Tuesday, October 9, 2012

WHA Conference Wrap Up

I did not get a lot better in Denver, so the last day-and-a-half of the conference featured a few sessions, some sniffly sightseeing, and Pay-Per-View and room service. Cowboys and Aliens is better than you think--or maybe that was the NyQuil?

We got your New Western History right here.

A few highlights, as best as I can recall them:
  • The session Public History, Western Spaces was quite good. Melissa Bingmann did a terrific paper on Pipe Spring National Monument and the Beehive House, both of which have often featured interpretations that scrubbed any mentions of polygamy from the histories of the sites. Zac Robinson demonstrated that that Botanist-Explorer David Douglas almost certainly fabricated his storied 1827 ascent of mounts Brown and Hooker in the Canadian Rockies.
  • The Frontier Goes Global: the Wild West in Europe was a terrific session that compared the legacy of William F. Cody in Italy, Germany and England. There were all sorts of wonderful nuggets, such as that the Italians focused on the clothing of the performance, while the Germans were fascinated by the Indians.
  • I spent a lot of time in the exhibit hall. At history conferences the exhibit hall is devoted largely to book publishers, and my God there are a lot of good books coming out. I bought Laurie Arnold's Bartering With the Bones of Their Dead
  • I made a visit to the Molly Brown house--a museum that used to be the home of the "unsinkable" Titanic survivor and noted philanthropist. Public History has ruined me for such simple pleasures as visiting a house museum, I am forever grading the presentation. My tour guide was very good--quite animated and a natural storyteller. The tour however focused on biography and wallpaper, and did not connect Brown's fascinating life to the big historic themes of her times.
  • Finally, I squeezed in a quick visit to the wonderful Denver Art Museum. I could spend a week there. 
Now I am back in Spokane, suddenly well and playing the usual post-conference catch up of emails and teaching and etc. Regular blogging will resume shortly.


Nicholas Jackson said...

The German fascination with American Indians has always interested me. I saw a documentary on the subject. Even today, there are some Germans that go so far as to learn some of the languages.

Larry Cebula said...

Nick: You are right and it is a deep vein. The French too--last year I met a Parisienne woman who was taking Lakota lessons.