Residency and Dissertation Research and Books Henderson, Amy. Exhibiting Dilemmas: Issues of Representation at the Smithsonian



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Residency and Dissertation Research and Books

Henderson, Amy. Exhibiting Dilemmas: Issues of Representation at the Smithsonian. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 1999.

A collection of essays presenting the perspective of multiple curators offering viewpoints on how interpret challenging topics and materials. The book provides wonderful case studies ready-made for engaging students in discussions of interpretative strategies.



Kohn, Richard. "History and the Culture Wars: The Case of the Smithsonian Institution's Enola Gay Exhibit." Journal of American History 82 (December 1995): 1036-1063.

A concise, highly readable, and clear overview of the controversy that erupted surrounding the planned exhibit of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War Two. This piece explains the competing historical and political interests and perspectives that transformed an exhibit on the end of World War II into the quintessential public history controversy. Kohn is critical of the original exhibit concept, but is relatively balanced in explaining the basis of his concerns. An edited version of Kohn’s essay appears in Edward Linenthal’s History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past.



Linenthal, Edward and Tom Engelhardt. History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past. New York: Holt Paperbacks, 1996.

Eight historians provide essays on the controversy that erupted at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space museum over the exhibiting of the Enola Gay, the B-29 Bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima the end of World War Two. Written soon after the controversy, the work captures the intensity of the emotions that surfaced in the mid-1990s. The essays provide a range of viewpoints (though most are critical that opposition led to the cancellation of the original exhibit concept), and several could be used on their own, such as Paul Boyer’s “Whose History is it Anyway: Memory, Politics, and Historical Scholarship.” The essay by Richard Kohn, Former Air Force Historian, “History at Risk: The Case of the Enola Gay,” provides a fine overview of the exhibit that skillfully examines the different perspectives and interests at stake in the exhibit (though he is critical of the original exhibit concept). That article was printed in a fuller form in Journal of American History, and that article also serves as a useful source for studying the controversy (see entry above).



Nash, Gary, Charlotte Crabtree, and Ross Dunn. History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past. New York: Vintage Books, 2000.

The attempt by the National Endowment for the Humanities to create a set of National History Standards in the early 1990s led to an extraordinary clash between academic historians and conservative commentators and politicians who aggressively attacked the standards even before they became public. Nash, Crabtree, and Dunn, all of whom helped to develop the proposed history standards, describe their process and goals in developing a set of national standards, and also what they viewed as the politicization and misrepresentation of their work that occurred as part of the larger “culture wars” of the 1990s. A very useful work for that raises questions about what Americans should know about history, how history should be taught, and the different understanding of history held by academic historians and the public.



Tyrrell, Ian. Historians in Public: The Practice of American History, 1890-1970. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

This history of the history profession’s efforts to reach larger public over the course of the twentieth century raises important issues about the efforts of historians to influence the public through such venues as public school curricula, mass media, government programs, and the national parks. Not only does this book put the contemporary efforts of public historians into historical context and detail a century of experimentation and controversy, but it raises provocative questions about the most effective way for historians to have an impact on American society.



Wallace, Mike. Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.

This collection of essays, many of which Wallace wrote in the 1980s and 1990s for the Radical History Review, offers perspectives on a wide array of topics including urban history museums, museums of science and technology, the presentation of history at Colonial Williamsburg, a history of the historic preservation movement in the United States, the Enola Gay controversy, and the Disney Corporation’s uses of history in its theme parks and its failed effort to create an American history theme park. This work is useful for gaining insights into some of the major controversies facing public historians at the end of the twentieth century. Wallace expresses a strong liberal viewpoint and is often highly critical of choices made by institutions and corporation—and especially the policies of Ronald Reagan—making it useful for sparking classroom discussions about the state of public history in the 1980s and 1990s. Some of the essays are period pieces, so public history educators might want to assign individual essays rather than the entire collection.



Casper, Scott E. Sarah Johnson's Mount Vernon: The Forgotten History of an American Shrine. New York: Hill and Wang, 2008.

Casper focuses on the black caretakers of Mount Vernon, a decision that adds race as an additional perspective to gender when analyzing constructions of memory and interpretation of at historic places. Students respond enthusiastically to Casper's study of Mount Vernon for many reasons. Many students know the site well and can envision elements of Casper’s study clearly, but even students who do not know Mount Vernon found the story of forgotten people powerful. They all appreciated the historic perspective on debates about visitor services, food on site, and destruction of historic property by visitors seeking “a piece of the true cross.” The realization that personality clashes had happened at historic sites in the past, provided an interesting perspective during later discussions on managing conflict.



