Hamilton’s Impact on 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, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information.

By Autumn McNutt

Hamilton has swept the world by surprise with new its innovative story and delight to audiences around the world. It is a 16 Tony award winning Broadway show hitting the record for the most nominations in the history of Broadway theatre. It has improved the way hip-hop and rap can thrive at the box office, which provides evidence that the history of Broadway sounds are changing into more contemporary music.

The show is not exclusively a hip-hop musical but rather a mash-up of pop, rock and, and jazz that adds to the songbook of American theatre. Hamilton has significantly increased genuine diversity on Broadway, hitting the record of 40 nominations dedicated to actors of color. Throughout history, most Broadway performances feature either a majority of white cast or one that revolves around a single, particular group. However, Hamilton has filled its roles with a plethora of races and ethnicities, many of who have been afforded equal opportunities as their non-white cast members. It is clear that the influence of music and emphasis of diversity has created a unique cast.

The show has attracted both political figures and entertainers such as Beyoncé, Bill Clinton, Michelle Obama, Madonna, and more, and has become one of the only musicals to win a Pulitzer Prize. In terms of social media and pop culture, it has raised the bar for Broadway show’s social media and the artist of color’s presence through the Internet.

The show is a social and political commentary on the complexities that followed Alexander Hamilton and his childhood as an orphan in the Caribbean, through his successful career as an outstanding member in the government, and to his tragic death by a friend and enemy Aaron Burr. It is applicable for teens and young adults that find history, music, and drama fascinating in its combination. It can exemplify how history has repeated itself in today’s society. Though the concept of our Founding Fathers seems so far away, it still resonates with social constructed behaviors of men and women’s rights. Watching the show can allow one to realize how undeniable it is that we have developed significantly as a society.

Overall it is apparent that Hamilton was one of use, and his story involves the same struggles that can be individually relatable in today’s society. The impact of “Hamilton” can be altering of ones former perception of reliability in terms of historical figure representation today.. The show provides audiences with a new way of thinking that is closely related to race, culture, oppression, political change, and hierarchical influence. When I watched the show in New York City, I was truly stunned. It is visual and emotionally beautiful and truly embodies all of these topics that I have discussed. The women’s roles are powerful as well as the men, and the dynamic between the characters show a truthful representation of history and its impact on the year 1776. However, despite this being a show about historical figures, it is really a social commentary on the problems with our society, and how things can be changed and interpreted in a different lens.

Works Cited:

How ‘Hamilton’ changed my perspective on history

via Hamilton’s Impact on Culture — CCU Public History Fall 2018

The Untold Story of John W. Bolts (1861 – 1921) — 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, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information.

by N. Valerie McLaurin

Who is John W. Bolts? If you’ve never heard of him, you’re in the same boat I was in when I first came to Coastal Carolina University. It was my first semester as a graduate student in the MALS program and I was doing an internship at the in-house student publishing lab, the Athenaeum Press, while they were wrapping up one of their amazing projects titled At Low Tide: Voices of Sandy Island.

If you’re not familiar, Sandy Island is an inland island surrounded by rivers and only accessible by boat in Georgetown, South Carolina on the Gullah Geechee Corridor. It was the home of rice plantations during slavery and the descendants of those enslaved people still have a community on the island to this day. The booklet contained a history of the island, where I first encountered the name John Bolts: “”…in both 1898 and 1900, former Sandy Islander school teacher John Bolts was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. He would be the last African American in the South Carolina House of Representatives for the next seventy years.”

That last phrase got me particularly interested in Bolts’ life because I didn’t realize there was such an absurdly long gap in time between black men holding office in the South Carolina House of Representatives – John Bolts was elected for his final term in 1900 and it would take generations for that to happen again. For this reason, and other academic motivations involving grant writing research at the Athenaeum Press, I wanted to find out more about his life.

bolts 2
Image source: Journal of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina, 1901

When I did a literature review his name barely came up in Southern history scholarship. When it did come up, it was often a reference to an acclaimed book by George Brown Tindall from 1952, who wrote one sentence about Bolts describing him as: “an obscure figure who… did nothing during his term of office to cause any friction between the whites and blacks.” When I looked at the footnote for that reference, I realized Tindall was using an interview with one of Bolts’ white colleagues and it seemed to me that was likely a biased account. Also, Bolts’ life shouldn’t be remembered through the lens of a white colleague, but instead deserves rigorous primary research of its own.

