body / freedom / art: Rethinking disability through art

This post originally appeared on the National Museum of American History’s blog O Say Can You See

Smithsonian Curator Dr. Katherine Ott invited students in Dr. Samuel J. Redman’s Museum/Historic Site Interpretation Seminar to explore the museum’s disability history collections and write blog posts sharing their research. The blogs are part of the celebrations commemorating the 25th anniversary of the passage of the American Disabilities Act.

What is disability? Performance artist, writer, and actor Neil Marcus encourages his audience to rethink disability as something that is not medical or physiological. Rather, Marcus suggests, “Disability is an art. It’s an ingenious way to live.” Based on this perspective, Marcus aims to live artfully: non-medically, non-stereotypically, and full of soul.

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A Definition Intervention: Historicizing Public History (book review)

Meringolo, Denise D. Museums, Monuments, and National Parks: Toward a New Genealogy of Public History. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2012.

In recent years, debates have festered in the effort to define what “public history” means. In an intervention in the “definition debate,” Denise D. Meringolo issues a call to public historians to move toward a proactive effort to historicize and theorize what distinguishes public history from the broader field of history.[1] Meringolo suggests that exploring the history of public history will enable a more thorough understanding of the field. This new genealogy of public history locates the field’s emergence in the efforts of government workers who began to put history to work for the public. Meringolo argues that the National Park Service History Division established history as a public service, and examines the challenges and decisions of these “prototypical public historians” to reveal the ways in which the evolution of government sponsored research and education enabled the creation of the Smithsonian Institute and National Park Service.[2]  Continue reading “A Definition Intervention: Historicizing Public History (book review)”

Sharing/Shared Authority: Public Curation through “a Kaleidoscopic Lens” (book review)

Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski, eds. Letting Go?: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World. Philadelphia: Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, 2011.

Letting Go?: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World interrogates the prospect of shared historical authority in public history practice, as a contribution to the “thought leadership” initiatives of the Pew Center For Arts & Heritage. In this anthology, twenty-four contributors examine how museum constituents join in interpretation and the creation of meaning, and what this means for professional museum staff. Shared authority seems to offer a possible solution to the question of how to make history museums more relevant to their communities and more receptive to outside partners, voices, and interpretations.

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