“The White House as a Black Box” Blog Post

Not only did this article bring a lot of insight into the history of record keeping in the White House, but also into how oral histories can be just as important as written word sources to piece together a historical event (or events). In their article, Russell L. Riley discusses the history of record keeping within the White House, and how there are some gaps of presidential records as a result. After Nixon’s Watergate “scandal,” there were various acts created to limit the public access to presidential documents. Before acts such as the Presidential Records Act of 1978 and executive order EO13233 made by Bush, presidents would “routinely” donate their papers to the National Archives after stepping down from office (Riley, 192). I found this to be very interesting because I was not aware that 1) presidents would turn over their documents to be made for public viewing, and that 2) these documents were now practically being held under lock and key to prevent the public from viewing them.

In the aspect of oral histories, this article also goes into detail about how and why oral histories are important, with the example of the lack of White House documents from the past few presidencies. While oral histories and memoirs can be seen as a “self-serving genre,” these can also “provide color and detail that will be missing from the official papers” where there are gaps” (Riley, 195). I believe that oral histories can be useful outside of a presidential history. As mentioned in previous readings for this course (namely, the readings on the Pueblo Revolt) oral histories can fill in gaps left behind in the telling of an event, but also possibly provide a new perspective on that event.


Sarah E Jones

“Ornamental Plants in Mid-19th c. Midwest” Blog Post

This article discussed how ornamental plants were used among three prominent families in Michigan in the mid nineteenth century. Ornamental plants generally gave off certain messages depending on how they were used in a family’s yard or garden. According to this article, these types of plants could “tell” strangers about the family’s “values.” Because of this, ornamental plants were “quiet yet very public reminders of middle class values and respectability” (Lyon-Jenness, 203). However, these social messages of plants were not as clear in the mid-west, according to the author of this article. While these plants were used to express “refinement, respectability, or progressive tendencies” in the mid-west, the author wanted to figure out the “public and private significance of ornamental plants in the lives of several intertwined Midwestern families” (Lyon-Jenness, 204). To do this, the author studied the Lawrence, Copley, and Buell families, who were long-established families of Volinia Township, Cass County, Michigan.

While this article may not be as riveting as some of the other articles or book chapters read in this class, this one was pretty amusing to read. It was amusing because I never would have thought that something as simple as “pretty little yard plants” could have an extensive backstory in American history. My mother works at a Botanical Garden (administrative work, however) and has some knowledge on certain flowers, shrubs, or trees. Because of this, all I could think about while reading this article is wanting to share it with my mom!


Sarah E Jones

“Reading the Accidental Archival” Blog Post

I know I tend to say this every time I write a blog post, but I enjoyed this reading this article because it was fascinating. (Judging from the fact that all of these readings are “interesting” or “fascinating” to me, you would assume that I don’t get out much…) This article discussed the author studying urban life within the “petite bourgeois” of St. Louis in the twentieth century through artifacts found in, what the author calls, an “accidental archive.” This “accidental archive” to this author are the papers and objects that fell out of the pockets of clothes from the Aufderheide family when going through the laundry chute of the author’s former house (Heathcott, 239). The reason this house is an “accidental” archive is because of the nature of the objects stored in the house, along with how they were stored in the house. These objects do not necessarily all connect together (shopping lists, needles, Christmas gift labels, filling station adverts), and they were not properly stored to withstand the weathering of the years gone by. However, these artifacts are still useful when studying the petite bourgeois of St. Louis during the early twentieth century.

The article goes on at length to discuss how architecture can provide certain information about the past as well. More specifically, architecture can provide the “most consistent mediation between the private sphere of individuals and families and the broader public realm” (Heathcott, 249). Where the house was built, how the house was built, and the location of other types of neighborhoods can also provide certain insight to some social aspects of this petite bourgeois class that was growing during this time period. Despite how interesting this type of information may be, the author points out that architecture, street improvement, and planning did not necessarily determine how the people who resided in those houses would behave. Because of this, turning to the specific artifacts found in this “accidental archive” can help get a better glimpse into the daily life of a member of that particular class, the Aufderheider family.

Certain artifacts found included laundry order tickets, pieces of shopping lists, envelopes addressed to the family, train tickets, sewing needles, and so on. While these items may not seem so important to someone outside of the historical field, to those studying this particular time period, these items are seemingly priceless. For example, the train ticket and Pierce Oil Corporation filling station advertisement found suggests some movements that the family may have had in the city and elsewhere (Heathcott, 255-256). The Broadway Laundry Co. order ticket suggests that the family eventually sent some clothes out to be cleaned, instead of washed within their own home (Heathcott, 254-255). This could suggest either that the family simply wanted to take advantage of the nearby service for particular articles of clothing, or even that the family had the extra money to spend on having some of their clothes cleaned elsewhere.

