In 1791, a group of elite Bostonian men established the first historical society in the nation. Within sixty years, the number of local history organizations had increased exponentially, with states and territories from Maine to Louisiana and Georgia to Minnesota boasting collections of their own.
With in-depth research and an expansive scope, Rescued from Oblivion offers a vital account of the formation of historical culture and consciousness in the early United States, re-centering in the record groups long marginalized from the national memory. As Alea Henle demonstrates, these societies laid the groundwork for professional practices that are still embraced today: collection policies, distinctions between preservation of textual and nontextual artifacts, publication programs, historical rituals and commemorations, reconciliation of scholarly and popular approaches, and more. At the same time, officers of these early societies faced challenges to their historical authority from communities interested in preserving a broader range of materials and documenting more inclusive histories, including fellow members, popular historians, white women, and peoples of color.
About the Author
ALEA HENLE is associate librarian and head of the access and borrow department at Miami University Libraries.
"Rescued from Oblivion: Historical Cultures in the Early United States is a smart and clear-eyed assessment of how early historical societies shaped the way Americans thought about their past, for better or worse . . . It should serve as a valuable resource for anyone entering the public history profession."—The Public Historian
"Rescued from Oblivion is abundant with the kind of details that make for stimulating history, with interesting personalities, decisions with lasting consequences, and the restoration to the historical record of women and others who have previously been neglected."—Robert B. Townsend, author of History's Babel: Scholarship, Professionalization, and the Historical Enterprise in the United States, 1880–1940
"In this richly layered study of archival history, Henle highlights not only the prejudices and priorities that members of early historical societies brought to their work but the various ways those prejudices and priorities were challenged by other historical actors."—Elizabeth Yale, author of Sociable Knowledge: Natural History and the Nation in Early Modern Britain