Monday, May 14, 2012

What are we doing here?

Following up on those historical footnotes...

Look out, world! I've decided to enter the blogosphere, albeit tentatively and with little fanfare. Imagine this announcement accompanied not by a trumpet blast but a kazoo blat.

I harbor no illusions that the things I find interesting are going to find wide readership, but my compulsion to read and research and document is strong and needs an outlet. And so I intend to write about whatever strikes my fancy, even though a cohesive blog-arc may be absent.

I am endlessly fascinated by stories that slip through the historical cracks and succumb to the phenomenon of collective amnesia. I am often bemused by what we've chosen to forget. There are people whose influences were so far-reaching in their time that it seems inconceivable to me that they aren't still household names; events that were so significant in their day that I can't believe they aren't still part of our present consciousness. That they are relegated to historical footnotes doesn't do them justice.

Of course, the passage of time renders the past less vivid and significant to the present. But I hold to the belief that all past is prologue, and that we can best grasp the significance of current events by examining them in the context of what's gone before.

Topics I am likely to cover here include the physical and social geography of places I love; historical eras, events and people that intrigue me; nerdy things; the natural world, animal behaviour and conservation efforts; art and the presentation and valuing of art as such connects to our social and psychological lives; and architectural witnesses to history. I poke around and delight in making connections, at least until I feel I've exhausted a subject.  Hopefully reading my ramblings won't exhaust potential readers! I often come back an edit pieces if I've found new information.  

A few caveats: My academic background is in the humanities. I spent many years working as a psychotherapist, and I hope during that time that I was able to help my patients embrace their personal stories and find enough poetry in their own narratives to allow their souls to sing. My years as a psychotherapist sensitized me to the power of a story placed in context (and I like to think that my awareness of the power of stories made me a better therapist).

I do intend to write and document responsibly here, if not according to strict professional research standards. This is not a peer-reviewed historical journal, after all; it is a historically-minded blog. With that said, I'm also not about gee-whiz, look-at-this populist history, either. I research everything I can about a topic before posting, and often post sources and suggest further reading. When I don't do that on a piece it's because the material I reviewed was drawn from so many sources that it would be a waste of space to note everything -- but please feel free to contact me if you'd like further info. 

I delight in exploring the cultural offerings in my own hometown of Pittsburgh. I often use exhibits and topics I come across vis-a-vis my wanderings and travels as blog fodder, but that should by no means indicate endorsement or sponsorship by any organizations that I mention. I work and volunteer at various historical and cultural establishments in Pittsburgh, and I do independent research and lectures for those organizations. But what I write here is separate from that work, unless otherwise indicated.

I do my best to properly credit photos and sources. If a photo is not otherwise credited, it was taken by me.

You are welcome to quote and repost photos from this blog with all appropriate due credit to me at The Historical Dilettante; please use my URL for attribution.  If you don't, I will approach you to do so. Please, be a grown-up about this.

This is a long-read blog, so plan to settle in when you open a topic. I may not post often, but you can be sure I'm researching topics when I'm not actively posting here.  I also maintain a Facebook page where I post much shorter pieces, often about Pittsburgh history art but also about general art and culture. You can find that page HERE.

I bid you welcome from my imaginary garret. Please please please please chime in with comments as the spirit moves you, and tell others about this space. I'd like to hear from you, gentle reader, and am so glad you found your way here!

Sue Morris

Photo courtesy of Paul Vladuchick, 11-2016

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