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. This is my space for that, where I write about whatever strikes my fancy.

I am endlessly fascinated by stories that slip through the historical cracks and succumb to the phenomenon of collective amnesia. What we've chosen to forget, I want to remember. 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.

My long-term project is a history of the Monongahela House Hotel, Pittsburgh's go-to residential and social establishment for much of its 95 year existence. I am gathering stories and images about what life was like beneath its balconies and behind its doors, with the intent to eventually publish that history. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the Mon House.

In the course of my research, I come across all sorts of historical tidbits. Some I will research in detail and write about here; others will find mention on my Facebook page or Twitter feed. I often go back to edit pieces if I find new information or photos.  

A few caveats:  I hail from Westmoreland County, and my degrees are from Duquesne and Pitt. Western Pennsylvania is in my blood but I live to research and travel, so my horizons are broad. At least I like to think so, anyway. 

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 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 of my writing by any organizations that I mention. I work and volunteer at historical and cultural establishments in Pittsburgh, and do independent research and lecture. 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-form 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 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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