Managing History Blog 1

The readings for this week are united in part by a shared question of who owns public history, as well as who is most invested in public history. Dolores Hayden’s opening which recounts and analyzes a debate between Herbert J. Gans and Ada Huxtable which, despite Hayden’s further exploration of gender, class, and ethnicity in historical preservation, still stood out to me as an incredibly succinct encapsulation of the recurring debate in public history; whether to prioritize “culture” or to attempt public history as a form of activism in preserving and recounting the lives of marginalized people. Kitch’s analysis goes somewhat further Hayden(though this is not meant as a slight toward Hayden, part of this is due to the gap in time between when the two published) than public history as activism toward also seeing how certain narratives can take over in public history, (as they have in industrial Pennsylvanian history) to erase historical political and/or class conflict in favor of a more nostalgic view of the industrial era and the physical labor involved. The legacy of coal mining in Pennsylvania and the way it is portrayed in the media as something of the past was of particular interest to me in light of the recent conflicts between coal miners and coal corporations in Kentucky, namely Harlan County. A Democratic candidate hoping to unseat Mitch McConnell recently used several men suffering from black lung disease in a campaign ad while supposedly telling them that they were filming a re-enactment of miners’ ride to Washington. This was particularly egregious due to the miner claiming that they had been told the footage was to be used to Appalshop, a non-profit local arts and education organization. I’ve included a link below about the incident.

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