William J. Thompson: A Memorabilia Collector is Not a 'Historian'
William J. Thompson is a history instructor at Stevenson University. His email is email@example.com.
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
- Joan Baez, Sly Stone, Steve Martin, Ben E. King -- all honored by the Library of Congress
- StoryCorps to Launch Global Expansion With $1M TED Prize
- Hofstra Event Looks at Bush Presidency
- Did Israel steal uranium from a town in Pennsylvania in the 1960s?
- Sequel to Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom to be published next year
- U.S. historian denounces Japanese scholars' statement over wartime sexual slavery
- Timothy V Johnson Named Head of Tamiment Library
- History Camp "unconference" returns for the second year in Boston