be described in the anatomy study of the remains of President Abraham Lincoln. I believe that if people read this, they will discover how examining the bodies of many historic individuals could benefit both history and medicine. After Lincoln’s death, pathologists Colonel Joseph Woodward and Major Edward Curtis, who served under U.S. Army Surgeon General J.K. Barnes performed an autopsy of the deceased president’s remains. Their studies of Lincoln’s body appears in Medical and Surgical History, where modern medicine professionals examine their findings on the gunshot wound in Abraham Lincoln’s skull, which aids in research for several others cases involving similar assassinations. The specimens of Lincoln’s body recovered from the autopsy have become a vital piece of American history, crucial to American culture, including bone fragments from Lincoln’s skull and some strands from Lincoln’s hair.

Civil War studies have become a fascination in historic examinations and medical autopsy studies. The Civil War collection of deceased people is quite significant for the number of relatives of the departed that come to visit the displayed exhibits. I think that those who come to see their long dead relatives at this exhibition brings some family connections to the museum.   “Although researchers interested in military medicine or military history often use the collection, the most intriguing requests come from families with stories about great-grandpa’s leg in Washington.” (Barbian and Sledzik) Military studies of the dead are quite the historic topic, as I have read in many textbooks and seen on many websites.  Americans are very respectful of those who have served our country bravely and lost their lives.  Because of that, there is a great emphasis on finding soldiers who are did not come home so, “Millions of dollars are spent in the search for and identification of soldiers who remain missing in action.” According to the writings of Barbian and Sledzik, a famous man of the soldiers to serve in the Vietnam War who was identified in the Tomb of the Unknowns, as a result of DNA analysis, is Michael Joseph Blassie. In 1991, thanks to the development of identification technology, extraction and amplification, by the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL),  his remains were correctly identified and he was given a proper burial in his hometown with his family in attendance.  The peace of mind and comfort that this brought to Blassie’s family as well as many other families who lost loved ones in horrific wars, was worth the cost of the Civil War specimens.

In conclusion, Barbian and Sledzik state “museums, as the stewards of history, have a commitment to maintain biological materials.” This statement I reason to be true because these facilities preserve and display the historical antiquities, such as the bodies of those who have passed, and without them we would not be able to understand the lessons of the past, and the lives of the men and women who existed before us. The ethical questions that surround the research and display of human remains will continue to challenge us as human beings, medical researchers, and historians.  Barbian states “denying the visitor access to these materials denies them knowledge of themselves.”  It is of tremendous importance that we insure that the bodies of the departed be cared for, by their families or the government willing to protect them.

Unprotected Heritage


I found the book Our Unprotected Heritage, written by Thomas F. King, to be quite informative and enjoyable. The first chapter of the book mentions the “Bright Green Laws,” (King, 11) or environmental laws that tells how any sort of impact on the environment, no matter how little, can create a pollutive mess. The laws include the “Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)” (11) from 1976 and the Clean Air Act. These laws provide the Environmental Protection Agency the means with which to prosecute violators or polluters.  For example, the “Superfund Law,” or the “Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)” which became law in 1980 really gave the EPA the authority and ability to fine companies or individuals who violated environmental standards and they were able to collect hefty fines or serve jail time. The author focuses on what he refers to as “Light Green Laws,” which are primarily directed at federal agencies, and are “self-enforcing,” and rarely include fines or prison sentences. (12).  Two of the most notable of the light green laws is the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) or, as he refers to them, the “heritage laws.” (13) I find the NHPA one of the most impactful laws in regard to historic preservation with Section 106 requiring “agencies to think and consult about their impacts on historic places . . .” (20).  Section 106 has also been useful in addressing environmental impact concerns, such as the case of Abo’ Pass near Albuquerque, New Mexico and helping the Buckland Preservation Society from urban sprawl.  The author criticizes the Bush Administration’s “scorn for environmental protection.” (21) If the current administration’s budget defunding the EPA goes through, our environment is in for a big hit.

