Around the Web (April 2012)

Depp’s Tonto (left) and Sattler’s “I Am Crow” (

Periodically, a Lakefront Historian contributor surveys recent public history-related news that has made their way to the Internet. In this installment of “Around the Web,” Devin Hunter points to items ranging from Johnny Depp’s dubious Tonto get-up to the perilous economic condition of the Canadian national archives. Follow The Lakefront Historian on Twitter (@LakefrontHist) for news updates as they happen.

Looking back on OAH 2012/NCPH 2012

Word cloud of tweets tagged with #NCPH2012 or #OAH2012 (OAH Annual Meeting Blog)

About two weeks have passed since the National Council on Public History joint conference with the Organization of American Historians in Milwaukee. Positive reviews soon followed. NCPH’s History@Work blog offers a number of recaps, including Cathy Stanton’s THATCamp debriefing and a sober look at the Public Historian/UCSB negotiations. HNN also looks back on the weekend that was, with a day-by-day account chocked with videos and links to additional blog coverage.

One major story from Milwaukee: the impressive and highly-visible showing of public historians at the conference. Speaking from OAH perspectives, HNN’s David Walsh points towards the comparatively heavy use of social media by public historians, and Tenured Radical lauds the decision to partner with NCPH as “inspired.”

Look for a handful of NCPH 2012 reviews from The Lakefront Historian contributors who attended and participated in the conference.

Archives in peril: national and local

In less triumphant news, Libraries and Archives of Canada–roughly our neighbor to the north’s equivalent to our National Archives–announced severe budget cuts that will result in drastic hour reductions and the loss of over 20% of its workforce. Archivists, librarians, historians, and genealogists–not to mention political commentators–continue to wrestle with this news.

Closer to home–in fact about a five minute walk from the headquarters of The Lakefront Historian–the Midwest’s largest LGBT archive and library faces a storm of controversy over changes to its board of directors and its pending move. Chicago Tribune describes the contentious power struggle between current and present stakeholders of the Gerber/Hart Library and Archives. Money quote from UIC professor John D’Emilio:

“But in the last year or so it looks like the most disorderly resale shop you’ve ever walked into. It’s an atrocity. Those of us who have gotten behind the locked doors of the archives room know it’s being completely neglected and in total disarray.”

Former space of the Gerber/Hart Archives and Library on Granville Avenue. (Windy City Times/Sosin).

Recently-opened lectures in Milwaukee excite scholars; books warehoused in New York cause anxiety

James L. Farmer (1920-1999) (Wikipedia Commons)

bavatuesdays announced the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Archives’ completion of a lengthy project to digitize and  make available a 1983 lecture series by civil rights icon James Farmer. The project website not only houses the full audio and video recordings of the lectures, but also offers a treasure trove of context.

On the other hand, the New York Public Library’s decision to house a significant portion of its items off-site raised the ire of some scholars, exposing the uncomfortable realities of librarians’ space management dilemmas.

Busy week in Chicago preservation circles: Modernist events, public housing, Wrigley Field, legal challenges

A number of preservation stories made the news in Chicago just this week. Landmark Illinois publicized the final two events from its “Chicago Modern: More than Mies” event series–a collaboration from the Save Prentice Coalition formed to prevent Northwestern University’s demolition of Bertand Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital. This Sunday, the groups will host a rare tour of the Goldberg-designed Heimbach home in Blue Island, Illinois; then the series concludes with the symposium “Critics’ Challenge: Does Modernism Still Have Meaning?” at Harry Weese’s Seventeenth Church of Christian Scientists in Chicago’s Loop.

Preservationists and urban historians cheered the official placement of the Julia C. Lathrop Homes onto the National Register of Historic Places. Despite the designation this prewar federal public housing project still faces a perilous future, as the Chicago Housing Authority seeks to redevelop premium real estate as mixed-income housing.

Chicago Housing Authority’s Lathrop Homes under construction, 1930s (Chicago Tribune)

Regarding the impending but surely-to-be-controversial renovation of Wrigley Field, the architecture firm responsible for a similar project at Fenway Park reassured interested parties that it could balance preservation concerns with the Cubs’ economic goals.

Finally–in Chicago preservation news eclipsed this year only by the fight to save Prentice–a Cook County Circuit court made an unexpected ruling friendly to the City as part of a protracted legal assault on its precedent-setting landmark ordinance. Yet the case, which arose out of property owner hostility to historic districts, promises to drag on.

Depp ‘educates’ public on the existential meanings of his historically-dubious Tonto makeup and costume

In news relating to the public consumption of history, Johnny Depp defended the makeup and costume for his portrayal of Tonto in Jerry Bruckenheimer’s upcoming The Lone Ranger remake. A clever and skewering post on Gawker references Depp’s strained attempts to explain the post-modern (historically inaccurate) and existential American Indian mood he sought to capture:

“The stripes down the face and across the eyes … it seemed to me like you could almost see the separate sections of the individual, if you know what I mean…There’s this very wise quarter, a very tortured and hurt section, an angry and rageful section, and a very understanding and unique side.”

Did we miss a public history-related news story that you would like to highlight? If so, leave a comment!


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