Memory Matters: Proceedings from the 2010 Conference Hosted by the Humanities Center, Miami University of Ohio

SUNY Press
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The past is never dead. It s not even past. William Faulkner
The three thought-provoking essays in Memory Matters explore how the process of memorialization keeps the past alive in the present and shape the way we imagine our possible futures. The product of a one-day symposium hosted by the Humanities Center at Miami University of Ohio, it focuses on issues of commemoration in the contexts of U.S. history, Native America, and museums. In From Lexington and Concord to Oklahoma City: The Perils and Promise of Public History, Edward T. Linenthal offers a fresh perspective on creating national memorials. In The Remembered/Forgotten on Native Ground, Daniel M. Cobb draws upon Benedict Anderson s notion of the remembered/forgotten to explore the work of memory at the sites of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the Wounded Knee Massacre, and the Miami Removal. And in Museums Matter, Helen Sheumaker explores how museums function as repositories and creators of cultural memory. The volume also includes a transcript based on the question-and-answer session following the original presentations. Stemming from a two-year scholarly project, Memory and Culture: Engaged Scholarship, Multidisciplinary Connections, and the Public Humanities, Memory Matters provides scholars and those interested in such fields as museum studies, memorial studies, and cultural history with provocative discussions of the ways in which representation, power, and memory intersect.
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About the author

Daniel M. Cobb is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is the author of Native Activism in Cold War America: The Struggle for Sovereignty and the coeditor (with Loretta Fowler) of Beyond Red Power: American Indian Politics and Activism since 1900.

Helen Sheumaker is Visiting Associate Professor of American Studies at Miami University of Ohio. She is the author of Love Entwined: The Curious History of Hairwork in America and the coeditor (with Shirley Wajda) of Material Culture in America: Understanding Everyday Life.

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Additional Information

Publisher
SUNY Press
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Published on
Jan 1, 2011
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Pages
66
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ISBN
9781438438337
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Language
English
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This content is DRM protected.
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Academic studies of the Civil War and historical memory abound, ensuring a deeper understanding of how the war’s meaning has shifted over time and the implications of those changes for concepts of race, citizenship, and nationhood. The Reconstruction era, by contrast, has yet to receive similar attention from scholars. Remembering Reconstruction ably fills this void, assembling a prestigious lineup of Reconstruction historians to examine the competing social and historical memories of this pivotal and violent period in American history.

Many consider the period from 1863 (beginning with slave emancipation) to 1877 (when the last federal troops were withdrawn from South Carolina and Louisiana) an “unfinished revolution” for civil rights, racial-identity formation, and social reform. Despite the cataclysmic aftermath of the war, the memory of Reconstruction in American consciousness and its impact on the country’s fraught history of identity, race, and reparation has been largely neglected. The essays in Remembering Reconstruction advance and broaden our perceptions of the complex revisions in the nation's collective memory. Notably, the authors uncover the impetus behind the creation of black counter-memories of Reconstruction and the narrative of the “tragic era” that dominated white memory of the period. Furthermore, by questioning how Americans have remembered Reconstruction and how those memories have shaped the nation's social and political history throughout the twentieth century, this volume places memory at the heart of historical inquiry.

AS AMERICANS enter the new century, their interest in the past has never been greater. In record numbers they visit museums and historic sites, attend commemorative ceremonies and festivals, watch historically based films, and reconstruct family genealogies. The question is, why? What are Americans looking for when they engage with the past? And how is it different from what scholars call "history"?

In this book, David Glassberg surveys the shifting boundaries between the personal, public, and professional uses of the past and explores their place in the broader cultural landscape. Each chapter investigates a specific encounter between Americans and their history: the building of a pacifist war memorial in a rural Massachusetts town; the politics behind the creation of a new historical festival in San Francisco; the letters Ken Burns received in response to his film series on the Civil War; the differing perceptions among black and white residents as to what makes an urban neighborhood historic; and the efforts to identify certain places in California as worthy of commemoration. Along the way, Glassberg reflects not only on how Americans understand and use the past, but also on the role of professional historians in that enterprise.

Combining the latest research on American memory with insights gained from Glassberg's more than twenty years of personal experience in a variety of public history projects, Sense of History offers stimulating reading for all who care about the future of history in America.

In the largely forgotten craft of hairwork, practiced widely in nineteenth-century America, the hair of loved ones—living and deceased—was woven into jewelry, wall decorations, and keepsakes. Rings, bracelets, lockets, and brooches were set with metalwork or ivory and painted with rich patterns. Pocket watches hung from long, woven hair fobs. Parlor walls were decorated with elaborate wreaths made of hair fashioned into twigs and flowers, often adorned with beads or ribbons. More unusual items even included a tea set made entirely out of hair. Victorian men and women treasured hairwork not only as remembrances of loved ones and memorials of relationships but also as objects of beauty and means of personal expression.

Beginning as a trade of highly skilled craftsmen in the late eighteenth century, hairwork became tremendously popular among the middle class, and supported at its peak in the mid-nineteenth century an industry that included catalog dealers of premade pieces, standardized patterns, and how-to books for hobbyists. Advertisements, stories, and illustrations in popular publications depicted hairwork as the height of sentimental fashion.

Using a wide array of evidence drawn from poetry, fiction, diaries, letters, and, above all, examples of hairwork, Love Entwined traces the widespread and long-lived popularity of the craft and its place in the American marketplace. During a period that saw a growing mechanization of production methods, hairwork stood apart not only for being made by hand but also for using a part of the body as a material. Helen Sheumaker argues that this refiguration of a loved one's hair into a commodity created a unique meeting point between sentimentality and consumerism, intensifying the close relationship between the goods one purchased and the kind of person one wished to be.
Objects of everyday life tell stories about the ways everyday Americans lived. Some are private or personal things—such as Maidenform brassiere or a pair of patched blue jeans. Some are public by definition, such as the bus Rosa Parks boarded and refused to move back for a white passenger. Some material things or inventions reflect the ways public policy affected the lives of Americans, such as the Enovid birth control pill. An invention like the electric wheelchair benefited both the private and public spheres: it eased the lives of physically disabled individuals, and it played a role in assisting those with disabilities to campaign successfully for broader civil rights.

Artifacts from Modern America demonstrates how dozens of the material objects, items, technologies, or inventions of the 20th century serve as a window into a period of history. After an introductory discussion of how to approach material culture—the world of things—to better understand the American past, essays describe objects from the previous century that made a wide-ranging or long-lasting impact. The chapters reflect the ways that communication devices, objects of religious life, household appliances, vehicles, and tools and weapons changed the lives of everyday Americans. Readers will learn how to use material culture in their own research through the book's detailed examples of how interpreting the historical, cultural, and social context of objects can provide a better understanding of the 20th-century experience.

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