Graffiti: Historic Art Form or Vandalism? — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information.

By Autumn McNutt

Graffiti is represented in the form of writings and drawings that are usually displayed on public walls and surfaces. Graffiti is created with art tools such as paint, spray paint, pens, chalk, or even debris for a more eclectic approach to art. The history of graffiti is very fascinating and tricky in its explanation.

Some people do not agree that the defacement of public property for ones creative interest can be considered an art form. In the modern era it was considered a crime and participants faced fines and vandalism charges for taking part in showcasing their art on public and private property. Graffiti can be used for various stances on political and social opinions. In Berlin, most of the graffiti has been preserved for the interest of historic, political commentary, criticism, and reflection that dates back to post World War II Germany. The East Side Gallery is one of the best examples that illustrate how graffiti is interpreted as a form of protest. There are one hundred and five from artists all over the world that have participated in this lively and visually fascinated gallery. It not only a form of protest but a rebellion against years of tyranny and oppression that has proven to provide an outlet desired for political change and personal freedom.

What many people aren’t aware of is that Graffiti has been popular since the ancient times. Some of the early evidence of Graffiti dates back to ancient Egypt and Greece. For example, an excavated street address written on a building in the Greek city of Ephesus is thought to have been an advertisement for a brothel. Other ancient graffiti found today is also personal in nature, and might involve messages regarding individual love and interest. Graffiti excavated in Pompeii contains examples of spells, slogans, and literary quotes, which has given historians a great deal of information about ancient life in Pompeii during its final days. For instance, the recent excavated Graffiti that has shed light on a possible re-interpretation of when Pompeii was destroyed.

Recently, graffiti can be associated with Hip-Hop and pop culture, particularly in the U.S. In countries like Brazil, graffiti has a more respectful connotation and reputation that haa allowed buildings to be commissioned. There are many groups and organizations that have advocated to legitimize and embrace graffiti art as an actual art form. However, many graffiti artists continue to be treated as criminals and vandals in the eyes of government officials and law enforcement. Because of the legal disputes of graffiti, many of these artists have learned to work quickly and efficiently, and a lot have to maneuver around certain times in the day to be able to showcase their art.

While these controversies inhibit certain work, many people who advocate for this form of art, have created galleries and exhibits that showcase graffiti and the history that it has endured for centuries.

Works Citied

via Graffiti: Historic Art Form or Vandalism? — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Community Involvement in Archaeology: Benefits, Obstacles, and Potential — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information.

By Sydney James

This past June and July, I was lucky enough to attend the Koobi Fora Field School (KFFS), a paleoanthropological, research-intensive field school run by George Washington University and National Museums of Kenya. Our work took place in northern Kenya, on the eastern shore of Lake Turkana. While we moved camp numerous times over the course of our 6-week stay, one of the most fascinating was in Ileret, a town on the shore of Lake Turkana named after the nearby river.

During our time at Ileret, we were camped in the center of a Dassanach community. The Dassanach are a semi-nomadic, pastoral tribe native to east Turkana, and interaction with them was a typical part of our daily routine. We were able to learn much about their day-to-day life, language, and culture. KFFS has built up an excellent relationship with the people, making research within the area and of the community much easier. One of the biggest benefits of this relationship, however, has been what we have been able to learn about the archaeological record from what we observe in their culture. Many of the traditions and practices that the Dassanach have are similar to what we would expect to find in the more recent archaeological record, and as such, we have a better understanding of some of the findings.

This relationship, of course, works both ways. Much of the archaeology taking place in the region is focused on paleoanthropological work in a time period before ancestors of the Dassanach would have been in the area. There is, however, research being done on sites much more recent. In either of these scenarios, the heritage of the Dassanach is a topic of interest, whether it is directly related or related more to the origins of humanity as a whole. That being said, collaborative work with the Dassanach is beneficial for both the Dassanach themselves and the researchers. The field school has, in the past, hired Dassanach people for work both in the field and at the camp, and allows them the opportunity to explore some different aspects of their heritage that might not otherwise be available. In return, the Dassanach offer the researchers insight on culture and tradition that is extremely beneficial.

