Sunday, August 2, 2009

The Construction of History

Most of the time, we forget that history is contested ground. We know that monuments like Independence Hall or Edgar Allen Poe's house are important relics of the past, but we rarely get to see how how they became designated as such.

Who decides that a building, or an artifact, or a memory is so important that it should be preserved? How do we decide what's not worth remembering, and who gets to shape the stories of "the past" that we tell? How do those debates play out in real time, when the "history" being written is recent enough to be remembered?

As a public historian, I'm interested in the messy business of how history is shaped and influenced in the real world. What happens to the stories of the past that we historians tell the public? And how do public preconceptions (and misconceptions) color people's understanding of the stories that we tell?

I hope to use this blog to explore how history is assembled, one story at a time, in the public's consciousness and memory.

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