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Archive for the ‘History Book Review’ Category




Heritage is History?

Written on Wednesday, October 17th, 2007 [permanent link]

I spent a week digging through my Dad’s studio/barn with him this August, cleaning out musty old stuff and cataloging his artwork. (it was a great exercise in primary document research: “Hey, there’s my old Santa statue!!”) I found a goldmine of several boxes of American Heritage magazines.

Well, “magazine” isn’t the right word. American Heritage began publishing in 1954 as a hardbound periodical, and each new issue was hardbound until 1980. Then the magazine went to a softbound edition, but inside all these issues is a wealth of visual information for me. The Web is great for speed research, and I do get a lot of images by searching Google, but that resource is like a lot of the Web: a mile wide and an inch deep. (I can get 6 or 9 hits of the same image but little else relevant to my need on Google image search.) There are a lot of historical images that I’ve only seen in American Heritage and other historical magazines. Those images inform all the history comix I draw. I may have a talking crab on Jefferson’s shoulder, but it’s vital for me to get the buildings behind them historically correct.

Like many other print periodicals, American Heritage has had trouble making money lately. There’s simply too many Web sites out there offering things for free. The magazine stopped its print edition in May. The good news is that it continues to add new things to its awesome Web site: www.americanheritage.com

I have mixed feelings about this dramatic change in our human development. Fewer print books and magazines means fewer trees killed. That’s good. We’ll continue to use the skill of reading, but we’ll do it on a screen. That’s fine. But I worry about how permanent our new history is going to be when it’s nothing but zeroes and ones hanging in cyberspace. What happens when the power goes out??

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