Some interesting details in Chapters 3 and 4, I found the descriptions of their contents to be enlightening in understanding impacts on heritage. “In trying to preserve the village of Buckland and the Buckland Mills Battlefield, the Buckland Preservation Society (BPS) involves itself in NHPA and NEPA review mostly through two federal agencies.” (49) The Federal Highway Administration and the Corps of Engineers were two agencies that assisted in both of these significant projects in improving traffic and exercising the Clean Water Act in regards to wetlands.  Chapter 8 summarizes five criticisms from the author and I share his criticism.  The first being that firms are more than likely biased because they are part of the “planning team.” Secondly, instead of looking at it as a process, many firms just want to obtain “clearance.” (141)  The third criticism deals with the fact that the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the Advisory Council on Historical Preservation (ACHP) are lacking in power and any degree of enforcement.  The fourth issue deals with the complete lack of “transparency in the review systems,” and a questionable use of influence. (142) Last, but not least, is the unfortunate result of acceptance of the status quo and the inability to promote change for the betterment of EIA and CRM.  In King’s condemnation about the ineffectiveness of agencies whose primary purpose is for environmental protection and historic preservation, he cites “ignorance and unexamined assumptions,” as the reasons for “agency bias in favor of development . . .” (69) He cites government agencies which try to approach projects, listed on the National Register, that would require EIA and CRM with the same timelines and ease as if they were buying paper towels.

NEH Grants


After reading the website of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), I can see how the organization has been an incredible resource and instrumental in the support of advanced research of scholars. The fellowships sponsored by the NEH provide the necessary support for academic intellectuals to pursue their interests throughout the world. The NEH provides invaluable resources for the public such as books, magazines and digital information used to educate the public and other scholars and educators, promoting collaborative research. The NEH fellowship program is highly competitive and grant proposals are awarded after thorough consideration from applicants.  Over the past five years, the NEH granted 80 fellowships from an average of 1,178 grant applications. There have been so many extraordinary contributions to the NEH over the years from historical research into Women’s Suffrage to the Iberian Peninsula.  The NEH provides such a wealth of information and historical research and, instead of funding cuts, they should be given a funding increase.

Susan Stanford Friedman, an English professor and author, wrote in her article, “Writing Effective Grant Proposals,” that grant proposals are making an exceptional contribution on the study of humanities.  She encouraged the grant writer to “think big” and “paint the big picture.”  She felt it was important to step back from the proposed project and look at it from a wider perspective in order to encompass a varied direction.  The fact that many grant proposals in humanities studies do not make it through is what I find disturbing because there is so much to the decision on whether or not to accept the grant.  She encouraged grant applicants to show the purpose of their research and not use phrases such as “I will argue,” but use “I will explore” instead.  After all, the purpose of the grant is to research and find a conclusion.  If the researcher already has a conclusion, then it is, as she states, the research is already completed.  Friedman states in her summary, “Read and follow all specific instructions carefully. Avoid multiple submission of the same proposal to agencies that are looking for different kinds of things.” She strongly encourages the grant writer to be “declarative,” and use action phrases such as, “I will” and “I plan,” which will lead to a more successful grant proposal.

Meredith Hindley, a writer for Humanities, wrote her informative article “How to Get a Grant from NEH,” after obtaining invaluable insight and information from various programs in order to succeed.  She included one phrase that was so obvious but yet so necessary.  Hindley suggests the important question to grant applicants, “Does my project have a strong humanities component?” That question emphasizes more knowledge than it implies.  Hindley quotes the NEH legislative document that says, “The term ‘humanities’ includes . . . language . . linguistics; literature; history; jurisprudence; philosophy; archaeology; comparative religion; . . . the arts.” Grant proposals will only be awarded to those applicants who demonstrate a powerful focus on humanities.

Due to the growth and evolution of digital era, the NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant is a grant that supports “digital projects throughout their life cycles, from early start-up phases through implementation and long-term sustainability.” With collaboration with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, these grants will help to preserve, archive and make available “digital collections and services,” which would be tremendous resources for scholars as well as the public.

Historians in Business


I have to come to see that historians play an incredibly important role in both the field of history as well as in the world of business. After reading the online source, “Historians as Consultants and Contractors” by the American Historical Association (AHA) on the website, I can imagine the idea that historians can serve our country best as consultants or even contractors in the ever-growing community of business and trade.  Expertise in navigating the bidding process and the requirements of Section 106 are essential for professional contractors.  Few individuals in business such as corporate executives or Chief Executive Officers have knowledge of the field of history, and I believe that those who conduct big business can benefit from people who have spent their lives studying past events and historic figures, and that knowledge can aid individuals in the modern age, such as the business deeds of the tycoons who lived during the Gilded Age. Historians even find their services needed in movies, such as documentaries, dramas, and even programs like edutainment; entertainment media designed for educating the viewers, with the digital age becoming a huge resource for research and project development.

