In this activity, continue working on your final project.
Select an image or video file that is related to your final project idea. Post it in your blog and answer the following questions: Why did you choose this image/video? Why might it be difficult for students or other audiences to analyze this source?
For my project, I want to utilize photos of the Bas-Relief Sculpture Panel along the ceremonial entrance walls of World War II Memorial. The panel above, “Enlistment,” is the second panel of the South Balustrade, which illustrates a timeline of the Pacific theater of World War II. For my project, which will be a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game(?), one of the first questions I plan to ask will is this: Do you enlist in the military, or do you wait to be drafted? This panel gives the impression that men volunteered for the military in droves in response to Pearl Harbor. In actuality, the majority (61.2 percent) of the millions serving were draftees. However, this fact somewhat contradicts with the narrative of the “Greatest Generation,” who–in simplest terms–put everything on hold and their lives on the line for their country. Knowing this fact now, would you judge someone for not enlisting? Why do we think of most WWII soldiers as enlistees? (Could this bas-relief panel be affecting our ideas of what a WWII soldier is?)
It is a bit hard to analyze this source, since these sculptures are forced to sacrifice text for a wholly visual, streamlined message. I imagine people would ask if it’s fair to project all these assumptions onto this panel. After all, it is at the World War II Memorial, which has a clear purpose on the National Mall and in our national history and memory. Even part of me is swept up in a wave of patriotism when I look at these sculptures. However, a critical eye doesn’t have to detract from the art or from its purpose.
In this activity, think back through what you wrote in response to the previous readings, and discuss a way that you plan to use images and/or film in the work that you do (or might do) as a history educator either as a consumer or a producer. As a consumer, what images/film do you think you might use and how will you use that media to lead your audience to deeper historical inquiry? As a producer, how would you use digital storytelling in a classroom or public history setting?
As you write this blog post, be sure to think back about what you have already written on historical thinking.
As much as I love to consume historical images and/or film, I enjoy producing far more. Something about the idea of finding or pointing out something new in an image or film makes me feel connected to history, where the “past is not past.” (Shoutout to William Faulkner.) When I’ve visited newer museums, videos are an integral part of exhibits. Although the cynical might call this a passive museum experience, I see it as a practical museum experience. In a place like the National Museum of African American History and Culture, there’s only so much room and time for all the viewers to crowd around an exhibit item or noteworthy plaque. A video can be viewed by dozens comfortably rather than by three people breathing down one another’s necks.
If exhibit items are supposed to form a narrative, you might want to connect the dots and make a video of that narrative. Sometimes, a museum exhibit cannot be viewed in the perfect narrative order; a video cannot help but be. Even if someone begins watching a video in a museum halfway through, it usually intrigues them enough to stay until they can restart and watch up to where they had previously joined. If you want to give people an overview before presenting them with niche objects, use a video. Videos are wonderful introductions, the perfect medium for reaching people who might not normally be in your audience. I don’t want a video to do the thinking for my viewers, but I do want it to set a foundation.