When I began reading Geoff Eley’s book, A Crooked Line, I was really struck by his comparison of historians and “professional guardians.” This made me think back to our discussion in regard to being “gatekeepers.” Last week, Claire’s viewpoint was incredibly accurate due to the fact that we, as up and coming historians, are no longer acting in the sense of those gatekeepers. In class, we have established the premise that to move forward in our field, we need to improvise a way to gain a foothold in the digital age. We must then adapt our way of researching, analyzing, writing, disseminating, and recording history, to make this, and future generations aware of their past. It will be up to those that absorb this new history, to distinguish which information has been properly researched and written, or which “facts” are ones that can be trusted.
This week, I was astounded to find that Laura and I had been thinking along the same track, when I saw her use of the quote from Eley’s book. I had intended to use that very same section, as it really spoke to me in a way that helped me understand more fully, what our job entails, demands, consists of, etc. as rising professional historians.
The boundaries between history’s professional precincts and the wider realms of the public are far more porous than most academic historians might allow. Once we admit that porousness, we relativise our understanding of the professional historian’s influence. If we ask where society get its sense of the past, for instance, only delusions of grandeur could induce historians into claiming much of the credit. For most people, knowledge about the past comes very rarely from its professional guardians and then usually at several times removed. Even those of us squarely inside the profession spend much of our time responding most urgently to questions coming from elsewhere, from beyond the safety of the archive, the library or the seminar room. (Eley pg. 8)
We have the responsibility to become “sharers” within our discipline, which means that we need to allow others within their respective field into our little “sewing circle.” What I mean by this, is the way we, as historians know that we have to put together the various scraps of material, which we find in our research, (kind of like when sewing a quilt.) Imagine if you will, a beautiful patchwork quilt; it starts off with various swatches of material, scraps, patches, and many of them do not match, right? Well, in an old timey sewing or quilting circle, (sometimes not old timey, as there are modern sewing circles;) people would invite friends, family members, and often members of church, social, or other community groups, over to a sewing bee. They would come together and after working together as a group, the end-product or result would be a beautiful “patchwork” quilt. I personally feel that by allowing other disciplines into the “conversation” in the methodology of writing the historiography about various topics in history, then we are melding together and making a beautiful “patchwork” history.
As I am trying a new idea this week, (recommended to me by my writing class professor,) I am trying to not write a novel on all of the readings. Rather, she suggested that I should just try to pick one thought within a reading and focus on that in my blog. So, in conclusion, I firmly believe that there is always more room in the “sewing circle.” The invitation is out there for others, in other disciplines, to come on in, join the circle and by doing so, we can broaden our minds, and as Eley said, create a more “porous” way of learning history. We can all let our minds, which like sponges, are ready to soak up a broad range of topics, take it all in. The melding together of other disciplines and other guardians within their own fields can only solidify the historiography through these new ideas with the methodology of recording history.