Overall, I enjoyed this article and found it to be very interesting.


Sarah E Jones

“Rebuilding the Pueblo World” Blog Post

I have found these first few readings of chapters from Liebmann’s book to have been very fascinating. Since I do not have knowledge on the field of archaeology, these chapters have been very interesting and informative. This chapter continues on discussing filling in the gaps of history regarding the Pueblo Revolt in New Mexico in the seventeenth century. For this chapter, the author discusses the lack of information on the events that happened in the Pueblo world between 1681 and 1692. To do this, the author used archaeology of the Jamez Province to “fill in the blanks” of this gap in the records (Liebmann, 83). A particular area of interest was the Pueblo settlement of Patokwa.

What I found within this chapter is that archaeology can be used in amazing ways to gather information about the past. The author described how the way buildings were made in a particular area in a specific point of time can suggest the amount of people who settled in an area and even what purpose the settlement had for the people living there. For the case of Patokwa, archaeologists found that the homes there were built using a “ladder-type” technique, which is suppose to be very efficient and quick; this suggests that the people who moved to that area were a large group or groups (Liebmann, 90). Furthermore, the author points out that the settlement was likely built for a defensive purpose, since it was built with “central, enclosed plazas surrounded on all sides by inward-facing room blocks, Patokwa could have been fortified relatively quickly in the event of an enemy attack” (Liebmann, 95).


Sarah E Jones

“Archaeological History of Pueblo Resistance: Introduction” Blog Post

This reading is very interesting because it continues along the current theme of this course, which is non-textual sources being used in historical studies and research. At first, I thought this chapter was going to introduce the topic of religious views influencing history telling, since the first few pages of this introduction spent a good deal of emphasis on Catholicism and a Pueblo prophecy. However, as I read on, I realized that was just some background information as to why the history of this area between the Natives of the region and the Spanish colonizers during the time period the author looks at can be complicated to understand. To quote the text in order to explain a little better how this history can be complicated: “the story of the Pueblo Revolt era (1680-96) is filled with apparent ironies and contradictions” (Liebmann, 4).

The author of this text sets out to try and give better information on this Pueblo Revolt era by using more than what has traditionally been used when researching this particular event. What has been traditionally used when researching the Pueblo Revolt era has been accounts written by the Spanish colonizers and Franciscan ecclesiastical correspondence. These texts, while helpful, only give a one-sided perspective on this era. However, these have been the only written accounts available, since the Pueblos did not record their own versions of these events in writing (Liebmann, 7). The author of this text does not let this stand in their way, however, as they decide to not only use the texts mentioned, but also use the material culture (artifacts, architecture, rock art) of the Pueblos to help bridge that gap of misinformation. This is very helpful, for it will be able to “supplement the documentary record, providing new perspectives on the Pueblo Revolt and its aftermath” (Liebmann, 8).


Sarah E Jones

“The New Nature of Maps” Blog Post (pt. 2)

The previous chapter of this book discussed how maps are a useful tool in historical research and studies, but rarely are used for those purposes. This chapter of the book dives in deeper to the different ways maps have been created and used throughout history. Through this part of the book, one can get an even deeper understanding on how maps can be used in historical studies, and the different ways one can use a particular map in their studies. The goal of the chapter is to “explore the discourse of maps in the context of political power,” but I believe that, by reading between the lines, one can understand new ways maps can be used for research purposes other than for narrow location-based topics (Harley, 53).

This chapter points out that “it is only through context that meaning and influence can be properly unraveled” when studying a map (Harley, 56). Context with maps can range from who made the maps, to who used the maps, and to what the maps were used for. As given in this chapter, an example of a context for a map could include political reasons, such as use by the military or the state. Military reasons for use of a map could include facilitating the “technical conduct of warfare” (Harley, 60). Knowing that would make it more understandable for certain places being left out on a military map, such as a classified base, in comparison to a map of a country leaving out unclassified information. In the case of the military map example, the erasing of the military base on the map is censorship is a reason for security, rather than propaganda.


Sarah E Jones

“The New Nature of Maps” Blog Post (pt. 1)

Even though this particular reading may not have seemed to be about the most interesting topic, the first chapter of this reading was actually very riveting. I find maps to be pretty neat, and even had a map of Europe (in the German language) on the wall of my dorm room last year. Despite my mild interest in maps, I was not aware of the complexity of them within the historical field! I also was not aware that they were among the most neglected types of sources among historians, but that fact does make sense because I don’t ever recall seeing maps cited in historical writings very often.

