"If you can write, that's great. If you can tell a story, that's even greater. But if you can work a resilient premise into both, you're worth digging to find."

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Who Owns America's Past?: The Smithsonian and the Problem of History by Robert C. Post

The Good. The title. It sums up exactly, the premise of the book. It might seem puerile that this be pointed out, except in this case it was a real treat to open the book and find from beginning to end, the content stayed on target and with the premise.

The Mmeh…Okay. Readers like myself, who are unfamiliar with the internal debates to “stocking” the Smithsonian, or any other national building of similar respect, may find the book challenging in keeping up with the long list of participants and stakeholders. But too, “if you’re anything like me," you will also be fascinated by that challenge and find Who Owns America’s Past an ageless source to reference.

The Best Part! What motivated me to grab this book was knowing there would be no way getting around addressing the arc of arguments rooted in perspective and political views about how exhibits were/are selected, and who owns the telling of over a million perspectives. The Bell exchange, and the resolution of that exchange, was as interesting as the Enola Gay debacle, and much of the deepest contentions on war exhibits, for that matter. Yet, what really struck a chord were the inferences of how to represent “disturbing parts of history,” without offending, and thus at the larger offense, ‘garbling’ America’s historical view. Adhering to context and scholarship is a logical conclusion, if only it weren’t for the incongruous contradictory nature of history. It has to be a difficult story to capture and represent in any respect, long before reaching a consensuses about “what” to display in a monumental building.

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