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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:14 pm 

Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 5:47 pm
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Alan Walker wrote:
In regards to the matter of African Americans and their experiences with American railroads, I would humbly recommend the following three books as recommended reading for anyone who considers them to be a railroad historian:


Great list, Alan. On segregation in particular, I also suggest "Right to Ride" by Dr. Blair Kelley., UNC Press, ISBN: 978-0-8078-7101-0. It is in two parts, covering segregation on streetcars and railroads, respectively.

A point well made by Dr. Kelley is that segregation was not confined to the post-Reconstruction South. In 1838, half a century before Plessy v. Ferguson, the Eastern Railroad opened in Massachusetts with segregated cars and was soon caught up in a legal battle involving Frederick Douglass. I suspect most museums will have some connection to the civil rights movement, no matter their location.

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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2020 11:37 pm 

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128 posts since the first mention of BLM, in a thread dominated by discussion of BLM, and still not any evidence of any example of BLM affecting railroad preservation in any way. Just hypothetical speculation, no examples or evidence.


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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 12:51 am 

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Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
PMC:

elecuyer wrote:
This photo showed up on my Facebook feed this morning. I am adding it to this thread without personal comment.
Locomotive is B&M 410 in Lowell, Mass. It was cosmetically restored and is maintained by the B&M Historical Society.
It is displayed (and owned, I believe) by the National Park Service as part of the Lowell National Historical Park.


Sorry to tell you this, dude, but the banner sports BLM "talking points."

If you want to claim that that incident has "nothing to do with BLM," I'll make the equally specious claim that "COVID-19 hasn't affected rail preservation, either--because, as we all know, railroad equipment aren't impacted by viruses."


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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:29 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:26 am
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Location: Maine
Looks like politics has already taken over this thread.

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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 1:21 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
Posts: 1106
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Tyler Trahan wrote:
Alan Walker wrote:
In regards to the matter of African Americans and their experiences with American railroads, I would humbly recommend the following three books as recommended reading for anyone who considers them to be a railroad historian:


Great list, Alan. On segregation in particular, I also suggest "Right to Ride" by Dr. Blair Kelley., UNC Press, ISBN: 978-0-8078-7101-0. It is in two parts, covering segregation on streetcars and railroads, respectively.

A point well made by Dr. Kelley is that segregation was not confined to the post-Reconstruction South. In 1838, half a century before Plessy v. Ferguson, the Eastern Railroad opened in Massachusetts with segregated cars and was soon caught up in a legal battle involving Frederick Douglass. I suspect most museums will have some connection to the civil rights movement, no matter their location.


I will have to look that one up. Mr. Kornweibel's book is quite informed by the fact that in addition to being a scholar, he's one of us. He was a track man on the Valley Railroad when they were relaying their line and was a trainman on the New Hope and Ivyland before going to California. The last affiliation he lists is the railroad museum at Campo.

Mr. Kornweibel does make reference to the Eastern Railroad and Massachusetts' segregation law, and I have always discussed that and the reason that it is so unknown. I explain that the folks in Massachusetts did what we'd do today-they protested the law and sued to get it off the books. Then there's the fact that the further you got from the Deep South, the less rigidly segregation was enforced.

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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 2:31 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 10:49 am
Posts: 691
Alan Walker wrote:
robertmacdowell wrote:

What's illegal is endorsing a political candidate. It's illegal for very good reason: to implement tax law, which disallows charitable deductions for political campaigns.

IRS auditors can't hear dog-whistles (especially since any audit will land well after election day)... so they will evaluate a nonprofit's invocation of BLM as exactly what it says on the tin: an acknowledgement that a marginalized culture is, in fact marginalized. Tax law specifically allows charities to serve disadvantaged groups, and to discriminate in their favor when their aim is to equalize inherent disadvanage.

That said, political activities other than endorsing a candidate need to be incidental at most to your general operations; it can't be one of your three largest activities which you report on your Form 990.

I personally wouldn't say BLM, because of the dog-whistle effects (i.e. you'd piss off 47% of your customer base).

But I certainly might invoke the theme: like roll out a "Black Experience" exhibit or something like that... Pullman porters, Jim Crow, etc.


