Author Archive

Teaching Preservation: Notes from an Undercover History Lover

Posted on: March 3rd, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

To be totally honest, when I first walked into Paul “Lash” LaRue’s Research History class, I didn’t know quite what to expect. With the sound of recorded transcripts floating into the hallway and a seemingly bottomless supply of snacks, it always seemed like the students from years prior were having such a good time. This is ultimately why I added the class for my schedule. Who doesn’t love food?!

Something

Historic railroad remnants in Washington Court House, Ohio.

Luckily, it didn’t take Lash long to get me jazzed about our class projects. On my first day, I remember being beyond intrigued by him explaining how Thomas A. Edison might have lived and worked as a telegrapher for the local railroad in our town, Washington Court House, Ohio.

See, I have always been fascinated by big questions like this. I can just imagine myself in a long trench coat with a dark hat pulled low over my eyes as I storm into Research History flashing my research historian badge.

In working on the project, one of the first biographies I read was A Life of Invention by Paul Israel, the director and editor of The Thomas A. Edison Papers. This man has access to millions of documents and patents of Edison, many of which Edison wrote himself. We exchanged a few e-mails, as he was also interested in the mystery of Edison being in Washington Court House at some point during his life. It was amazing to talk to a person as knowledgeable as Mr. Israel. I felt like I was a student working beside a famous doctor. It was such an honor.

As I read more – including Wizard of Menlo Park and Edison – I was disappointed to find no mention of Edison even passing through our town. I discovered, though, that even when a door was closed on my research, a window opened. The big discovery? Five articles mentioning Edison that were printed in our local paper.

Jackpot!

Although my research ultimately proved that Edison did not, in fact, live and work in Washington Court House, I did find some other fascinating (and probably related) stories along the way. For instance, there was an African-American inventor, Grandville Woods, who was nicknamed the “Black Edison” who is well documented as having lived and worked here. Most likely, he is who the author of the newspaper articles mixed Edison up with.

Overall, Research History has been an enriching experience for me because it has taught me exactly how much information is out there that it is just waiting to be discovered. Badge (and snacks) in hand, I look forward to following more clues, exploring more hidden alleys and solving more cases in the future.

-Shannon M.

Shannon M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, she’ll be working with his Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Teaching Preservation: There's Good Hope For Our Future

Posted on: February 26th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

Last November, I had the distinct pleasure of joining Paul LaRue on a panel about youth service learning at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Now, truth be told, I wasn’t particularly psyched about the trip all the way out west (I’m a New Yorker), nor was I excited to hear that our session had been scheduled towards the very end of the convention’s schedule of offerings. In my mind, this represented far too closely the way so many preservationists prioritize and approach outreach to young people. They are, after all, the future of our movement and our work - not afterthoughts.

Despite my misgivings, the panel attracted a small but engaged audience of teachers and community organizers eager to discuss youth programs. And of course, with his signature enthusiasm and inspiring stories, Paul stole the show.

Before our session in Tulsa, my team at A&E Television Networks and History awarded Paul's Research History class from Washington Court House, Ohio with a national Save Our History Award for their inspiring work on the Staunton Cemetery. That was such a worthwhile and touching project. Not only did Paul’s students learn an enormous amount about the Civil War and race relations in the United States in the late 19th century, they figured out how to work with the VA to acquire headstones for forgotten soldiers.

My father was a World War II veteran, and when he turned 80, he reminded my mother and me to get the VA to provide his headstone when he died. "It's my right, and my due,” he would say. Between this touching personal experience and a general love of history that stems from an unusually empathetic response to events long past, I was enormously touched by Paul’s kids working so hard to get headstones for those African American soldiers' burial sites. Take a second to imagine being buried anonymously after going through what those men went through in their lives. Nothing makes me more proud than knowing that it was young people who ultimately got headstones for them.

To quote my dad, it was their right and their due.

These days, I hear a new Research History class from Washington Court House, Ohio is rolling up its sleeves and digging into history and archeology, this time at Good Hope Cemetery. What an apt name for their project - Good Hope. See, I know America is not - and never will be - a perfect place, but there is more justice and equality out there than ever before, and these kids are the future of that. Under Paul’s wing, they will learn so much…about process, about history, about memory. They are lucky to have him as their teacher and mentor, and I know Paul well enough to recognize that he feels lucky to have them as his students.

To Research History 2009: You are the future of historic preservation! Good luck and good hope!

- Libby O'Connell

Libby O'Connell is the chief historian and senior vice president for corporate outreach at A&E Television Networks. Stay tuned this semester as Paul and his students document their project at Good Hope Cemetery here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Teaching Preservation: Making a Mark in History

Posted on: February 24th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

My classmate, Seth B., and I are on a mission to make sure that Good Hope Cemetery has a historical marker like this one day.

History is everywhere.

Whether we realize it or not, the neighborhoods we live in, the roads we drive down, and the many houses and buildings we pass are all part of a larger story.

This is why historical markers are so much more than just metal signs; they tell stories that no one should forget and serve as much-needed reminders to all of us to recognize the history in our daily lives. They're a friendly “Hey you! Pay attention! This is important!”

For this reason, I am honored to be working with fellow Research History classmate Seth B. on applying for an Ohio historical marker for Good Hope Cemetery.

You may remember from some of our previous posts, but if not, here’s a refresher. Good Hope Cemetery is located not far from our school in Washington Court House. Its rural country setting makes it a pleasant place to visit and a serene place for the dead to rest in peace. A historical marker would not only add to the significance of the cemetery, it would encourage more people to stop in and explore.

To start the process of obtaining a marker, we met with the trustees who manage the site and proposed our idea. Luckily, they were all in. They knew the marker would be a great addition to the cemetery and agreed to our help. Following the meeting, Seth and I began looking up prices for makers on the Internet, which ranged from $1,900 to $2,150.

With this knowledge in mind (and with the assistance of our teacher, Mr. Paul “Lash” LaRue), we applied for a grant through our local travel, tourism and convention bureau. Seth and I (neatly) filled out the application for a grant for $2,400 for an Ohio historical marker for Good Hope Cemetery. We even hand delivered it to the main man in charge at the bureau, Mr. Roger Blackburn.

Here are just some of the things we have learned in the process:

- In our county, funding for historical markers comes from a motel tax, and all decisions are made through a board process in which six members represent the different areas where the tax is collected.

- Funding can be considered for anything related to travel or recreation in our county.

- Most counties and communities throughout the country have programs like ours in which everyday people can get involved.

With the paperwork submitted, we must now wait for the board review, which we hear could take up to one month. Sure, I’m anxious to know if we are successful, but in the end, I know that trying was better than not doing anything at all.

- Jeremy M.

Jeremy M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, he’ll be working with his Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Day of Remembrance Links the Present to the Past

Posted on: February 19th, 2009 by Guest Writer 1 Comment

 

Minidoka in the 1940s.

Minidoka in the 1940s.

In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which ordered the forced removal of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry from their homes on the West Coast and parts of Hawai`i. They were unconstitutionally imprisoned during World War II in 10 War Relocation Authority (WRA) Camps and in numerous Justice Department prisons throughout the United States.

Today, February 19, is annually commemorated as “Day of Remembrance” by Japanese American communities. A grassroots movement to petition the government for an official apology and reparations began in the 1970s and events like Day of Remembrance, organized in Japanese American communities throughout the country, sparked the successful grassroots redress campaign that culminated with the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. This Act resulted in an official apology by the United States government and token reparations to any living Japanese American incarcerated during the war.

The first Day of Remembrance was held on Thanksgiving weekend 1978 at the Puyallup Fairgrounds, which had been used as temporary incarceration center known as “Camp Harmony” in the state of Washington. Thousands of people participated and demonstrated that the Japanese American community had not forgotten how they and their families were treated during World War II.