I found Tyler Rudd Putman’s article in to be quite entertaining honest and informative about the challenges of finding work post-Master’s.  Putman’s story about how he spent ten years of his life making clothes for museums and other historical institutions while looking for other work showed his resourcefulness and dedication.  Putman is a true academic in that despite his education and experience continues to study and learn. I can appreciate his challenge in finding a “real job” that left him in a situation of falling “back on what [he] knew,” which was sewing historical garments for museums and reeenactors. That passage sent a message about how difficult it is for historians to find work and is an excellent example of how we need to be creative. Putman said that today most specialists in the fields of professional work are mostly “self-taught.” I feel that should be applauded as an inspiration for the next generation of experts in all fields, including history. Putman took to heart what he did for a living while looking for a position in the field of history, and became a tailor, in which he could hand sew a garment to look like it came from a certain historical period. In my opinion, I would say that Putman’s activities as a historical tailor can provide an experience to the public about history, about perseverance and about utilizing the research and education skills of historians.

TAG Historical Research is a company I explored as they do historical research for several clients such as cities and other government entities, historical preservation committees, as well as individuals.  Their background in historic research and work is impressive and their expertise in Section 106 documentation has been very beneficial for their clients.  TAG Research has completed a “National of Register of Historic Places nominations for individual buildings and historic districts.” Their staff is predominantly women and they have been in business since 1993.  One of the interesting services that TAG Research provides is the development and implementation of tours.  Another interesting service is researching and providing the historical information for particular homeowners. With Boise having so many well-preserved homes dating back to the 1800’s, as well as historic commercial buildings such as the Central Fire Station, there is a wealth of history in Boise.

Public practice of history

The webpages that I read suggested a few good points about how history should be getting preserved, and how it should be taught to the public. The first of the web pages to discuss would be Kowalczyk’s “Embedded wth the reenactors,” in which the author Nick Kowalczyk, describes the details of the reenactment of the French and Indian War’s battle from July 6, 1759. Kowalczyk, a professor at Ithaca College and a journalist, provides us with a tremendously insightful view of the reenactment held 250 years later in Fort Niagara State Park. The reenactment itself is “the largest event of its kind in the world.” (Kowalcyzk, Embedded with the reenactors).  His description of the people involved and the detail and planning that goes into such an event is very interesting.  Nick writes, “its not every 4th of July you get to be around nearly 3,000 people inhabiting an amalgam of time, especially in a place as lovely as Fort Niagara State Park.” Kowalczyk then shifts the discussion from reenacting famous battles to discussing the Sovereignty Day of Iraq, and the state of our government as President Obama worked to stabilize the American economy and work toward nationwide affordable health insurance.  One of the participants summed up the significance of the Siege of Fort Niagara from the French and Indian War by saying, “This battle here is the reason today we ain’t speaking French.”

Ann Little’s “The limited (and queer?), vision of American historical reenacting” examines much of the substance of Kowalczyk’s piece and questions the reenactors’ desire to reenact the battles of the North American past. Little describes Kowalczyk’s article as “noteworthy” primarily due to the fact that “they’re not Civil War reenactors, they’re reenactors of the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) . . .” Little also questions why people would want to reenact wars from centuries ago when there are currently wars going on in present day.  Little describes in her own words, “the reenactors seem a little strange, even almost ‘queer’ for their love of reliving the past and their feelings of always being out of time in the present.” Little is trying to determine whether it is normal or sane to relive the lives and times of the people and events that have played out in the form of war and despair.  She also discusses the fact that most reenactors are middle aged, white guys and questions this heavy male-gender activity.  She has apparently attended many reenactments from civil war to Boston and is impressed with the amount of research and expertise that the reenactors have accumulated.

