Sunday, October 22, 2006

Projects

Historians always have projects. History is such a vast and complex field that it is nearly impossible to wade in the waters for very long without finding research and writing projects to do.

Some projects develop from the desire or need to produce a particular product (a course essay, a paper, a presentation, a book report, and so on.).

Other projects may result from asking a specific question or a set of related questions in which one is interested. What was the cause of the Cold War? When did it start? When did it end? Did America really win it?

My three front-burner history projects are:

· Designing a college level American History, 1877 to the Present course in various sub-packets for semester and quarter in-class use, a distance learning package, text package, reading lists, selected documents, photos, music, art, charts and graphs and so forth. The preliminary design calls for exportability, flexibility and thematic structure.
· Second project is to continue work on the documents, primarily oral history interview tapes, that I collected in Operation Desert Storm, 1990-1991.
· And my life-long reading project that includes the development of working bibliographies, mini-reviews and publishable reviews.

I have more, of course; probably too many more. But those are the ones I am working on at the moment.

A secondary purpose of the American history course project is to give me a wonderful excuse to re-study this period and explore what are for me new source material. For example, I have relatively easy access to the papers of President Warren G. Harding and while he was not one of the great American presidents, his papers provide interesting and important archival material for student study (and the research in primary documents is enjoyable).

Unfortunately, the archives that holds the documents, The Ohio Historical Society, has, because of budgetary constraints, so severely limited access times that I am fortunate if I can get four hours a week with the documents. Budget constraints on archives and research libraries, both federal and state, are a national disgrace.

Another goal for this project is to learn how to format the product for various digital media formats. What, for example, do I need to do to make this course quickly and easily transferable to an iPod?

The second project has been on-going since 1991. I was the Commander of the 326th Military History Detachment, United States Army Reserve, assigned to VII Corps and attached to 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) for Operation Desert Storm (ODS). I conducted several field research projects the largest of which focused on 2nd Battalion, 34th Armor, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized) for the four days of ground combat. The result was one of the largest oral history projects documented for a United States Army combat battalion in action done since World War II. I continue to transcribe the tapes and edit the transcriptions.

Lastly, the third project, I am and always have been uncontrolled reader. While the bulk of my reading is in history, I troll the fields of philosophy, science, political science, literature and more.

My many years as an Acquisitions Editor for Indiana University Press was a delight for I could read the manuscripts that we might publish as books – and then read them again when they were published!

For some books, papers and articles I take notes that I expand into mini-reviews that can if needed be further expanded into a popular or scholarly review suitable for publishing. A future post for this blog must be on note-taking.

I also use the bibliographic database software, Citation. There are several other similar bibliographic database programs available and they all have their various advantages and disadvantages. However, once you use one, you will ask how did you ever live without this aid? Besides, I love constructing bibliographies and plan to publish some of them from time to time on this blog.

“Just when you think it is all over,
It has only begun.”

-- Willie Nelson.

Friday, October 20, 2006

At the Creation

The purpose of this blog is to share my historical research; to provide data, documents and research that might not be available from other sources; and to explore how the Internet can spread and exchange knowledge.

Clio is in Greek mythology the Muse of History and thus this blog's title is a play on words. There were nine sister-goddesses who sponsored the arts and sciences. Not unlike contemporary celebrities, the Greek Muses made exciting appearances, but left the work of meaningful intellectual exploration to us humans.

By extension, the English word "muse" means to ponder, to reflect, to mull, to think about old ideas in new ways.

Musing about history, however, is not a dull activity one does while dozing on a sunny beach. History is not musty arguments over the past; as the important American author William Faulkner once wrote, that past is not over yet.

By that he meant that the past or our remembrances of the past only make sense in the present.

The French historian Jean Chesneauz took that thought a step further. He wrote, "The past is a reference point that makes possible a radical critique of the present and the definition of a qualitatively different future."

That is a very complex idea. But is it true? Is it a useful guide? Is the past, the present and the future as naturally and as excitingly linked as Chesneauz suggests?

How does Clio "muse" on that question?

Clio approaches the question by using something called "historical methodology". Historical methodology is a process in which documents and facts may be evaluated. Historical methodology is not a model in which the known variables can be supplied in such a way that solves for the unknowns. If it were that simple, it would not be fun at all!

But given that limitation, historical methodology is pretty powerful and subsequent posts will explore the uses and limits of historical methodology.

A blog, however, is also a personal journal and I do not intend to exclude postings of a personal or opinionated type. We are, however minor, all historical figures. Our lives are our history; we have feelings, ideas and opinions none of which ought to be suppressed from our writing. Self-conscious is not, however, self-indulgent.

The success of this blog will depend on the extent that I can fulfill its ambitions and the extent to which commentators help.