I ended up writing my Master’s capstone thesis about my own investigation into the life of John W. Bolts. I can describe very briefly some of his accomplishments, but suffice to say, he was certainly a civil rights activist of his time and fighting against incredible odds serving as the only black member of the House and under the rule of open white supremacist, South Carolina Governor, and longtime Senator “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman.

Bolts was elected at a time when Jim Crow laws were beginning to grip the state in the form of forced segregation and black voter disenfranchisement. He served during a time of severe racial backlash to the successes of black political life during the Reconstruction period.

Despite all these odds, Bolts cared about things like education and labor rights and by going through the House Journals and newspapers I found records of his activism. He fought for public school funding and better labor contracts. When another representative proposed a bill that would give pensions to Confederate soldiers, he proposed an amendment arguing that the enslaved workers of Confederate soldiers should also be granted war pensions.

Many newspapers gave accounts of a lively debate on the House floor where he argued for the rights of black Georgetown fishermen that were under attack due to a proposed bill that would have limited their freedoms. His debate skills and witty retorts so flustered one of his white colleagues that the man yelled a racial slur at him and told him to sit down, but Bolts didn’t, and when the bill was voted he had persuaded his colleagues and they voted with him.

In his last term, Bolts cast the sole dissenting vote against Tillman for U.S. Senator – he was the only one to do so against his white colleagues – 107 to 1. It was surely an act of symbolic defiance.

I am still conducting my research, and there are many theoretical questions I would like to explore. For example, as South Carolinians, who do we memorialize and why? Why was a statue of Tillman, who incited racial violence and oversaw South Carolina’s highest rate of lynching while Governor, erected after his death on the SC Statehouse grounds and why does it stand there to this day?

Who else has been seemingly erased from our past, just like John W. Bolts? And how can we explain the long gap between Bolts’ last term in the house and the next black men elected in 1972? There are certainly many untold stories similar to that of John Bolts still out there waiting to be uncovered.


Athenaeum Press. At Low Tide. Conway, SC: Coastal Carolina University, 2016.

Bryant, Lawrence C. Negro Lawmakers in the South Carolina Legislature 1868-1902. South Carolina State College, Orangeburg, SC, 1968.

Journal of the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina. Columbia, SC: Charles A. Calvo, 1899 – 1902.

Tindall, George Brown. South Carolina Negroes 1877 – 1900. University of South Carolina Press: Columbia, 1952.

via The Untold Story of John W. Bolts (1861 – 1921) — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Is the Doctor a Public Historian? — 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, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information.

By Kayla Griffin

For over 50 years, the Doctor has been gracing our television screens teaching us all about space and time travel, but what about history? You can always see the Doctor fighting aliens on another planet and even earth. But there are few episodes where he takes you back in time and gives you a proper history lesson.

When my father first told me to watch his favorite childhood show, I was skeptical because of how old it was. I’m pretty sure I watched it out of order because during the first episode I was very confused about what they were talking about and how they got into an ancient Mayan civilization. After rewatching the first ten minutes three times, I turned it off and forgot about Doctor Who for almost a year before one of my friends got me into the show again. The more episodes I watched the more historical references I saw. Whether it was dates, places, or even historical figures. Because how can you travel back in time and not talk about history. But, is the Doctor a public historian? Does he fit the criteria and make it onto the list?

One of the first episodes of Doctor Who that I watched and actually got into was when Winston Churchill was getting new weapons to fight the Nazi’s in World War II. The episode had the Doctor and one of his many companions, Amy Pond, help Winston Churchill and many military officials try to win the second World War. These new weapons were Daleks, aliens that have been trying for decades to kill the Doctor and eliminate the earth. Throughout the episode, I experienced what it was like to see what the war from the eyes of London generals.

My personal favorite episode that deals with aliens and history is when the Doctor and Amy travel to Amsterdam, Netherlands to visit Vincent Van Gogh. This episode shows Van Gogh painting Wheatfield with Crows and The Church at Auvers, we also get a glimpse of many of his other paintings as they are still drying. I saw how the townspeople treated Van Gogh and how they treated his marvelous paintings. An alien began killing the townspeople. They all immediately started pointing fingers at Van Gogh, because they actually believed he was a terrible person. The alien eating people obviously didn’t happen (but it could have) but it showed the hatred that these people had for Van Gogh.

To define a public historian: it is a person that is out on the field teaching history to people. Granted, the Doctor only has a few people with him at a time, the show’s audience is getting a first-hand tour. Yes, there are multiples movies that people can watch and get to experience but for the people that only watch sci-fi, this show definitely reaches an audience that most historical movies cannot reach. So, when the Doctor fights aliens and takes us on a journey to see history from a first-person point-of-view, not only is he saving the day, he’s being the perfect public historian.

via Is the Doctor a Public Historian? — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Red Dead Redemption 2 and 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, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information.

