Spring 2008

Public History in the United States

Listed in: History, as HIST-69


Martha A. Sandweiss (Section 01)


(US) This course examines the many ways Americans encounter their pasts-in textbooks, films, monuments, museums, historic sites, and public policy. The versions of history presented in these public forums challenge and augment the interpretations of professional historians, and raise questions about who owns and interprets the past. Readings will include works on the overall problem of history's relationship to "memory" and "heritage," as well as several case studies that look closely at the politics of public history. Examples might include the ongoing assertions of Confederate heritage, Native American claims to historical places and objects, the National Park Service's interpretation of battlefields and parks, the Smithsonian's exhibition on the use of the atomic bomb, debates over reparations for historical injustice, and commemorations of 9/11 and the Oklahoma City bombing. Requirements include several short papers and an individual project that explores how a particular historical event might be visualized and presented to a broad public audience. Two class meetings per week. Limited to 25 students. Second semester. Professor Sandweiss.