Kevin M. Levin’s web page in the Atlantic further bridges more information on how reenactors of the battles of American history, and public engagement in history is linked. Levin discusses how the Sons of Confederate Veterans, which marches around and yells phrases like, “Kill Yankees,” may be alienating many people from younger generations. Levine states the Sons of Confederate Veterans may have a “preferred view of history flies in the face of the last 40 years of serious scholarship . . .”  (Levine, Why Doesn’t Anyone Think it’s Cool to Dress Up Like a Confederate Soldier Anymore?)

Noam Cohen also addressed gender in his article “Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List” web article on the New York Times. Cohen says, “less than 15 percent of its hundreds of thousands of contributors are women.” It is very important for Wikipedia to have more female contributors to effect balance and perspective.

Timothy Messer-Kruse’s article, “The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth” on Wikipedia details his in-depth expertise on the Haymarket Riot and Trial of 1886, in particular. Messer-Kruse discusses the “undue weight” policy, which states that “articles should not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views.” Even though his information is correct, it is the “minority” view” as Wikipedia goes along with the views of the majority.  In response to Messer-Kruse’s criticism of Wikipedia, Famiglietti actually argues against Messer-Kruse’s contention that “Wikipedia [has a] lack of respect for scholars,” and contends that Wikipedia is, instead, “holds a deep respect for a collaborative scholarly process . . . “.  Famiglietti believes that such collaboration is more “capable of producing ‘truth’ than any individual scholar.”  Wikipedia is also guarding against vandals or incorrect editing.


Historic Preservation Part 2

I found the reading in Historic Preservation Part 2 to be enlightening and educational, especially in regards to laws and legal cases that have dealt with historic preservation. The discussion between preserving historical information and architecture focuses on the “historic significance,” a term “used to describe a property’s relative importance . . .” (Tyler, Ligibel, Tyler, 135).  
Much of Part two deals with the legalities surrounding preservation and begins by saying, “The legal framework for historic preservation is largely based on land use law, with the traditional premise that property owners should have the right to do as they wish with their property.” (121) One significant case in 1926, Euclid v. Ambler Realty Company decided in favor of protective zoning and “overrides the interests of individual property owners,” which changed the tone for future preservation decisions and a change in the way of thinking.  Other court cases have decided whether or not land should be preserved for future historic value, such as the decision of Penn Central.  It is considered to be historic preservation’s “most important legal precedent.”  It was decided in 1978 and it prevented a monstrous 55 story addition to the iconic landmark, Grand Central Station in New York city.  This decision by the U.S. Supreme Court made guidelines for how historic sites are preserved and gave legitimacy to cities and governments that preservation is a “governmental goal.” (126)

Historic significance is the term best used throughout part two, as it provides the value of the conservative nature of the remaining book chapters. A structure’s significance is based on two primary factors: historical or cultural importance and architectural value.” (135) Categorizing these factors about a site’s importance can help us evaluate in terms of historic value and, most important, the integrity . Part of the evaluation, according to the National Registry, involves these seven factors: “Location, Design, Setting, Materials, Workmanship, Feeling and Association.” (138) Certainly in evaluating historical significance, there are so many aspects that can contribute to a site and certain aspects can either add or detract from the evaluation.  If a home is original, for example, or if it has undergone remodeling that is not true to its history.  Events like relocation of a home can be a negative because the setting may have been of importance and, the prominence of the family that built the home or lived in it for a significant time can be a factor.  Certainly the architect is an important factor and age, with a “commonly accepted, and government-supported, criterion for historic significance is  . . . at least fifty years old.” (140)  As a historian, one of the most interesting categories is National Historic Landmarks, which are a “special category of designed historic structures and properties with exceptional value or quality.” (150)  These are places that are of importance to all Americans and one of the most famous is Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, and also includes Mount Vernon, Pearl Harbor and Alcatraz Island.  

The establishment of historic districts is very important in preserving the history and character of certain parts of cities and towns.  The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 gave governments the “power to create regulatory historic districts.” (155)  It provided for the protection of properties of historic value but it also serves as a protection for the wrecking ball of redevelopment.  It promotes people preserving wonderful homes and buildings and helps to improve property values for entire areas, oftentimes inner city locations.  For example, I live near the historic district of the North End in Boise and enjoy the architecture of historic homes and businesses.  Buildings downtown such as the fire station on 6th street built in 1902 now houses a nice restaurant after serving the people of Boise. Member of the Idaho Historical Society cleans the bell inside the building weekly. It is because of the dedication of people like them that many of Boise’s historical buildings remain for us to see.  

