Who is this presentation of the past for? Kitch visited some of the smaller town’s museums that, in comparison to Philly museums, are not for outside visitors but for creating a communal pride. It was to create a communal identity for those in that town. The barrier of who it’s for ends at the edge of town. I thought that was a particular point of where the community ends… and with Pennsylvania sometimes used as the “everyman”
I thought it was interesting that the author used the term ordinary people a couple times which was also used frequently in our first day of class. I remember it because I was watching the show American Crime last week and it had the actor who was in the film “Ordinary People.” Not that it’s a wrong term but it’s not something I hear a lot when describing an audience.
The other question is what it’s for.. A lot of these were for civic pride or pride in one’s heritage- (same thing?). In class, Dr. Lowe discussed the process of deciding on creating a program with the Department of Health in Philly about the Spanish Flu. Who has need that we can fulfill? What is useful history? Who is this work for? Also who has the authority of authorship? In the beginning of the book she quotes some town folks as questioning if these stories are being used as the marketing of personal tragedy. There’s probably a spectrum when it comes to using tragedy. It made me think if Michael Twitty describing cultural capital of those descendant of enslaved people in the US. The suffering of black americans produced black culture which is the capital and the reason cultural appropriation can be problematic. This issue of authorship is very present in the art world- most recently the Dana Shutz controversy.
In the study, there seemed to be levels of interest in history based on the connection to that history. Individuals would discuss the past that they felt connected to. White americans feel more connected to the institutional history than groups of Native Peoples or Black Americans. In my own experience, when there are Civil War related symposiums or Civil War roundtables far more middle age white males populate the crowd than when the topic shifts slightly towards USCT, Emancipation, and Reconstruction. When speaking broadly, the level of connection to a history seems to greatly increase the interest. When the Civil War is discussed as military history (almost like a sports recap) people who have a connection to the War as tragedy- a tragedy connected to their identity- might feel put-off by that telling of the past.
The texts described the term heritage as more approachable than the term history. Heritage implies a familial connection and history is what you were made to memorize in school. In my high school constitutional law class we had a mock jury selection. We all had different roles to play and I played a Klan member who was trying to hide this fact. When questioned by the lawyers, I described the “club” I was in as a heritage organization. Heritage has-been/is the defence of white supremacy- I’ve heard it a lot during the Charlottesville new coverage. It’s not a sterile term- neither is history- but because there is the inherent familial element of heritage there is also the creation of the other.. the ingroup and outgroup. I’m wondering that as much as it connects people to history how much does it also alienate and create these very problematic narratives.