Public Historian on The Public Historian 29 (1)

Posted on May 16, 2007 under history of science, public history

The new issue of The Public Historian made its way to me recently, and it’s a good one, worth running down to the library for, or looking it up when they put the issue online.

The journal features a special focus section on the public history of science.  Roger Launius’ piece, about presenting the history of science at the National Air and Space Museum, seemed more and more familiar to me as I read on, and in fact, it was his plenary address at a recent HSS meeting, but his list of ten exhibits that NASM would probably not be able to put up in the current cultural climate are interesting, including exhibits on musicians who died in airplane crashes, theories of the moon hoax, and the question of whether or not there’s other life in the universe.

Jason Krupar’s article, “Burying Atomic History:  The Mound Builders of Fernald and Weldon Spring,” is a totally fascinating analysis of historic preservation efforts at two former uranium refinery sites in Ohio and Missouri.

Weldon Spring and Fernald served the same roles in the manufacturing complex.  However, historic preservation initiatives achieved vastly different outcomes at both plant sites.  Although federal officials were willing to spend millions on plant remediation, local efforts to memorialize these facilities were thwarted.  The production operations of Weldon Spring and Fernald took place far from public scrutiny.  Presently, the histories of these sites are either being systematically destroyed or literally buried out of public view as environmental cleanup takes place.

This is a terrific article on federal and community views of historic preservation and on negotiations on how to think about recent nuclear history.  For more on the Fernald plant, visit the Fernald Living History Project.

Also recommended in TPH 29 (1) are two field reports, one from the Tenement Museum, on their facilitated discussions on immigration, and another on the medical artifact collection at the University of Western Ontario.   (Some style choices in TPH continue to be a bit old-fashioned for my taste, particularly “Web sites.”)  What have you been reading?