One thing that we in railway preservation do need to do is acknowledge that the railroads had a significant impact on the plight of African Americans. We cannot hide that anymore and must address that fact. It may require some of us to reexamine some of the companies that we are enthusiasts of. How your visiting public will respond to your interpretation depends on your organization and your people.

I grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the 1970s and 1980s. I rode the Southern excursions and the big black and gray diesels made an indelible impression on me. I had the rare opportunity to work for the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum as a paid trainman for ten years and always heard the good things that the Southern had done. As I read more scholarly material regarding Jim Crow and the railroads, I had to acknowledge that the Southern (hidden under the spit and polish of Virginia Green and Gold) engaged in some terrible acts against colored people. The Southern was widely regarded by many colored people to be the worst southern railroad as far as how colored passengers were treated. The railroad commission in North Carolina received numerous complaints from colored passengers who feared for their lives if they rode the Southern. The Southern had a habit of mixing wooden partitioned coaches (segregated cars) on passenger trains with all steel coaches, whereas more progressive railroads like the Seaboard and Atlantic Coast Line had abandoned the practice. Those roads relegated wooden cars to trains that had entirely wooden consists.

Jim Crow was entirely related to the politics of the day and we cannot deny that. The same goes for the employment practices that the railroads engaged in. Many black railroaders were pushed out of their jobs through intimidation, methods of which included cold blooded murder or threats of violence. These were well documented on certain southern roads. Many southern railroads benefited from the convict-lease system, and prior to the Civil War many roads leased slaves with some owning slaves of their own.

While I was there, we restored coach 906-a partitioned car operated by the Central of Georgia Railway which still had the partition in place. It was restored with the partition and signs, shocking some of our volunteers. They envisioned scathing remarks about the car and its history and protests. Those never came about, even given that a good deal of our traffic was school groups. Instead, the car became a teaching tool. After one trip, I actually had a black high school teacher thank us for preserving the car and providing an interpretation that allowed the students to make a physical connection with the history they were learning. On trips that the car ran on, I always made a point to discuss the car with the passengers riding in it, presenting the car and its history for what it was and acknowledging the historic wrongs of the railroad industry.

While we should certainly avoid present day political endorsements of candidates or messages, we must recognize the political relations between public policies of the past and railroad history.


That's what I'm talking about right there. I've lived the story, and grew up listening to the stories my relatives told me. Hell, they even discouraged me from going into railroading because they knew how hard it would be. They put up with it to a certain point because they had to, because despite the racism, it was one of the best jobs they could have ever had. I had other options. But it wasn't the discouragement of the way they were treated, it was the good times they talked about I wanted to experience. I've had some good times on the railroad, and also some horrific times. To not tell the entire story of the African American experience on railroads is doing people like my grandfathers and uncles a disservice, especially since so many can tie their upper movement directly to railroad employment, especially in the Midwest and East.

Perhaps it's time for Trains to do another article, this time with pictures and commentary of African America railroaders both past and present. I believe I can count on the fingers of one hand the times pictures of African American railroaders appeared int eh magazine, and I've been a subscriber since July 1975.

It's time to give a true accounting of African American railroaders and the role railroads played in their lives. Museums, tourist lines and individual members have that responsibility to tell that story.


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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:20 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:25 pm
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Here is one panel from our Jim Crow exhibit at National Capital Trolley Museum. The image is from the final draft hence some highlights and stray markings.

Attachment:
Trolley_1-ELM-Edits-Plus-Terrell.jpg
Trolley_1-ELM-Edits-Plus-Terrell.jpg [ 255.16 KiB | Viewed 816 times ]


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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:30 pm 
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Location: Pac NW, via North Florida
Txhighballer wrote:
It's time to give a true accounting of African American railroaders and the role railroads played in their lives. Museums, tourist lines and individual members have that responsibility to tell that story.

