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Piracy or Exchange? The Fate of Ideas in the Avaricious Academy

Recently, a friend and fellow historian read a section of my manuscript for me.  She made an acute observation about the ways my protagonists consistently dug deep into the past whenever faced with a new conflict or challenge. "Interesting how they always take the long view," she noted in a comment.

The long view. I love the phrase.  So much so, in fact, that I am determined to use it.  I might even incorporate it into the title of my book when it emerges.  I will acknowledge my colleague's general brilliance and specific contribution in the acknolwedgements that preface the book.  I will figure out a way to cite her.  If her phrase makes it into the title, I will buy her a bottle of wine.  As a tenured faculty member at a research university, my colleague will probably feel duly recognized and appreciated.

This, after all, is part of our job -- to exchange ideas freely for the benefit of others.  As a tenure-track faculty member at a regional public university, I too, …

Listen to Veterans: the Student, Citizen, Soldier Oral History Project

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Veterans of the armed services aren't visible in our public and political culture because they aren't statistically significant.  That's what Tom Landers, an Army veteran and a graduate student in History at Salem State University, reminds us in an oral history with historian Andrew Darien for an important oral history project that launches for Veterans Day.

Support for veterans' benefits and accolades for their service spike during campaign season, but once the spotlights fade, political leaders shirk their promises.  U.S. veterans fade back into the shadows of American society.  We rarely see or hear them speak for themselves about war, politics, or the short and long term effects and implications of their military service.  They become a convenient soundbyte.  In many cases, their history gets used for others' gain.

Over the past five years, Salem State University has grown its enrollment of veterans, thanks in large part to the Veteran Assistants Veteran Integr…

Places Project Summary

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I copied over this article from the UMass History Dept blog. 


In 2015, I set off for south-central Tennessee’s South Cumberland plateau to take up a two-year  Mellon fellowship with the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian Studies at Sewanee: the University of the South.  The Collaborative, a partnership with Yale, envisioned starting and sustaining multidisciplinary, community-engaged, curricular projects that had place as their focus. In other words: pretty much any public history endeavor would fit the bill.
I had some basic goals for my Mellon project.  I wanted it to be something I could begin and complete in two years.   I wanted it to be digital.  I wanted it to engage local history and memory.  I wanted students with different interests and strengths to have meaningful roles to play.  Most of all, I wanted to undertake a humanities project that the pragmatic people of the region would see as useful — if not while I was doing it, then at least when it was done.  T…

Art of Memory: Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither

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This is one of those books.  You devour it because it is beautiful and unnerving and compelling and also because, deep down, you know this is not a book you can live with for days or weeks.  It is not a book that you can stare at on your bedstand or your living room table.  It is a book to be consumed.  Afterwards, you might want to forget it. But you won't be able to.  In other words, it is an Irish novel.

Do I recommend it? I do.  I think. Maybe. I'm not sure.

I am writing this blog post less to tell you about this book because I am not ready to talk about it than because I want to try to hold onto some of the language without having to actually pick up and revisit the book.  The language astounds me.  It is not derivative.  At least I don't think so.  If it is derivative, it is of Joyce with maybe a tiny bit of Patrick McCabe.  It is less, I don't know, inexorable, than either of those authors.  And yet the story told here is much more haunting than theirs'. De…

The Museum of Free Derry Needs to Keep the Names Up

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The Museum of Free Derry has recently drawn fire from all sides for an exhibit that lists the names of all those killed in the area during the early Troubles.  On one hand, relatives of RUC officers killed during the Troubles "find it disgraceful" that their loved ones are identified in a space they consider a bastion of republicanism and which supports "terrorism."  On the other hand, some relatives of Bloody Sunday victims and others object to the full display of names of those killed on the grounds that it shows "complete disrespect for those on the list that have been murdered by the establishment" by having members of "the establishment" listed alongside the Bloody Sunday dead and other victims of state violence.  While the exhibit has been up for a decade, it has received attention recently because of the reopening of the museum after renovations.

I was so glad that the Museum of Free Derry received £2.4m to fund renovations and an exten…

Six Word Memoir Project Comes to Salem, Massachusetts

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Once upon a time, I had a particularly wonderful group of Intro to Public History students.  We were working with the idea of memoir as public history.  As a lark, really, I asked them to write their life story in six words, no more no less.  The idea came from  Smith Magazine and we all found it to be really compelling.  So compelling, in fact, that we decided to involve our campus in the process.  My students got hundreds of students involved.  They shared their experiences, from the mundane to the sacred and everything in between.


As public historians, we grappled with how to curate, to care for, other people's stories.  We came up with creative ways of getting people to contribute and we took turns gatekeeping content and dealing with difficult memoirs, painful ones, angry and sad ones.  We talked and debated and ultimately designed a series of arresting exhibits all over campus.  You can see them here.  From kitchen staff to the Vice President, so many members of our commu…

Public Historians are Something More than Nice

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I went to numerous conferences this year.  It was a nice perk of being a fellow at the Collaborative for Southern Appalachian Studies.  Sharing my work on participatory cultural memory, I was on panels with literary theorists, social workers, psychologists, planners, musicologists and geographers.

Traveling outside my academic "home" of public history was a learning experience for me.  I love my sub-discipline and have long been a booster for public history as a rich community of practitioners and scholars.  When one of my students attended her first National Council on Public History annual meeting a few weeks ago in Indianapolis and declared of attendees, "I can honestly say these were the most supportive people I have ever met in my life," my reaction was, "Yes - of course.  That is whowe are."