While the benefits to this relationship are readily apparent, there are some obstacles with it as well. For his final project, one student researched some of the issues that were preventing interaction of the Dassanach in the fieldwork. The biggest issue that he found? Because of a combination of a language barrier and access to education, many of the Dassanach still are unsure as to what we were researching. The question then becomes how we can find a solution to this problem so that the communities that our work is directly influencing can play an active role.

Of course, these benefits are not isolated to our work in northern Kenya with the Dassanach – and neither are the obstacles. There is so much potential in working with community groups on archaeological work, yet because of issues such as these, much of that potential is untapped. A step toward solving this is in research itself. By reaching out to communities and inquiring about interest and involvement, doors to new relationships and new information can be readily opened, with benefits for both parties waiting on the other side.

via Community Involvement in Archaeology: Benefits, Obstacles, and Potential — CCU Public History Fall 2018

The Fight for Accurate History in the Classroom — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information.

By Jessica Bradwell

My mother has been a special education teacher for students who are emotional disabled in South Carolina for almost 20 year now, a career she has always been very passionate about. Her aim is not only to uplift and encourage her students to learn, but also make sure the education they are receiving is accurate and honest. This is especially hard to do in South Carolina, which has always seemed to rank almost dead last in education in the country every single year.

A couple years ago she realized the history book assigned for that year’s curriculum was completely inaccurate and seemed to only focus on a certain point of view. She discovered this was especially noticeable in the chapter covering the Civil War. The chapter had about two paragraphs on African-American’s role during the Civil War. Along with that, it seemed to have only a brief paragraph on women’s role in the Civil War. The rest of the chapter seemed to be focused on the role of white men during the war.

After critically analyzing the book she decided that in order to fully educate her students on the subject she was not going to use the book. Instead she decided to use an alternate text that focused strictly on African-American’s role in the Civil War and another that focused on women’s roles. She wanted to her students to fully understand just how big the role of African Americans and women had in the Civil War. She would still be covering all the points in her curriculum just in a different way.

One day she was called in the principal’s office where she met with one of her student’s parents. The parent was concerned because the student had not brought home his textbook in a while. My mom explained that the book’s chapter on the Civil War was not giving well rounded overview of the war and everyone’s role. She went on to explain how the whole book was written by white males and just how biased the book seemed to be, especially in the chapter. She retrieved the book from her classroom and went on to show proof throughout the entire textbook.

The parent, who also happened to be an upper-class white female still could not grasp at the idea of this even being remotely true. She was insisting her child use the textbook. My mom continued to debate the subject but was told to come to some kind of agreement with the parent. My mom accepted the truce but still had a trick up her sleeve. She decided that her students would no longer have homework and would be doing all work in class. The students continued to do work without the textbook and the parent had no homework to complain about.

Although this was a small fight towards change in terms of race and gender bias in history books, it was a victory. Without my mom these students would not fully understand the importance that African-Americans had in this war and the important role women had as well.

via The Fight for Accurate History in the Classroom — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Just for Kids? In Defense of Science Museums — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information. 

By Joseph Breault

Do me a favor; I want you to take a minute to think about a science museum. Unless you’re a parent, you probably haven’t been to one since you were a kid yourself. What do you remember about them? The interactive displays? All the flashy exhibit pieces drawing your attention all over the building?  If you were to stop into one again today, you’d probably find it exactly as you remember; including full of children.

That’s because children are the primary demographic for many science museums, something that can be seen from just looking at one of those institutions’ websites. Because of this, they can often be considered the red-headed step-child of museum disciplines; a flashy gimmick to draw in kids for a few hours with no real significance towards education.

But why should we be so quick to dismiss them, or worse, delegate them to children’s entertainment?  I argue that in the modern world, where many pressing topics in science and society are becoming subjects of controversy, people could use more science.  For many adults, natural history museums fill a similar interest in science while providing a more “dignified” setting.  This is a bit of a false comparison however, for one reason in particular.  While natural history museums often explain “what,” science museums ask “why” and encourage patrons to discover that for themselves.