By Lyle Ciardi

History is one subject that most people hit the snooze button on when it comes up in conversation. But the fact that history is boring is starting to change based on recent trends in video games. Digital developers are starting to see how implementing history in a game design has become a selling point for many franchises. Even this past summer Epic Games included historic figures such as Vikings and Samurais in the popular battle royal game Fortnite.

Obviously World War II has been popular with developers such as Treyarch and EA who put out titles such as Call of Duty and Battlefield. Within the games the player can unlock outfits and weapons that pertain to the time period as well as the side of the war they are playing for (i.e. Allies/Axis powers). Developers are continuing to release World War II themed gamed as the entertainment community patiently awaits the release of Battlefield V at the end of this month.

In more recent news the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 has peaked interest in a time period that is not often recognized in popular culture let alone video games. The game itself takes place during 1899 at the turn of the century. It sets the scene on the heels of the “wild west,” and the end of the frontier era of Westward expansion. It is during this time that towns began to sprout up that are centered around industrial factories and used electricity. It is also during this time where locomotives are the primary means of long distance transport and the developers embedded the importance of railways into the games makeup. The story mode in Red Dead Redemption 2 follows outlaw Arthur Morgan and his gang of outlaws through a Western landscape where industrialization is beginning to phase out the age of the “cowboy.” The game itself is imbedded with historical facts dealing with the American Civil War, Indian rights, prohibition as well as women’s suffrage. Rockstar Games developed a landscape this is completely interactive.

Obviously, the setting of the Red Dead Redemption 2 takes place on a fictitious landscape that is modeled off the American frontier, which does not make the games historic accuracy completely credible. Yet on the other hand, the developers at Rockstar Games created a landscape to showcase elements of this period of time and packaged them in a way that is appealing to a wide variety of gamers. In the first weekend that Red Dead Redemption 2 was released, it set a record with over $725 million dollars in sales making it the largest entertainment release of all time.

With the shear size of Red Dead Redemption 2’s release, it is a safe assumption that history is still something that has a great amount of curbside appeal when it is packaged and presented in an appealing manner.  Overall, when looking at the bigger picture video games hold a valuable importance to the field of history and in a way they serve as a means of historical interaction that only heighten the interest of the players and make history a part of popular culture.

via Red Dead Redemption 2 and Public History — CCU Public History Fall 2018

Valley Forge: An American Treasure Worth Saving — 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, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information.

By Gert Hynes

In September 2017, a hurricane evacuation from South Carolina took me to family in Pennsylvania. While there, in an attempt to use our time wisely, we visited Valley Forge National Park, which was a first for me. I was shocked and amazed at the size of this American treasure, and embarrassed that as a former “northerner” I’d never been there.  It covers nearly 3,500 acres and is a short 12 miles outside of Philadelphia.

As we explored the grounds, it was easy to understand why Washington chose this place for his headquarters.  It sits high upon a mountain overlooking the valley below – an excellent spot for surveillance of enemy maneuvers.  Approaching this amazing building, you get a sense of admiration, not only for the architectural integrity of the structure itself, but for the wisdom of the “Father of Our Country.”  Visitors are free to examine the rooms inside which include an office with a drop-leaf table where business was conducted, circa 1740, a simple but elegant bedroom for George and Martha Washington, complete with a mahogany and maple bed, circa 1770’s, and a second bedroom that served as an additional office or room for guests if needed.

Outside, visitors can wander into primitive soldier’s cabins, explore the nearly 30 miles of hiking trails or enjoy the manicured lawns.  We took advantage of a warm sunny afternoon with a picnic lunch.  Leashed pets are welcome, and my dog Henley enjoyed her time there as well.  The park has many educational opportunities in the form of an interactive walking tour with a Park Ranger, trolley tours, and tales of bravery, spies, and heroism given by professional and amateur “storytellers.”

In 1993, a monument to the “Patriots of African Descent” was erected at Valley Forge National Park in recognition for the African soldiers who fought with Washington at Valley Forge in 1777.  This “monumental” monument was sponsored by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Valley Forge Alumnae Chapter.

The park is also home to numerous wildlife species, including deer, foxes, Eastern cottontails, and even coyotes.  Birdwatchers have identified over 225 species of birds, including the bald eagle, osprey, and peregrine falcons.  The creeks abound with trout, bass, and catfish, and the meadows and forests attract not only butterflies, but a multitude of other insect species.

