Ruth and Hannah – thanks for your work on the website. I’m very pleased to see that we’re using it to share our ideas. If anyone has any suggestions for continued improvement please let us know, or just go ahead and make the changes.
I’m wondering what everyone thinks about having a separate page for photographs. On the one hand, it makes sense to have all our pictures together in one place. On the other hand it might create an artificial distinction between visual documents and textual documents. In my two experiences of traveling out to Scots Bluff, I found that a lot of my research questions and ideas were stimulated by what I was seeing. Why was it Scotts Bluff, for example, which became famous, rather than other fairly similar features nearby? Perhaps the best approach would be to post pictures to the photographs page in general. But it would also be good to see photographs posted to the main home page when they are integrated with what we’re thinking about in the blog posts. What do other people think?
Nic mentioned reading Patricia Limerick et. al., Trails: Toward a New Western History (1993), and this is a major theme in Joel’s essay. One of the big questions that our history of Scotts Bluff National Monument would seem to raise is the utility of a New Western History approach in 2014, more than two decades later. On the one hand the focus of New Western History on Native Americans, women, minorities, and the environment fits very nicely with our approach to the history of Scotts Bluff National Monument. On the other hand, I think there is a feeling in the field that this approach has largely run its course, without anything necessarily emerging to take its place. We have talked a little bit about using the concept of borderlands to help frame our research, and I think there is definitely some merit to this. I would also like us to think about what the theory and practice of digital history might do to for western history. Most importantly, as we research and write the history of Scotts Bluff National Monument, it would be interesting if we can also think about how this history might contribute to the field of western history more generally. I’m not sure if “pioneers” is quite the right term in this context (!), but it would be good to keep asking ourselves what we’re doing that is a little different, and how our work might serve as a model for other projects of this sort. Please post or comment if you have any ideas.