“In its simplest meaning, Public History refers to the employment of historians and the historical method outside of academia: in government, private corporations, the media, historical societies and museums, even in private practice.”
About once every quarter or so, I have an existential crisis of some severity in which I wonder if I made the right decision by not pursuing academia. The answer is usually yes; watching the education bubble inflate, with the number of history students exceeding history job openings, as well as the “publish or perish” mantra all reassure me that that’s something I’m ok without.
To assuage the academia FOMO*, I pursue history in other ways that, I think, prove history can be just as enjoyable outside of the ivory tower, if not more so. Whether that’s historical reenacting (lite, not hardcore), reading books, or staying up to date with historical scuttlebutt online, I keep my brain engaged, if not very organized.
*Fear Of Missing Out
I don’t claim to be a public historian, even by amateur standards, but in my travels across the internet, I have come across public history done many different ways by those of whom the ivory tower would probably disapprove. What follows are some of my favorites:
“The Allison Brothers of PA” by Jared Frederick of History Matters
I may have left the Museum of the American Revolution delirious and hangry, but I was inspired. There had been so much sensory intake that it needed an appropriate release of some sort. Which, in layman’s terms, meant I finished the day watching the musical film 1776 and laughing louder than probably necessary at .. most of it.
Holy macaroni. The holiest of macaronis. 1776 is SO cheesy and ridiculousI LOVE IT.
To conclude this birthday extravaganza:
SO MUCH INFORMATION
I just wanted to encourage people to go be interesting. Go find things that interest you and explore them further. Don’t be ashamed. It’s ok to be weird.
Was I ashamed, running through Valley Forge National Historic Park while listening to the Turn soundtrack with my Avengers knee socks? NO! Just the opposite! In fact, I wanted to stop other runners/walkers/bikers and inform them of what I was doing. If they appreciated my utter dorkiness, I would categorize them as “cool”. If they didn’t, I could feel sorry for them and be about my merry way.
When I say running, I actually mean a brisk walk. I didn’t realize how little minuets and harpsichords lend themselves to running. Continue reading
“It’s the end of the world as we know it … and I feel fine”
Or something like that. Dear reader(s), I hope you went out and voted today, but more importantly, I hope you educated yourself on the issues. Because no matter who wins, the world will not come to an end and America as we know it will not burst into flames, although Canada’s immigration officers will probably be busy. Recently, celebrity Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs weighed in on his choice for president. Which is to say, he didn’t. Go read it, it’s a good article.
I admit, I was less informed than I would have liked this election. Life got in the way. But I believe in the system. I believe in the American experiment and the idea of a representative (more or less) government. I believe some things need work, but getting back to Mr. Rowe’s words of wisdom, I also believe I need to educate myself before making sweeping statements about the electoral college or voter ID laws. Continue reading
The main purpose of my journey to the deep deep deep south was to visit the long lost Australian branch of the family and meet up with my Sister for some Aussie holiday. My trip to New Zealand was but a brief detour on my way. And thus I passed on to the next stage of my adventure and flew from Rotorua to Wellington then immediately to Melbourne, the capital of the southernmost Australia state Victoria. (Back to the Victoria thing again.) On a train to the ‘burbs, I had a nice chat with a fellow just done with a cricket match. The thing I took away from that conversation was his observation on the difference between Australia and NZLD. According to him, Australia is to the US as New Zealand is to the UK, or in another form, Australia : US :: NZLD : UK. Even though I can’t articulate how, that actually makes a lot of sense.
We had a great romp around southern Victoria, including Cape Paterson, Wonthaggi and its coal mine, Inverloch, Leongatha, Fish Creek, Phillip Island and my first ever honest-to-God camping experience in Wilson’s Promontory Marine National Park, which is probably the most South I will ever be. That was pretty cool.
On the 3hour hike to our camping spot in Wilson’s Prom. The Tasman Sea is in the distance. Looks like a shot from The Land Before Time…
To quote the Alan Jackson song, where were you when the world stopped turning, that September day?
Melbourne was supposed to be next, but today snuck up unexpectedly fast and I wanted to get some thoughts out On This Day.
I had the recent great fortune of going on a behind-the-scenes tour of some of the 9/11 section of the Smithsonian’s American History museum. The curator-tour-guide was talking about the challenges that this particular event presented and how they ended up focusing on the stories of the people involved – the victims, the responders, ordinary Americans. Anything too close to the ongoing(?) wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would tread dangerously political terrain far outside the Museum’s purview. One of the 9/11 curators, Peter Liebhold, wrote up something on the museum’s website about the challenges of curating for this event: