New Summer Series: Public History Journal

by tigermanifesto

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Most of the time, this blog is strictly concerned with what I read, watch, and listen to. IT did originate as media review blog, and serves that purpose much of the time, so that is far from a bad thing. Nonetheless, I’m happy to report that my scholarly and political interests have gotten me into a more productive role. That is, I will be responsible for overseeing the scripting of a public history application for the city I live in. For my last undergraduate semester, I produced a similar project with my classmates as collaborators. The new project will be quite different insofar as I will be working alone most of the time and with much less class supervision. Additionally, I will be getting some compensation, which is somewhat surprising these days.

I hope to dedicate a whole series of blog posts to this subject, since it will likely involve a large amount of archival research and background investigation. In turn, these activities impinge on issues of historical method, which are relevant to me as a Marxist. In addition, of course, the project will be a public history assignment, meaning that it will for a wider audience than the usual academic circles. Unfortunately, as Andrew Hurley as explored in his book Beyond Preservation, endeavors like this are often tools of white colonization of whole sections of the city, displacing the original residents and creating price spirals in the rent market. Hurley’s main objective in his book was to show that history can be sued as an oppositional tool, creating local community cohesion and even fostering pride through the production of historical projects in tandem with local populations.

Since both of my projects will revolve around local parks, there might be limited opportunities for engagement with communities in a deep and considered way. I hope to at least make myself acquainted with these areas in order to give my writing a more concrete cast than it otherwise might have. Mainly, I hope to uncover the limitations of a mobile app project like this one, though I have a few ideas already. The problem, of course, is that those with the leisure and initiative to explore public history are probably going to be at least petty bourgeois, invested more in the nostalgic and entertainment aspects of history than the creation of any kind of camaraderie or local power. Not to mention, depending on where these parks are, it might be in a bourgeois neighbourhood to begin with.

All of these issues and more are likely to come up in the course of writing. This series will cover theoretical tidbits, issues of method, fun anecdotes, and frustrating problems that I encounter during the project. Let’s see where this goes.

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