Public History Students featured on NCPH Blog

Two Lakefront Historian contributors and public history students at Loyola University Chicago are featured this week on History@Work, the blog from the National Council on Public History (NCPH).  Annie Cullen and Rachel Boyle discuss how the overwhelming success of Public History Ryan Gosling reveals the strengths and weaknesses of popular culture as a tool for public historians.  The post will give you a preview of the panel presentation Cullen and Boyle will be giving at the annual NCPH conference this April in Ottawa, Canada.  Hope to see you there!

“I Don’t Know What I Stand For Anymore”: Fun., Postmodern Angst, and Civil War Memory

The casual radio listener cannot avoid the chart topping hit “Some Nights” by the band Fun.  As with their other recent hit, “We Are Young,” Fun. produces upbeat tempos and soaring harmonies that belie darker lyrics about the emptiness and purposelessness of life.  By applying the postmodern undertones of “Some Nights” to a music video dominated by Civil War imagery, Fun. meaningfully reflects and contributes to popular memory of the Civil War.

Continue reading ““I Don’t Know What I Stand For Anymore”: Fun., Postmodern Angst, and Civil War Memory”

Re-envisioning Historic Fort Snelling: Confessions of a Fort Employee

I wake up most mornings thrilled to go to work. I relish the rare opportunity to engage in positive dialogue with the public about critical themes in Minnesota and United States history. On a daily basis I participate in open conversations about class, slavery, and American Indian history. I feel continually supported by a remarkably amicable staff and refreshingly thoughtful and efficient supervisors. Considering the many museums and historic sites still reveling in nostalgia and Great Man history, I truly value the opportunity to practice public history at Historic Fort Snelling. Not to mention my sheer enjoyment of hearth cooking or playing nineteenth century games with children.

All the fantastic aspects of employment at Historic Fort Snelling tend to overshadow the occasional discomforts: the offhanded racist comment of a guest; the low traffic in Dred Scott Space or Indian Agency compared to the overwhelming popularity of the infantry and artillery drills; enthusiastic youth marching and shooting imaginary guns. Perhaps these are just the unfortunate realities of interacting with the public.

A recent experience, however, put my discomforts into sharp relief. While stationed in the Indian Agency I observed a visitor who appeared to me to be American Indian. As he exited the space he turned to his companion and stated matter-of-factly, “there is a lot of evil in this room.” Continue reading “Re-envisioning Historic Fort Snelling: Confessions of a Fort Employee”

The Rachels Review “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (Part II – Rachel Boyle)

Rachel Lewis and Rachel Boyle share the same first name and many courses at Loyola University Chicago.  Rarely do they share the same perspective on historical topics.  In this installment, the Rachels provide two distinct reviews of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as a work of cinematic public history.

“History prefers legends to men” – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

In the interest of full disclosure, I should confess that I have very limited knowledge of vampire mythology.  I am still unclear about how to kill a vampire.  Do you shoot them in the heart with a silver bullet? Cut off their head? Nervously bite your lip until they succumb to your wiles?  Judging from the way Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter treats the historical record, I suspect the film plays fast and loose with the rules of vampire hunting as well.  Therefore, I will not be evaluating Abraham Lincoln in terms of adherence to the rules of vampirology or historical accuracy.  I am most interested in dissecting the internal logic of this film and the implications for the public’s memory of Abraham Lincoln and nineteenth century United States history.

Continue reading “The Rachels Review “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” (Part II – Rachel Boyle)”

Around the Web (May 2012)

Periodically, a Lakefront Historian contributor surveys recent public history-related news that emerges on the Internet. In this installment of “Around the Web,” Rachel Boyle highlights new columns, blogs, and posts that exemplify public history online.  She also anticipates the opening of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Follow The Lakefront Historian on Twitter (@LakefrontHist) for news updates as they happen.

Continue reading “Around the Web (May 2012)”

Between the Personal and the Professional

As a public historian and young adult, there is no question of whether or not I will cultivate an online presence.  Recently, however, I have been seriously grappling with the implications of separating or integrating my personal and professional online personas.

In my first months as a graduate student I launched a personal blog to polemicize on past and present culture.  My goal was twofold: to critically engage with the culture I consume and to get into the habit of writing.  Soon my blog became a steam valve for me to articulate my frustrations and revelations when my academic training informed my evaluation of popular culture and vice versa.  With elation I realized that I could perform analysis as colorfully as I desired.  I cursed freely, exhibited anger, expressed pleasure—all of the things that academics aren’t supposed to do.  I utilized sarcasm, humor, and reflexivity at will while freely incorporating images, animated .gifs, and videos.  My blog quickly evolved into a carefully constructed yet authentic representation of my subject position at the intersection of the past and present, the personal and political, the intellectual and the plebeian.

With Past Present and related projects produced for a Public History and New Media course, I found myself creating a whitewashed copy of my online persona. Continue reading “Between the Personal and the Professional”