In the years following, Day of Remembrance events  (held on or close to February 19) have been held annually. While for many Japanese Americans it brings back painful memories of a dark chapter in American history, the day also provides an ongoing reminder about the dangers of ever repeating the same offense against other individuals. In recalling the events of February 1942, Day of Remembrance is a reminder to all Americans about the need to protect civil liberties for all and to honor all who fought—and continue to fight—for freedom and equality among all people.

Efforts to ensure that these memories and lessons are maintained for generations to come have also continued through the preservation and interpretation of WWII Japanese American historical sites, such as the War Relocation Camp sites, Assembly Center sites, and other significant markers that are powerful remembrances of the past and its relevancy for today and the future. (In 2007, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed one such site, Minidoka Internment National Monument, to our annual 11 Most Endangered Places list.)

For access to other Day of Remembrance, redress, and additional related information, visit DiscoverNikkei.org—a Web site coordinated by the Japanese American National Museum.

-- Irene Hirano

Irene Hirano is a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as executive advisor and former president and CEO of the Japanese-American National Museum in Los Angeles.

- Excerpts taken from Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese Americans Obtained Redress, by Mitchell T. Maki, Harry H.L. Kitano, and S. Megan Berthold and the websites of the Japanese American National Museum, www.janm.org, DiscoverNikkei, www.discovernikkei.org and www.densho.org.

Updated: to correct Ms. Hirano's current affiliation with the Japanese-American National Museum.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

 

We brought food for thought to entirely new levels during our Lincoln-inspired "teach-in" last week.

Last week marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln and, to celebrate the bicentennial, the History Channel sponsored a “teach-in” campaign aimed at getting as many teachers as possible to bring the 16th President of the United States into their lessons plans on the big day.

Lucky for us, our teacher, Paul “Lash” LaRue, was on it.

During last Thursday’s Research History class, Lash integrated the legendary president into fifth period in a way that informed us all of the many amazing obstacles and challenges he overcame throughout his time in office.

First, we watched an HBO special entitled Unchained Memories: Readings From the Slave Narratives. This was a really interesting (and rewarding) part of the day. Basically, for the last ten weeks, we have all been focused as a class on transcribing interview after interview with some of our country’s World War II veterans. It was refreshing to see how such tedious work (as was done to capture the stories of the slaves in the video) could be turned into such a productive resource that saves something important for future generations.

We also watched a webcast that was a question and answer session between several inquisitive teenagers and three prominent Lincoln scholars. One of the most interesting parts of the webcast was hearing from the scholars because they were extremely passionate (and of course knowledgeable) about Lincoln. One of them expressed that even though President Lincoln had many scars on his time in office - such as suspending habeas corpus - he accomplished many more good things, like reuniting the country in a time of deep division.

The following are just a few opinions from my fellow classmates about our Lincoln “teach-in” day:

"The most fascinating part of the day was watching the video about the slave diaries. It was neat to see their stories documented just as we are documenting those of World War II veterans. My hope is that one day our hard work will become a presentation just like this video.” - Jackie P.

“My favorite part of the day was the video about the slave stories. It ties deeply into our daily activities because we’re doing the same thing that the preservationists who made the video did. Hopefully, our efforts will someday give World War II veterans the same forum for their deserving stories.” - Tim K.

“My favorite part about the ‘teach-in’ was watching the HBO documentary. You learn so much more about how slavery was back then when you see and hear transcribed stories from former slaves. It’s really cool that we are doing something in our class that will be read many, many years from now.” - Nicole F.

And there you have it: all it took was a good documentary (and a smorgasbord of equally good snacks) to make countless hours spent playing, stopping, rewinding and fast forwarding tapped transcripts all totally worth it.

- Matt M.

Matt M. is a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, he’ll be working with his Research History classmates to document and preserve Good Hope Cemetery. Stay tuned as they share their experiences here on our blog and on their Flickr photostream.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.