Yesterday I learned from various sources that someone had thrown yellow paint upon the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts. The memorial stands on Beacon Street across from the Massachusetts State House; Boston Commons opens to the south of it.
For a few reports, you can click here, here, here (video) and here. For a report on the person accused of the act, one can go here.
Of particular interest is the report that the person accused of committing the act did so because she believed the monument was historically inaccurate. That recalled in my mind the actions taken by several people along Richmond’s Monument Row late last year, because in that instance as well one could argue that the actions were motivated by a challenge to the supposed historical narrative embodied in the monument. I say supposed because, after all, those who acted against these monuments also made assumptions about what they meant to others, and they wanted to challenge that assumed meaning. That distinguishes these acts from other acts of vandalism against other monuments, where motivation varies (leading one to ask whether all acts of vandalism are equal … I’ve heard arguments both ways).
What should one make of this, if anything? What questions would you ask?
This morning I witnessed (and was a part of) something that reminds me of the usefulness of social media in advancing historical discussion. On Facebook Kevin Levin raised a question spurred by a recent news event concerning our understanding of the Civil War. His post called forth several responses, and in turn those responses sparked even more discussion.
I’ll leave it to Kevin to discuss the content of the exchange in more detail … but what was worth noting is how quickly he got feedback, how diverse it was, how thoughtful it was, and how well it stayed on point. Once upon a time it would have taken a lot more time and effort to obtain feedback and to respond to it … often after one had already advanced through the scholarly process toward presentation or publication. I suspect Kevin’s already had reason to ask new questions and to think about his initial inquiry in different ways.
Finally, what forged the cybercommunity for this particular scholarly discourse was the fact that several of the participants are known as active bloggers. That is something one might keep in mind when one inquires about why academic historians might find blogging and reading blogs useful (I note that other professional historians, including NPS personnel, who understand the importance of communicating with a broader public, don’t share some of the reservations expressed by certain academic historians about cyberdiscussion and blogging).
Food for thought … and for blogging.