Publications and Scholarship
The faculty of the UMass Amherst Public History Program are leading scholars in the field, who through their own publications as well as service on educational boards and reviews, help shape this field of inquiry. Some examples of this work are below.
Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life
In this book, David Glassberg surveys the shifting boundaries between the personal, public, and professional uses of the past and explores their place in the broader cultural landscape. Each chapter investigates a specific encounter between Americans and their history: the building of a pacifist war memorial in a rural Massachusetts town; the politics behind the creation of a new historical festival in San Francisco; the letters Ken Burns received in response to his film series on the Civil War; the differing perceptions among black and white residents as to what makes an urban neighborhood historic; and the efforts to identify certain places in California as worthy of commemoration. Along the way, Glassberg reflects not only on how Americans understand and use the past, but on the role of professional historians in that enterprise.
American Historical Pageantry
At its peak, between 1910 and 1917, pageantry blended elements of the historical oration and the carnival parade and served as a vehicle for local boosterism, patriotic moralizing, and popular entertainment. Many of its promoters, immersed in the world of progressive reform movements, also viewed pageantry as a dramatic public ritual that could bring about social and political transformation. But embedded within the pageant form was a glorification of a distant past at the expense of the present, a facet of American culture that would later become even more prominent. By the mid-twentieth century, Glassberg shows, public imagery had begun to depict the past as something without ongoing significance for either the present or the future. At the same time, narratives of local community developmentt had given way to an emphasis on national unity, and the popularity of pageantry as a way of representing history in civic celebrations waned.
Giving Preservation a History
Edited by Max Page and Randall Mason
In this volume, some of the best figures in the field have come together to write on preservation movements across the country, from New York to Atlanta to Santa Fe and others. Giving Preservation a History also touches on the European roots of the historic preservation movement; on how preservation movements have taken a leading role in shaping American urban space and urban development; how historic preservation battles have reflected broader social forces; and what the changing nature of historic preservation means for the effort to preserve the nation's past.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Campus Guide)
Marla Miller and Max Page
The newest title in our Campus Guide series takes readers on an architectural tour of University of Massachusetts Amherst. As one of the nation's oldest public universities, and the largest in the Northeast, the University has a rich and storied history. Initially chartered as the Massachusetts Agricultural College, the school has grown from fifty farmers to close to 24,000 students of diverse backgrounds and academic interests. The University's campus has also expectedly experienced parallel growth. From a few barns on the Berkshire foothills, the University now sits atop nearly 1,500 acres. Five carefully considered tours put the architectural history of the campus into context.
Building the Nation: Americans Write About Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Landscape
Moving away from the standard survey that takes readers from architect to architect and style to style, Building the Nation: Americans Write About Their Architecture, Their Cities, and Their Landscape suggests a wholly new way of thinking about the history of America's built environment and how Americans have related to it. Through an enormous range of American voices, some famous and some obscure, and across more than two centuries of history, this anthology shows that the struggle to imagine what kinds of buildings and land use would best suit the nation pervaded all classes of Americans and was not the purview only of architects and designers. Some of the nation's finest writers, including Mark Twain, W. E. B. Du Bois, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Lewis Mumford, E. B. White, and John McPhee, are here, contemplating the American way of building. Equally important are those eloquent but little-known voices found in American newspapers and magazines which insistently wondered what American architecture and environmental planning should look like.
The City's End: Two Centuries of Fantasies, Fears, and Premonitions of New York's Destruction
Max Page examines the destruction fantasies created by American writers and imagemakers at various stages of New York’s development. Seen in every medium from newspapers and films to novels, paintings, and computer software, such images, though disturbing, have been continuously popular. Page demonstrates with vivid examples and illustrations how each era’s destruction genre has reflected the city’s economic, political, racial, or physical tensions, and he also shows how the images have become forces in their own right, shaping Americans’ perceptions of New York and of cities in general.
The Creative Destruction of Manhattan, 1900-1940
Winner of the 2001 Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians.
The oxymoron "creative destruction" suggests the tensions that are at the heart of urban life: between stability and change, between particular places and undifferentiated spaces, between market forces and planning controls, and between the "natural" and "unnatural" in city growth. Page investigates these cultural counterweights through case studies of Manhattan's development, with depictions ranging from private real estate development along Fifth Avenue to Jacob Riis's slum clearance efforts on the Lower East Side, from the elimination of street trees to the efforts to save City Hall from demolition. In these examples some New Yorkers celebrate planning by destruction or marvel at the domestication of the natural environment, while others decry the devastation of their homes and lament the passing of the city's architectural heritage. A central question in each case is the role of the past in the shaping of collective memory—which buildings are preserved? which trees are cut down? which fragments are enshrined in museums? Contrary to the popular sense of New York as an ahistorical city, the past—as recalled by powerful citizens—was, in fact, at the heart of defining how the city would be built.
Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service [online]
Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Marla R. Miller, Gary B. Nash, David Thelen
Winner of the 203 National Council on Public History Prize for Excellence in Consulting.
Imperiled Promise examines the practice and presentation of American history in the National Park Service and at its sites. Completed by the OAH at the invitation of the National Park Service and prepared by the OAH History in the NPS Study Team Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Chair, Marla R. Miller, Gary B. Nash, David Thelen.