A 2015 study by the University of Chicago found that students—college-level students, not children—who physically experienced scientific concepts understood them more thoroughly than those who simply observed them.

This result should be no surprise to those in the public history field; isn’t that deeper understanding why so many “adult” museums and institutions include interactive components? Not only did the students who received hands-on experience with difficult scientific concepts obtain a more detailed understanding, but they also retained that understanding for weeks afterwards.

The students who performed hands-on experimentation with the two bicycle wheels in the study learned topics including angular momentum and torque.  This is an example of what can be possible when we take a common feature of science museums, that is the abundance of interactive learning, and apply it into a space geared towards more “adult” learning spaces.

Not just exploring what something is or when it occurred, but how it happens and why.

Science museums could be important institutions looking at the key topics today, alongside general scientific information.  Climate change and human involvement in it, vaccinations, and even whether the Earth is flat or not are among the most bitterly debated scientific topics today.

A 2011 discussion put out by the Association of Science-Technology Centers asked whether science centers and museums have a role in developing or hosting exhibitions on controversial topics.  The response, from members of science museums and other institutions around the world were an overwhelming yes.Combine this with the results of the University of Chicago’s study, and the result is a more educated society of youths and adults on the most pressing issues of our time.

Why, then, do the combined percentage of Natural History/Natural Science Museums and Science & Technology Museums constitute a smaller distribution of museums than botanical gardens?

An official government estimate of museums in 2014 found that there were roughly 35,000 active in the United States.  Although it shouldn’t be a surprise that historic sites, societies, and preservations are the highest percentage of museum types, the fact that there were only about 385 science museums active as recently as 2014 is quite frankly shocking.

Perhaps a remedy to the conflicts with science in the present day is to both increase the number of scientific museums in the country, and to reduce the stigma that science museums should only be for kids.


Allen, Sue. Designs for Learning: Studying Science Museum Exhibits That Do More Than Entertain. April 7, 2004. doi: 10.1002/sce.20016.

Association of Science-Technology Centers. “Do You Think Science Centers and Museums Have A Role In Developing or Hosting Exhibitions on Controversial Topics? Why or Why Not?” Accessed November 9, 2018.

Ingmire, Jann. “Learning by doing helps students perform better in science.” UChicago News, April 29, 2015. Accessed November 9, 2018.

Institute of Museum and Library Services. “Government Doubles Official Estimate: There are 35,000 Active Museums in the U.S.” Accessed November 9, 2018.

via Just for Kids? In Defense of Science Museums — CCU Public History Fall 2018

White Washing in Movies — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information. 

By Summer Berry

Every day we see different movies being announced and released for a wide market. However, we all see certain movies made that are based form Greek and Egyptian Mythology that casts a white majority cast: Gods of Egypt, and Clash/Wrath of the Titans are two examples.

Though I am personally a fan of Greek Mythology and the attention to detail that was put into the Clash of the Titan films, most of the cast is either American or British. I’m a big fan of movies like this but it truly gets on my nerves that films that are created in the Mediterranean or even somewhere in the middle east would cast of mostly white actors to be in the film,

There are also a lot of Asian movies that have been white washed as well though not being as popular in the states as movies like Gods of Egypt. Movies that center around religion aren’t safe from this practice either. They are set in the Middle East and none of their actors are from there. Who’s the main lead inNoah? Russell Crowe. Then you’ve got The Passion of the Christ, not only depicting the treatment of Jesus from the bible but also the way people may have lived during the time he had lived. Though most of the cast was not Middle Eastern as it should have been to maintain a perfect representation of the culture.