This chapter points that out that most historians tend to only use maps if they want a specific question answered, and it is usually dealing with location (Harley, 34). However, maps can be used in so many more ways. To quote the chapter, “Maps re-describe the world. . .in terms of relations of power and of cultural practices, preferences, and priorities” (Harley, 35). I agree with this statement fully. To me, maps can provide insight into the general mindset of a region, based on how the map is formatted. If certain territories are ignored or labeled differently than other maps from the same time period, a future reader of that map could wonder if the people who created that map were either not aware of those territories, or that there were conflicts between governments regarding those areas at that time. However, just as this chapter states, it can be difficult to understand a map maker’s intention, because they typically were a group effort or done with a patron (Harley, 39). So just like written historical documents, maps must be read carefully in order to try and understand meaning behind it.


Sarah E Jones

“The Port: Shipping and Trade” Blog Post

In the previous chapter we read of this book, the authors introduced the topic of their book. The topic of their book is about studying the people of Havana in the sixteenth century, rather than viewing the port city as being a sort of “service station” for ships. In this chapter of the book, the authors decide to do some background research on the ship traffic of Havana before moving onto studying the locals. This makes sense, because researching the traffic the city had with various ships coming to trade could be helpful with understanding the markets in Havana.

As with the previous chapter, I decided to focus on a more technical aspect of this chapter, rather than the historical aspect that was intended for reading. What I ended up honing in on more was when the authors mentioned use of sources, when they referenced other historians, or when they pointed out any possible flaws in their sources. Learning by example can sometimes be the best way to learn, so that is why I decided to read the chapter in this manner. Some of the ways that the authors helped the reader to understand certain numerical sources were by putting them in a chart, table, or graph format. A few examples of this can be seen on page 13 with the table “Shipping Movement, 1571-1610,” and on page 15 with the table “Value of Imports and Exports (in Reales).” Not only does it help legitimize the content of their book, it also helps the reader to better understand specific information that is being discussed. For an example, the “Shipping Movement” table helps to visualize that trading movement “increased significantly in the second half of the sixteenth century” in Havana when the reader sees the numbers increase as they get further through the chart (de la Fuente, et. al, 13).


Sarah E Jones

“Introduction and Notes” Blog Post

The introduction of this text is meant to introduce the reader to the purpose of these authors’ book, which is, as the title suggests, about Havana and the Atlantic in the 1500s. While the first few pages give some historical background on an event that took place in that area, the portion of real interest to me came when the authors started to discuss why they were writing their book. What I found the authors’ purpose of writing their book was to “evaluate the impact on local society and the opportunities and challenges it created for the various social groups that worked and lived in [Havana]” (Alejandro de la Fuente, et al., 7). A second “why” that can be asked in response to this topic, is “why is this specific topic important?” The authors state the reason of why their topic is important and different from other works about Havana and the Atlantic is because the “making of this Atlantic port city has been poorly studied,” and even when it is, historians tend to portray Havana as a “service station” or “service city” for Spanish fleets (Alejandro de la Fuente, et al., 7).

This introduction is a good example of how one should properly introduce their research paper (or book), and on how to explain why your topic is more important or more interesting than other topics about the same subject.


Sarah E Jones

“History and the Internet” Blog Post

Growing up in the Internet age has allowed for me to have a good understanding about the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of the Internet. Back in middle school, I recall listening to a lecture from the school’s librarian about how people can easily publish false information on the Internet (the example they used was looking up “tree octopus,” which clearly does not exist). Now that I am older and can use the Internet for research on college papers, I still keep those lessons in mind. However, I also need to continue to learn about how to not only avoid false information, but how to find the information I am looking for.

Using the Internet to search for sources for a research paper can be helpful, but it also can hurt the user. Just as the text states, “the Internet does not have the organization. . .of an online catalog or index, nor does it employ the review process that many publishers of journals and monographs use to assure quality publications” (Presnell 136). Because of this lack of organization, even using a very specific search heading can lead to thousands of results. While a portion of these search results can be beneficial to the research, there is also an equal (if not more grand) portion of search results can also contain unofficial sources, incorrect information, and computer viruses. Using a library or archival database can not only help lessen the bombardment of sources thrown at the user, but they can also sort through the false information one can find in a simple search engine.


Sarah E Jones