May 2007

Abba museum to open in Stockholm in 2009.  I’m generally unimpressed by music museums, but gimme gimme gimme. (via global museum)

Today someone came down to the museum to offer us a complete, fully articulated human skeleton. 

I love my job.

May 18 is International Museums Day.  ICOM has a list of events happening around the world.

As a local historian, even a local historian interested in the web, I find it very easy to lose sight of the global character of museums and historical organizations.  The world easily telescopes into North America, the US, Minnesota, Hennepin County, Minneapolis.  The small and marginalized nature of lots of local history projects makes it even more tempting and pressing to magnify the role of the local in interpretation and collaboration.  But we are, importantly ,connected to an international network of museums and people interested in preserving and finding meaning in the past.  Though the specific locations and foci differ, we can share tools, techniques, standards, theories on the way museums function in public life.  Happy International Museums Day, everyone!


The new issue of The Public Historian made its way to me recently, and it’s a good one, worth running down to the library for, or looking it up when they put the issue online.

The journal features a special focus section on the public history of science.  Roger Launius’ piece, about presenting the history of science at the National Air and Space Museum, seemed more and more familiar to me as I read on, and in fact, it was his plenary address at a recent HSS meeting, but his list of ten exhibits that NASM would probably not be able to put up in the current cultural climate are interesting, including exhibits on musicians who died in airplane crashes, theories of the moon hoax, and the question of whether or not there’s other life in the universe.

Jason Krupar’s article, “Burying Atomic History:  The Mound Builders of Fernald and Weldon Spring,” is a totally fascinating analysis of historic preservation efforts at two former uranium refinery sites in Ohio and Missouri.

Weldon Spring and Fernald served the same roles in the manufacturing complex.  However, historic preservation initiatives achieved vastly different outcomes at both plant sites.  Although federal officials were willing to spend millions on plant remediation, local efforts to memorialize these facilities were thwarted.  The production operations of Weldon Spring and Fernald took place far from public scrutiny.  Presently, the histories of these sites are either being systematically destroyed or literally buried out of public view as environmental cleanup takes place.

This is a terrific article on federal and community views of historic preservation and on negotiations on how to think about recent nuclear history.  For more on the Fernald plant, visit the Fernald Living History Project.

Also recommended in TPH 29 (1) are two field reports, one from the Tenement Museum, on their facilitated discussions on immigration, and another on the medical artifact collection at the University of Western Ontario.   (Some style choices in TPH continue to be a bit old-fashioned for my taste, particularly “Web sites.”)  What have you been reading?

The excellent blog Leaving Academia has been revived. One year after the intrepid Victrix defended and moved into a writing career, she’s started to post again nonpseudonymously with more resources for ex-academics. She’s also started doing podcast interviews with former academics at her personal website. Several podcasts currently up feature history PhDs who now work as researchers or curators. Thanks for the encouragement, Sabine!

At MW2007, one topic of consensus seemed to be that museums need to lose their walls and bring theirknowledge, collections, contexualizations, to where people are.  I spoke briefly with Lynnabout the intersections between GPS/mapping and history, and she brought up geocaching as an activity people are already doing involving place, heritage and the web.

On that note, I went up to Lake Maria State Park, in Wright County, last weekend, stopping on the way to visit the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, in Darwin, Meeker County.  At the twineball’s guestbook, we found a note from a geocacher, who’d cached something aroundthe twineball.  On the MN State Parks’ homepage, one front-page news story is that, as of last fall, geocaching is officially allowed in Minnesota State Parks. 

The parks’ press release highlights a few interesting points.  They recognize geocaching (and, incidentally, letterboxing) as a valid recreational activity which could occur in state parks.  However, to put a cache in a park, however, you need to download and print a permission form, which must be signed by the park manager.  It seems highly unlikely that anyone will actually do this.  In general, the parks are validating geocaching in general, but trying to control it in a pretty unenforceable way.  By encouraging geocachers local historians could help demonstrate the relevance of museums and historic sites for yet another tech-savvy community.  However, questions of preservation and security will need to be hammered out.