Category Archives: Uncategorized

Memory and History at Ground Zero

There is a wonderful article in yesterday’s New York Times on the challenges of commemorating and interpreting the tragedy of 9-11 at “Ground Zero” in Manhattan.  Back in January I wrote on some of the parallels between 9-11 and Civil War memory at the Atlantic.  As someone interested in public history and interpretation and as a family member of a 9-11 victim I certainly appreciate the competing interests and emotional investment that animate many in this debate.

  • How should the terrorists be interpreted in the museum?
  • What should be done with the remains of 9-11 victims and how should they be memorialized?
  • How much influence should 9-11 families have on interpretation?
  • What artifacts should be included in the museum?
  • How should the politics of 9-11 be handled, including subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?

There are no easy answers nor should there be at this stage.  I was struck by the issue of how to handle the most emotionally sensitive materials such as voice recordings and images.  The designers of the museum have sectioned off certain exhibits and made it possible for visitors to exit at certain points if the experience becomes too much.  As someone who is personally invested in this story I can appreciate the steps taken here, but the historian in me is concerned.

If we are going this far to protect visitors from certain sights and sounds than perhaps it is too soon to even consider a museum.  Perhaps the site should remain a memorial for the near future and perhaps the museum would have been better placed in NYC, but away from Ground Zero.  The people in charge of interpreting the site may have achieved a certain level of detachment, but the general public may still be far behind.

Just a few thoughts.

Goodbye, Cliopatria

with (left to right) Ralph Luker, Mark Grimsley, and Becky Goetz at the 2007 meeting of the SHA in Richmond

Today I was sad to learn that Ralph Luker is closing up shop over at HNN’s Cliopatria blog.  Ralph has been blogging since before I was born – I mean my blog, of course.  Early on it was the place to be seen and I certainly benefited from Ralph’s encouragement and support from making it on to the blogroll to the occasional hyperlink, and most notably receiving the Cliopatria Award for Best Individual Blog in 2007.  Thanks to the many distinguished bloggers who made Cliopatria home over the years and thanks especially to Ralph for his hard work and commitment to maintaining the site.  It is safe to say that Ralph is largely responsible for encouraging academics to blog and for giving the format the respectability it deserves.

Washington – Lincoln Day in Virginia

"Lincoln's Drive Through Richmond" by Dennis M. Carter

Update – 01/24: Yesterday the bill was stricken from the Senate’s calendarUpdate: Head on over to Robert Moore’s site for some thoughtful commentary on Lincoln’s connection to the Shenandoah Valley. Turns out that the Lincoln family’s roots are deep.

The Virginia General Assembly is considering a bill that would designate the third Monday in February as Washington – Lincoln Day.

The third Monday in February – George Washington-Lincoln Day to honor George Washington (1732-1799), the first President of the United States, and Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), the Great Emancipator.

This makes perfect sense given the Lincoln’s family’s roots in Virginia as well as the importance that many Virginians attach to his entry into Richmond in April 1865 and the end of slavery.

Carter’s painting is on display at the American Civil War Center at Tredegar in Richmond through April 2012.

Your Email

This morning I awoke to a pretty nasty private email from a reader who was disappointed that I did not take the time to respond.  I certainly understand the frustration, but while I do my best to respond to as many blog comments as possible, I simply cannot respond to each and every private email that I receive.  On average I receive somewhere around 20 emails a day and on some days it can double and even triple.  It would be impossible for me to get anything constructive done if I responded to each and every email.  That said, I do read your email messages and I do appreciate you taking the time to write.  Thanks for your understanding.