As reminder to the reader of this blog, I wrote last week about the particular role that place plays in Public History. Then for this week’s assignment we read about the history of a particular building in Washington, DC. This house history, so detailed and focused, might be considers a micro-history of sorts. I wrote last week that Public Historians can make history immediately relevant by focusing on a particular place, such as writing about Greenwich Village for a Greenwich Village audience. Even in that example, however, segments of the Greenwich Village public may feel ignored if their portion of the neighborhood is not included in the history. A house history, on the other hand, works much more directly by inviting the public quite into the historical narrative. The house functions as a tangible piece of history. In reading Barbara Howe’s Houses and Homes, Exploring Their History, I thought of the history being done at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. This unique historical institution is a leading example of Public History in action as well as a fine example of house history. Two summers ago I served as a volunteer educator at the Tenement Museum, and I can say that the high level of public engagement achieved by inviting tours into the tenement building and into the history of its past residents was inspiring to a future Public Historian.
(Week 11 entry)