AC0265 Introduction to Public Humanities Fall Semester 2006 Wednesday 3:00-5:20 Nightingale-Brown House Steven Lubar John Nicholas

Brown Center Nightingale-Brown House 357 Benefit Street 401-863-1177 Office Hours: Thursday 2-4 This course addresses the theoretical bases of the public humanities, providing a background that will help students understand the choices made in interpreting and presenting history and culture. We will also apply this theory, working with cultural organizations to understand some of the practical considerations that shape the presentation of culture to the public. I hope that this course will serve as a useful first step in the creation of thoughtful practitioners. How the course works: The course is part seminar, part workshop. In the first part of the semester we will read a book a week and discuss it in depth. At the first class, you will choose two weeks for which you will do additional reading—a related case study, for example—on which to make a ten-minute presentation. I’ve listed some suggestions for these, as “supplemental reading,” but I’m open to others. When it’s your time to present, meet with me, the week before the class. We’ll also have some practical projects as part of the class, and some visiting speakers. In the second part of the course, the last month or so, there will be no assigned reading, and students will work in teams on public humanities projects. These are real projects. You will need to contact the people working on them and understand the audiences for them as well as to undertake research, write a paper, and make a presentation. More details at the end of this syllabus. I’ve suggested several projects, and I’m open to suggestions. Each student will write three short papers, due as noted, and a final paper, as well as the team presentation. Grading will be based 30 percent on class discussions, 10 percent on each of the short papers, 20 percent on the final paper, and 20 percent on the final presentation. A word on intellectual honesty: your paper should be your original work. Footnote anything you use from books, articles, interviews, or the web. Note ideas that came from other people. Failure to do so can result in failing the class. Feel free to come and talk to me anytime about the class, or send email.

Books worth buying:
Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life Ivan Karp, et al., Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture Stephanie Yuhl, A Golden Haze of Memory: The Making of Historic Charleston Americans for the Arts, Civic Dialogue: Arts and Culture Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblatt, Destination Culture Andrea Witcomb, Re-imagining the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum Catherine M. Lewis, The Changing Face of Public History: The Chicago Historical Society and the Transformation of an American Museum Class website: Password on OCRA: public Many of the articles are available on the Brown Library’s extensive array of on-line journals; ask me if you need help finding them. Most of the books are in the JNBC library.

Week 1 (September 6): First class. Introductions, expectations, etc.

What is Public Humanities?

I: History and Memory
What is the relationship between history, heritage, and memory, and between individual memories, history, and way a society remembers? How do we as a society decide what's worth remembering? These theoretical overviews will be useful to us as we consider specific examples later in the course.
Week 2 (September 13): Shaping history? Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History Supplemental Reading: Marita Sturken, “Memorializing Absence,” at Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth about History, chapters 7 and 8 Stanford Levinson, Written in Stone Kerwin Lee Klein, “On the Emergence of Memory in Historical Discourse,” Representations 74 (Spring 2001) David Glassberg, Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life, Chapter 2, “Remembering a war” Presentation: Fall River’s Memorial Landscape 2

Week 3 (September 20): The public’s history? Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen, The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life Supplemental reading: David Glassberg, Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life, Chapter 1, “A sense of history” “Roundtable: The Presence of the Past” in The Public Historian, 2000 22(1): 13-34 Rosenzweig and Thelen’s website, Carl Becker, “Everyman his own historian,” 1931 AHA presidential address Paper 1: due September 27: Both Trouillot and the people that Rosenzweig and Thelen interview use the terms “history” and “memory,” but they don’t mean the same things. Compare, in three or four pages, the way that historians, on the one hand, and the Americans that R&T interview, on the other, think about and use the past.

II: Culture and Community
What is the relationship between culture and community? How do institutions shape, reflect, and change culture? What is the responsibility of institutions to the communities they study and display?
Week 4 (September 27): What is community?
Karp, et al., Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture, Choose 3 or more essays of particular interest to you. Maxine Greene, “Passions of Pluralism: Multiculturalism and the Expanding Community,” Journal of Negro Education, Vol 61, No. 3, 1992 (JSTOR) “A Community Mind,” in David Carr, The Promise of Cultural Institutions Supplemental reading: James Gardner, “Contested Terrain: History, Museums, and the Public,” The Public Historian, Vol. 26, No. 4, pp. 11-21 (Fall 2004) Public Conversations Project website, Presentation by Robin Pringle and Pam Steager on their JNBC fellowship work.

