Blog Post 8: Potential Purposes of Telling History

In previous posts, I’ve touched on the human impact on history, and it is a theme that I constantly find myself reflecting on while reading for this class and working on my object’s definition for our project. It’s true that in a growing technological world that there are fears of human disconnection– it’s the basis of many Science Fiction works. However, there seems to be more evidence that technology is enhancing and encouraging human interaction and cataloging. As we move into a generation of user-generated content, we’re creating endless historical catalogs. There are multiple perspectives, mediums, topics, and events that are covered daily. For example, SnapChat had compilations of users during International Women’s Day, several marches on Washington, and cover the casual culture of modern America, too. There is undoubtedly an opportunity within these processes of sharing personal experience to create a larger weaved narrative of the current moment in time. Even beyond social media accounts of trends and events, there are growing amounts of online exhibits that use high quality representations of historical material with the broad reach of the internet to reach wider audiences than ever before. But the question still remains: Why do we still feel the need to catalog our accounts or research these accounts? Alexis’ blog post 7 about iodine history plays with this question while she raises the question of inaccuracies within historical texts. She mentions that there are celebrity accounts and authors that seem to supersede the accounts of other participants in history– to the point that those participants’ accounts do not exist in history. There seems to be a casual fame attached to archival practices, especially in today’s...
Blog Post #8: Telling History

Blog Post #8: Telling History

History’s Silences In her response to Blog Post #7, Alexis poses a number of questions about the relevance of history to material culture studies, and how we determine which of the many potential histories of an object to include in the scope of our research: What are some other challenges we may face as we continue to research the history (or histories) behind an object? How should we approach this, or what different types of histories are there to consider with your object? What can an object’s history tell us about the culture or society in relation to time? Why (or why not) is it important to look into history as we research our object?   One of the things we learn from doing this sort of work is how incomplete our historical record–material and documentary–actually often is. We realize how the narrative histories we’ve received in our textbooks, and popular sources such as movies and novels, all depend at least in part on some degree of speculation and inference. And as Prown points out in “The Truth of Material Culture,” all of our attempts to “understand another culture whose patterns of belief, whose mind, is different from our own,” are made more difficult by how “[o]ur own beliefs, our mindset, biases our view.” For Prown, the promise of material culture studies is how it helps us to cultivate a “mindless” approach to cultural studies, “at least while we gather our data”: To identify with people from the past or from other places empathetically through the senses is clearly a different way of engaging them than abstractly through the...
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