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NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE (Vol. 10, #45; 12 November 2004) by Bruce Craig (editor) firstname.lastname@example.org; and Tim Nolan (contributor) NATIONAL COALITION FOR HISTORY (NCH) Website at http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~nch ***************** 1. BUSH CHOICE FOR NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL EXPECTED TO GENERATE OBJECTIONS 2. CONTROVERSIAL "PRICE OF FREEDOM" EXHIBIT OPENS AT THE SMITHSONIAN 3. VATICAN TO OPEN INQUISITION RECORDS 4. BRIAN LAMBS'S "BOOKNOTES" TO END 5 DECEMBER 5. BITS AND BYTES: New H-Net "Teaching American History" Discussion Network; Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Seminars; Officials Accused of Stalling Slave Memorial 6. ARTICLES OF INTEREST: "Presidential Libraries Are Valuable Reflections of Their Eras" (The Chronicle of Higher Education) 1. BUSH CHOICE FOR NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL EXPECTED TO GENERATE OBJECTIONS President Bush's nomination of White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales to replace the departing John D. Ashcroft as attorney general is expected to raise the hackles of some government openness advocates, historians, and archivists. Concerns may be raised when Gonzales appears before the U.S. Senate in confirmation hearings. If confirmed Gonzales will become the first Hispanic attorney general in American History. Gonzales is a loyal Bush confidant, a long-time personal friend of the president, and a staunch defender of presidential prerogatives and powers. He is credited not only with crafting some of the administration's most controversial anti-terrorism strategies but also aspects of President Bush's controversial Executive Order on Presidential Records (E.O. 13233). He is also thought to be one of the principals behind the Bush administration's effort to force the premature departure of Archivist of the United States John Carlin. For some Hill watchers the Gonzales nomination came as something of a surprise. Many expected Gonzales, who had served on the Texas Supreme Court, to be the Bush administration's top choice for a slot on the U.S. Supreme Court when a vacancy occurs. The decision to name Gonzales as attorney general rather than wait to advance his name for a Supreme Court vacancy is considered by some as an indication that the president may well nominate someone ideologically to the right of Gonzales, in part as a pay back to the religious right for their strong support of the president in the recent elections. Reportedly, Gonzales does not have strong pro-life beliefs, a litmus test for groups such as Focus on the Family, which had announced that the organization would not support Gonzales for the Supreme Court though he has their blessing for the attorney general slot. Gonzales, however, still may well be in the running for one of the other Supreme Court positions as several are expected to be filled by the Bush administration in the next four years. Gonzales undoubtedly will face sharp questioning about his role in the crafting of the administration's anti-terrorism policies. Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International are expected to feed questions to Democratic members on the Senate confirmation committee and they may press the senators to be tough on Gonzales. Any questions about the PRA Executive Order and the Carlin controversy will probably not resonate as well as other concerns about the nominee's qualifications and track record. Gonzales's successor could be Brett Kavanaugh. He currently serves as White House staff secretary. Kavanaugh, who has been waiting 16 months for confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is a bright young lawyer who served under Gonzales in the White House. Prior to that he was an assistant to independent counsel Kenneth Starr. Kavanaugh played a prominent role in the long-running Whitewater investigation and 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton. He also played an formative role in the crafting of E.O. 13233. 2. CONTROVERSIAL "PRICE OF FREEDOM" EXHIBIT OPENS AT THE SMITHSONIAN On Veteran's Day, "The Price of Freedom: Americans at War," the National Museum of American History's (NMAH) new permanent exhibit, opened to the public amid some controversy in Washington D.C. The 18,200 square-foot exhibit provides a compelling look at U.S. military conflicts and their impact on American society from the 1750s to the 21st century. Using historical objects and documents, video and audio presentations, interactive displays, and original artwork the exhibition chronologically takes visitors through the story of how wars have shaped United States history and affected the lives of all Americans. According to Brent Glass, director of the museum, the goal of this new exhibit is to help visitors "experience the impact of war on citizen soldiers...as well as on their families and communities." This exhibit features more than 850 objects and covers 16 conflicts, with special emphasis on the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World War II, and Vietnam. Military enthusiasts have the opportunity to have their eyes glaze over at the obligatory array of weaponry -- from large-caliber 18th century muskets to 60 mm mortars and flame throwers. Visitors with an eye more for relics of historical figures can see the buckskin coat worn by George Custer during the Indian Wars as well as Colin Powell's fatigues worn during Operation Desert Storm. The exhibit designers have tossed in a couple of documents here and there (most notably President Roosevelt's first draft of his Pearl Harbor speech) and they have included a interactive "voices" stations where visitors can