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Gettysburg College

Civil War Era Studies

Cultural History

2011

Articles 1 - 30 of 62

Full-Text Articles in History

Merry Christmas From A Land Of Hope And Sorrow, John M. Rudy Dec 2011

Merry Christmas From A Land Of Hope And Sorrow, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I was driving home from work a few weeks ago, flipping through the radio stations and I came upon one of those dedicated progressive/modern/pop holiday formats you hear so often this time of year. I tarried, only planning to spend a moment there. It was a cover version of "O Holy Night" performed by Josh Groban. I'm not the biggest fan of Groban, so my hand instinctively went back to the dial when I stopped. [excerpt]


Experience + Interaction, Jacob Dinkelaker Dec 2011

Experience + Interaction, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

What do our historic sites and museums offer to visitors? More importantly, what should we strive to offer? Right now, I think many of our historic sites offer two different things: a variety of experiences and access to a wealth of information. Sites like Antietam offer a number of different experiences – from taking a tour over the battleground where so many fought and died, to driving through the battlefield at night seeing thousands of luminaries, each one representing a life. Our historic sites also offer access to knowledge and information – many times through those experiences they offer. Continuing to use ...


Saturday Extra: Guerilla Civic Engagement On The Landscape, John M. Rudy Dec 2011

Saturday Extra: Guerilla Civic Engagement On The Landscape, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Over at Civil War Memory, Kevin Levin brought the community's attention to some installations placed on the fences surrounding a few of the statues along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia. The signs are a redress of sorts to the Confederate narrative told through granite, marble and bronze on the massive monuments. They highlight black citizens of Virginia who challenged the racist establishment of the state throughout its history. [excerpt]


The Past Is A Foreign Country: But They Still Eat Ketchup There, John M. Rudy Dec 2011

The Past Is A Foreign Country: But They Still Eat Ketchup There, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Earlier this week, the folks over at the Gettysburg National Military Park Facebook page posted a link to their Gettysburg School Bus blog highlighting a post on integrating the Civil War into a language arts curriculum. I love the concept. I think in the current educational environment, which seems to be spurning history and social studies in primary classrooms, anywhere we can integrate the stories of the past into the state's standards, sneaking the history back in, is awesome.


"The Wrong Shall Fail, The Right Prevail, With Peace On Earth, Good-Will To Men!", John M. Rudy Dec 2011

"The Wrong Shall Fail, The Right Prevail, With Peace On Earth, Good-Will To Men!", John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

This past Saturday night, I was standing in one of my old haunts. The Dry Goods Store at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park is perhaps my favorite place to be an interpreter, especially at night. Low wattage lightbulbs (simulating whale oil or tallow lamps) and the darkness outside the windows make that building a perfect time machine. Near the end of the night, a family came in with two enthusiastic sons. One wearing a toy kepi and carrying a brand new souvenir envelope of Confederate money rushed around the store asking if he could, “buy that with this.” His excitement ...


Huck Finn, Robot Jim And John Denver: Language, Young Man!, John M. Rudy Dec 2011

Huck Finn, Robot Jim And John Denver: Language, Young Man!, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I'll be teaching a section of Civil War Era Studies 205, Intro to the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College this spring. I had been puzzling over my book list for the past month or two, trying to decide which tomes to assign to students who need an overview of the era and a firm grounding in the four Civil War historical schools: social, military, political and memory. While Drew Gilpin Faust and Charles Dew have drifted onto and off of and back onto my list as I've been planning, one firm holdout has always been Adventures of ...


Forever Free: The Dakota People's Civil War, John M. Rudy Nov 2011

Forever Free: The Dakota People's Civil War, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

As I mentioned last week, I left Fort Snelling after our tour as part of the National Association for Interpretation annual conference unfulfilled. The potential for high-drama and deeply meaningful connections was palpable on that landscape. The audience, a crowd of interpreters, were begging for meanings. One African American woman in the group, after the site administrator mentioned in passing Dred and Harriet Scott being held at the site, asked about the nature of the labor used to build the fort. I was sitting in the row behind her. I could not see her face. But from the inflection in ...


