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Searching for a usable past in the Hudson Valley

I passed a wonderful late June week traveling the Hudson River Valley from the Vanderbilt estate in Hyde Park, New York, south along alternating banks of the Hudson to the Edward Hopper house and museum in Nyack. In addition to the 3rd generation Vanderbilts with their (inherited) railroad fortune, my husband and I explored the architectural and material legacy of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, financial speculator Jay Gould, West Point, the Loyalist and slaveholding Philips family, 3 generations of Rockefellers, artist/inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, the writer Washington Irving, and artists Edward and Josephine N. Hopper.

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5 steps to a successful digital history project

In a recent post for Public History Commons, Lara Kelland highlighted “the potential for the democratization of historical knowledge made possible by digital tools and the role of public historians in this process.” Like Kelland, I find the marriage of

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‘On The Way To Cape May’: Finding Hidden Histories on a Public Humanities Road Trip

Summertime tourists have been flocking to Cape May to beat the heat for nearly 250 years. Back then most visitors came by boat. Some travelled down the Delaware River from Wilmington, Philadelphia, and points North, while from across Chesapeake Bay came Baltimoreans, residents of Washington DC, and all points South (as well as their slaves). Today many visitors come down the Garden State Parkway (certainly the most direct way for the tourists traveling from New York, New England, and French Canada) but for those starting from Philadelphia or via the Delaware Memorial Bridge there is a better route that offers the opportunity to visit any of several public humanities sites along the way.

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History and Historic Preservation, huh! What are they good for?

“Please, tell me whether you think the world has changed at all since 1966,” asked Ned Kaufman at the June 5 New Jersey History and Historic Preservation conference in Monmouth County. Chuckles and giggles flowed from the audience. Agreed then that much has changed, he responded, why hasn’t our thinking in preservation also changed? Why are we still pursuing the same goals, working with the same tools, and recruiting the same supporters as we were in 1966?

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The Doctor is In

Over the past month or so a recurring topic has been floating in and out of my consideration so I’d thought I would share. It is the idea of museums as places, not just of learning and inspiration, but of rejuvenation and therapy. It started when a colleague returned from a trip to Europe full of excited stories about the new exhibition at the Rijksmuseum. Art is Therapy is not a typical exhibit where objects are selected for their relevance to a theme and displayed all together in a gallery. This show takes place throughout the museum, with commentary about the art and the space it inhabits posted adjacent to the objects which remain in their normal display areas. The underlying point of the show is to get people to go beyond looking at museum objects as special simply because they are made by a noted artist, or are particularly old or rare, but to appreciate them for how they make you feel regardless of provenance or pedigree.

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The Fickle Public

A week or so ago, a friend and museum colleague posted a link on Facebook to this article published in the Denver Business Journal. It is an opinion piece by David Sneed, CEO of Alpine Fencing. From viewing his company’s website—which offers a nice variety of fences for any of your neighborly needs—I think he would qualify as a typical “joe public” museum goer. This is someone we as museum professionals want hear from. How else will we be able to be relevant to a wider population? We must know what our patrons think, what they want and we should deliver, right?

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Could the public humanities become more valuable?

Building community has turned up as a priority in a wide variety of settings around the region lately, often with the humanities in the driver’s seat. Perhaps in the season when underground bulbs send up the flowers that remind us to appreciate the beauty in nature, it is reasonable to treat the humanities a bit like those flowers. Perhaps this is a chance to take a moment to give a sniff, let our spirits be lifted, and renew our hopes for our work in a troubled world.

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Public/Digital | History/Humanities: Conceptualizing the Digital Public Humanities

On February 20, 2014, I gave a talk at Lehigh University in Bethelehem, PA with the rather unwieldy title of Public/Digital | History/Humanities: Conceptualizing the Digital Public Humanities. As I explained to Julia Maserjian, Digital Scholarship Project Manager at Lehigh’s Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, who invited me to speak at Lehigh, it was really important to keep that little | symbol in between two parts of my title. That symbol—called a pipe—is used in the UNIX operating system and has a very particular meaning that I wanted to use as to frame my remarks. I’m no UNIX programmer, but when I was about ten years old my father, who is an electrical engineer and knew that I was interested in computers, told me that I should teach myself UNIX. “It’ll be useful,” he said, while handing me an approximately 700 page book on UNIX written for adults with some background in programming.

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Yes, but what does it all MEAN?

This past fall I taught an undergraduate course on American material culture. It was my first go at this type of course. I’ve taught “traditional” history courses covering everything from medieval & early modern Europe to American women’s history (my

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THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GREATER PHILADELPHIA

Based at MARCH, with numerous community partners, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia is a civic project to increase understanding of one of America’s greatest cities. From abolition and the American Revolution to yellow fever and zoos (with cheesesteaks, rowhouses, and hundreds of other topics in between), the digital Encyclopedia and print volume will offer the most comprehensive, authoritative reference source ever created for the Philadelphia region.

CONFERENCE CALENDAR

Jul
24
Thu
10:00 am Conference: Future of Museums @ Online
Conference: Future of Museums @ Online
Jul 24 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
From futureofmuseums.com: The 2014 Future of Museums conference will be held online, on July 24th from 10am-5pm (EST). Attendees can expect to learn best practices to implement in their museums, and will hear real-world examples of innovative practices in the
Jul
30
Wed
9:00 am Cultural Institutions & Emergenc... @ Woodrow Wilson Hall, Monmouth University
Cultural Institutions & Emergenc... @ Woodrow Wilson Hall, Monmouth University
Jul 30 @ 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
From New Jersey Collections Care Network: Intended for collections care professionals and volunteers, this conference will address important facets of emergency response, as well as building local networks for collaborative mutual aid.  Presenters will include first responders and representatives from
Aug
1
Fri
all-day CFP: 2nd Annual One-Day History ... @ West Chester University
CFP: 2nd Annual One-Day History ... @ West Chester University
Aug 1 all-day
From H-Pennsylvania: West Chester University (West Chester, Pennsylvania) is pleased to announce a Call for Papers for its 2nd Annual One-Day History Conference to be held Thursday, October 23, 2014: Creating, Displaying, and Revising American Identity.  The inspiration for this year’s
all-day CFP: Ephemera Society of America... @ Deadline
CFP: Ephemera Society of America... @ Deadline
Aug 1 all-day
From MuseWeekly: The Ephemera Society of America has issued a call for its ESA 35 conference, The Sporting Life.  The deadline for submission is August 1, 2014.  The full call and instructions for submitting a proposal are below. Sports, games, play
Aug
10
Sun
9:00 am ARCHIVES★RECORDS: Ensuring Access @ Marriott Wardman Park, Woodley Park
ARCHIVES★RECORDS: Ensuring Access @ Marriott Wardman Park, Woodley Park
Aug 10 @ 9:00 am – Aug 17 @ 4:00 pm
From the Society of American Archivists: ARCHIVES★RECORDS: Ensuring Access 2014 will be held August 10-17, in Washington, D.C.  The weeklong conference is a joint meeting of the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and

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