Week 5 (October 4): Who speaks for community?
Stephanie Yuhl, A Golden Haze of Memory: The Making of Historic Charleston Supplemental readings Michael Frisch, “De-, Re- and Post-Industrialization: Industrial Heritage as Contested Memorial Terrain,” in Journal of Folklore Research, Vol. 35, No. 3, 1998 Briann Greenfield, “Marketing the Past; Historic Preservation in Providence,” in n Giving Preservation a History: Histories of Historic Preservation in the United States. Max Page and Randall Mason, eds. New York: Routledge, 2003


T.H. Breen, Imagining the Past Class project: Charleston in the National Museum of American History’s “Communities in a Changing Nation” exhibition. Read script before class Week 6 (October 11): Building community through culture Americans for the Arts, Civic Dialogue: Arts and Culture Supplemental reading: Dolores Hayden, The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History Case studies from Americans for the Arts, History as Catalyst for Civic Dialogue or Art, Dialogue, Action, Activism Tim Collins, “Interventions in the rust belt: the art and ecology of post-industrial public space,” Ecumene 2000 7 (4) Scott Sandage, “A Marble House Divided: The Lincoln Memorial, the Civil Rights Movement, and Politics of Memory, 1939-1963,” JAH 80:1, June 1993) Amanda Cobb, “The National Museum of the American Indian,” American Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 2 Paper 2: due October 18: A 3- 5 page essay on a community and its culture as expressed in a museum, historic site or landscape, or memorial or public art project. Consider the parties involved in making the site and the politics that occurred behind the scenes that shaped the project, as well as the final result. Be judgmental: say whether you think the project works, and why or why not. What would you have done differently? (This paper will not be shared with the institution you write about.)

III: Interpretation and Representation
Public humanists preserve, present, interpret and represent. Each of these aspects of the work is informed by ideas about history, culture, and community, and each has its own theoretical and practical problems.
Week 7 (October 18): Objects: Collecting, Preserving, Interpreting This week has a different structure: Read several of these short essays. Choose an object to bring to class that you can explain (or display) in accordance with the methodologies and techniques outlined in the essay. Feel free to do this as group projects. Teresa Barnett, “Tradition and Individual Memory: The Case of Christian Sanderson,” in Acts of Possession Rachel Maines and James Glynn, “Numinous Objects,” The Public Historian, Winter 1993 Steven Lubar and Peter Liebhold, “What do we collect?” American Heritage of Invention and Technology Elisabeth Kaplan, “We Are What We Collect, We Collect What We Are: Archives and the Construction of Identity,” American Archivist 63 (Spring/Summer 2000): 126-151. James Cuno, “The Object of Art Museums,” in James Cuno, ed., Whose Muse? Art Museums 4

and the Public Trust Elaine Heumann Gurian, “What is the Object of this Exercise?” in Gurian, Civilizing the Museum John Hennigar Shuh, “Teaching yourself to teach with objects,” in Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, The Educational Role of the Museum Jules Prown, “Mind in Matter: An Introduction to Material Culture Theory and Method,” Winterthur Portfolio, Spring 1982 Mark P. Leone and Barbara J. Little, “Artifacts as Expressions of Society and Culture: Subversive Genealogy and the Value of History,” in Lubar and Kingery, History from Things Ruth B. Phillips, “Re-placing Objects: Historical Practices for the Second Museum Age,” The Canadian Historical Review 86, 1, March 2005 Susan Vogel, “Always True to the Object, in our fashion,” from Karp and Lavine, Exhibiting Culture Matthew Roth, “Face Value: Objects of Industry and the Visitor Experience,” The Public Historian, Vol. 22 No. 3 (summer 2000) Week 8 (October 25): Curating Andrea Witcomb, Re-imagining the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum Supplemental Reading: Stephen Weil, “From being about something to being for somebody: The ongoing transformation of the American museum,” Daedalus, Summer 1999 Philippe de Montebello, “ Art Museums: Inspiring Public Trust,” in Cuno, Whose Muse? (or any of the other essays in this book) Stephen Greenblatt, “Resonance and Wonder,” in Karp and Lavine, Exhibiting Cultures Spencer Crew and James Sims, “Locating Authenticity: Fragments of a Dialogue,” in Karp and Lavine, Exhibiting Cultures

