The national focus of this quarter’s course is a departure from the past, where we have utilized local resources at Fort Vancouver NHS to create site-specific media or programs.
For example, our 2009 Public History Field School inventoried and examined interpretive media at Fort Vancouver, identified gaps in interpretation of the site’s history, and then crafted an online exhibit that helped give visitors a more complete understanding of the site and its significance.
This year, our focus has expanded to the national level. The year 2011 marks the sesquicentennial of the start of the American Civil War, and much is being done to commemorate it. From state commissions and committees to Twitter feeds, from secession balls to newspaper blogs, it is becoming harder to escape the deluge of interest in the war, its causes, and its aftermath.
The National Park Service is no exception. It began preparation for the sesquicentennial several years ago, crafting a watershed plan Holding the High Ground, that”urges a broader approach to the Civil War — it seeks to have parks challenge people with ideas, challenge them to not just understand the nature and horrid expanse of the bloodshed, but the reasons for it, and the consequences of its aftermath. . . This plan expands the accepted definition of what constitutes Civil War site and proposes a more nuanced approach to interpretation — one that goes beyond stereotypes toward a clearer (though more complex) understanding of the war.”
My hope is that our work will follow and build upon this spirit of inclusion, and that we craft a plan that uses digital media to help weave a more holistic, warts-and-all narrative of the Civil War — one that helps all Americans (not just military history buffs) understand the war’s relevance and legacy today.