In this biographically reflective essay, the author identifies two themes that have informed his public history work in communities with historical secrets, in civil rights history, and on the architecture of racial segregation: the importance of acknowledging and remembering the “dark past” and of asking questions from the perspective of place. His projects have taught him to look for the pukas or gaps, to cast down his bucket and engage nearby history, to think ecologically by hitching case studies to broad patterns of meaning, and to accept that the impact of projects may be catalytic rather than conclusive. He argues that the interpretive fluidity of history is a mystery to the general public and suggests that sites and museums teach what history is, as well as what history happened at a property. He offers a way to do this by “telling the whole story” through recognizing the history of site management and exhibiting the process of site interpretation.
- © 2014 by The Regents of the University of California and the National Council on Public History