Archive for October, 2008

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Indiana: One State, Three Regions?

October 17, 2008

It may be nearly impossible to think or write in these United States at mid-October without considering the colors “red” vs. “blue.” (One might wish this meant USC vs. UCLA, but alas no.) I have, however, been struck by the highlighting of our American regions during the current political contest. Every four years we become even more aware of the regional identity of places like the West Coast, New England, the Great Plains, and the South.

One of my favorite books on the topic of regions is The Nine Nations of North America, a best-seller by Joel Garreau, published in 1981. His research identified “the wildly different behaviors of people in the varying parts of our continent.” Often, these regions were bounded not by state lines but rather by economic-cultural-ecosystem divisions.

Garreau made a special point of mentioning Indiana’s capital, Indianapolis, as the meeting point of three of the nine nations: Dixie, The Breadbasket, and The Foundry. In our state’s history as a place settled by people from Kentucky and the Upland South, then turned into vast stretches of farmland, then built up with steel and auto manufacturing plants, we have a unique mix of differing identities and sensibilities, all of which may be seen along I-65.

Now comes the word that ground will be broken next week for the last segment of the Hoosier Heartland Corridor, a 4-lane highway connecting Lafayette and Fort Wayne (via Logansport, Peru, Wabash, and Huntington).  Miami County may yet become the Crossroads of (Northern) Indiana, as perhaps it was before people stopped traveling by river.

What we were, what we are.

This entry was posted by: Nancy

Blincoln Blog quick fact: Abe Lincoln’s family was one of those that came up from Kentucky, during the very month that Indiana entered the Union.

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The Values of History

October 9, 2008

Good discussion going on at Smaller Indiana about history, one of our favorite topics here at Hoosierati. I had some difficulty responding to the question posed by Pat Coyle because it appeared to pack together 3 different questions:

  • Why is learning history important?
  • Does our contemporary American culture value its history?
  • Is our culture stronger or weaker than other countries in applying historical wisdom?

I addressed the first and third questions on Smaller Indiana, so let me take up the second question here. If you assess contemporary American culture by the yardstick that seems to matter most – money – the answer must be yes. (Disclaimer: I don’t personally think that yardstick does matter most, but let’s consider the argument.) The top box office hit of all time, Titanic, was based (obviously) on a historical event. Next, the category of U.S. History on Amazon.com yields 334,488 results, which seems like a healthy number of books on the market. Thirdly, the history of various civilizations provides a rich source for the elements of fantasy and literature that contribute to contemporary art and the games industry.

To take another approach, consider a couple of uses of the past that have gained in popularity and should be on a trajectory to increase. One is genealogy and family history. Online sources for genealogy and a Baby Boom population approaching retirement age will no doubt keep this trend on the rise.

The second popular use is historical tourism. Our friends at the National Park Service, a contributor to the Indiana Humanities Council’s Resource Connection (NPS has 329 entries and counting), provide enjoyable, free historical adventures for families. We have three sites here in Indiana, Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial, George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and there are many more all over the country. (By the way, I like their tagline: Experience Your America.)

So history is valued as part of the commercial mix of our contemporary culture, history as “infotainment.” Yet it is also for many Americans—genealogists, local history researchers, historic reenactors, readers—a personal passion, a value beyond dollars and cents.

This entry was posted by: Nancy
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Friday Blincoln Blog

October 3, 2008

It’s been awhile since I’ve put together a Blincoln Blog, which is a real shame because I took a pretty great picture of a Lincoln statue here in Indianapolis which would make great eye candy (iCandy?) if I’d ever find the time to research it a little bit (er…a “great picture” by took-it-with-my-cellphone standards).

But today I have something better.

The Indiana Humanities Council has been working with the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission on putting together One State, One Story, encouraging teachers, students and everybody else to try to read one book on Lincoln this year. As part of the effort the IHC designed some eye-catching bookmarks which are going/have gone out to all the schools in the state. The front is a simple design while the back has a list…

Why am I explaining it to you? You can just go here to see them. This Living Resource is a pretty great one-stop shopping experience for those wishing wishing to educate young Hoosiers on the life and times of our 16th (and perhaps greatest) president. (Apologies for the editorializing.)

Anyway, I guess I spoiled the surprise. The whole post is intended to 1) get you thinking about Lincoln, because that’s never a waste of time and 2) to direct you to this great resource from the IDOE, the Indiana Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission and us.

Have a great weekend all!