What We’re Reading – June 10, 2010
In this week’s edition, professors argue that chalk and a blackboard are the only technology a good teacher needs, archaeologists find Roman history in England, archivists digitize records at the Ford Library, scientists look at the history of chemicals, the New York Times defends the humanities, and bloggers cover history conferences. See also articles on silent films getting a happy homecoming, exploring Einstein’s brain, and a patriot who refused to declare independence. Also, browse an online collection of advertising art, and meet at the intersection of history and exploration.
News and Commentary
- A Toxic History Lesson
When it comes to chemicals, think of the cliché, If only we knew then what we know now. Michael Schulder, CNN Senior Executive Producer, looks back at some of history’s chemical conveniences that turned out not to be so convenient, like DDT and lead. Be sure to watch a clip from the recent report, Toxic America, with Dr. Sanjay Gupta who “examines the large number of chemicals our children are exposed to—even before they’re born—and assessed what we know and don’t know about their impact on our children’s health.”
- Digitization at the Ford Library
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library recently announced a major records digitization project. See the details here. The first digitization project was the “National Security Adviser. Memoranda of Presidential Conversations, 1973–77,” the library’s most popular and most used textual collection. Each folder of the Memoranda of Conversations (or “Memcons”) contains the White House’s transcript-like records and handwritten source notes from over 1,000 presidential meetings on foreign relations and national security matters, January 1973–January 1977.
- Gladiator Graveyard
Archaeologists in Great Britain have found a graveyard for Roman gladiators, according to CNN. The skeletal remains show telltale signs of combat with both humans and animals.
- History for Dollars
New York Times columnist David Brooks defends the humanities in an era where many are going for more lucrative professions. There are many technical wizards, he says, but few who can understand the emotional makeup of persons and societies, which a humanities education helps develop.
- The Lost Arts of Teaching
Does the reliance on technology in the classroom diminish the “art” of teaching, especially improvisation? This article from Inside Higher Education wonders whether the increased presence of technology in the classroom has really created more prepared students.
- Dispatches from The Historical Society Conference
See posts on history for the non-major, generalizing in history, Christian identity in modern Europe, race and slavery, America’s two-party system, and other sessions, courtesy of Randall Stephens.
- Remember Political History
Tenured Radical Claire B. Potter shares her experiences at the Policy History Conference. Day one is here, day two is here, and day three is here. By the way, have you submitted your proposal for Perspectives’ May 2011 political history theme issue yet?
Check out Hacking the Academy, a book “crowdsourced” by contributors to May’s THATCamp at George Mason University. See also some the collaborative documents produced by THATCamp here, and our own Robert Townsend’s reflections on THATCamp and the future of peer review from this blog on Monday.
- A Happy Homecoming For Long-Lost Silent Films
Collaboration between the New Zealand film archive and the National Film Preservation Foundation in San Francisco has recently placed 75 silent films back in the limelight. Be sure to watch a clip from the 1910 film, The Sergeant, and listen to the story from NPR’s All Things Considered.
- Advertising Art from the Era of Don Draper
Plan59 is a gallery of mid-20th-century advertising art and illustration brought to you by the same folks behind Shorpy.com. Browse the massive galleries laughing at boat-size cars and reading for subtext, or purchase digital and print versions of your favorite images.
- The Abandoned PA Turnpike
Also from the early days of car culture, check out this small page with a brief history of—and guide to hiking, biking, and spelunking in—abandoned sections of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
- Einstein’s Brain Unlocks Some Mysteries Of The Mind
It’s a good thing Thomas Harvey, the pathologist who performed Einstein’s autopsy in 1955, kept the genius’ brain. Michael Paterniti, author of Driving Mr. Harvey: A Trip Across America with Einstein’s brain, explains: “[Harvey] believed that his role was to preserve this brain and to put it in the hands of some leading neuroanatomists who might be able to figure out the key to Einstein’s genius.” Doug Fields, a brain researcher, discovered part of this explanation: astrocytes.
- The Patriot Who Refused to Sign the Declaration of Independence
John Dickinson, that is. As a political moderate and a staunch Quaker, Dickinson had countless reservations about launching war against Britain, such as a predominant fear that an American nation “could ever be built on the foundation of opposition to British misrule.”
Contributors: Miriam Hauss Cunningham, David Darlington, Vernon Horn, Jessica Pritchard, and Robert B. Townsend