Monday, September 14, 2009

Public history is everywhere (even in cows)

So I realize that I've only been to a single class and done but a handful of readings on museums, but it seems that I am already developing a greater awareness of public history because I now see it everywhere. I picked up a copy of the London Free Press today and looked through it as I waited to get my student card. Wouldn't you know it, the paper had six (6!) articles in it relating to public history. Page A2 had a brief article on London's newly opened Jet Aircraft Museum ("Jet museum soars to new heights"). Another was a photo and just a could of sentences on the Moulin a Parole, the event held in Quebec City to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the battle of the Plains of Abraham (page C1). Another article on the same page was a photo and caption in which a mother and son look at names inscribed on a cenotaph of Mounties who died in the line of duty, one of whom passed in 1882 at Fort Walsh. In the World section on page C3 were two articles, the first of which was "Search on for 'lost' moon rocks" about the recent discovery at the Netherlands' national museum that what they had thought was (and displayed publicly as) the moon rock given to them by the United States was in reality a piece of petrified wood. The other article in the World section was "Ex-convicts in Italian city get second chance as tour guides", which introduces the idea currently being used in Naples whereby ex-convicts are given jobs as local ambassadors, helping tourists navigate their way safely between the city's many historically and artistically significant sites.
The final article I saw relating to public history is "Calf birth is 'cool'". Bear with me! This article is about this past weekend's Western Fair, at which over 100 people witnessed the birth of a calf. Now a few days ago I would have just said neat, but it has nothing to do with public history. However, today I was reading Museums in Motion by Edward Alexander, in which he describes zoos and botanical gardens as museums in which the objects are living things. Furthermore, Elain Heumann Gurian, in her article "What is the Object of this Exercise?", states that a museum object could also be an experience. Following the logic of these two scholars, I would argue that the birth of a calf at the an agricultural exhibition falls under public history. Who knew.

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