While I agree with you 100%, the problem there is that this is but one of countless stories that need to be told. Many railroad museums, if we allow ourselves to be honest with one another, just show the neat stuff they have, in whatever state of repair they currently have it.
There aren't many signs to even tell people what they're looking at, let alone any context or stories of any kind.
A friend once said it best when visiting a small airplane museum with me on a trip a few years ago:
Quote:
This isn't so much a museum as it is a publicly opened storage building for the things they have.
Truer words have never been spoken.
Yeah, the story of blacks with the RRs need to be told. As do the Asians who worked and died building the lines eastward out of the west throughout the 1800s and early 1900s and countless other stories.
Heck, the other day while doing my brakeman duties on the RR at which I volunteer, I got into a conversation with someone who had no clue the US Army had many units devoted to running RRs overseas in WW2 (and still have a couple of such units today).
Who will tell their stories, as those men are dying off in droves each day?
The simple answer? It won't be the museums.
No, it'll have to be the historians writing books. I've been to many of the big RR museums in the US and other countries. Very few tell any stories at all.
The rest are either too busy trying to keep things running or rusting away, finding the money for even the basic stuff like overhead cover and keeping the lights on, or maintaining the 'good old boy model train club in 1:1 scale' mindset we all know too well.

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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 4:59 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
Posts: 1106
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Txhighballer wrote:
Alan Walker wrote:
robertmacdowell wrote:

What's illegal is endorsing a political candidate. It's illegal for very good reason: to implement tax law, which disallows charitable deductions for political campaigns.

IRS auditors can't hear dog-whistles (especially since any audit will land well after election day)... so they will evaluate a nonprofit's invocation of BLM as exactly what it says on the tin: an acknowledgement that a marginalized culture is, in fact marginalized. Tax law specifically allows charities to serve disadvantaged groups, and to discriminate in their favor when their aim is to equalize inherent disadvanage.

That said, political activities other than endorsing a candidate need to be incidental at most to your general operations; it can't be one of your three largest activities which you report on your Form 990.

I personally wouldn't say BLM, because of the dog-whistle effects (i.e. you'd piss off 47% of your customer base).

But I certainly might invoke the theme: like roll out a "Black Experience" exhibit or something like that... Pullman porters, Jim Crow, etc.


One thing that we in railway preservation do need to do is acknowledge that the railroads had a significant impact on the plight of African Americans. We cannot hide that anymore and must address that fact. It may require some of us to reexamine some of the companies that we are enthusiasts of. How your visiting public will respond to your interpretation depends on your organization and your people.

I grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee in the 1970s and 1980s. I rode the Southern excursions and the big black and gray diesels made an indelible impression on me. I had the rare opportunity to work for the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum as a paid trainman for ten years and always heard the good things that the Southern had done. As I read more scholarly material regarding Jim Crow and the railroads, I had to acknowledge that the Southern (hidden under the spit and polish of Virginia Green and Gold) engaged in some terrible acts against colored people. The Southern was widely regarded by many colored people to be the worst southern railroad as far as how colored passengers were treated. The railroad commission in North Carolina received numerous complaints from colored passengers who feared for their lives if they rode the Southern. The Southern had a habit of mixing wooden partitioned coaches (segregated cars) on passenger trains with all steel coaches, whereas more progressive railroads like the Seaboard and Atlantic Coast Line had abandoned the practice. Those roads relegated wooden cars to trains that had entirely wooden consists.

Jim Crow was entirely related to the politics of the day and we cannot deny that. The same goes for the employment practices that the railroads engaged in. Many black railroaders were pushed out of their jobs through intimidation, methods of which included cold blooded murder or threats of violence. These were well documented on certain southern roads. Many southern railroads benefited from the convict-lease system, and prior to the Civil War many roads leased slaves with some owning slaves of their own.

While I was there, we restored coach 906-a partitioned car operated by the Central of Georgia Railway which still had the partition in place. It was restored with the partition and signs, shocking some of our volunteers. They envisioned scathing remarks about the car and its history and protests. Those never came about, even given that a good deal of our traffic was school groups. Instead, the car became a teaching tool. After one trip, I actually had a black high school teacher thank us for preserving the car and providing an interpretation that allowed the students to make a physical connection with the history they were learning. On trips that the car ran on, I always made a point to discuss the car with the passengers riding in it, presenting the car and its history for what it was and acknowledging the historic wrongs of the railroad industry.