Walking Out On The Meaning: Dedication Day 2011, John M. Rudy Nov 2011

Walking Out On The Meaning: Dedication Day 2011, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I am a nerd. Last year on November 19th I was stuck in Las Vegas, attending the NAI conference (the same one Jake and I have been grousing about for the last two weeks). This was the first Dedication Day event I had missed since first coming to Gettysburg in 2003. I was upset. I was disconsolate. I trudged the strip dejected. I toured the Atomic Testing Museum, which was fascinating but unfulfilling. I am one of those dorks who doesn't understand how anyone can schedule anything other than a trip to Gettysburg on November the 19th. The glitz ...


Just Interpret To Me: Reflecting On Nai 2011, John M. Rudy Nov 2011

Just Interpret To Me: Reflecting On Nai 2011, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Last week saw Jake and I in St. Paul, Minnesota for the annual National Association for Interpretation workshop, a week long gathering of professional interpreters from around the nation. I'll guarantee that the next couple of weeks will be filled with recaps from both of us on what struck us the most during the conference. Our reactions ranged from "meh..." to "Dude!" [excerpt]


Don't Say Slave: Interpreting Slavery At Nai 2011, Jacob Dinkelaker Nov 2011

Don't Say Slave: Interpreting Slavery At Nai 2011, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Slave, servant, fugitive, runaway, master, slave owner, and farm. What do all of these words have in common? Well, if you went to Angela Roberts-Burton's NAI session, "Overcoming the Obstacles of Interpreting Slavery," you would know that all of these are words that she urged interpreters not to use when interpreting slavery and slave life. Instead, you should use: enslaved, freedom seeker, fled bondage, slave holder, and slave plantation. [excerpt]


Last Prisoners At Gettysburg: A Gift For Kind Hearts, John M. Rudy Nov 2011

Last Prisoners At Gettysburg: A Gift For Kind Hearts, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I have been digging quite heavily into the history of Pennsylvania (Gettysburg) College and the American Civil War these past few months, trying to fill a gaping hole in the scholarship not only of the college but of the local civilian story in the war. This has meant long Thursday nights at Adams County Historical Society culling through every random mention of the college and the complex relationship which the students and faculty had with both the citizens of the borough and the armies which invaded it. It has also meant that I've had the opportunity to revisit Gettysburg ...


"Sit Down Together At A Table Of Brotherhood": Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, John M. Rudy Oct 2011

"Sit Down Together At A Table Of Brotherhood": Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

As we walked along the tidal basin back toward the Smithsonian Metro Station, I began to cry. Just a few tears, here and there, welled in my eyes. It wasn't the monument or the quotes. It wasn't the deep feelings I had looking at his face. It was overhearing a simple conversation. Two 30-something black women in a group of tourists were talking to one another about photos.

"You need to get your picture taken, girl," one asks the other.

"Why?" she responds, "I've got plenty of pictures."

"To prove you were here," the first woman responds ...


Wittingly Effaced For Too Long: Hidden In Plain Sight, John M. Rudy Oct 2011

Wittingly Effaced For Too Long: Hidden In Plain Sight, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

A few years ago, Gettysburg College changed their wordmark. The previous college logo featured the words "Gettysburg College" topped with a line art version of the flag flying from the cupola of Pennsylvania Hall. The logo explicitly acknowledged the sense of place, referencing the 34-star flag which flies above the Civil War era field hospital both night and day. The logo acknowledged the Civil War inherently. [excerpt]


The Race Of The Interpreter: "I'M Not Going To Spend My Life Being A Color...", John M. Rudy Oct 2011

The Race Of The Interpreter: "I'M Not Going To Spend My Life Being A Color...", John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I am often put into an interesting place when recounting the tales of history. My passion is the history of race and abolition, the Civil War and the development of Civil Rights in the wake of the memory of our great fratricidal conflict. I'm white. Yet I am never afraid to broach the subject of race. Stephen Colbert's character on The Colbert Report often mentions that he doesn't, "see color." I would never be that bold. But I will say that I try to ignore color when I am interpreting to an audience. Put an audience of ...


A Dictatorship Of Meaning: Villainizing Multiple Perspectives, John M. Rudy Oct 2011

A Dictatorship Of Meaning: Villainizing Multiple Perspectives, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I read Louis De Caro's "John Brown the Abolitionist -- A Biographer's Blog" regularly because I deeply respect the work which DeCaro has done in researching Brown, particularly putting him into the context of his religious life. I assigned "Fire from the Midst of You": A Religious Life of John Brown to the students in my class this semester on Brown, as it is an intriguing look at the abolitionist. But I read DeCaro's blog because I don't agree with him on many of his criticisms of how Brown is interpreted in a modern context. I try ...


