My collection of essays, Interpreting the American Civil War at Museums and Historic Sites, took a big step closer to publication yesterday with the return of the independent review. I don’t mind admitting that I have been a bit stressed out over it. This is my first stab at editing a collection of essays solo. Do the essays cover a sufficient range of topics? Has my editing of the essays helped to improve the individual chapters and do they work well together? You get the gist.
It’s encouraging to know that the independent reviewer confirms what I have come to believe about this collection:
This well-conceived and timely manuscript should appeal to a broad range of museums and historic sites—not only those intimately associated with the American Civil War, but also those that wish to engage more productively, and thoughtfully, with difficult history. I strongly recommend publication of the manuscript…
I think I see the makings of a book jacket blurb. A few minor revisions to a couple of chapters is all that is left before the manuscript goes to the copy editor. I will pass on the publication date as soon as it is announced from Rowman & Littlefield.
With that I want to share the book’s dedication. For a book geared to public historians this was a very easy choice for me and one that I hope all of you will agree is entirely appropriate.
No one has taught me more about public history and the challenges of interpreting the Civil War for the public than John Hennessy, who as you all know is Chief Historian/Chief of Interpretation at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
I first met John while researching my book on the Crater. While I was familiar with the secondary literature on the National Park Service and Civil War history, I was very interested in talking with NPS historians on the front lines in hopes of gaining a more nuanced understanding of the challenges associated with opening up interpretation to broader issues concerning slavery and race.
We’ve been friends ever since.
From the preface:
John is one of those rare triple threats among public historians in the National Park Service. He is a master storyteller, who has never shied away from engaging his audiences around the most controversial topics related to Civil War history. Throughout the Civil War sesquicentennial John was relentless in pushing the park service to think anew about traditional topics of military history and to explore uncharted territory related to race, slavery, and the home front in both new exhibits and programming. Finally, John’s scholarship over the years has added immensely to our understanding of Civil War history and has helped to bridge the divide between scholars and general readers. I can think of no one who more fully embodies the virtues of what it means to be public historian.
I could go on, but I have no doubt that John is going to be just a little embarrassed by this post and the attention that it will bring his way. That’s OK. It is important to me that John’s commitment to public history is recognized, especially at a time when the NPS’s budget is under assault. John and everyone else in the NPS is entrusted to care for some of this country’s most important physical and cultural assets and they do an incredible job with little recognition and appreciation.
Thanks to John for all he has done to advance the field of public and Civil War history as well as for his friendship and support over the years. If I could do it all over again, I would want to be John Hennessy. 🙂