Public Historians and Confederate Monuments

Looking for a little help today. In about a month I will hopefully begin to receive individual chapters from the contributors to a book of essays that I am putting together on how the Civil War is being interpreted at museums and historic sites. This project is under contract with Rowan & Littlefield and will be included as part of their “Interpreting History Series”.

My introduction will explore the recent history of how public historians have approached this topic going back to the 1960s, but I am now thinking about exploring how museums and historic sites are addressing the ongoing controversy surrounding Confederate monuments. This may get folded into my introduction, but depending on what I find, it may turn into a separate chapter. I already have a co-authored chapter that focuses on the Confederate battle flag that will be included in the book.

To my surprise I have found very few examples of museums and historic sites that are actively engaging their communities about these important issues, even in places where the issue is being debated. I can’t think of a more opportune moment to do so. I am not only interested in examples of public engagement, but with the limits of what public historians can offer. For example, we constantly hear about the importance of wayside markers to properly interpret monuments, but it is not at all clear to me that this is what those who are the most engaged either need or want. Somehow, we just assume that this is a solution.

Examples can come from museums and historic sites large and small. Please provide a link if available and please don’t leave information on this site’s Facebook page. I would love to have everything together in one place. Thanks for your help.


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5 comments… add one
  • kew100 Nov 5, 2016 @ 2:44

    Kevin, (I apologize if you already know tons about this stuff)

    Another focus, albeit one that I cannot map out well for you, is the creation of digital resources made available to the mobile user. The Field Trip app allows for “markers” you describe to be available as someone passes by. Folks can make their data available to the app. I have used it to force my children (and students) to learn more about their environs. Also once hooked in, you can find a plethora of data resources.

    I found this paper about work in Philadelphia. The paper includes an intro/review/background.

    Beyond this simple interface to a myriad of data sources, I also took one of the Bay Area tours through Detour.

    This is a much slicker audio/mobile experience that one pays for. I took the one on the Black Panthers which was basically my neighborhood when I lived in the Bay Area.

    Karen Wieckert

    • Kevin Levin Nov 5, 2016 @ 2:46

      Hi Karen. This is great. Thanks for passing it along.

  • Chris Miller Oct 5, 2016 @ 3:33

    Matheson Museum website:

  • Chris Miller Oct 5, 2016 @ 3:31

    The Matheson Museum in Gainesville, FL, is currently participating in just such a discussion. Unfortunately the museum lacks the resources to relocate and permanently house the statue in question. The search for an adequate solution continues—for-now

    • Kevin Levin Oct 5, 2016 @ 3:46

      Hi Chris,

      This is great. Thanks for the links.

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