Standing Up By Sitting Down: Join The Student Sit-Ins At The Smithsonian, Jacob Dinkelaker Oct 2011

Standing Up By Sitting Down: Join The Student Sit-Ins At The Smithsonian, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Continuing my review and discussion that I started last week of the NMAH's historical theater programs, this week, I want to talk about the other program I attended on my most recent visit down to the mall: the Join the Student Sit-Ins program. Long story short, Join the Student Sit-Ins is another great interpretive offering from the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The program thrives on visitor involvement and reflection. It's engaging, historically deep, emotional, and probing for answers, ultimately asking more questions than finding answers. [excerpt]


"That All Men Are Created Equal...": Universal Relevance And The Civil War, John M. Rudy Sep 2011

"That All Men Are Created Equal...": Universal Relevance And The Civil War, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

One of my favorite movies is Back to the Future III. I know that is a terrible choice in some folks' eyes. The response I usually get is an, "ugh!" and a snarl of the lip. Still, I think there is so much going on in that film, from the struggle between fatalism and free will to the themes of love and sacrifice, heartache and heartbreak.

The reason Back to the Future III comes up in my mind today, though, is because of a dialogue within the public history world that appears to be heating up, thanks in part to ...


30 Minutes With John Brown At The Smithsonian, Jacob Dinkelaker Sep 2011

30 Minutes With John Brown At The Smithsonian, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Last week, my folks were in town from Ohio visiting me and doing the 'tourist thing' in our nation's capitol. On one of their days in town, I met them after work at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History (NMAH). We saw the Great Garrison Flag and the gunboat Philadelphia. My mom saw the First Ladies' dresses while my father and I went to the military exhibit instead (we're not much for fancy dresses). And although they were tired, and by this time had had their fill of history, I convinced them to let me drag them ...


Speaking A Different Language, John M. Rudy Sep 2011

Speaking A Different Language, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

[Video available below] OK, so what are we looking at? First and foremost, we are looking at someone who has thought deeply about the meaning of Lincoln's words at Gettysburg. "President Lincoln changed history / he honored the dead but did so much more / he changed the meaning of the Civil War." MC Lala gets the deep meanings of the two minutes Lincoln spent on a platform in Gettysburg. MC Lala grasps the deep importance of Lincoln's re-dedication of America at Gettysburg using the Declaration of Independence's ever inspiring promise that, "all men are created equal." [excerpt]


In Another Sesquicentennial, John M. Rudy Sep 2011

In Another Sesquicentennial, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

On Tuesday, Jake wrote asking who controls the memory of 9/11. The ownership of memory is such an interesting thing. This tenth anniversary was an interesting event, fraught with conflicted memory and different voices. It was intriguing to watch all of the slight conflicts which emerged last week leading up to the ceremonies on Sunday morning. [excerpt]


Holy Writ: Thinking Beyond Enabling Legislation To Modern Relevance, John M. Rudy Sep 2011

Holy Writ: Thinking Beyond Enabling Legislation To Modern Relevance, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Why trust a bunch of dead guys? I know it sounds trite, but it's very important when we begin approaching how we talk about Civil War sites (or any historic site). Oftentimes, the folks who voted the site into existence and decided its primary reason for being are dead and gone. The world has changed radically since they were here. The pieces of legislation they created (at the federal level they're typically called "enabling legislation," at lower levels they have varied other names) were distinct products of their times. The themes and significances they outline are likewise products ...


