A Public History Newbie's Thoughts on Everything and Nothing

Public History. Comments. Questions. Sarcasm. Maybe Some Hippie Rants.

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Tobacco flag quilt, circa 1915

This is very useful

A Fine Collection

Yesterday, June 14, was Flag Day: the anniversary of the adoption of the US flag in 1777. This is a holiday that, I confess, typically passes me by unnoticed. But this year I spotted enough references to the occasion that it made an impression – and that impression was, Hey, an idea for the blog!

Today’s flag-related artifact is a pieced and tied quilt, maker and history unknown. The back is one piece of black cotton; rather than quilted or sewn together, the three layers (top, batting and back) are tied together at intervals with brown wool yarn. It is the top that interests us today, of course. It is made of “tobacco flannels” or premiums: small fabric freebies that came packaged with tobacco products (usually cigarettes, although they’re sometimes referred to as “cigar flannels”). These giveaways included a variety of small textiles, from fuzzy “oriental rugs” to silk ribbons…

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ADA Service Animals and Museum Practices in My Own Voice

Many of us do not think twice about our mobility, vision or hearing, or the capability to freely communicate. This essay is written to help museum administration not only be comfortable with visitors with disabilities but also be legally aware of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

At a recent StEPs-CT program that addressed museum audiences, the keynote speaker shared the laws, ethics and expectations surrounding the Americans with Disabilities Act. Please note that this is an interpretation of her talk in my own voice in order to share with my peers. Included here is her expert advice, literal ADA requirements and my personal experience with a parent who is recently visually challenged.

Here are the two parts from her presentation that struck me:

  1. Service Animals

At the museum I work at, there are many people walking their dogs around every day since the museum is located inside of a large town park. On occasion people ask if they can bring their dogs inside and I say no, of course. Luckily there has not been any trouble and people are mostly courteous. But I have asked myself, who is really allowed, and what two questions you can ask to clarify possible sticky answer?

Thankfully the ADA presenter explained this and brought a copy of the U.S. Department of Justice ADA Service Animal Standards. Here are some quotes that will easily help museum staff understand.

A service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform certain tasks for a person with a disability.

Service animals are working animals, not pets.

*When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions:

-Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?

-What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

I strongly suggest that all staff and volunteers read and understand the ADA requirements. I have placed the standards in a Staff Binder and the museum’s Operational Manual.

Do you, your fellow staff or visitors have allergies to dogs or miniature horses (which is the only other ADA approved Service Animal)? Oh well. Give the owners and the service animals the respect they deserve. Your discomfort is only temporary in that situation and the needs of those who have service animals will always trump the temporary discomfort of the staff or fellow visitors.

In my opinion only, the part where denying people with entry can get tricky is if the person insists that their animal is a “companion” or “emotional support” animal and that they must be allowed in. Sorry, but that line only works if the dog is a trained service animal for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If someone gives you or your staff a hard time about admission simply refer back to the two questions above: Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

  1. Websites

One question. Does your website have a tab or section for information regarding accessibility or even special programing?

The website for the museum that I work for certainly did not. I assumed, perhaps like many others in the StEPS-CT class, that we did not have to since many of our locations have Handicap parking. That’s effort right? Well now I know that it is not enough.

When creating an ADA section on your website, do not put up a description along the lines of “please let us know if you need help getting around and one of our helpful staff will be there to open doors or assist you in anyway.” This is patronizing. Instead, frankly explain the accessibility and offerings your museum does have and what you do not have. This can include widths of doors, how many handicap parking spaces are available, ect…

How you present the information on your website is important too. What I mean is that, many people have visual impairments and they have specific needs to be able to see the screen and the text.

My mother (who has given me permission to share her story) has had very poor vision her entire life. The vision was correctable up until a few years ago when it became clear that she has macular degeneration at a very young age. The surgeries do not work, she does not qualify for stem cell research and it is irreversible. So, as of the Fall of 2014, she has lost her driver’s license at age 55. To step into her shoes, imagine being able to see shapes and colors only (those of you with glasses- just take them off) but not have facial recognition or be able to see what’s on your own book shelf unless you are about one foot away from it.

She is blessed to be able to work from home now and have friends & family who drive her to where she needs to go. She has lost her independence but gained support.

The point of telling you this is to understand vision impairment in an approachable way. My first step was to call my mom. After explaining why I needed her help she was happy to take a look at my museum’s website and offered these simple changes:

Less subtle colors: Visually impaired people often need contrast to see the words clearly.

Larger Font: While she has been given many screen modifications, it would be better with big font size.

In conclusion, we should look at our websites and think how someone who is visually impaired needs to see this in order to have an easy experience. Post your accessibility on your website and have your staff brush up on Service Animal guidelines.


