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.

 

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