Curators of the Past

March 25, 2013

Students of Abigail Perkiss, an assistant professor of history at Kean University, know that she is in passionate about an innovative teaching technique known as Reacting to the Past. Professor Perkiss regularly asks her students to take on the parts of historical actors in moments of significant social disruption and change, ranging from the streets of Paris during the French Revolution to the Kentucky legislature during the secession crisis of 1860.

Students in Professor Perkiss’s classes come face to face with history and with memory as they act out the imagined experience of ordinary people in historic circumstances.

Professor Perkiss is developing a new module of Reacting to the Past related to the controversies and issues surrounding the design of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. She outlined her role in a recent essay for the National Council on Public History.

“We hope that participants in this game will see that the past is neither fixed nor concrete and that empirical evidence is always viewed through the lens of the time in which it is interpreted,” Professor Perkiss wrote.

Here is a link to Professor Perkiss’s essay: http://publichistorycommons.org/memory-and-monument-building/