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)”