Public History in Public Spaces

The combined forces of a global pandemic, public discussions about race and social justice in a democracy as open, free and dynamic as the United States, has prompted important discussions about of how our collective, shared and varied history is expressed in public spaces. In a country of diverse religious, racial, cultural and countless other definitions of community, how do we make room for understanding?

We are creating this space because we firmly believe local history is a powerful tool in informing, motivating, and engaging and informed and healthy people.

This page, hosted by the Dutchess County Historical Society, has a goal of creative space for a full range of constructive views, allowing that reasonable people can disagree. The way we disagree is important and this is designed to be a constructive space. Starting with background experience of larger institutions, DCHS hopes to  publish more local views on the topic over time.

One of the Dutchess County public spaces that depicts local history is the Post Office in Rhinebeck. By Olin Dows, it depicts enslaved individuals and Native Americans.

How are others handling the issue?

Museum of Natural History

The Museum of Natural History in New York City has created an exhibition called Addressing the Statue. The video at the right, "The Meaning of a Monument" which represents a range of views is indicative of the variety one finds when the whole public is involved.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has asked Native Americans to comment on its collections that depict Native Americans, and their ancient and historic lands. An example below, and right. Click here for full exhibition.

To me, every bend in the Muhheacanituck (Hudson River) is a beloved view. It is a fertile, life-giving place where Mohican ancestors cultivated bountiful harvests and enjoyed tranquil canoe journeys downriver to exchange news, game, and other gifts with their Munsee kin. It is a sacred landscape from which our surviving community continues to derive pride and meaning. It is our namesake, the Muhheacanituck, the waters that are never still. It is home. The fort's presence is a reminder of the colonists' need to defend lands that were not their home. Today that tension is still present even if the forts are not. Every day we confront this truth as we work to protect burial places and other sacred sites. The theft is still unresolved. —Bonney Hartley (Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican)

Kensett Hudson River Scene

The Danger of a Single Story

A 2009 TED Talk with over 23 million views: "Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding."

A 2009 TED Talk with over 23 million views: "Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding."

Thoughts on how & why history evolves

Vassar Professor Lucy Maynard Salmon

Under the title Why History is Rewritten? Vassar College Professor Lucy Maynard Salmon wrote about why subsequent generations need to "rewrite" history. In a 1912 article and in a post-humously published book in 1926. An approximate excerpt sample: Many histories represent preconceived ideas rather than conclusions deducted from a study of facts, and so must be rewritten in accordance with the reversal of these two principles. The new day may enable us to readjust our vision, to see the past in a truer perspective, to clear away the mists that have obscured the truth.

Salmon History Rewritten