There were no readings for this week, hence the title. So, I will talk about other projects for class instead.
First, we are writing some labels for the Independence Seaport Museum (ISM). The focus is on the ship USS Olympia. My label is on the way soldiers used humor to cope with hard situations. To that end, I've done some preliminary research on soldiers and humor (specifically referring to WWI, the era of the USS Olympia we are focusing on). I have found one thing: the best way to take the fun out of humor is to read a scholarly article on it. Hopefully my finished label will be better than that.
I was able to uncover the story of soldiers' newspapers, which often contained humorous stories or cartoons (especially in the British case). Also, ISM's collection contains some humorous cartoons (drawn by a seaman on the Olympia), which provide some insight and could be displayed alongside my label.
Besides this, we are also doing the pre-planning for a Philadelphia project on the Spanish Influenza for its 100th anniversary (which I mentioned in a previous post). For this, I will be contacting Haverford and Villanova, as well as the Philadelphia History Museum, in order to find collections and objects we can use for interpretation.
Which brings me to the reason we didn't have readings this week: Mireya Loza came to Temple to give a talk on her work on the Bracero program, and we went to it as a class. What I found most interesting about it was her perspective as a former academic historian who became a public historian. She had recently entered public history work, and commented on the vast differences, mostly noting necessary teamwork as well as the limited resources. I also like the way she took an unconventional approach to her book, starting with the oral histories then moving to the archive. I think, as a method, it is valuable as it could help avoid moving towards pre-chosen conclusions (by selection bias in the archive), especially as she noted the surprising things the braceros told her which redirected her research to new and more innovative directions (such as the ability to redefine heritage [from indigenous to mestizo] or the bracero view of the Mexican government being as responsible for exploitation as the American growers). As far as public history goes, I think the practice of conducting oral histories is in itself a form of historical outreach, and also a powerful tool when used to educate the succeeding generations.