Monday, April 25, 2011

TJ Stiles to Spokane

Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer T.J. Stiles to present April 28 Simpson-Duvall Lecture at Whitworth: "Whitworth is honored to host award-winning biographer T.J. Stiles as the 2011 Simpson-Duvall lecturer. Stiles will present Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m. in the Robinson Teaching Theatre in Weyerhaeuser Hall. Admission is free. For more information, please call (509) 777-3270."

If you are in the Spokane area, don't miss this lecture. Stiles is the most talented biographer and one of the finest historians working today. His biography The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt won both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award last year. It is an amazing book, but I prefer his earlier work Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War which is the very best biography I have ever read. Stiles works combine deep research, original approaches, a constant eye on the big picture and breathtakingly beautiful historical writing.

As impressive as Stiles is on the printed page, he is even better in person. He rarely gives the same talk twice and is engaging in the question and answer period. His next biography will be about George Armstrong Custer--maybe we can ask about that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Behold Again the Awesomeness of My Public History Students

Last quarter I taught the graduate Introduction to Public History class. for the final course project I gave the students the option to do anything whatsoever that a public historian might do--from a walking tour to a museum collection plan to a historic register nomination to a digital project. Quite a few took me up on the last option and I thought I would share their work here.

Pippin Rubin had been having fun reading some of the diaries of the women missionaries who came west along the Oregon Trail in 1838--part of the research for her thesis. With her typical attention to detail she plotted every single campsite along the trail in a Google Map and entered a few lines from each diary into the place marks. She added other information as well. The result is this dramatic visualization of the long struggle of these women to bring their message to the Pacific Northwest:

View Missionary Trail 1838 in a larger map

Two students wanted to create mobile walking tours of historic sites in Spokane. They went about this in very different ways. Tracy Rebstock created a an audio tour of Manito Park. She did a wonderful job of distilling her research into short 1-2 minute guides to some of the most significant areas of this 100+ year-old urban park. She even got the tour onto iTunes--search for Manito or for Librarygirl70.

Clayton Hanson took a different tack to creating his walking tour of Spokane Falls. Clayton wanted to create a multi-media tour with text, historic photographs and video. The method he hit upon was to create the stops on his tour as place markers on a custom Google Map. The idea is that Google Maps is an existing platform that is available on all smartphone operating systems. Each place mark would hold HTML to take the user to a webpage with more information. But how to create a mobile-optimized webpage for each tour stop? Clayton's solution was to use Omeka to hold the content for his tour and to create an Omeka exhibit for each stop. It is an ingenious solution, but unfortunately Omeka does not display very well on mobile phones so the pages are crunched and the text tiny. They display just fine on a computer, however:

View Historic Tour of Spokane's Riverfront Park in a larger map

Tiffany Fulkerson did a project in Google Earth "Climate Change at the Late Pleistocene-Early Holocene A Comparison of Proxy Data Sets in Washington State" that also built on her thesis research and technology to bring her work to a broader public.

Finally, Nikolai Cherny used the final project to document a soon-to-be-dismantled museum exhibit at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture. The Spokane Timeline uses the Blogger platform to present a tour of the exhibit, a slideshow of images from the exhibit, the exhibit script, and even an interview with exhibit designer and MAC curator Marsha Rooney:

Not everyone did a digital project, I also received a wonderful history of a local elementary school, a processing plan for an unsorted archival collection, a history of an aviation museum, and a career paper involving historic preservation. It was the finest set of final projects that I have received in my Intro to Public History class.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Native Vision Program @ EWU this Thursday

Native Vision

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to walk in someone else's shoes?  Come take a walk through history as Living Voices depicts a Navajo girl exploring her family's past while struggling to keep her culture in a government-run boarding school.   This story (1930's to 1940's) is brought to life through the performance of Lily Gladstone.  Lily Gladstone (Blackfeet/Nez Perce) graduated with a BFA in Acting and a Minor in Native American Studies from the University of Montana in 2008.  Born and raised on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana, Lily is excited to be a part of an expanding presence of Native voices in the performing arts.  She hopes that through Native Vision, she can in some way honor this story of extreme adversity, extraordinary resilience and, ultimately, of healing.

Native Vision is one of several Living Voices multi-media performances that combines theater, video and live interaction to impact its audience.  The EWU Libraries is proud to host this event on the following date and times:

Thursday, April 14, 2011
9:00 - 10:00 am                                   JFK Library Lobby
Noon - 1:00 pm                                    JFK Auditorium
3:00 - 4:00 pm                                    JFK Auditorium
6:00 - 7:30 pm                                    Riverpoint SAC 20 Auditorium

EWU Libraries is celebrating the new Washington State curriculum Since Time Immemorial : Tribal Sovereignty freely available at for all students native and non-Native. More information at

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Kudos to the Nixon Library

I tend to be suspicious of the Presidential Libraries. Too often they are devoted to the presenting a biased version of history that presents a particular president from the point of view of his partisans. So I am delighted to learn the the Nixon Library has opened a new exhibit telling the full story of Watergate, complete with an interactive kiosk labeled "Dirty Tricks." Here is a good NY Times story, and you can also explore much of the exhibit at the library website. This is how public history is supposed to work!