Wandering the corridors of Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, it’s difficult not to feel a chill down your spine. The paint peeling from the walls, the crumbling brickwork, and the abandoned operating theatre, complete with a giant broken surgical light, all contribute to a disconcerting sense that you are on the set of a horror film. It seems, also, that this emotive environment is deliberate. Having ceased to be operational in 1971, ESP was gradually opened to the public from the mid-1980s under the philosophy that it would be ‘stabilized’, not restored, and it now attracts around 220,000 visitors each year. It takes full advantage of the setting around this time of year, with its annual, after-dark ‘Terror Behind the Walls’ interactive Halloween event, as part of which costumed actors lurk in the shadows, waiting to terrify their patrons. Indeed, the prison has even acted as a mental asylum in Hollywood films. Read more
Posts tagged ‘public engagement’
By Megan Suster
The unofficial mantra of Riverside, California by the beginning of the twentieth century was ‘Citrus is king!’ Starting with Valencia oranges in the California missions in the southern half of the state, and further catalyzed by the Bahia Navel orange that came to town in 1873, the citrus industry became central to how Riverside, and surrounding cities like nearby Redlands and faraway Pasadena, identified themselves. As a result, there is an unwavering nostalgia in Southern California for its citrus heritage, and California Citrus State Historic Park aims to preserve some of this in the form of nearly 300 acres of groves, as well as a small museum. Read more
As a lover of history, few things excite or engage me more than dusty manuscripts and stories from the past: the shocking, the inspiring, the scandalous, and even the mundane. Although my obsession may be particularly acute, it’s not unusual – as Laurence Goldman pointed out while opening the Royal Historical Society’s Public History Workshop at the Institute of Historical Research on 29 October, ‘history is booming’. The workshop was the first instance of what the organisers hope will be a yearly event, along with the RHS’s Public History Prize and proved an inspiring day, with many different perspectives on what it means to do ‘public history’. Several key themes emerged:
By Fred Smith @
The British Library is overflowing with young, frappuccino-supping undergraduates more interested in checking Facebook and watching Netflix than carrying out ‘serious’ research. At least this is the impression one might take from reading an article in The Times newspaper last month. Several prominent academics, including former professor of Renaissance literature at the University of Leeds, David Lindley, have voiced concerns over the overcrowding of an institution they believe should be reserved for individuals with a genuine research interest – individuals who currently struggle to find a seat and face ever-increasing waiting times for books. They believe that the once-exclusive library has become a trendy meeting place for London’s students to socialise over a cup of coffee and take advantage of the free wi-fi.
Museums are wonderful yet bizarre places. A treasure trove of pieces of the past. Hundreds of objects, rare, fragile, ordinary, extraordinary, arranged in glass cases, beautifully isolated from their original surroundings. This perhaps slightly sterile environment allows us to appreciate the beauty and ingenuity of objects. But is this really how we ought to view their history?
Amy is a Modern European History MPhil student in the Faculty of History. She is currently researching WWII Anglo-American relations through the lens of the overseas evacuation of children.
Public history occupies a strange place within the field of history. Its non-academic components are many and varied: museums, memorials, television programs, popular literature, and private genealogies. Public, not academic, history is what most people experience in their daily lives. Read more