The Lone Ranger comes under major criticism as well since Johnny Depp played Tonto, the Native American character, in the film. Like many people Depp is a very talented actor, but he is not a Native American and his portrayal may be offensive to Native Americans that see the film. Though at the time that the original Lone Ranger TV show was made, I highly doubt that anyone was concerned about having the race or ethnicity of the characters perfect, however we have the chance now to change that. To take the idea of all of us being separated by the way we look: our hair color, skin color, ethnic background.

The only films that aren’t white washed would be those that deal primarily with the kings and queens of Europe. Films like Elizabethand Shakespeare In Love, having the queen being depicted as accurately as possible for the time that those films should be set in. This would be culturally accurate and most of the rulers from both France and England were white. However, we do not usually see them having any servants or handmaids that are colored, Indian or what other. We have the power now to make films that could accurately reflect what may have happened in certain time periods. Not only with the stories that they can tell but also with those we hire to portray such people. Be it a woman to play an Amazonian warrior, or a man from the Mediterranean to portray Zeus in the next Clash of the Titans movie. We can make this change, but I ask you, why haven’t we?


via White Washing in Movies — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Video Games as Public History — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information. 

By Sean Butler

It has recently been through modern movies, television, art, music and the Internet that has lead society to create an expanding narrative for telling history and that is through video games. Video games have over the years become so ingrained in society that journalist Martha Irvine wrote in 2008, “in a survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project ninety-seven percent of young respondents play video games.”[1]


Those numbers would be even higher today as many age groups have become more exposed to video games in the case of Fortnite: Battle Royale played by nearly 80 million people in the month of August alone in 2018.[2]

While, history is not a primary concern in Fortnite what is does start to signify is culturally younger groups are looking to new ways to socialize and become interacted with other cultures around the world. These shifting interests is what has led to a constant battling among developers to create newer more interactive video games.

A newer generation of video games is focused on the open-world concept letting players create and experience environments at their own pace. The best way to see this new open-world concept is in the latest Assassins Creed: Odyssey video game. Inside the game a player can experience the visually stunning landscape and hypothetical story of King Leonidas’s grandchildren and immerse themselves into a more historically accurate game based during the Peloponnesian War 431 to 404 B.C.E.[3]Audiences for this game have a greater opportunity to see what life was like in the ancient world and to learn through interactive gameplay the history of places, people, events and religious ideologies in Ancient Greece . What also, sets this game apart in a historical context from the rest is through the game it is the first time in this franchise’s history that you can experience the same story, but through either the perspectives of a man or woman. This is a scenario in which traditional history telling has fallen short as women throughout time have not been given a clear and equal voice.

While video games are becoming more historically relevant to general audiences. The next step is being able to teach history in a classroom setting through video games where culturally outside so many minds have already been immersed into video game life. This is a concept being taught by A. Martin Wainwright in his article, “Teaching Historical Theory through Video Games,” in which, he talks about portraying many issues in history through the lenses of historical video games like Sid Meier’s Civilization IV. [4]Fundamentally video games are enjoyed by millions and has the potential to reenergize the boorish methods for teaching history.

[1]Martha Irvine, “Survey: Nearly Every American Kid Plays Video Games,” ABC News, September 17, 2008,

[2]Ben Gilbert, “‘Fortnite’ Just Had Its Biggest Month Ever, with Nearly 80 Million People Playing in August,” Business Insider, September 21, 2018,

[3]Paul Tassi, “Here’s Why There Are No Assassins In ‘Assassin’s Creed Odyssey,’” Forbes, June 12, 2018,

[4]A. Martin Wainwright, “Teaching Historical Theory through Video Games,” The History Teacher47, no. 4 (2014): 579–612.

via Video Games as Public History — CCU Public History Fall 2018

A History Nerd Changes a Non-Believer in Charleston, South Carolina — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information. 

By Triona Fihaley

Tuesday, November 6, 2018 was a day unlike any other: this was a day that I went to Charleston, South Carolina with a mission. That mission in question was to turn my roommate, who finds history to be one the most boring subjects, into a woman who finds it interesting.

Read more via A History Nerd Changes a Non-Believer in Charleston, South Carolina — CCU Public History Fall 2018

The Palmetto State’s Gem — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information. 

