What We’re Reading: September 6, 2012

Today’s roundup of interesting articles and links from around the web includes a summary on an significant change in how secondary teachers are approaching history instruction, a history of New York in 50 objects, and collectables found by museum curators at the Republican National Convention!

General News and Readings

Who Wears the Pants in This Economy? Hanna Rosin reports on how the traditional middle-class economy in Alabama is changing as women return to work and support their struggling families.

Abortion, Democrats, and Change Over Time: John Fea, after watching the Democratic National Convention, writes: “As a historian, I am always struck by the way the Democratic Party has, over the last thirty years or so, changed its position on life issues.”

Discussions Related to History

Academia: The Lure of the Limelight: Tim Stanley writes for History Today about current attitudes toward academia, and why young historians are walking away.

Is It History Yet? Scott McLemee reports for Inside Higher Ed on how former AHA President James Harvey Robinson’s groundbreaking book, The New History: Essays Illustrating the Modern Historical Outlook, continues to be relevant to today’s historical scholarship.

The War of Northern Aggression: James Oakes writes in the Jacobin, “Unwilling to take seriously what contemporaries were saying, historians have constructed a narrative of Emancipation and the Civil War that begins with the premise that Republicans came into the war with no intention of attacking slavery—indeed, that they disavowed any antislavery intentions.” He then proceeds to dismantle this narrative. James Oakes is also in Perspectives this month, with a very relevant essay, “On Changing My Mind.”

History Lessons Blend Content Knowledge, Literacy: Catherine Gewertz reports for Education Week on the slow but steady change in the way history teachers in secondary education are approaching history instruction, including more emphasis on analytical analysis and less on memorization.

Digital Materials: News and Interactive Tools

Beyond the Bubble: Sam Wineburg and colleagues have developed a terrific site (using Library of Congress materials) to offer a “new generation” of history assessment tools.

Lost in Cyberspace: Noting the rapid growth and disappearance of digital materials and websites, the Economist asks “Will historians of the future wish that webpages had been preserved more carefully?”

Historians Ask the Public to Help Organize the Past: On November 8, 1800, a fire destroyed the federal War Office in Washington, D.C. After years of work, scholars have recreated many of the documents ravaged by the fire, but the work is not over. Historians are asking the public to transcribe the documents from digital images. This particular experiment in crowdsourcing historical research is being sponsored by George Mason’s Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media.

A History of New York in 50 Objects: At the New York Times: “Inspired by ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects,’ the British Museum’s BBC radio series and book, we recruited historians and museum curators to identify 50 objects that could embody the narrative of New York.”

Fun around the Web

Academic Tim Gunn: Are you looking for an outside committee member for your dissertation or comps exam? Why not Tim Gunn? In this playful reimagining, Sarah Summers and Bill Riley created a photo montage of Tim Gunn doling out advice to would-be doctoral students. 

What Do American History Museum Curators Collect at the Republican National Convention? At the Smithsonian: “It takes a committed partisan to wear a funny hat or campaign button at a presidential nominating convention. But it takes two committed curators to plow through the convention crowds to collect the hats and buttons, plus the bumper stickers, lapel pins, party geegaws and discarded texts of speeches delivered in moments of extreme hope.”

Rock Icons Reborn as CD Mosaics: For music aficionados, artists Mirco Pagano and Moreno De Turco created an exhibition of rock star portraits using CDs. The exhibit is part of a campaign against music piracy.

The Computer’s Profile on Facebook: A historical timeline of computing via a Facebook profile.

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