"And Preachin' From My Chair": The Historian And The Interpreter, Jacob Dinkelaker Sep 2011

"And Preachin' From My Chair": The Historian And The Interpreter, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I've been thinking lately of titles. The new blog Emerging Civil War's inaugural post touched off a powder-keg of thought for me. Looking down the list of contributors yields name after name listed as "historian at...." But most of those folks appear to have the official job title of "park ranger," "interpreter," or "visitor use assistant," and not "historian." This got the wheels in my head turning. [excerpt]


"Gold Coast Slave Ship Bound For Cotton Fields...": Altamont And The American Civil War, John M. Rudy Aug 2011

"Gold Coast Slave Ship Bound For Cotton Fields...": Altamont And The American Civil War, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

A couple weeks ago, I put up a post about a flag flying at Manassas during the Sesquicentennial commemoration. It elicited a nice response from a friend of mine, Robby, who hails from the great state of North Carolina. Robby loves to play devil's advocate, so I'm always happy to wade further into a friendly conversation:

...When a historian is unable to understand the southern affinity for the men who fought the war, almost to a person you see the slavery straw man emerge. This action is akin to politicians playing the race card, an easy way out ...


A House Where People Lived: The Schriver House Of Gettysburg, Jacob Dinkelaker Aug 2011

A House Where People Lived: The Schriver House Of Gettysburg, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Recently a couple of my close friends and I were hanging out in downtown Gettysburg, looking for trouble, err I mean, fun. We were trying to find something in town that we hadn't been to – something new to add to our Gettysburg experiences. When one of them suggested that we give the Shriver House a whirl, I admit, I was a little uneasy at first. [excerpt]


Realistic Goals For Civil War Interpretation: What Are They Supposed To Walk Away With?, John M. Rudy Aug 2011

Realistic Goals For Civil War Interpretation: What Are They Supposed To Walk Away With?, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Before you can begin any task, to some extent, you need to have some target in mind. Even if that target is hazy and indistinct, you need to aim that arrow somewhere before you let the bowstring fly.

So, what is the target that Civil War interpretation aims for? I go on programs and walks with interpreters when I'm out visiting Civil War sites. I love tours.[excerpt]


How Can We Make Digital History Sites Personal?, Jacob Dinkelaker Aug 2011

How Can We Make Digital History Sites Personal?, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

It's a question I've been asking myself a lot recently. Digital public history sites are springing up all over the web. There are snazzy ones with great content like The Antebellum Project, which showcases Bowdoin College's role in the coming of the Civil War. There are information and resource dumps like Ancestry.com that allow its users to see tons of different historical sources. There sites that use GIS like WhatWasThere and allow users to collectively document the world around them. Then there are websites that are digital exhibits built to accompany an actual physical exhibit - one ...


Manassas: Why They Fought Here, John M. Rudy Aug 2011

Manassas: Why They Fought Here, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

Another quick observational post on the Sesquicentennial event at Manassas last month. This time, it all revolves around the Confederate living history camp adjacent to the Henry House, and more directly to the exhibit there which the reenactors entitled, "Flags of Manassas." Curiously, the flags of Manassas were only rebel banners, with nary an American flag in sight. But that's another discussion completely. [excerpt]


Interpreting Controversy: The Atomic Bomb And The Nps, Jacob Dinkelaker Aug 2011

Interpreting Controversy: The Atomic Bomb And The Nps, Jacob Dinkelaker

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

I’m going to step a little outside of our purview today to comment about the recent developments and media reactions to the proposed Manhattan Project National Historical Park. You can read the National Parks Conservation Association’s press release, and the NPS resource studies at their respective hyperlinks. John and I discuss our wider views of public history here pretty often, so I think the issue at hand is still pretty relevant. [excerpt]


Manassas: Consumer Time Machine, John M. Rudy Aug 2011

Manassas: Consumer Time Machine, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

One of the interesting bits of interpretation I found at Manassas' Sesquicentennial event was a rarity in my book. Oftentimes, living history volunteers place the contents of a haversack or a bedroll out on a gum blanket and simply name off the items for visitors. Beyond this laundry list, the conversations rarely reach into the realm of drawing personal connections with the visitor's daily life or personal experiences. The intellectual connection is well lain out, but an emotional connection is often fleeting. [excerpt]


Manassas: On The Road Again, John M. Rudy Jul 2011

Manassas: On The Road Again, John M. Rudy

Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public

A few months ago I took a quick jaunt to Carlisle to see the Pennsylvania Civil War Sesquicentennial roadshow. I was heartily impressed with the quality of interpretation and exhibit design. For a rolling exhibit which needs to fold in upon itself, it was very rich and powerful. Jared Frederick, proprietor of History Matters had a nice roundup of what that exhibit comprises.