Historical Preservation Part 1

I found the reading of Norman Tyler’s Historical Preservation to be enjoyable and educational, as it speaks about the interesting historical sites, and how many organizations have been set up to keep these places intact from construction and/or demolition.  With people becoming more aware and participatory in historic preservation during the past century, the importance of buildings and a building’s historical contribution has come to the forefront of society.  “Preservationists need to recognize that the preservation of historic buildings should include not only the physical structure but also the history of the place.” (Tyler, 15).  According to one passage that I read in Historical Preservation, the practice of “Historic preservation should be seen as more than the protection of older buildings.” The end result in preservation is to preserve buildings not as “inanimate structures . . .”.  (15-16)  Therefore, some buildings become seen as obsolete in the business of construction and development, but it does not mean that historic buildings and items are seen as worthless.  Another aspect to be aware of is the practice of “facadism,” which only preserves the front or the facade of a building.  With the bulk of the building destroyed, any historical significance of the building itself is lost.  There are many lessons and facts of interest that ancient buildings and artifacts can teach, such as museums that store historic items, or preservation offices that study old documents and building sites.

Besides preserving artifacts and historic sites, many people have begun experimenting with different technologies, in an attempt to educate the public, as described by Tyler’s passage from Historic Preservation, “Some exhibits have blurred the line between education and entertainment, leading to a new term, ‘edutainment,’ which combines the two into one presentation.” (16) This form of entertainment can be both useful to amuse and excite, as well as educate individuals on different academic subjects. A perfect example that Tyler describes is the use of animation technology at Disney World’s Hall of Presidents. Holograph technology is another example of these types of exhibits and “edutainment.”  Certainly new technologies and various methods will continue to help historians to not only preserve but to exhibit and share information in the future.

In Chapter two, Tyler describes the two distinct paths that preservation has taken since its earliest beginnings.  He notes that “Private-sector activities tended to revolve around important historical figures and associated landmark structures, whereas government [preserves] natural features and [establishes] national parks.” (27)  The National Trust brought those two paths together with the establishment of the Trust in 1949.  In choosing sites for preservation, the Trust has been very selective over the years, with only “twenty-nine historic sites of exceptional significance that it administers completely.” (43) The Woodlawn Plantation in Virginia was the first site taken on by the National Trust.  Other buildings are the Gothic Revival mansion in Tarrytown, New York and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum in New York City.  The Trust also commits its resources to lobbying efforts in Congress as well as “publicizes its Endangered Properties List . . .” (44).  The federal government’s push for economic stimulation following the two world wars provided yet another challenge to preservation.  Urban renewal programs literally left many cities with blocks of emptiness having had many historic buildings demolished to make way for new.  After the publication of Jane Jacobs’ influential book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, and the involvement of the National Historic Trust, the National Historic Preservation Act was passed in 1966, which helped with funding and listing of historical places in the United States and allowed for the development of historic district within our cities.  State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) as well as Section 106 procedures now help to protect historical properties.  Thanks to the efforts of preservationists, buildings of such immense historic significance as Independence Hall have been saved for future generations.

Black Lives Matter

I found the website pages that spoke of “Black Lives Matter” to be an inspiration for writing about the injustices directed at immigrants and refugees and minorities throughout the United States, most specifically African Americans. Focusing on these issues and thoroughly discussing them is a good way for the next generation to understand the immorality of discrimination, and hope that they will make better, fair choices for a bright future for everyone. The first issue to discuss would be the issues of the Museum Bloggers who spoke of the events that transpired in Ferguson, Missouri. The information I reviewed in the blogs describes how the town of Ferguson is the center for issues involving past racial tensions, and attempted resolution to these problems following years of problems and certainly exacerbated by a police shooting by a white police officer of a black young man. Throughout the United States; colleges, schools, and other facilities dedicated to educating the public should be helping to advocate about the issues in Ferguson to many students. “Institutions designated for public benefit should promote greater social justice.”  (Joint Statement from Museum Bloggers and Colleagues on Ferguson and Related Events.)  I share that conviction.  I believe American museums that have exhibits dealing with racial inequality or injustice are helping to educate and inform.  It is crucial that citizens are ensured of the ability to become aware so they can, in turn, influence younger generations. Such institutions such as libraries and museums often will have conference rooms or auditoriums that are available to various community organizations for meetings and informative seminars. 

