Edward Linenthal: new editor of the Journal of American History

Historians in the News

John Dichtl: How did you first get involved with OAH?

Edward Linenthal: I first got involved with OAH through my work with the National Park Service while writing about the contested places of American battlefields. At the time, the professional meeting I usually attended was the American Academy of Religion, especially the religion in America sections. When I began attending the OAH annual meeting I found it an even more congenial intellectual home. As I moved from thinking about contested public spaces in American battlefields to writing about the making of the United States Holocaust Museum and the Enola Gay controversy, then to my immersion in the cultural aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, I continued to work with the National Park Service on the problematics of interpretation of historic sites. OAH became a natural home, particularly, of course, given the very strong ties that OAH developed with NPS.

I had also written for the JAH on several occasions including an article on my work in public history and another on the Enola Gay controversy. When Tom Schlereth retired from editing the museum exhibition section of the JAH, Joanne Meyerowitz asked if I would be willing to become a contributing editor. I asked Kym Rice in the Museums Studies Program at George Washington to coedit this with me, and we enjoyed doing that enormously over those years. Kym is still a contributing editor for the museum exhibition review section, and she has been joined by Benjamin Filene at the Minnesota Historical Society.

JD: How has the field and profession of American history changed during your career?

EL: During my work with the National Park Service, I came to appreciate--from a nonacademic perspective--how important it is to have scholars and public historians working together to enrich the public presentation of American history. For example, new scholarship helped change the way that the significance of slavery is depicted at Civil War sites. While the Park Service initiated this, it was that push of scholarship that helped change things. I think that it can work the other way too. The absolutely stunning oral histories that NPS is collecting at Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site will become grist for the mill for historians. It is wonderful when the world of public history and academic history work together....

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