For the 9th Annual Loyola History Graduate Student Conference, the LUC Public History Committee will host a roundtable on “Revisionist Public History.” This is a post that introduces a case study on the topic. The Committee welcomes participation both online and at the conference. If you have an example of “Revisionist” Public History, please feel free to mention it as a comment on the blog, or contact the blog editors to request the opportunity to author a guest post. For more information on the Conference and the Roundtable–to be held November 3 at Loyola’s downtown Water Tower Campus–click here.
Is history just for Trivial Pursuit?
Most historians are well aware of history’s value. Professors clarify its value the first day of every 100-level history course. Most value statements generally boil down to “knowing history will make you a better person.” For most people, knowing history does not translate directly into a job or profit, however even a passing knowledge improves their quality of life. History gives a better understanding of the cultures, cities, states, nations as well as the world we live in. It allows us to better understand other people and makes us better citizens. History also makes for better humor. While this is all relative, at scale I believe that the more people that pursue learning about the past, the better off humanity will be in the present and the future.
While working at the St. Croix National Park Service I have had the opportunity to watch the park administration help a budding friends organization create a National Heritage Area. While you can read more at the NPS website, basically a National Heritage Area is cohesive region that shares common natural, cultural and historic resources that are nationally important. While NHAs originally had some federal funding for administration and promotion when they first came around in the 1980s, that aid has dried up. The driving force behind an NHAs success in generating a heritage tourism economy supported by a community, telling a cohesive story about its past to outsiders.
Predictably there are a lot of ins-and-outs to the process especially in getting the NHA approved by Congress, but before that and by far the most fascinating part of the process is community building. This is the stage where the St. Croix Heritage Initiative is at. The St. Croix Valley Foundation, and the St. Croix River Association, along with several other community partners began initial planning two-years ago and last winter they began a campaign to generate community interest in the concept. Hiring an outside community-building consultation firm (I know, right?) to facilitate the process, the movement became the Heritage Initiative, building a web 2.0 site to allow participation and launching a feasibility study through public “Discovery Workshops.”
Using the St. Croix Watershed as the study area (and a natural starting point for creating a Heritage Area centered on a river), the Heritage Initiative held these workshops in 10 of the 11 counties that make up the watershed. I attended one of these workshops in late May as part of my job with the Park Service.