The Wages of History
Emotional Labor on Public History's Front Lines
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Quote
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Table of Contents
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List of Illustrations
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I owe a debt of gratitude to two women who have been instru mental in seeing this book come to print. Cathy Stanton has been this project’s champion, a model of intellectual generosity, and my sure-footed guide as I journeyed through the process of reshaping the ideas contained here. Not insignificantly, Cathy introduced me to Marla Miller, the series editor for Public History in Historical Perspective at ...
Introduction: Customer Service Superstars
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After initial greetings in the lobby of the Fort Snelling History Center, my co-workers and I take our seats in the auditorium. Nearly fifty people—mostly seasonal workers hired either as gift shop clerks or costumed guides—are gathered for the annual spring training at this Minnesota historic site. Behind me, I hear male co-workers joking about the costume-measurement forms we guides are filling out: “Hey, ...
Part I: Public History’s Emotional Proletariat (1960–1996)
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1. Performing a Public Service: From Historic Site to Work Site (1960–1985)
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On a spring Sunday in 1965, Mr. Richard J. Weiss—a life-long resident of Minnesota—visited Fort Snelling to fly kites with his children. While there, he and his family toured the old Fort’s buildings and visited the newly opened Fort Snelling State Park, which lay at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Dismayed by what he saw, Weiss wrote a concerned letter to the Minnesota ...
2. “Our Seat at the Table”: Interpreter Agency and Consent (1985–1996)
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In 1980, Gavin saw an ad in one of the local Twin Cities newspapers advertising a job for a blacksmith at Historic Fort Snelling. College educated and in his early thirties, Gavin admittedly did not have experience blacksmithing, but he had read books on the subject with great interest. He applied for the position, got the job, and began his first season at the Fort in 1981. Thrust into a living history work cul-...
Part II: Historic Fort Snelling’s Front Line (1996–2006)
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3. The Wages of Living History: Rewards and Costs of Emotional Investment
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Oliver: The first year at the Fort was the honeymoon year. I felt like nothing could go wrong; when things did go wrong, I was either naïve enough not to know it or I didn’t care. I was just so grateful to be in a challenging, intellectually stimulating environment—certainly in comparison to retail—and the feedback I got from fellow interpreters and During the second year, cracks started to appear in the veneer—the ...
4. Pursuing Authenticity: Creative Autonomy and Workplace Games
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Martin: When I was younger and I went to play with my friends, we would play army and run around in the woods. And sometimes I feel like if we would run around a little bit more at the Fort, that’s what we would be doing, you know? We have schedules we have to follow during our game of army, but it’s the same thing. I think that this is a key part of it: if you get to work with other people who are good inter-...
5. Interpreting Painful Histories: Emotional Comfort and Connecting
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Jacob: I think it’s good that somebody talks about [slavery at the Fort], but I don’t want it to be me. I feel somewhat uncomfort-In Colonial Williamsburg—the country’s most well-known living museum—we can see the genesis of living history’s attempts to tackle the painful historical narrative of American slavery. With the stated aim of telling the story of eighteenth-century Williamsburg residents, ...
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Taking a historical perspective shows us that the mushroom-ing of first-person living history museums across the land-scape in the early 1970s was coterminous with the expansion of the service and knowledge economies. Largely charged with the tasks of performing preindustrial skills for postindustrial tourists, interpreters at these sites became the linchpins of living museums’ ability to produce ...
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Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 10 illus.
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Public History in Historical Perspective