Don’t Know Much About History

23 Oct

Do you ever wonder which events and people of our time will make it into the history textbooks of the future? As I read articles about the Occupy X movement this morning, my mind started planning how information about the protests would be laid out in a book- the section headers, the subtitles, the pictures. I’m very positive the protests will make it into the next generation of U.S. government text books. I’m sure the BP oil spill will, too. But what else will make the cut?  I read a book in college that consisted of several different accounts of the same event, told from the perspective of a handful of various characters. The point was that anyone’s version of a story is just that: a version. Details may be left out or added, often unintentionally, but per that person’s point of view. The same seems to be true for text books, in my mind. Editors have a great task at hand to figure out what is “relevant” enough to include. There is likely some system for ranking possible content that I simply am not aware of but really, the power to decide what is included is rather curious.

And what about the way that we excavate old places? For some reason about a decade ago I started thinking about how future generations would analyze our culture. If they came across a crumbled old house and searched through its contents, what would they think? What if the only music they found was a Britney Spears CD (circa 2000)? How would that affect their interpretation of what our society was like, and how would that contrast to their interpretation if they only found a Metallica CD?

I know that history and cultural studies require the experts to sift through many sites, many examples, etc. and that the “facts” aren’t based on a sole account or sole excavation. But still, I like framing what happens in the world against questions like: “Is this event significant enough to be discussed in 5 years? 10? 100? Are my future (hypothetical) children going to know what happened on this day in history?” And more importantly… “Will they care?”


4 Responses to “Don’t Know Much About History”

  1. bdole October 27, 2011 at 12:04 AM #

    Read “Motel of the Mysteries” if you haven’t yet. It’s a children’s book, but it is about exactly this subject. Archaeologists in 2000 years find various random things in a hotel (like a toilet), trying to figure out what they could be for.
    Shouldn’t we wonder whether some of the things making it into the media are important enough to be discussed -now-, much less in ten years?
    I have a feeling OWS will make it into some books… I’m trying to write a cohesive blog on the subject, but too much is happening too fast.


  2. Felicia October 27, 2011 at 12:07 AM #

    THAT IS SO COOL I will definitely check it out!

    As for OWS, I don’t have much to say on it overall, to be honest. I’m intrigued.


  3. Felicia November 3, 2011 at 9:35 AM #

    Yay I just got an email that the book has arrived for me at my local library! Excited to start it!



  1. The Ikea Dilemma | Culture Cookies - October 24, 2012

    […] as always, my brain went to the history we are building today. As I’ve mentioned before, I like to think about how our era will be interpreted by future generations. If, 100 years from now, someone tried to fill my apartment with “period furnishings,” […]


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