It all seems wonderful, however, nothing in this world is perfect, and amid the history and educational opportunities, problems also prevail.  In the late 1960’s a manufacturing company disposed of asbestos waste into sections of the Schuylkill River and quarries that became part of Valley Forge State Park.  After years of site clean-up, in March 2018 the National Park Service inspected the area and found it poses no risk to the ecology or humans, and tree replacement and site work was scheduled to be completed in late 2018. https://www.nps.gov/vafo/learn/management/asbestos.htm

Bridge and road construction projects have closed several park trails, one through 2020.  Mt. Joy, a “social” trail has developed a major problem involving erosion and damage to earthworks constructed by the Continental Army. Continuous hiking and steep hills have left much of the area vegetation unable to grow and soil is being washed away. Some sections of the trail intersect re-forested areas and allow invasive plants to eliminate natural rebirth of native plants. https://www.nps.gov/vafo/planyourvisit/conditions.htm

Climate change has also put this historical site at risk.  Recent intense storms have sharpened awareness of the damage flooding, wind-broken trees, and erosion can cause. https://www.nps.gov/vafo/getinvolved/climate-change.htm

I think we should take a hard look at the past to ensure that we don’t make the same mistakes with our future.  The time is now to face the truths about climate change, pollution, and development, and the effects of abuse they’ve instilled in our country.  These are sacred lands that our forefathers laid their lives on the line to protect – it’s ou turn to recognize our obligations to deal with the salvation of our heritage.

Photo information: George Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge (1777-1778)


via Valley Forge: An American Treasure Worth Saving — CCU Public History Fall 2018

The Incredible Legacy of Historical Ancient Women: Where are they in film? — 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, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, for more information.

By Lindsey Perritt

A question that I have currently asked myself is where is the representation of women from the ancient history in modern day films? We see films like Gladiator, Alexander the Great, and Troy. The issue I encounter is the missing representation of powerful women that ruled and bravely campaigned for their kingdoms.

As an historian in training I have researched many incredible subjects of interest. My focus in history is women in ancient Egypt, and my favorite area of study is the life and legacy of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut. My minor is women and gender studies (WGST) and I have learned so much in the last two years about powerful and influential women.

The women I search for in films are women that defied all the rules of the patriarchal system of their ancestors. Sure we have films like Elizabeth I or the new Mary Queen of Scotts (which personally I’m dying to see) but I feel that these films are produced simply because of the Tudor legacy that Henry VIII left behind. The scheming, the passion and of course the bloody executions have always intrigued the public and historians alike, myself included.

Women in films are always dependent on the male figures in their life, or have a romantic connection to a dashing male lead. What I am hoping for is a film that shows the biography of women such as Hatshepsut or Neferusobek, women who ruled powerful empires. Representation of women who set the foundation for a lasting legacy that historians, archeologists, and scholars alike scramble to understand and teach. Where are the proposals for a film of a woman who ruled a powerful empire? Where can the public discover such historical figures outside the classroom?

Whenever I discuss my major with the general public who inquiry what I study I say Hatshepsut’s name and I receive bewildered expressions. “Who?” they repeat and laugh, and I then proceed to rant and rave about an incredible, powerful woman in history. Public history has many intersectional aspects, and though films can be skewed or flawed, the impact is everlasting. Whenever I attend my ancient Rome classes, the Gladiator movie is constantly brought up and discussed. Whenever I speak of ancient Egypt I hear the consistently mentioned name of Tutankhamun. A whole three-day movie event premiered the television series for Tutankhamun, but he was merely a young man whose rule is only remembered by his intact tomb, not his actions or surviving building structures.

All I ask is for the acknowledgement of more women from the ancient world and to be remembered in a more public way.

via The Incredible Legacy of Historical Ancient Women: Where are they in film? — CCU Public History Fall 2018

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, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, 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, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, 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, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, 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, https://ccupublichistory18.wordpress.com, 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. https://www.astc.org/astc-dimensions/do-you-think-science-centers-and-museums-have-a-role-in-developing-or-hosting-exhibitions-on-controversial-topics-why-or-why-not/.

Ingmire, Jann. “Learning by doing helps students perform better in science.” UChicago News, April 29, 2015. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://news.uchicago.edu/story/learning-doing-helps-students-perform-better-science.

Institute of Museum and Library Services. “Government Doubles Official Estimate: There are 35,000 Active Museums in the U.S.” Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.imls.gov/news-events/news-releases/government-doubles-official-estimate-there-are-35000-active-museums-us.

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