“What Can History Do?”: A talk by Ruth J. Abram, October 5, 2009
This talk can also be downloaded as an audio file (.mp3 – 42.0 MB).
Historian and social activist Ruth J. Abram will give a personal account of why and how she founded the Lower East Side Tenement Museum located in Manhattan. The formation and subsequent growth of the museum was a multi-disciplinary undertaking propelled by the work of activists, historians, architects, preservationists, and grant writers, among others. It is now accredited by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, ‘Sites of Conscience’–historic sites specifically dedicated to remembering past struggles for justice and addressing their contemporary legacies. Widely studied as a model for how history museums can remain relevant by engaging the public in both past and current affairs, the Tenement Museum has also been the subject of controversy and public opposition. Abram will talk about the museum’s “unorthodox” development since its founding in 1988, reflecting on planning choices that were both good and bad, in retrospect.
Questions and Answers
In addition to her work with the museum, Abram has produced “Send Us a Lady Physician: Women Doctors in America, 1835-1920,” in association with the American Association of Women in Medicine and worked with the Women’s Action Alliance and the American Civil Liberties Union. Her recent publications include “Harnessing the Power of History” (2002), “Looking Reality In The Eye: Museums and Social Responsibility” (2005), “What’s the Use of History?” (2005), and “Kitchen Conversations: Democracy in Action at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum” (2007).