Ferguson has caught the attention of the museums and historic centers that are helping to bring awareness in African American history and culture. The Association of African American Museums (AAAM) have noticed many bloggers and other groups of individuals who are forming collaborative responses to new occurrences.  From the Northwest African American Museum (NAAM), Chieko Phillips and Leilani Lewis wrote in the AAAM newsletter detailing their institution’s response to the shooting of Mike Brown. Both Phillips and Lewis have worked for many years to ensure the success of collaboration ensuring the sharing of accurate information. I find this kind of news influential in getting the public to become aware of what sort of racial injustices are occurring within the U.S. It is of crucial importance that museums respond to their communities, as they are “dependent on their audiences and the communities that support their staff.” 

Alicia Garza wrote her opinions on the Black Lives matter campaign.  Garza wrote, “Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes” The growth of what began as a social media hashtag has become part of our social vernacular. And, according to Garza, “goes beyond the narrow nationalism that can be prevalent within some Black communities . . .”.  The Black Lives matter campaign brings to light not only the unjust killings and mistreatmentd that have occurred in communities throughout the United States, but the injustice in regards to human rights of all kinds from the judicial system to housing and beyond.  She notes that “half of all people in prisons or jails” are black.  The National Museum of African American History and Culture in their effort to exhibit and document the Black Lives Matter campaign have collected “artifacts and ephemera of the campaign, which was founded online by three black women in 2012.”  Working on the hope that awareness can bring change, these dedicated historians and archivists are recoding history and hopefully bringing change. Throughout history, people like Denmark Vesey during the early nineteenth century organized and fought for “freedom and civil rights.”  It is an ongoing struggle as racism still exists today and one that museums can play an important role in being “physically and virtually relevant.” 

Trustee Zachary Aarons, of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, describes their museum as one trying to demonstrate the commonality of Americans.  After all,  we are almost all immigrants and there is much to celebrate in America with what our country has become with the contributions of so many.  Aarons notes that even in their museum, there are “Jewish, Italian, Irish, Latino and Chinese, among others.”  Of particular interest is the utilization of immigrants working within museums.  Two museums have implemented such programs such as the “Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark and ROMU the Danish museum in Roskilde, Lejre.”  At the Pergamon Museum, the Bode Museum and the German Historical Museum, Germany is experimenting with Syrian and Iraqi refugees working as tour guides that enables the participant and tourists to experience different cultures and to be able to familiarize themselves with their new homeland.  “We believe that our strength lies in our diversity among the broad range of people and museums we represent.” That is the belief of the American Alliance of Museums.  The core values followed by the Alliance will help to provide resources that will enrich the lives of their communities and future generations.

