Monthly Archives: November 2013

An Interview with Lorraine Oswald

One of my favorite projects during the last year was the opportunity to interview Lorraine Oswald. Her words were thoughtful, retrospective, funny, and generous in their view of human foibles. What a pleasure to hear someone else’s story.

The interview was completed for the Junior Pioneers of New Ulm and Vicinity and shown at their fall meeting. When I first heard of the Junior Pioneers, I expected to see something like Boy or Girl Scouts for history. Imagine my surprise when I learned that they were not so young. The JPs are a century-old organization of the descendants of the white settlers of Brown County. Through the years, they have been advocates for history, sponsoring public presentations, historical markers, and publications. Take a look at the interview with Lorraine and remember the Junior Pioneer’s contributions over the years.

A Short History of the History Documentary

Clio and the Camera from DSTspring10 on Vimeo.

I’ve been thinking about form of the “modern” history documentary. The format that has come to dominate the field — certainly the PBS “American Experience” documentaries is the Ken Burns approach. It includes the use of historical photographs, using pan and scan, plus interspersed “talking heads” providing commentary or telling a story. This format has come to dominate the field — certainly the PBS “American Experience” documentaries.

I came across this interesting ten-minute survey of the history documentary, Clio and the Camera, completed by Andrea Odiorne, a student at George Mason University. It traces the changing styles of telling history via moving images, not only in format but also in technology. As someone who has created nearly 200 short form history documentaries — pastcasts — I wonder how the advent of the portable viewing device might change how the next generation documents history.

Whitewater Shaker Village

J. P. Maclean, a historian, set about researching the Shakers in 1903, traveling across southern Ohio. He wrote about his first glimpse of Union Village, a Shaker community located near Harrison, Ohio: “When I caught sight of the first house, my opinion was confirmed that I was on the lands of the Shakers, for the same style of architecture, solid appearance and want of decorative art was before me.” The University of Cincinnati, through their Center for the Electronic Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites, is doing some exciting work in using virtual reality to interpret history. Using tools like Google Sketch-up, students have recreated the exterior and interior of buildings in the Whitewater (Ohio) Shaker Village. While not the revelation that Mr. Maclean had, it opens a new perspective into the “land of the Shakers.”

CERHAS has used the approach to create a fascinating website about ancient Troy, complete with a virtual tour. Visit:

I’d like to see a historic downtown streetscape created for a Main Street Community.