William J. Thompson: A Memorabilia Collector is Not a 'Historian'Roundup: Historians' Take
William J. Thompson is a history instructor at Stevenson University. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
In recent weeks, at least one local television station has referred to Barry H. Landau, the New York man arrested with an accomplice and charged with stealing documents from the Maryland Historical Society, as a "presidential historian." The TV station, WJZ-Channel 13, had it wrong. Mr. Landau is not a "historian"; he is a professional collector of presidential memorabilia, and has befriended several former chief executives in the process.
As a professional historian who was trained within the academic field and has taught history at the college level for 20 years, I can sadly say that the terms "historian" and "history" have been, particularly in recent years, distorted, unduly inflated, and diminished.
There are, specifically, two uses of the terms that are problematic: "presidential historian" and "history buff." First, the phrase "presidential historian," which in some ways is a creation of the media, which seeks to have authorities fill the screen during significant events — inaugurals, funerals, State of the Union messages, etc....
comments powered by Disqus
- ‘No Vacancies’ for Blacks: How Donald Trump Got His Start, and Was First Accused of Bias
- New Yorker profiles activist who's drawing attention to lynchings
- Wisconsin GOP senator wants to replace history professors with Ken Burns videos
- UT removes Confederate inscription that it previously said would stay
- The man behind the Smithsonian’s new African-American history museum
- Some Ohio University professors ditch the textbooks, and the prices
- Renowned Israeli Holocaust Historian: ‘If I Were a British Jew, I’d Be Worried’
- Heather Ann Thompson pries loose the long-kept secrets of Attica in her new book
- Lonnie Bunch remembers his first day on the job as director of the new black history museum
- Speaker Ryan loves pseudo-historian David Barton