ADA on a Page

Service Animals

Maintaining Accessibility in Museums

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Stevie Nicks, Feminist

My musical soul-mate…


Stevie Nicks: The legend from Fleetwood Mac is a rock star, because she’s always been ruthlessly honest and fearless. The first time she picked up a guitar and wrote a song, it was about heartbreak, and when she wrote for Fleetwood Mac, many of those songs were about her doomed relationship with guitarist Lindsey Buckingham. But through all the struggle, Nicks was sexy and sophisticated, and strove for equality by embodying the equal. 

“We fought very hard for feminism, for women’s rights,” Nicks told a crowd at South by Southwest in 2013, according to Rolling Stone. “What I’m seeing today is a very opposite thing. I don’t know why, but I see women being put back in their place. And I hate it. We’re losing all we worked so hard for, and it really bums me out.”

Nicks completely owned her femininity and her vulnerability, all while proving that…

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Not a Clever Title: A Report on “DH Will Not Save You”

“Let’s consider class, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, nationality primary to and constitutional of the digital humanities, not simply the “diversity box” of political correctness. Let’s remember the fringe fields and movements who did this in the past, but did not receive widespread support and funding, as part of the central history of DH. Only when we completely reconfigure and recenter the humanities in DH will we be able to talk about using the field to “save” humanities departments from extinction.” –Adeline Koh, “A Letter to the Humanities: DH Will Not Save You,” April 19, 2015

Adeline Koh writes like she is charging on a white horse to say the Misconception Dragon. This article, written for Hybrid Pedagogy, attempts to clarify that using Digital Humanities (DH) is the not the be-all and end-all of how to save academic departments from boring stagnation.

While her fervor may be a tad over the top, I see her point. Her point (I believe) is that all the fantastic teaching of digital tools in Digital Humanities such as History, are worth much less if the students are not also being taught the human connection needed. She calls out that many is the DH field have been letting the digital tools or method be the accomplishment without centering on the true humanities, implications, ect…  In her eyes the humanities need to stay at the core of DH without the alluring glitz and glam of the “digital” becoming center stage.

To summarize the quote that I began with, just using new technologies will not be the only savior to the field. The people themselves must be in focus- in very pointed detail. Again, Koh comes across as very serious about this belief. I do not know any of her other work or main profession so it is not fair to judge but, I have to say that even as a completely new user of Digital History, it has changed enhanced how I will operate, research, and apply history. So, while Koh is very doom and gloom about the DH losing its heart, I am leaning toward DH being an open door for exploration.

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Thoughts on History in a Digital Age by Turkell and Lee

This post is regarding pages 63-70 of History in a Digital Age by Lee and Turkell,

In reading this section, I realized that we, meaning historians who have a pulse on the new age of history in the juxtaposition of the World Wide Web, are in the middle of a quiet revolution. The only sound you will hear in the clicking of keyboards and intermittent sounds of YouTube’s kitten videos.

This revolution is profoundly unique and most certainly the direct result of being able to do research online. Part of this change is that the long term, singularly focused projects that have been the standard for so very long are now faux-pas.

To clarify, the long term projects that have been the standard in assignments are no longer an effective way to be in touch with the students or the intended audience. In History in a Digital Age, the authors clear that there is no substitute for close reading or the detective work that is fundamental to progression into the historian realm. After all, the wonderful world of the Internet is really not worth much to a historian if the skills for researching are never learned.

Yet, the traditional long term projects are like trying to fuel up a diesel pick-up truck at an electric car’s charging port. It’s just awkward.

The authors put forward a strategy used on students in order to balance online learning experience with tried n’ true methods of historical research. It looks as if my own Digital History professor is using these very tactics to engage us. Well done! As the professors in History in a Digital Age had they students do, my own professor has had us create blog identities, get to know Wikipedia, adopt Zotero if applicable, set up a Twitter feed, ect… All in an effort to raise classroom enthusiasm while learning work skills. Some students may be intrigued or overwhelmed (both, in my case with Omeka).

No matter what, we should be aware that we are riding that quiet tidal wave of digital history revolution. Any historian who has picked apart the fads of history focus and fazes should note that the 2000-2020 era will go down as a time of radical rethinking in this field. We, the Millennials like myself certainly did not start the ripple but, we are caught up in the momentum.

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30 Reasons it’s Smart to Hire a History Student

Well said !


When my co-op advisor asked how my current job relates to my History degree, I didn’t know what to tell her. Not because the job doesn’t relate to my studies–it does. Almost everything does, if you ask me. On the transferable skill side, there is just so, so much.

As I sit at the tail end of my History and Communications double major, resume full of business-friendly internships and experiences, I can’t help but notice how underrated the History half of my education seems to be. It has helped me thrive in so many work worlds–from the public service, to high tech marketing, to education and tourism. It’s time we stopped overlooking the History degree.

Here are 30 reasons why.

  1. History students are experts at tracking trends. They know how people, strategies, and time-stamped statistics work (or don’t work).
  2.  …and, yes, they know how to communicate that information back.

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