see short audio-visual displays with quotations from actual Americans, combatants and noncombatants alike, about their wartime experiences. The exhibit also features nine short videos produced and donated by the History Channel; a number of them are superb. This exhibit has already generated some concern from among the Smithsonian staff, and it undoubtedly it will continue to spark controversy within some historian circles and perhaps even the general public. Katherine Ott, Chair of the NMAH branch of the Smithsonian Congress Scholars, has publicly taken issue with the exhibit for the way it addresses the current war in Iraq. "Treatment of current events without benefit of historical distance and analysis is a risky enterprise" states Ott, and placing this display under the "Price of Freedom" title "presents a partisan view of the current war and is counter to our neutral public mission." Director Glass disagrees, "It's important for a history museum to show the connection between the present and the past....students need to see something about current events as a gateway into history." The exhibit is also drawing criticism from the committee of historians the museum assembled to advise on the exhibit. The framework of the "Price of Freedom" concerned Northwestern's Michael Sherry because it implies that freedom has always been the objective of American wars and that their "price" has been paid exclusively by Americans. Andrew Clayton, University of Miami, expressed reservations about the exhibit because he believes, "wars are more complex than simply fights for freedom." One member of the advisory committee even stated that the exhibit would make "a great recruitment exhibit." Others have expressed concerns about what is and is not emphasized. For example, the fight over slavery in Kansas in the 1850's gets almost as much display space as the Korean War. The ever-controversial subject of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan thus ending World War II is framed only from the military rationale for it. One Washington Post reviewer of the exhibition has also taken exception to the portrayal of the 1991 Persian Gulf War (aka "Desert Storm") which he thinks comes off as "an ill-informed afterthought." In spite of the flag-waving title of the exhibition, the fact is that this exhibition is content and artifact rich and it does not hesitate to draw attention to some American military exploits that most historians today characterize as "shameful" - the "Trail of Tears" episode, for example. Accolades and laurels to the NMAH staff for their largely successful effort to balance the vision and desires of the exhibition's largest private funder -- California businessman and philanthropist, Kenneth E. Behring -- with their professionalism. That the new exhibit is generating controversy and may draw fire from both the academic Left and Right is evidence that the leadership and staff at the NMAH are doing what they should be doing -- challenging the visiting public to look deeper into their history. For more information on "The Price of Freedom" exhibit please visit http://www.americanhistory.si.edu/militaryhistory . 3. VATICAN TO OPEN INQUISITION RECORDS On 9 November 2004, the Vatican announced that it had reached an agreement with the Italian government to compile a complete set of all documents relating to the Inquisition (Pope Gregory IX's Church sponsored program that was designed to curb heresy), and inventory all the documents in Italy, whether they are held by the Church or the Italian government. The agreement was signed by Bishop Angelo Amato, the Secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Maurizio Fallace, the Director-General of the archives for the Italian cultural ministry; and Andrea Del Col, Director of a center for Inquisition studies at the University of Trieste. According to Vatican officials the Church is opening up more of its archives on the Inquisition as a gesture to try to come to terms with the Church's past. Such a vast project appears aimed at studying what Pope John Paul II has characterized as "wounds to the collective memory." Vatican officials hope their efforts will "respond to new trends in international research of the control of religious ideas in medieval and modern Europe." The project seeks not only to locate, catalog, and make available to scholars documents concerning both the Roman Inquisition but the Spanish Inquisition as well. The anticipated one-stop research shop for Inquisition scholars will also help scholars find documents in church, state, and private archives as well as those in universities around the world. 3. BRIAN LAMBS'S "BOOKNOTES" TO END 5 DECEMBER After 16 years and 800 interviews, Brain Lamb will bring his long running C-SPAN series "Booknotes" to an end on 5 December 2005. The last episode of the program will feature an interview with Mark Edmundons, a professor at the University of Virginia whose book is entitled Why Read?. During the last episode Lamb will also discuss some of his more memorable interviews over the years. The first episode of "Booknotes" featured President Carter's national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski who discussed his book Grand Failure. Over the years Lamb has interviewed hundreds of notables including Mikhail Gorbachev, Margaret Thatcher, Ariel Sharon and former Presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George Bush, and Bill Clinton and virtually every historian of note. For his efforts on behalf of history over the years, Lamb is to receive the American Historical Association's Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Public Service Award when the association meets in Seattle in January. Since its debut in 1989, "Booknotes" has aired at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET on Sunday evenings on C-SPAN. On Sunday, December 12th, the cable network will debut a new Lamb interview tentatively titled "Q & A" in this same time slot. Featured subjects will come from many fields -- politics, science, history, medicine, and occasionally authors. C-SPAN has digitally archived all 800 "Booknotes" interviews on Booknotes.org, a companion web site of C-SPAN's author interview series. To view these interviews visit: http://www.booknotes.org/home/index.asp. C-SPAN will also air encore "Booknotes" programs Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. on C-SPAN 2. 