J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, March 08, 2018

“Myth, Memory, History and Heritage” in Newport, 23 Mar.

Speaking of historical memory, on Friday, 23 March, the Newport and Rhode Island Historical Societies together will host a panel discussion on “Myth, Memory, History and Heritage.”

The panelists will be:
  • Ruth Taylor, Executive Director of the Newport Historical Society, moderator
  • Jason Steinhauer, Director of the Lepage Center for History in the Public Interest at Villanova University
  • James Ludes, Vice President for Public Research & Executive Director, Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy
  • Akeia Benard, Curator of Social History, New Bedford Whaling Museum
  • Morgan Grefe, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Society 
The event description says:
The panel will discuss, for an audience of practitioners and the public, questions about how members of a large and diverse “we” perceive the past, and how differences in perspective can have consequences when we try to wrestle with current issues together. How can historic site managers and other public historians approach the myths that families and populations have repeated for generations when scholarship reveals something different? How should we approach cultural differences in how we think about the past? What roles can historical societies play in improving the level of historical literacy in our audiences (and why do we care)?
It also takes as a touchstone a recent remark by the political journalist Ezra Klein: “Basically all democratic theory is built around the idea people have a roughly accurate and shared view of what’s going on. What if they don’t?”

Other questions I’ve wondered about: Are myths more powerful in creating social cohesion than the complexities of shared history? What about myths we know are fiction? Is any origin story, like the American histories of settlement and independence, inherently somewhat mythical? 

This event will take place from 10:00 A.M. to 12:00 noon at the Colony House in Washington Square, Newport. Reservations are required, so if you’re interested in attending contact Heather Rockwood of the Newport Historical Society by email

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