November 2008

Today is the official re-opening day of the National Museum of American History, closed for several years for renovations.  At 9 am Eastern you can watch a live webcast of the opening ceremonies!  I’m sure there will be tons of press about it; the early reports are very positive about the renovations.  I also love their new tagline:  “Real stories. Real stuff.” highlighting that authentic collections are the heart of this museum.  I look forward to hearing more about the new museum and visiting when I’m in DC in a few months.


Congratulations to founder of the Iowa History Center, Simpson College professor, author of many books on Iowa history and all-around great local historian William Friedricks, who has won the inaugural Iowa History Prize from Humanities Iowa.  You may remember how exciting I found it when this prize, a sort of Historian Laureate for the state of Iowa, was announced back in the summer, and it sounds like they’ve chosen a great project and a great historian for this first prize.  

“I am eager to get our programming started,” Friedricks said. “At the Iowa History Center we intend to use the funding from the prize to jumpstart Iowa history.” 

Friedricks’ proposal includes everything from a free speaker series to grants to elementary schools to fund Iowa history field trips. He also has proposed an Iowa Oral History Project to record the stories of prominent Iowans and an Iowa History Center Press designed to publish works with an appeal to both an academic and a popular audience. 

Congrats to Friedricks, and to Humanities Iowa for conceiving and funding such a great prize.  I’m a big believer in contests and prizes as goads to innovation, and hopefully the Iowa History Prize will be a great success and a model for Historian Laureate programs across the country.  

However, a caveat:  the Iowa History Center at Simpson College, Friedricks’ organization, has no web presence at all.  Iowa Oral History Project?  Publishing program?  Sounds great, but you have to put it on the web so everyone can not only access but help create the information.  Public history needs to happen on the web as well as on the museum floor, the park, the classroom.  If it’s not accessible on the web, it’s not accessible to the public.  Keep that in mind, Iowa historians, and good luck to Bill!

Superstruct, the future-forecasting game that I’ve been participating in, has come to an official end.  The Institute for the Future and all the amazing thinkers and makers who participated in the project will be preparing reports and making plans, though the site will stay up and superstructing will continue.  I, for one, am going to keep thinking about the future of public history and agriculture and the postal system and education and community and museums.

 An awards presentation is up (about an hour long, with lots of enthusiasm and yays and awards from special secret guests) and it’s been exciting to hear about some great projects that I missed when I took a bit of a hiatus from Superstruct.  That hiatus was why I was so suprised to be named one of the “SEHI 19,” 19 folks from the superstruct community chosen to be puppetmasters of a future superstruct game. Also chosen was fabulous colleague Elizabeth Merritt from the AAM’s Center for the Future of Museums.  Her screenname was elizabethmerritt.  Mine was suzanne.  Transparency is obviously a key value for museum professionals in 2019.  Anyway, I’m very excited about it, and besides, that, it’s my birthday.  So, thanks for the present, Superstruct!

In August, Pete Daniel, the first public historian to be president of the Organization of American Historians, wrote an article in the OAH newsletter on his worrying experience of the growing influence of donors on exhibit concepts, design and content at the NMAH.  (Thomas blogged this at the time.)  This month’s OAH newsletter features a number of unreasonably harsh responses, many of them ad hominem, and Daniel’s reply.  Considering the current, future and desired roles of donors in developing exhibits is an important subject, and not one to be dismissed by shooting the messenger.

Check out this cool new historic mapping application.  DC Historic Tours uses open data from the District to map historic landmarks, structures, and districts, city heritage tours, African-American heritage sites and DC heritage trails, and where to get a pizza afterwards.  You can also create your own tour.  The application is part of the Apps for Democracy contest, which challenges developers to create useful apps from DC municipal data. (via)

I’m in Ann Arbor, waiting for a ride to Pittsburgh, where we’re having the annual meeting of the History of Science Society.

Remember that my paper, and our great panel on “To Market:  A new look at the medical marketplace” is at 3:30 pm tomorrow (Friday Nov 7)!  Jeremy Greene, Debby Levine and I will be speaking, and Gwen Kay will give a comment.  I woke up at two in the morning today with the pressing realization that my talk (“Apologia for quackery”) needed lolducks, so expect them.

The HSS Graduate and Early Career Caucus has a great series of events planned for the meeting, which I’m pasting below.

Final Schedule of GECC Events at HSS

GECC-Sponsored Session
From Dissertation to Book: A Roundtable on First-Time Scholarly Book Publication
Friday, 12-1:15pm – check program for location information
Read more about the session in the full announcement on the blog.

GECC Happy Hour
Friday, 7:30-9:30 The Church Brew Works
The first ever GECC happy hour is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 7 from 7:30 to 9:30 at The Church Brew Works.  GECC volunteers will be standing by after the HSS reception to organize
transportation to one of Pittsburgh’s unique watering holes.   After refueling, we’ll head back to the hotel for the Grad Student party.  Visit the the blog for more information.
**Bring small bills to share the cost of a short cab ride** (it’s a short bus ride too!-sf)

HSS Graduate Student Party
Friday, 9:30-11pm
This annual event is sponsored by HSS, so drop in after happy hour to meet and mingle.

GECC Business Meeting
Saturday, 12-1:15 pm Carnegie III—Conference floor.
Beverages provides; bring your lunch, your concerns and interests as a grad student or early career scholar and help plan the future of the GECC.


GECC Business Meeting Agenda
1. Welcome and review of last year’s accomplishments
2. Discussion of the status of the GECC and budget
3. Election of 2008-2009 officers
4. Discussion on the new mentorship program
5. Proposals for next year’s GECC sessions – come with ideas!
6. Membership Communication
a. listservs
b. special interest groups
c. what the GECC can do to build diversity within HSS membership
1. international members
2. undergraduate outreach
d. conference networking: roommates etc
e. membership directory – do we need one?
7. Open discussion of member concerns/ideas
8. Hydra journal announcement

May I encourage you to exercise your franchise today?  This will be a historic election whatever the outcome–though, of course, given the indefatigable popularity of presidential history, every election is a historic election.  

For a less-fraught election, now would be a good time to vote in the Cliopatria Awards, awarded for the best history writing in the blogosphere.  Polls are open till Nov 30 and there’s no waiting in line.

I’ve scoured the corners of the internet to bring you this link roundup!

If you live in Minnesota, remember to vote yes for the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.  This is PH’s official endorsement for the election season.

Congrats to the Brooklyn Museum for winning a Forrester Groundswell award!

A new Michigan-based booklet on rehabbing historic properties.

Will your data survive the digital dark age?

Todd has been posting about Detroit bicycling history.

LibraryThing is organizing a “cataloguing flash mob” at a church in the Boston area with historical book collections.  What a great idea!  It’s like a metadata barn raising.

Fascinating show on collections and collectors at a museum in Poland.

And, from the How Did I Beat Rob McDougall to Posting This department:  an amazing online exhibit of spirit photography!