Ywone, Edwards-Ingram. “Toward ‘True Acts Of Inclusion:’ The ‘Here’ and the ‘Out There’ Concepts in Public Archaeology.” Historical Archaeology 31 (1997): 27-35.

Historical archaeologists deal with a number of the same issues that are central to public history. This article provides an opportunity to talk about multi-disciplinary approaches to the past and to focus on the need to reconcile scholarship with public interest. It might be useful to pair it with Erica Martin Seibert. “African-American Archaeological Sites & the National Register of Historic Places: Creating a Public Memory.” African-American Archaeology: Newsletter of the African-American Archaeology Network. 2000, page 27.



Fink, Leon. "When Community Comes Home to Roost: The Southern Milltown as Lost Cause." The Journal of Social History 40 (Fall 2006): 119-145.

This is a really smart piece about the politics of doing public and oral history, which looks at the various stances and interests among different types of people doing history in public (in this case, a pair of local activists and community organizers who were doing public history type projects, and the author himself, an outsider and professional who was initially welcomed and then rejected by the activists when they realized he was going to include them in his study). It's a good piece for getting students talking about the politics of knowledge-making and the layers of insider/outsider politics in any community, as well as getting them to question the too-easy assumption of "community" as an entity or an unproblematic good.



Linenthal, Edward T. Preserving Memory: The Struggle to Create America’s Holocaust Museum. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

Linenthal’s detailed examination of the decision making process leading up to the creation of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum provides a powerful case study for discussing issues related to authority and museums in public history interpretation.



Loewen, James. Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong. New York: Touchstone, 2000.

The five opening essays in Loewen’s book offer a general introduction to some challenges facing public history and public history education. I have used the essays on the first day of my introductory course. I have also used them in some of my other history courses. In addition, the book includes about 95 short essays that treat individual sites. When I have worked with Hampdon National Historic Site in Baltimore, I have used Loewen’s essay to spark conversation and encourage new interpretation. Lowen’s work also raises important questions about the nature of truth in public history and particularly whether or not omitting information --or offering an interpretation that is different from the one he would like to see presented—really constitutes lying. For this reason, it might be interesting to pair selections from Lies Across America with selections from Kenneth Foote Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy (University of Texas, Updated Version, 2003) which asks us to consider the sites Americans have chosen to destroy or ignore.



Moyer, Theresa and Paul Shackel. A Devil, Two Rivers and a Dream: The Making of Harper's Ferry National Historical Park. Lanham, Md.: Alta Mira Press, 2007.

This book can be divided into two classroom discussions. The first portion of the book lends itself well to a discussion about the complicated history of historic places. Even the most sophisticated students often have not given much thought to the construction of place, and this book provides a window into the cultural geography of Harper's Ferry. The second portion of the book frames a discussion about the ways in which interpretation evolves over time. The book demonstrates the ways in which specific social and cultural conditions can make the concerns of some stakeholders appear more valid than others. It's a good touchstone throughout the semester for talking about reflexive learning, collaborative inquiry and collaborative interpretation.



Pitcaithley, Dwight. “Abraham Lincoln’s Birthplace Cabin: The Making of an American Icon” in Myth, Memory, and the Making of the American Landscape. Paul A. Shackel, ed. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.

Pitcaithley, the former chief historian for the National Park Service, raises important questions about the persistence of "myth" in popular memory at historic sites. The article challenges students to consider their own attachment to various, familiar stories, and to move beyond a too simple distinction between myth and history.



Stanton, Cathy. The Lowell Experiment: Public History in a Post-Industrial City. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006.

This book challenges public history students in two directions. First, it asks them to engage in cross-disciplinary learning, viewing public history practice through the eyes of an anthropologist. We spend at least part of one seminar discussion breaking down the disciplinary boundaries they have been encouraged to build up. Second, the book challenges them to recognize the ramifications of reflexive practice, examining their own role in the practice of public history and breaking out of the comfortable binary between "professional" and "audience."



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Mission-Based Marketing by Peter Brinckerhoff is a terrific example of one of those "helper" books. It does more than "help" me. It helps organizations look at their marketing programs, their missions, their customers and their staffs. It is very easy to read and very well organized with plenty of concrete examples and case histories Thomas A. Mackey from Houston, TX

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