Timothy Baumann, et al. Interpreting Uncomfortable History at the Scott Joplin House State Historic Site in St. Louis, Missouri.

The Public Historian, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Spring 2011), pp. 37-66.

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St. Louis, Missouri, is not a global city like New York, but it is a world-class city, and a world-renowned border city, which parallels the world-class status that can be seen in the Brisbane-Gold Coast corridor. In this collaboratively-written reading we have a technical area of music history combining with an area of social history, and literally housed in heritage studies. One of major of concerns of professional historian with the great growth of the heritage industry is its capacity to face up to uncomfortable truths in the social history. Traditionally, heritage has been a refugee for the insular conservative, removed from the challenges of social justice. It need not be that way, and, in fact, as we are seeing in alliances between the agrarian interests of farmers and the global interests of urban environmentalists, conservation value and social reform are coming together more in contemporary times, albeit the problems that the Taksa reading identified in the consensus view. If social value is to be retained there must be critical local history where conservation is placed in context, otherwise we have the continuation of the problem that Baumann and his colleagues describe:

St. Louis, Missouri, is not a global city like New York, but it is a world-class city, and a world-renowned border city, which parallels the world-class status that can be seen in the Brisbane-Gold Coast corridor. In this collaboratively-written reading we have a technical area of music history combining with an area of social history, and literally housed in heritage studies. One of major of concerns of professional historian with the great growth of the heritage industry is its capacity to face up to uncomfortable truths in the social history. Traditionally, heritage has been a refugee for the insular conservative, removed from the challenges of social justice. It need not be that way, and, in fact, as we are seeing in alliances between the agrarian interests of farmers and the global interests of urban environmentalists, conservation value and social reform are coming together more in contemporary times, albeit the problems that the Taksa reading identified in the consensus view. If social value is to be retained there must be critical local history where conservation is placed in context, otherwise we have the continuation of the problem that Baumann and his colleagues describe:

It is not hard to understand why public historical venues have shied away from full disclosure of controversial events. Many Americans encounter history through heritage tourism; the popular appeal of contemplating history in an authentic setting accounts for the wild success of this format. The viability of most heritage tourism sites, however, depends upon a steady flow of diverse visitors. Alienating large segments of the public can spell disaster, and hence, the pressure to present an inoffensive version of the past is considerable. The impulse to play it safe is especially strong when history is commercialized in festival marketplaces and theme park settings. Here, the overriding objective is to provide a pleasurable ambiance that will induce people to spend money. Numerous commentators have blamed commodified history for bland, superficial, and incomplete versions of the past.

It is a challenge that Queensland professional historians, as well as museum curators and librarians are well aware of; it is a critical part of their training today to balance out the demands for historical relevancy and education for diverse audiences. In that balance are values that are integral to the local community and wider society.

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Neville Buch

Professional Historian at Qld Historians
Neville Buch (Pronounced Book) Ph.D. is a certified member of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland). Since 2010 he has operated a sole trade business in history consultancy. He is a Q ANZAC 100 Fellow 2014-2015 at the State Library of Queensland. Dr Buch is the PHA (Qld) e-Bulletin, the monthly state association’s electronic publication, and is a member of its Management Committee. He is the Managing Director of the Brisbane Southside History Network.

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Neville Buch

Neville Buch (Pronounced Book) Ph.D. is a certified member of the Professional Historians Association (Queensland). Since 2010 he has operated a sole trade business in history consultancy. He is a Q ANZAC 100 Fellow 2014-2015 at the State Library of Queensland. Dr Buch is the PHA (Qld) e-Bulletin, the monthly state association’s electronic publication, and is a member of its Management Committee. He is the Managing Director of the Brisbane Southside History Network.

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