Friday, April 11, 2014

Tweets from OAH Plenary: Historians and Their Publics

Here are most of my tweets.  This session was packed, but I managed to find a seat in the back corner with David Swartz and Jonathan Rees.  Expect a blog post on this session soon.

Read from the bottom in order to see the Tweets in chronological order.  For more about the panel click here.  For responses, retweets, live links, and favorites check out #oah2014 or @johnfea1

  • Lepore: "I have no tolerance for the intrusion of the historian into the narrative." It's "tiresome," and "unseemly."
  • Lepore and Wilentz are stirring the crowd into a frenzy.
  • I think a revival meeting just broke out. People preaching public history. Get the sawdust out. A lot of passion in the room right now. 2014
  • BTW: Lepore was VERY fired up about how the profession dissed her book on the Tea Party.
  • Question asking for clarity on difference between "public history" and "how historians communicate to the public."
  • There's another dimension to this. Will people listen to professional historians (mostly liberal) talking about misconceptions.
  • Lepore talks about her tea party book. Says she felt a "chill" from the historical profession. She was told it was a waste of time.
  • Lepore: Like Wilentz's website idea, but we "gravely underestimate" the profession's willingness to get behind this idea. @oah2014
  • Wilentz: Needs to be a non-partisan website designed to correct historical misconceptions.
  • Regarding last Tweet about Guelzo: Conference on Faith and History meeting at Pepperdine in late September.
  • Allen Guelzo will be giving plenary talk at Fall meeting of CFH in which he will challenge the entire idea of "public history."
  • Kraut: More public history sessions at OAH and AHA than ever before.
  • Question/Comment: Culture of history departments do not fully accept people who are not going in the traditional academic field.
  • Question: Our culture wants answers, but historians work in shades of gray. How do you reach people who want definitive answers.
  • Kraut: Never took course in public history, but has done public history his entire career and founded the program at American U.
  • Question: Do you need to have "done" public history in order to teach it? Crew says it definitely helps.
  • Lynch: There is a craft to doing good documentaries. Just can't pick up a camera. Best for historians to collaborate.
  • Lynch:Making documentary films is an "awful business." She has a day job. Historians and film-makers must collaborate.
  • Question from audience: How do we teach our students to not only be talking heads in film, but to make films?
  • Now turning to the audience for questions.
  • Crew talking about the founding of the Bible of Nat Turner and how it came to the Smithsonian.
  • Wilentz: It is a real privilege to write magazine articles because you get to work on a sentence-by-sentence level with editors.
  • Wilentz: To write for the public you need to learn to write on time and write within a word limit.
  • Jill Lepore: Writing a great magazine article is like giving a great lecture that people are "stirred by."
  • Live Tweeting OAH Plenary Session: Historians and Their Publics: Chair: Alan Kraut (American University)Paneli...
  • Lepore: Discussing the importance of "news pegs" when writing magazine articles. Also have 5 weeks to write it.
  • Crew: Museums are less about making a compelling argument than it is about helping people wrestle with ideas on their own.
  • Crew: To reach the public you must be willing to collaborate with the public, not crush them with your intellectual prowess.
  • Crew: To reach the public you must forget about what you learned in grad school where you must be smartest person in room.
  • Lynch: Historical argument can be presented in all kinds of forms--the screen, the museum, etc...
  • Lepore: There are also very, very bad arguments based on the past that try to pass as historical reasoning.
  • Lepore: There is nothing more satisfying than a well-constructed historical argument.
  • Lepore: Hard intellectual work to bring a well-reasoned historical argument to the public.
  • Wilentz: Sees punditry as an extension of his work as a scholar. Does not try to be presentist or dogmatic. @oah2014
  • Alan Kraut presiding. Asks if historians "put on a different hat" when doing punditry. How does this work?
  • Lynch worked w/ Ken Burns on the Jazz series. Did documentary on Shirley Chisholm
  • Let me clarify. I think Crew and Lynch are more sensitive to a larger public than Lepore and Wilentz.
  • Filmmaker Shola Lynch is now talking about how she fell in love with history.
  • Will anyone acknowledge the class dimensions of this entire session? I doubt it.
  • Who is Sean Wilentz? Who is Jill Lepore? Who are the "publics" they are reaching" I think it is a very narrow one.
  • Wilentz says he wants to "stir-it-up" in his writing. Cites Bob Marley.
  • How do historians inform public who don't read New Yorker, New Republic? How do I get my Dad to be a better historical thinker.
  • Wilentz describes old magazines like New Republic as "gladiatorial." Extolls these kinds of mags as way to reach the public.
  • Wilentz is up. Reaffirms Lepore emphasis on teaching, but cannot claim to have stayed away from punditry.
  • Would love to hear what Lepore thinks of Kristof piece. Admits that academic historians have "retreated" into the ivory tower.
  • Lepore: Not necessary that ALL historians write in The New Yorker Many ways to reach public. This is an urgent matter.
  • Lepore: Extolls "the essay" as a way in which historians reach the public. (Different from an academic journal article).
  • Lepore: So many historians think that to do public history is to somehow engage in politics. More to this than just punditry
  • Lepore sees her writing as extension of her teaching. Developing students in skills of historcial thinking.
  • Jill Lepore is on. Says we make a mistake when we don't think of our teaching as public work.
  • Crew: Job of public historian is to make "your story" available to the public and all public stories available to the nation.
  • Crew: Public history and museums should provide a voice or platform for those excluded from traditional narratives.
  • Live tweeting plenary session "Historians and Their Publics" Kristof op-ed framing the discussion so far.
  •  Retweeted by 
    is tweeting the plenary session I'm attending so I'm just gonna shut up now.
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