Tag Archives: public history

Let’s Change the Way We Talk About the Midwest

12 May

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

Movement, changing urban landscapes, and environmental violence are all Midwestern stories. A 4-11 Fire Alarm, Chicago. Source: The Newberry Library

Even as Seemingly Every Article on Midwestern History and Culture aims to complicate understandings of the Midwest, they still start with the assumption that the Midwest is a static, white, rural place. This assumption is not reflected in the historical record, contemporary scholarship, or the lived experiences of so many Midwesterners (including myself); rather, it is a harmful and political statement. For example, in Minnesota the narrative justifies elevating violent legacies of colonizers while erasing past and present Indigenous presence in battles over place names at Bde Maka Ska and Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote. Meanwhile, the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota is unwilling to reckon with the racist histories associated with campus building names. The nostalgic characterization of the Midwest as perpetually white and…

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Holland America & Rotterdam: From Rotterdam, Many Left for a New Life

25 Apr

ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands — They came from Russia, Poland, Germany and Ukraine, bearing tickets bought in the field offices of the Holland America Line passenger ships. They were fleeing the pogroms, escaping tyrants, running from war or just seeking a better life. About two million people made their way to Rotterdam harbor during the peak years from 1880 to 1920 to begin a trans-Atlantic journey that would often end at Ellis Island.

The stories of these migrants inspired the former Rijksmuseum director, Wim Pijbes, and the group he leads, Stichting Droom en Daad (Foundation Dream and Do), to transform a crumbling warehouse on the Rotterdam piers into a kind of Dutch sister-site to Ellis Island. The nonprofit organization he directs, founded in 2016 to support arts in Rotterdam, acquired a city permit in March to turn the old Holland America Line warehouse into an institution that will commemorate those journeys.

So begins Nina Siegal’s New York Times story on the Holland America Line site in Rotterdam. You may read the rest of the post here.

I Am Not Throwing Away My Shot

26 Mar

Since Christmas, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack from the hit Broadway musical, Hamilton. I realize I’m a little late to the game, as per usual. Historians aren’t in a rush, apparently. My colleagues here at The Twelve have written excellent reflections on Hamilton (see Debra Rienstra’s piece here and Brian Keepers’ piece here) and I heartily agree with their astute observations. As I have been listening and singing along, however, I’ve realized a musical such as Hamilton very much reflects the current cultural climate. Rienstra and others have pointed out that the magic of Hamilton is that it is history told well. History is amazing, if it is told well. But I would also offer that history is amazing if told well to the right audience. It is hard to imagine anything like the Hamilton view of the founders in any other time but right now. Would Hamilton have been a hit 20 years ago? I doubt it. The emphasis on “immigrants…they get the job done,” Hamilton’s poor working class background, hip hop and rap influences, as well as the vision of the founders as non-white strikes a chord for today’s Americans.

So begins my successor’s fine reflections on Hamilton and public history. You may read the rest of her Twelve post here.

I used to lead tours at a plantation. You won’t believe the questions I got about slavery.

28 Aug

“Did the slaves here appreciate the care they got from their mistress?” one woman asked, pinchedly.

Read the rest of Margaret Biser’s account of leading tours that taught about slavery on a southern plantation: I used to lead tours at a plantation. You won’t believe the questions I got about slavery. – Vox

For all you do-it-yourselfers out there, a bit of history …

10 Aug

From historian and friend John Fea:

Everything has a history.  Even drywall. (I always called it by the brand name Sheetrock). As the son of a general contractor I have spent some time hanging drywall.  Since I am about 6’8R…

Source: The History of Drywall | the way of improvement leads home

The Historyapolis Project

10 Nov

Northwest Iowa Center for Regional Studies

The Historyapolis Project at Augsburg College (MN) seeks to deepen and expand the history of Minneapolis. The Midwestern History Association has just awarded the project the Alice Smith Prize in Public History. Take a look at the project web site here: The Historyapolis Project –

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