Two of the following questions will appear on the final exam, and you will choose one question to answer. You will write your answer in GREENLAW 317 during the exam period (4:00-7:00 pm, Monday, December 10, 2012). BRING YOUR COMPUTER to the exam.
These questions are designed to draw primarily upon your course readings, our class discussions, and the presentations by our in-class guests. You are not expected to seek outside sources to write your essay; in fact, the major object of this exam is to assess your command of and engagement with the materials provided for the class. You will be able to access any class materials, notes, or outlines that you need while writing the exam. Please cite, to the best of your ability (author, title, publisher, date, page numbers) any sources from which you draw quotations or information.
Your essay must be sufficiently long to provide a nuanced, well-supported answer to the question. Your response should have a thesis statement (a statement of your main point or points), and it should integrate specific observations drawn from a variety of our course sources (readings, discussions, guest speakers). There should be sufficient supporting detail to demonstrate to the outside reader the validity of your statements.
You may write the answers on your computer and save as a Word document following our filenaming conventions. Submit them under the “Final Exam” assignments area of Sakai. Time stamp on the upload must be between 4:00 and 7:00 pm on December 10th.
1. Early in the semester, we read the Journal of American History’s 2008 scholars’ forum on the “promise of digital history.” The participants in this forum explored many points of intersection between public history and digital history, noting that the explosion of history into the digital realm promises the engagement of vast new audiences, vast new “publics.” Write an essay in which you consider at least three issues or concerns that you think are shared between public history and digital history, or that have been central to public history but are particular relevant in the digital history realm. What is the promise of digital history for public history, and how can thinking about public history (which long predated digital history) inform planning for ambitious digital history projects? Be sure to call upon specific observations from the readings, speakers, and your own work on Driving Through Time to support and illustrate your analysis.
2. We have looked at many areas of public history work: museums, archives, digital exhibits, national parks, historic preservation, cultural resources management, historic sites, economic and commercial development arenas. What, if any, key traits, basic premises, or overarching approaches unite all of these diverse activities as “public history”? Begin by identifying those traits and writing a concise definition for the concept of “public history.” Choose at least three undertakings that we have read about or discussed that best exemplify, according to your definition, the key traits of public history, and explain how each of the examples fulfills the mission of public history. Which project that we have read or heard about best exemplifies historian Jill Ogline’s hope that public history will leave visitors “intellectually unsettled,” and why?
3. Freeman Tilden’s book Interpreting Our Heritage has reigned for more than fifty years as the “bible” of historical interpretation. It is still widely used in the training of historical interpreters, and its principles remain significant in guiding interpretive planning and execution in the National Parks and other public history settings. Considering the other works we have read in History 671, as well as our tours and conversations with guests, write a review of this work from a modern perspective. In the review, be sure to outline Tilden’s major assertions and then consider their ongoing relevance (or not) in light of contemporary concerns, the new directions of the historical profession in the last thirty years, new audiences, and the digital revolution. Be sure to reference specific insights of the public history works and sites we have considered this semester. Is Tilden’s work as timeless as many seem to claim? If it should be revised, what changes would you suggest?
4. We talked about public history with a number of guest speakers this fall, several of whom are working in and around UNC-Chapel Hill. If asked to report upon the “state of public history” at UNC based upon what you’ve seen this semester, what would you say? Is public history alive and vibrant here, and if so, how? Include in your essay a description of the various public history activities going on around the campus, the perspectives offered by the various practitioners and projects, and the relationships among them. What larger issues in public history (e.g. things we’ve read about) does the work at Chapel Hill connect to? To what ends is it directed? If you were to take over as the “campus public historian,” what steps would you take to make public history on and around the campus more effective and relevant?