Interpretation as Provocation: Our 2017 Pohanka Interns Set Their Minds on Freeman Tilden

By Jill Titus

Every summer, we feature posts on the blog that provide a behind-the-scenes view of what it’s like to work on the frontlines of history. Our contributors – Gettysburg College students doing summer internships under the auspices of CWI’s Brian C. Pohanka Internship Program – share their experiences giving tours of some of the nation’s leading historic sites, talking with visitors, and working with historical artifacts, educational programs, and archival collections. This summer, our Pohanka interns will be grappling with the role of provocation in historical interpretation – how to define it, how to achieve it, and how to best harness its power to carve out a shared space for analysis and reflection

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring a series of student reflections on the role of provocation in interpretation, all taking as their central starting point Freeman Tilden’s classic introduction to heritage interpretation, Interpreting Our Heritage, 4th Edition (University of North Carolina Press, 2008).

Dispatches from the Front: 2016 Pohanka Interns Explore Public History

By Jill Titus

Every summer, we feature posts on the blog that provide a behind-the-scenes view of what it’s like to work on the frontlines of history. Our contributors – Gettysburg College students doing summer internships under the auspices of CWI’s Brian C. Pohanka Internship Program – share their experiences giving tours of some of the nation’s leading historic sites, talking with visitors, and working with historical artifacts, educational programs, and archival collections. This summer, our Pohanka interns will be blogging on a wide assortment of questions dealing with interpretation of historic sites, battlefield monuments and historical memory, changes in archival practice, exploring race and gender at historic house museums, and the complicated relationship between material culture, identity, and the archaeological record.

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Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring a series of student reflections on these topics. Readers interested learning more about the issues the students will be discussing may want to consult the following books:

David Blight, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory (Belknap Press, 2002)

Jessica Foy Donnelly, ed., Interpreting Historic House Museums (AltaMira, 2002)

John R. Gillis, Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity (Princeton University Press, 1994)

James O. Horton and Lois E. Horton, Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of Memory (The New Press, 2006)

Kirk Savage, Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in 19th-Century America (Princeton University Press, 1999)

Freeman Tilden, Interpreting Our Heritage, 4th Edition (University of North Carolina Press, 2008)

Pohanka Interns and the Presence of the Past

By Jill Ogline Titus

Over the past four years, nearly 70 Gettysburg College students have completed summer internships at some of the nation’s leading Civil War sites through the CWI’s Brian C. Pohanka Internship Program. These students have spent their summers giving public tours, working with museum collections, conducting educational programs and archival research, engaging visitors in conversations, and experiencing the rewards and challenges of doing historical work in the public sphere.

This summer, we’ve asked our interns to reflect on the approaches to history modeled by visitors to their sites, and more broadly, on the nature and character of popular understandings of the past.

While we’ve all heard the laments that Americans have scant interest in or respect for the past, the little research that’s been done to date on popular attitudes toward history actually provides a tantalizing rejoinder to this narrative of gloom and doom.

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