History Career Post


The career path I selected was archivist, as I am fascinated by the preservation of historical records. An archivist is an individual in the field of history who is responsible for the preservation of historical records. They must also arrange these records, insure their descriptions are known, and provide access to anyone who needs to see them. Archivists’ work with records is a process from acquisition, creation, and protection. Archivists are skilled in appraising and cataloging records for permanent storage and retrieval. These people specialize in maintaining numerous records, either if they are still being acquired or just being preserved. Most archivists choose this career path after getting an undergraduate degree from college. The expert I interviewed, Layce Johnson, the Processing Archivist at the Idaho State Archives, said, “I did not take the most direct route to my current position as Processing Archivist for the Idaho State Archives. I realized my love of working with primary source material while a graduate student at King’s College London.” Lacey completed a Master’s in Biblical Studies and then moved to Idaho where she worked in the private sector. As a volunteer at the Idaho State Archives, she gained valuable experience and said, “When a support position opened up I applied for the position to get my foot in the door. I steadily worked hard and moved into different positions along the way.”  In 2015, she took the Academy of Certified Archivists exam and became a Certified Archivist.  Volunteering, such as Lacey described, as well as Internship opportunities can be pursued during undergraduate and graduate work and are an excellent way to become familiar to the staff. You can advance opportunities to work in the field of history or at historical sites by becoming involved in historical societies and attending association conferences. The wide variety of project types that archivists are known to work on include preserving historical records of all kinds, such as photographs, documents, and government records of a state or country and any collection of historical significance. Archivists work to carefully preserve data and documents so people, either in the field of history or other academic fields, as well as the public, can later obtain the information for a variety of reasons. For example, genealogical research has become a huge area of research by both individuals and corporations alike, which has prompted request for birth and death records as well as marriage certificates to establish familial connection. Besides other archivists, archivists tend to work with curators, museum technicians, museum staff, librarians, and conservators. When asked about the kind of people she works with, Layce replied, “The Idaho State Archives serves the citizens of Idaho as the official repository of permanent and historical records of the state. We serve a diverse community as well as national and international researchers. We serve everyone from retired genealogy researchers, local historians to law firms and legal researchers. People of a diverse socio-economic background utilize our resources.” The projects are as varied as the individuals who pursue this career path, but archivists are detail-oriented, patient, and passionate about history. When it comes to choosing a project to work on, archivists can either pursue individual projects, or the government entity or historical society or museum they work for chooses their projects. Layce described the focus of her job. “As the Processing Archivist I focus on processing projects. Processing is the act of arranging and describing archival materials while maintaining fundamental principles such as Original Order and Provenance. The final outcome is a finding aid, which is a tool for researchers to learn what the collection consists of and leads the researcher to accessing the material.” Sometimes a particular historical society or government employer decides the project for the archivist. Layce is lucky to have some autonomy to “prioritize projects as long as they fall under our agency’s mission and our annual goals.” She works in conjunction with the Administrator for the Archives to choose projects.  She said, “Processing projects are ongoing and part of my general function as a Processing Archivist.”

One of the current issues that I have noticed in the field of history would be the advancement of digital technology that has opened up many avenues for archival storage, exchange and retrieval.  Layce talked about current problems they face at the Archives. “Our current issues as a government records archives primarily involve funding, resources and advocacy. Throughout the archives profession we are now dealing with the electronic records issue. Many contemporary records are digitally born and require a higher level of monitoring to maintain digital preservation as technologies rapidly change and as equipment, file types and software evolves and some becomes obsolete. This is our new greatest challenge for long term preservation of information, storage and access.” Different archival traditions have been developed in close relationship with the history, court system, and cultures of particular countries or regions.

Encouraging and helpful, Layce answered my question regarding entry level applicants by replying, “Problem solving, critical thinking, attention to details, communication, general knowledge about archives. Often times we look for applicants who have previously volunteered or interned at an archives.” The skills that most entry-level applicants of the archives require are people who can work both on their own or as part of a team; they need to be individuals that can exercise research and writing skills very efficiently, pay close attention to every detail of data or materials, must be excellent problem solvers, and have a passion for history and historical preservation. Many archival positions require people who can work on databases, convert pictures and words into digital form, and work on electronic data-keeping such as websites and other social media, so having a background in working with computers and other electrical devices is invaluable. According to the website, archivists make roughly about $32,000-$48,000 every year, depending on their starting position and level of responsibility. The salary widely depends on education and experience. Layce said there is a wide range state to state and, “it depends on the type of archives whether it is a corporate archives, academic, non-profit, religious, or city/county/state/federal government archives.” A position currently advertised with the University of Oregon for a Lead Processing Archivist, Special Collections and University Archives has a salary range of $55,000-$63,000 per year. The career ( The government of a state usually fund the state archives, as well as entities like a state historical society and, in Idaho, the State Preservation office and museums. Layce’s response to funding was, “My position is funded by the State of Idaho, some positions are funded through earned income, but are classified differently.” Private companies also employ historians and archivists for positions at their businesses. It is typical for positions in history fields to be funded by the government, as the state history would be lost without money to fund protection of historical documents. With any business, the higher the education, the better when it comes to the job market. Master’s degrees in history are usually appropriate for entry level into the archives. For higher positions, experience of three to five years of experience will be needed. Master’s degrees in the required field are the proper key to gaining the right position, usually a degree in history, political science, library science or information technology. Layce believes that a “Master in Library and Information Science (MLIS) with an emphasis on Archives is the most marketable degree to have within the archives profession. However you can find ways into the field with a master of arts degree in a history related subject.” She said that the profession has become very competitive for even entry level positions.  She strongly suggested the MLIS degree stating that it, “opens more doors, because you can go the academic archives route. There is an longstanding and ongoing debate about archives vs history related degrees. There are pros and cons to having one degree over the other. Some archivists end up having one of each.” As Lacey suggested for people interested in an archivist career, study hard and obtain the best possible education. People in the field of history should become involved in historical societies and attend conferences to network. Be prepared for starting an entry-level position and working your way up as experience is gained, which is the path Lacey took in her career.  The job outlook for archivists, curators or museum staff was estimated at a 7% growth rate for the 2014-2024 projection, according to Layce’s advice to people interested in history, “I would advise people to volunteer and intern at a variety of different types of institutions to get a feel for the profession and gain some real world working knowledge.” Her strongest advice was to research the profession and “understand current professional standards as well as the history of the profession.”  She also gave some excellent advice about what it is like working in an Archives.  She said, “Sometimes people think of archives as quiet places where they can retreat in the back and work with materials without interacting with the public or people. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.” That was actually a bit of a surprise to me as I did have that impression after having completed an internship at the Archives, but then I remembered that there were many staff members and they were assisting customers and other agencies while I was quietly working on projects.  Layce’s information was very helpful and informative in looking at the job of Archivist.