"‘Common Parlors’: Women and the Recreation of Community Identity in Deerfield, Massachusetts, 1870–1920"
For many vacationers, this quiet, tree-lined street simply offers respite from overtrafficked, deamnding lives, but for most Deerfield offers something more, a chance to experience the seeming timelessness of a community steeped in the colonial period... While interpreters introduce visitors to prominent men who held positions of political economic or ecclesiastical power in the village's past, Deerfield's eighteenth-century women are met largely in chance encounters. Hearts and spinning wheels, traditional icons of women's work, collapse the real diversity among women in early America into one mythical Goodwife who worked tirelessly to provide food and clothing for her family. The colonial Goodwife looms so large that she obscures the experiences of subsequent generations. Most visitors would be surprised to learn of women's critical role in teh late nineteenth-century recreation of Deerfield as the historic village it is today.
"Playing to Strength: Teaching Public History at the Turn of the 21st-Century" [online]
Presents a conversation about the nature and future of graduate education, and the place of public history in it. The increased attention paid to public history by the two leading professional organizations. Initiation of a regular column on public history in 1996, and its task force in 2001, while the OAH launched a Committee on Public History 1981, and a Committee on the National Park Service 1995--constitutes further evidence of changing attitudes within the profession at large. As the AHA and the NCPH continue to review and consider public history education, certain broader trends in public history, and higher education more generally are likely to influence the shape that education takes in the years to come. Faculty members should be encouraged to participate more actively in public history education, whether or not they see themselves as specialists in this area, helping relieving the burden on faculty members too-often identified as sole sources of public history knowledge, and modeling for students the continuum of public history practice within the academy.
"Commemorating Luther: Contested Memories and the Cold War" in Divided But Not Disconnected
Jon Berndt Olsen
The Allied agreement after the Second World War did not only partition Germany, it divided the nation along the fault-lines of a new bipolar world order. This inner border made Germany a unique place to experience the Cold War, and the “German question” in this post-1945 variant remained inextricably entwined with the vicissitudes of the Cold War until its end. This volume explores how social and cultural practices in both German states between 1949 and 1989 were shaped by the existence of this inner border, putting them on opposing sides of the ideological divide between the Western and Eastern blocs, as well as stabilizing relations between them. This volume’s interdisciplinary approach addresses important intersections between history, politics, and culture, offering an important new appraisal of the German experiences of the Cold War.
Works by Allied Faculty
The Lowell Experiment: Public History in a Postindustrial City
Cathy Stanton, Adjunct Research Associate
The Lowell Experiment is an ethnographic study of public historians at work in the former textile city of Lowell, Massachusetts, which has invested heavily in what is sometimes called "culture-led redevelopment" as a way to reinvent itself after deindustrialization. Specifically, the book examines the interpretive division of Lowell National Historical Park, founded in 1978 as the flagship project of the "new Lowell."
History at the Table [online]
Cathy Stanton, Adjunct Research Associate
"History at the Table" aims to serve as a central point of information and discussion about emerging collaborations among working farms, local and regional food networks, and historic sites and organizations, with a particular focus on the American northeast. The blog focuses on the emerging role of historic sites and museums in creating and sharing collective knowledge about both the past and present of farming. We see this as a way to help clarify the complex history of individual and political choices that created industrial agriculture and the equally long history of questioning and resistance that has contributed to a variety of “alternative” models over time, including the many efforts currently underway to build more equitable and sustainable modes of food production and consumption.
History at Work [online]
Edited by Cathy Stanton, Adjunct Research Associate
“History@Work” is a digital publication project of the National Council on Public History. The blog was created in March 2012 to expand on our long-running listserv, H-Public, to serve as an online “commons” where people from a variety of areas of the public history field could share ideas and news, and to create a bridge to future digital and other publication efforts. Like the field itself, the blog is designed to blend scholarly, professional, and civic discourse arising from the practice of presenting history in public. Although defining public history in any conclusive way always proves elusive, the categories above aim to cover as wide a range of perspectives and venues as possible.
The Texture of Memory
James E. Young
Winner of a 1994 National Jewish Book Award given by the Jewish Book Council
In Dachau, Auschwitz, Yad Vashem, and thousands of other locations throughout the world, memorials to the Holocaust are erected to commemorate its victims and its significance. This fascinating work by James E. Young examines Holocaust monuments and museums in Europe, Israel, and America, exploring how every nation remembers the Holocaust according to its own traditions, ideals, and experiences, and how these memorials reflect their place in contemporary aesthetic and architectural discourse. The result is a groundbreaking study of Holocaust memory, public art, and their fusion in contemporary life.
At Memory's Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture
James E. Young
How should Germany commemorate the mass murder of Jews once committed in its name? James E. Young, the only foreigner and the only Jew to serve on the German commission to select a design for a national Holocaust memorial, tells the inside story of this enormously controversial project. Young also inquires deeply into the moral and aesthetic questions surrounding artistic representations of the Holocaust produced by young artists who themselves did not experience it.
Public History Press Series
The Public History Program is home to the series Public History in Historical Perspective, a UMass Press enterprise that explores, from different critical perspectives, how representations of the past in the U. S. and elsewhere have been mobilized to serve a variety of political, cultural, and social ends. Books in the series offer analyses of interest not simply to public historians but also the wide community of scholars engaged in efforts to understand the role of history in public life. Our editorial board includes leading scholars in the field who help identify and nurture the scholarship that will shape our field for years to come.
Books in the Series (arranged by year of publication)