By John Hagelin

In 2008 my family and I moved to Charleston, South Carolina and I have been in love with the city ever since. When I was in eighth grade, I had to take a South Carolina history course just like everyone else in my school. I had no interest in history at all, and it had always been my worst subject in school and was the cause for many headaches. Like many kids my age, I was focused on two things when I walked into school every day, those two things were lunch and recess. After a few weeks of taking this course, I realized that I lived in one of the richest cities in America (in a historical sense). In this course, my teacher told us a countless number of times that South Carolina was one of the most troublesome states in the union. Since it was founded as one of the original thirteen colonies, South Carolina has been an economic powerhouse and for an extended period was the United States agricultural backbone.

Since its founding in 1670, South Carolina has been in the middle of some very important American Historical events. For instance, it was the epicenter for the world’s rice production and other agriculture for several decades, it split the country in two when it seceded from the nation in 1861, it is home to the first shots of the Civil War at Fort Sumter, also holds some of the most traumatic militaristic events in US history. For instance, a good majority of the state burned to the ground in 1861 and its rebuild made it one of the most beautiful places in the entire civilized world.

Charleston is full of plenty opportunities for public history, for instance, there are horse and buggy tours that run daily, and describe the history of the great city. The city is also home to the famous Rainbow Row, which is an assortment of homes all next to one another and are all painted to look like a rainbow and can be traced back to the early nineteenth century.

You can also find the Historic Charleston City Market, which for decades served as one of the biggest slave ports/trading ports in all of America. The area around and in Charleston for many years was used for agriculture, to this date you can still see the outlines of a majority of different plantation systems in this area. These are just a few different historical landmarks that the city of Charleston has to offer, this is not counting the vast number of different monuments that are spread all over the city. In conclusion, the city of Charleston has been, and continues to be one of the most historically rich cities in all of America. It also offers a good range of different historical opportunities for the public to participate in, which helps the city gain more money for preservation and helps to inform the public on how historic the city really is.

via The Palmetto State’s Gem — CCU Public History Fall 2018

“It was so worth the stairs…” — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information. 

By Kira Hamilton

Since before I can even remember, my dad – who raised me to appreciate and love history, traveling, and nature as much as himself – had always gone on a white-water-rafting trip in West Virginia with his best friend aka my “uncle” Randy. He hasn’t been on a rafting trip since my younger sister was born, but he always talks about those trips just like old people talk about “the good ol’ days.”

I had always seen the kick-ass pictures and videos of my dad rafting (and also not-so kick ass pictures of people pulling him back in the boat after falling in the water…) and I had always heard the stories that my dad always told about the rafting trails, the waterfalls, the breath-taking sceneries, and of course, the famous bridge day. Bridge day Takes place in Fayetteville, West Virginia and it might as well be as big a holiday as Christmas. It is an annual festival that takes place every third Saturday in October where people from all over the country travel to parachute, bungie jump, and do other unthinkable activities off of The New River Gorge Bridge. The New River Gorge Bridge is “the longest steel span in the western hemisphere and the third highest in the United States.” And let me tell you…that sucker is no joke!

This story starts post-hurricane Florence when my eldest sister, Elizabeth, was getting married on September twentieth of this year (2018). And so – come hell or high water (literally) – my dad, my younger sister, Emma, and myself all packed up and headed to West Virginia (where my sister currently resides) to attend the wedding, praying that our travel arrangements would not resort to any detours due to flooded roads, and road closures. Fortunately, we never ran into any of those obstacles.

While on the road, my dad suggested that we make a couple of stops in North Carolina to see the mountains, and then he suggested that we stop at the New River Gorge Bridge. Little did I know that this was the very bridge in which the famous stories about Bridge Day that my dad had always told me about took place. After about ten hours into our trip we finally approached the bridge. We proceeded to park at the visitors’ center and make our way to the “look-out” where people are able to view the bridge at a safe distance (away from the road).

