History is all about dealing with memory – whether that memory is imagined or factual is one of the biggest problems we face as historians, especially as public historians, who convey to the public the importance of the past and confront how contested the past really is.
I propose then that in this session we discuss how public historians confront memory and history, we have to define what these terms mean of course, and then we need to look at instances of contested history that have been the source of much heartache already to historians, things like yes slavery! And the American Civil War and the Enola Gay. They do not have to be American history (but that’s what I’m most familiar with.) But I think it is important we try to dissect why we view our past the way we do, what shaped our national memory? What is national memory? Who “controls” national memory? How do we confront a memory that is historically inaccurate?
I am drawing heavily on the following three works for this discussion: David Blight, Race and Reunion; David Blight, Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War; History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past, ed. Edward Linenthal and Tom Englehardt, and (for any fellow furloughed park service folks) Interpreting Our Heritage by Freedman Tilden. I think we’ll all have fun and that everyone will have a lot to contribute even if they are new to the public history field!