One such initiative is an education film series entitled Of the Student, By the Student, For the Student. Pupils attending school within the JTHG corridor collaborate with the National Park Service and professional filmmakers to produce mini-movies or vodcasts. Each presentation delves into local (yet nationally significant) history such as the Battle of Antietam, the C&O Canal, or John Brown's 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry. The students are provided the stepping stone to become the professional documentarians of tomorrow through such a project. Many of these films premiered during the conference and were followed by a question/answer session with the students. Unique interpretations were devised by the young filmmakers. For instance, the tale of an accused and wrongfully murdered Confederate sympathizer was converted into an allegory regarding bullying in modern school systems. What better way to make the past relevant?
Other sessions included details on how to create cultural travel packages and grant writing for the humanities. My own presentation delivered delved into the Civil War in cinema. By examining this form of arts and humanities, we can observe how historical representations of the past reflect our own times as much as they do the time periods in question. Historical films (even bad or inaccurate ones) can still teach us about the social and political themes of the eras in which they were produced. For example, the 1965 film Shenandoah serves as a chilling precursor to the anti-war sentiments that rock the nation only two or three years down the road. The motion picture was also more in tune with the then-ongoing Civil Rights movement than previous Civil War movies. In studying the past through humanities, we see not only history but ourselves.
These sentiments could not have been made clearer by the conference's keynote speaker Robert G. Stanton, former head of the National Park Service and current adviser to the Secretary of the Interior (seen below). By embracing the technological and cultural diversities now available in the humanities field, we can inform better and delve deeper into the complexities, controversies, and celebrations of the shared past. Linking history with present is simple when one is willing to be open-minded and utilize the vast array of resources available to students and historians. Stanton urged his largely student audience to accept that challenge by making the national story accessible and relevant. By and large, they succeeded--and the JTHG is just getting warmed up.
I applaud the efforts of the Journey Through Hallowed Ground and was pleased that I had the opportunity to participate and present in a small portion of their conference.