It's been several years since I've checked out the Drexel Legacy Center's Doctor or Doctress? online exhibit. I decided to re-visit it with fresh eyes and dig deeper on issues like design and content – how they influence one another. The site serves as a general example of how we go about using websites as exhibits – how we engage (non)linearity of information and narrative, attempt to control or contort audience engagement, and use multimedia to account for both the materiality of our primary sources and how we go about interpreting them.
Doctor or Doctress? serves as a rich repository of primary source documents and historical interpretation that examine the experiences of female doctors in the twentieth-century United States. The site’s design and layout make it relatively accessible and user-friendly to a wide variety of audiences. Exploring themes of gender, race, class and politics, the exhibit effectively enriches “canonical” secondary sources, such as textbooks, wherein conclusions have been drawn through unseen research.
"Study breaks (photograph), circa 1896." Doctor or Doctress. Accessed November 14, 2017. http://doctordoctress.org/islandora/ object/islandora:1865.
"The Cultural Diamond." Life After Trek. Accessed October 31, 2017. https://cunyonline. digication.com/gary_eckerson_life_after_trek_ the_cultural_impact_of_a_canceled_television_ series_cc304/The_Cultural_Diamond.
In The Wages of History: Emotional Labor on Public History's Front Lines, Amy Tyson contextualizes the uneasy experiences of historical interpreters and reenactors within the scheme of the new economy. In doing so, she explores issues of historical "authenticity" and shared authority, while alluding to the gendering and racialization of emotional labor. For employees at Historic Fort Snelling in Minnesota, "connecting with visitors through the mechanism of history" is understood as a privilege (19). Like Rosenzweig and Thelen found in the mid-1990s, most Americans believe historical institutions are the most reliable sources of "historical fact." Tyson probelmatizes the power dynamics of historical legitimacy, how interpretation is contested between front-line workers (those engaging with audiences face-to-face) and management (those policing their narrative construction behind-the-scenes).
Tyson explains that historical interpreters are trained to both engage historical "accuracy" and provide excellent customer service. I'm intrigued by Tyson's application of sociological and economic frameworks (Marxist ideology) to the problems of public history. To expand on her interdisciplinary method, I'd like to introduce Wendy Griswold's cultural diamond (background here). Tyson opens with the question, "What does it mean for society when knowledge about the past is regarded as a product that can be delivered by interchangeable and low-paid workers?’’ (6). According to Griswold's diamond, in addition to critiquing the cultural object (the past as consumable; the "immersive" experience of the tour, reenactment, and participation), we must contextualize it within a scheme of production, asking who is creating these histories, who is consuming them, and why?