We start off this week with reactions to the National Endowment of the Arts report on the state of Americans’ reading habits. If these trends continue it may be a troubling signal for the country in general and the history profession specifically.
Then continue on to the other articles we’ve read this week, including a timely article on the history of turkey pardons, a historian’s exciting discovery of new pictures of Lincoln at Gettysburg, new developments at the Center for History and New Media, an oral historian reflecting on his own life, and finally a historian’s endorsement of the "Smallest Publishable Unit."
To Read or Not to Read – The NEA Report
A recent report from the National Endowment of the Arts offers worrisome findings about American’s declining interest and ability to read “lengthy, complex, abstract prose texts.” Are things as bad as they seem? The following articles offer a range of responses:
- In Americans Are Closing the Book on Reading, Study Finds (subscription required) Jennifer Howard over at the Chronicle offers a grim summary of the public’s changing reading habits.
- See also the Library of Congress blog, which notes the same report and points readers to the LOC Lifelong Literacy site.
- Opinion in the library community seems a bit divided about the nature and extent of the problem. Barbara Fister over at ACRLog (which covers the college and research library community) surveys some of the more skeptical reactions to the report in "Kindling Debate"
What Else We’re Reading
- Turkey Pardons, The Stuffing of Historic Legend
A humorous article from the Washington Post about the lack of documentary evidence for the annual turkey pardoning tradition at the White House.
- Upon closer inspection…
Historian John Richter, director for the Center for Civil War Photography, recently discovered two new pictures of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg while browsing the Library of Congress digital archives. Previously, only one photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg was known to exist. USA Today has the photographs, and a local paper has Richter’s story.
- Making Sense of 1989
On this new web site from the Center for History and New Media, learn about an upcoming NEH summer seminar on the events of 1989 in China and Eastern Europe. Events that include “the collapse of the communist regimes in Europe, the failure of the democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, and the subsequent end of the Cold War.”
- Moving Forward
Also from the Center for History and New Media comes the news that Dan Cohen has been appointed as their new director, following the passing of former director Roy Rosenzweig.
- Talking to Himself
Inside Higher Ed’s Scott McLemee reviews oral historian Studs Terkel’s new book Touch and Go: A Memoir, reading between the lines and questioning what is left out.
- Rethinking Scholarship: SPUs And The History Profession
In this article, historian Tim Lacy proposes an alternative unit of academic scholarship–the "Smallest Publishable Unit." This could include significant interventions in a listserv discussions or an important blog posting. As we puzzle over the changing environment for history publication, particularly in light of the recent warning from the MLA on scholarship for tenure and promotion, this provides an interesting point of discussion.
Contributors: David Darlington, Elisabeth Grant, Vernon Horn, and Robert Townsend