5. BITS AND BYTES Item #1 -- New H-Net "Teaching American History" Discussion Network: A joint partnership of H-Net, the Organization of American Historians, and the U.S. Department of Education will create a H-TAH network. This network will cover the activities, issues, and content related to the Teaching American History program of the U.S. Department of Education. It will not be an official communications medium for the Department's staff, policies, or announcements, but it is to be operated as a joint partnership by the Organization of American Historians and H-Net in cooperation with the Department of Education. The network will link project directors, teacher participants, content providers, local education agencies, and public stakeholders through discussions, a TAH project link database, documents, and announcements. Like all H-Net lists, this network will be edited for style and content, consistent with H-Net's constitution and by-laws. The network is intended as a supplement to, and not a replacement for, existing H-Net networks that cover the teaching of American history. Logs and more information can also be found at the H-Net Web Site at: http://www.h-net.org/~tah/ . Item #2 -- Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Seminars: The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has announced that the institute will be holding nineteen one-week seminars in summer 2005 for high school and middle school teachers. Seminars are tuition-free and participants receive a $500 stipend, books, and room and board. Seminars on major topics in American history, led by eminent historians, include the Great Depression, World War II, and the American West, at Stanford University, led by David Kennedy and Richard White; North American Slavery in Comparative Perspective, at the University of Maryland, led by Ira Berlin; America Between the Wars, at Columbia University, led by Alan Brinkley and Michael Flamm; The Era of George Washington, at Brown University, led by Gordon Wood Freedom (for 4th - 8th grade teachers only) and at New York University, led by Carol Berkin and Catherine Clinton; The Age of Lincoln, at Oxford University, U.K., led by Richard Carwardine; and The Civil Rights Movement, at Cambridge University, UK, led by Anthony Badger. Applications must be postmarked by 18 March 2005. Each seminar is limited to thirty participants who are selected by competitive application. Preference given to new applicants. E-mail email@example.com or call Sasha Rolon at 646-366-9666 with any questions. For a complete list of topics, dates, locations, and application forms please visit: http://www.gilderlehrman.org/teachers/seminars1.html . Item # 3 -- Officials Accused of Stalling Slave Memorial: On 8 November 2004, the Washington Times reported that some black leaders and scholars are accusing the National Park Service of dragging its feet in following through on a congressional order to commemorate the slaves kept by George Washington at the first Presidential Mansion where today the Liberty Bell is located within Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Reportedly, this commemoration would be the first federal memorial to slavery in the nation. Park Superintendent Mary Bomar states that the delays have been caused by disagreements between historians and archeologists over exactly where Washington's slave quarters were located, as well as by a lack of funding. A copy of this article can be viewed at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20041108-121157-7594r.htm. Those interested in the controversy may also want to tap into Jill Ogline''s "Creating Dissonance for the Visitor: The Heart of the Liberty Bell Controversy" in the most recent issue of The Public Historian (Vol. 26, #3; Summer 2004). 6. ARTICLES OF INTEREST One posting this week: In "Presidential Libraries Are Valuable Reflections of Their Eras" (The Chronicle of Higher Education; 12 November 2004) political scientist Michael Nelson of Rhodes College discusses the benefits and shortcomings of presidential libraries. Centers such as the new William J. Clinton Presidential Center that will open next week can be biased and expensive, yet they are indispensable. For the article, tap into: http://chronicle.com/weekly/v51/i12/12b01501.htm . *********************************************************** The National Coalition for History invites you to subscribe to this FREE weekly newsletter! You are also encouraged to redistribute the NCH Washington Updates to colleagues, friends, teachers, students and others who are interested in history and archives issues. A complete backfile of these reports is maintained by H-Net on the NCH's recently updated web page at http://www2.h-net.msu.edu/~nch . To subscribe to the "NCH Washington Update," send an e-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following text in the body of the message (and only this text) SUBSCRIBE H-NCH firstname lastname, institution. To unsubscribe, send an e-mail message to: email@example.com according to the following model SIGNOFF H-NCH. 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