Week 9 (November 1): Interpreting
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblatt, Destination Culture, selected chapters. Supplemental Reading: Lawrence Weschler, Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder Barbara Franco, “The Communications Conundrum,” Journal of American History, June 1994 Week 10 (November 8): Creating Catherine M. Lewis, The Changing Face of Public History: The Chicago Historical Society and the Transformation of an American Museum Supplemental Reading John Kuo Wei Tchen, “Creating a Dialogic Museum: The Chinatown History Museum Experiment,” in Karp and Lavine, Museums and Communities Ron Chew, “Toward a More Agile Model of Exhibition-Making,” Museum News, Nov-Dec 2000 Essays from Akemi Kikumura-Yano (Editor), Common Ground: The Japanese American 5

National Museum And The Culture Of Collaborations Paper 3: due November 15: A 3-5 page essay comparing and contrasting some of the public humanities institutions you’ve read about in the class, or encountered elsewhere. Describe the institution, the way it works, the way it makes use of objects (if appropriate). ,

IV: Projects and Presentations
Week 11: November 15: Workshop on final projects (November 22: Thanksgiving Holiday—No Class) Week 12: November 29 and Week 13: December 6 Student presentations! The final paper (see below) is an investigation of a public humanities project. This presentation, like the paper, should provide an overview of the project as well as give advice on future directions. Come to class prepared to do a 30 minute group presentation on the project you have investigated. Several possibilities are identified below, and I’m open to your ideas of others. Artifacts, exhibition, PowerPoint, and other presentation techniques encouraged. Paper due December 16 Write a paper, a 10-20 pages long, on the public humanities project you presented to the class. This case study should include historical background, analyze the issues, and conclude with suggestions for future directions. Choose a project for which archival data is available and for which you will be able to interview participants. Read the documents that have shaped the project to date. Analyze the projects in light of the readings: How does the project define culture and community? Who’s making choices? How does it fit into the historiographic and museum traditions we’ve discussed? The paper can be done either as a group project (if so, include a way for me to identify who contributed what) or as an individual endeavor. The paper is not simply a research paper, but should provide practical advice to the institution you’re analyzing. Assume that it will be read by the people working on the project.

Some potential projects
I’ve identified a few public humanities projects that challenge issues of memory, history, community, and interpretation. I’m open to other possibilities, too. In any case, talk to me about contacts and approaches for these projects or others.


The Roger Williams National Memorial is about to do a new management plan, National Park Service-speak for figuring out what they should do. The Park Service is considering expanding the mission and focus of the Memorial. What advice would you give them as they consult with the community to determine a new mission. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is in the planning stages of a new exhibit it hopes will introduce American history to its 3 million visitors each year. The proposed title is “American dreams,” and the exhibit team faces many challenges as it tries to address diverse audiences, treacherous political shoals, and the challenges of illustrating a theme with artifacts and presenting it in an exciting way. The Nightingale-Brown House is a historic house museum. It’s been very traditional in its presentation of the history of the house and the family that lived there. Propose a plan to use the house to tell a larger story in a more exciting way. The Rhode Island Council for the Humanities is in the process of rethinking its mission. Should it think of itself as a bridge between universities and communities, a granting agency, an agency that addresses current political and cultural issues, or one that supports understanding of Rhode Island’s cultural heritage? RICH has done extensive interviewing of interested parties to gather material on this. Using this material, research on other humanities councils, and additional interviews, write a report for RICH on directions for future work. Brown’s Slavery and Justice Committee’s report proposes several ways to memorialize the slaves whose labor made possible the funding of Brown in the late 18th century, and who were involved in building University Hall. Based on the materials gathered by the committee, propose a memorial to represent this aspect of Brown’s history.

The Pettaquamscutt Historical Society has acquired title to the Edward Everett Hale summer house in Matunuck, R.I. (Hale, author of “The Man Without A Country,” was one of the most beloved public figures in 19th c. Boston, a leading Unitarian theologian, advocate of a number of progressive causes, as well as best-selling author.) The Society plans to operate the site as a seasonal house museum. Help them create a master plan that balances the preservation and recreation of historic rooms, exhibition spaces (on what topics?) and other concerns. Historic Blithewold, in Bristol, RI, is in undertaking a strategic planning imitative. They are trying to balance the appeal of their gardens, historic house, and their extensive wedding business. Using the results of their board and member questionnaires, an analysis of the other organizations in the community, and an examination of other similar institutions, propose a strategic plan for them. Slater Mill Historic Site is about to select a new director. Prepare a report for him or her on the history of the museum, using it to suggest new directions. What’s worked in the past, and why? How has the community and museum visitors changed, and how should 7

the museum change to reflect it? Consider not only subject matter, but presentation and development issues.


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