Participatory Museum

After reading The Participatory Museum, I learned about several different methods in museum approach. The first method of museum study is the differences between traditional and participatory institutions. A traditional institution focuses on the exhibits of the museum establishment to provide information and knowledge for guests, while the participatory institution is designed for “the institution to serve as a ‘platform’ that connects different users who act as content creators, distributors, consumers, critics, and collaborators.” (1) It insures different perspectives for the museum and its guests to experience what an institution has to offer, and utilize how to gather and process the data.   There are two main factors with these methods, as their opportunity for users to create original content for the museum is very low, and expressing one’s own opinion is natural, but many people are very shy about expressing their true feelings. There were other methods to discover in participation described in the following chapters, such as the styles of Phil Kaplan’s volleyball class. In his class, Kaplan focused on addressing everyone as separate beings, he was focused on assisting everyone, and provided lessons with which they could help one another. Another method of participation would be to provide audiences with an “audience-centered” introduction, by giving the audience an experience of a museum by exhibiting the material in the way the guests want to see or experience.  (2) Materials like maps or guided tours are not “audience-centered,” as they are controlled more by the institution, not by visitors. I personally would like to know how museums can make places more visitor controlled, if not by maps or exhibit information. “‘Pull content’ is a term educators use to designate information that learners actively seek or retrieve based on self-interest.” (3) I believe this tactic would be an excellent idea. It would be quite useful in helping visitors to seek information on their own in museums, and provide them with more, and in depth, information.

Many individuals believe that museums are not worth seeing because many people think that there is nothing more to see at a museum, other than what is currently there, especially if they have already visited. The more people that use an institution, the more popular it will become if they pass on good details to other individuals.  Our world is so widely communicative through social media, etc., that if people spread the news about certain exhibits, that would perhaps help museum attendance.  In the third chapter of the Participatory Museum, a new practice is described called the Network Effect. Numerous experts in academic studies believe this to be the supporting structure of many socializing methods. This method is described as follows: “1. Individuals have personalized interactions. They create content, make choices that generate data, or provide personal information in the form of profiles. 2. An internal algorithm makes connections among the individuals. That can mean sorting profiles by interests or types . . . 3. The network content is displayed or provided back to the individuals.” (4) A few exhibits in the world, including Near, an exhibit at the Hall of Science in New York is one example of the network effect. The real question is deciding when an object in a museum should be participatory. According to the book Participatory Museum, I have learned an object is participatory as follows:  “1. Desire for the input and involvement of outside participants. 2. Trust in participants’ abilities. 3. Responsiveness to participants’ actions and contributions.” (5) The difference in how a user can provide information is based on what he or she can provide, such as information on a form that they write down for providing to museum officials, or they can donate their own personal knowledge to be used in the museum.

The Participatory Museum, Chapter 1, Nina Simon.” (1)

The Participatory Museum, Chapter 2.” (2)

The Participatory Museum, Chapter 2.” (3)

The Participatory Museum, Chapter 3.” (4)

The Participatory Museum, Chapter 5.” (5)