Ken Burns and “The Americans”

Hollow Horn Bear–1923 US Postage Stamp

I’ve been a big fan of Ken Burns’ documentaries—like many I watched the Civil War series as it came out; like many (though not as many) watched “Baseball” explore the post Civil War Civil Rights journey; and I caught most of the recent “Vietnam” series the first time around and will watch the one episode and parts of others I missed as they come back to my screen.

Yet there is a giant hole in the work of Ken Burns. In the September 4 issue of the New Yorker, author Ian Parker profiles the documentarian, and the headline writers call it “Mr. America.” Parker recounts many of Burns’ triumphs, from “The Brooklyn Bridge” to “Mark Twain” and the “Dust Bowl.” And he quotes Burns on at least ten ideas for the future, including “Hemingway,” “Crime and Punishment in America,” and “Country Music,” which is already in the can and set to run. He’s Read The Article

Senator Daniel Inouye and the Museum of the American Indian


National Museum of the American Indian, Washington D.C.
The recent passing of Senator Daniel Inouye caused me to remember Alvin Josephy’s respect for him and a story that I tell now in hopes that someone still alive can corroborate or deny it.
The Museum of the American Indian/Heye Foundation was established by George Gustav Heye in 1908 and opened to the public in New York City in 1922. Heye, a wealthy New Yorker obsessed with Indian artifacts, sent expeditions from one end of the Americas to the other and accumulated over a million of them. He died in   1957, leaving his museum to the People of New York.
But the museum came on hard times in the 1970s. Its neighborhood had deteriorated, attendance had dropped, and artifacts been sold to keep the place running. My recollection from Alvin is that he, his former classmate at Harvard, David Rockefeller, and a few others
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McCullough and Josephy—part 2

I mentioned in an earlier blog that Alvin hired David McCullough at American Heritage. I implied that Alvin began working for and hired David for the magazine, but in fact Alvin’s first job and his hire of David were in the book division of American Heritage. Alvin would later become editor of the magazine.

Parallels: David McCullough was a lit major in college, and had been a journalist with Sports Illustrated and the United States Information Agency when Alvin hired him at American Heritage. At some point, McCullough came across a batch of photos of the Johnstown flood. He had grown up in Pennsylvania with stories of that catastrophe, so his interest was aroused, and he went to the bookshelf. Finding no acceptable history of the event, he determined to write it himself. The Johnstown Flood was his first book.

Alvin was working at Time Magazine when he came across the Nez Perce story. He had been a print and Read The Article

Bobbie Conner new Board Chair at NMAI

Some of you might have already heard, but it is worth repeating! Roberta “Bobbie” Conner is the incoming Chair of Board of Trustees of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She has been on the Board since 2008, co-facilitated a Tribal museum directors meeting at NMAI in January, and will chair her first Trustees meeting February 9 and 10 in Washington D.C.

I have known Bobbie primarily through working on the Nez Perce Homeland project in Wallowa, where she and I are still board members. But she also gave a lecture on “Lewis and Clark through Indian Eyes” at Fishtrap, and she was in fact one of the writers in Alvin’s last book, the one he and Marc Jaffe edited called Lewis and Clark through Indian Eyes. And I had the great good fortune to work with Bobbie, Alvin, Cliff Trafzer, other historians and Tribal elders and editor Jennifer Carson on Wiyaxayxt / Wiyaakaaawn / As Days Read The Article