OH MY STAIRS! Boy, was it a pain in the you-know-what to get there! I swear there was about 15 flights of stairs leading down to the viewing point. However, when I finally reached the final platform, my breath was taken and I was speechless. I was moved to tears by how beautiful the scenery was, but also because I was finally able to see and experience what my dad had been telling me about since I was a little girl. I know, I’m a sap but, honestly, it was truly amazing how my dad’s oral (hi)stories translated so effortlessly into the real-life depiction of the New River Gorge, in which he would white-water raft in, and the bridge that he always talked about.

Works Cited

“Info.” Bridge Day,

McLaughlin, Louise. “New River Gorge Bridge.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior,

via “It was so worth the stairs…” — CCU Public History Fall 2018

André 3000 and Ment Nelson: Case Studies in Shared Authority and Public History in Southern Culture — CCU Public History Fall 2018

This is part of a series of re-posts of student blogs from Coastal Carolina University’s Intro to Public History course in Fall 2018. Please visit the class website,, for more information. 

by N. Valerie McLaurin

At the Source Awards in New York City in 1995, Southern rap duo Outkast took the stage to accept their award for New Artist of the Year (Group). Met with boos from the Northern audience, André 3000, half of the now iconic duo, appeared unphased and informed the crowd that whether or not the greater hip-hop community wanted to accept it: “The South got somethin’ to say.” This prophetic moment from my childhood came to mind when I started thinking more deeply about the definition of public history.

Image Course: CNN

As a young person aware of the criticisms and stigma attached to identifying as Southern, hearing André 3000 express that the Southern US has a story to tell the rest of the world, and that whether or not that message is immediately recognized as valuable has no bearing on its inherent importance, would stick with me for the rest of my life. Later, the concept of “shared authority” that I learned in my Intro to Public History class reiterated the gut feeling I got from André 3000’s speech. In the rap community, and in the realm of academic history, there are gatekeepers. But this does not take away from the fact that those on the “outside” should also be listened to, respected, and recognized for owning their own histories and their own experiences.

Image Source: Instagram: MentNelson

In “Defining Public History: Is it Possible? Is it Necessary?” Robert Weible grapples with the various definitions of what exactly “public history” means. He writes, “when all is said and done, public history may even be like jazz or pornography: easier to describe than define, and you know it when you hear it or see it.” He goes on to write that “the discipline’s practitioners are educators who neither deny their expertise nor keep it to themselves.” To me, this definition is reminiscent of André 3000’s proclamation at the Source Awards. He was an expert in his own lived experience as a Southerner and asserted that, and as a musician he shared his narrative storytelling perspective on Southern life with whoever picked up a copy of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.

There are many nuanced stereotypes that follow Southerners, like being less formally educated and living a slower (often interpreted as duller) pace of life. Public history helps us to navigate such clichés, because it breaks through the barriers of formal academia and opens the doors of historical knowledge and knowledge production to the greater public. This brings me to the next artist I would like to discuss from the South, Ment Nelson.

Nelson was born and raised in South Carolina and was even a hip-hop artist himself before he began to focus on visual art through drawings and paintings. His art is sometimes realistic and sometimes abstract, but always inspired by his Lowcountry surroundings that hold generations of history and imagery. Arguably his most iconic piece of art is taken from an illustration of his grandmother fishing, which has been made into hatsthat are often sold out on his website. His simple Twitter bio echoes a sentiment that André 3000 established decades ago: “I make it cool to be from South Carolina.”

Both André 3000 and Ment Nelson are self-taught artists, and in the spirit of shared authority, public historians in their own right. They both identify and claim their self-taught/learned expertise over the history that surrounds them and share their unique interpretations and perspectives rooted in Southern culture with the world, and we are all better for it.

Lyon, Cherstin, Nix, Elizabeth, and Shrum, Rebecca. Introduction to Public History: Interpreting the Past, Engaging Audiences. London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.

via André 3000 and Ment Nelson: Case Studies in Shared Authority and Public History in Southern Culture — CCU Public History Fall 2018