While we should certainly avoid present day political endorsements of candidates or messages, we must recognize the political relations between public policies of the past and railroad history.


That's what I'm talking about right there. I've lived the story, and grew up listening to the stories my relatives told me. Hell, they even discouraged me from going into railroading because they knew how hard it would be. They put up with it to a certain point because they had to, because despite the racism, it was one of the best jobs they could have ever had. I had other options. But it wasn't the discouragement of the way they were treated, it was the good times they talked about I wanted to experience. I've had some good times on the railroad, and also some horrific times. To not tell the entire story of the African American experience on railroads is doing people like my grandfathers and uncles a disservice, especially since so many can tie their upper movement directly to railroad employment, especially in the Midwest and East.

Perhaps it's time for Trains to do another article, this time with pictures and commentary of African America railroaders both past and present. I believe I can count on the fingers of one hand the times pictures of African American railroaders appeared int eh magazine, and I've been a subscriber since July 1975.

It's time to give a true accounting of African American railroaders and the role railroads played in their lives. Museums, tourist lines and individual members have that responsibility to tell that story.


The fact that railroading represented a stable income was a major attraction to African American railroaders. The fact that many of them could earn more on the railroad than sharecropping or menial, transient labor was a big deal. Those who got better opportunities or had bigger plans benefitted from the railroad, using it as a stepping stone.

I can say from my experiences, that having a partitioned car that people can sit in is much more meaningful than looking at a picture in the history book. It makes the lesson real. Otherwise, it's just something they read about or their grandparents, parents or teachers told them about. I've had educators thank myself and the railroad for preserving partition car No. 906 and interpreting the car as an exhibit for what it was.

We, as educators, need to do more to tell the stories of the African Americans, Asian, Hispanic and Native Americans who worked on the railroads. To not do so dishonors them, their memories and contributions and does nothing to make a better world.

The museums that progress will have to tell the stories-there are plenty of stories that are waiting to be told that have not been told, not because the stories weren't preserved. Rather, they were not told because it is inconvenient for folks to tell them. At the time Mr. Kornweible was writing his book, the Union Pacific was actively prohibiting anyone access to the corporate records of the Missouri Pacific Railroad because the UP was a defendant in a reparations case. That from the author's mouth. The problem with railroad "museums" is quite simple-most of them are not real museums. They're basically a tax shell for someone's toys or a business. They could become real museums, but that would require interpretation of not only the collection, but its relationship to the people that were connected to the items in the collection. For the men and women who made America's railroads, there is plenty of evidence out there to tell the stories if the historic preservationists actually care enough to go looking for it.

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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 6:54 pm 

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Most of the potential audience for museums actually care much ore about the human stories than the rusty iron itself - you will broaden the interest and boost numbers if you do a good job of it. Doing what we like instead of what they like is a pretty hard limitation.

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Corollary: "He who does is doomed to watch those who don't repeat it anyway."


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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 7:47 pm 

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Location: Tucson, Arizona
Dave wrote:
Most of the potential audience for museums actually care much ore about the human stories than the rusty iron itself - you will broaden the interest and boost numbers if you do a good job of it. Doing what we like instead of what they like is a pretty hard limitation.


That's the hard truth of it. Our visitors are our customers. We have to satisfy them in order to continue to exist. If we want to attract more visitors, we have to determine what WE need to do to bring them in the door.

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"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."- Conductor Nimrod Bell, 1896


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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Thu Aug 06, 2020 8:33 pm 

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Dave wrote:
Most of the potential audience for museums actually care much ore about the human stories than the rusty iron itself - you will broaden the interest and boost numbers if you do a good job of it. Doing what we like instead of what they like is a pretty hard limitation.


Ideally it’s both. What “we” like usually means what the members and volunteers like. That’s important as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2020 9:39 am 

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Alan Walker wrote:
Dave wrote:
Most of the potential audience for museums actually care much ore about the human stories than the rusty iron itself - you will broaden the interest and boost numbers if you do a good job of it. Doing what we like instead of what they like is a pretty hard limitation.


That's the hard truth of it. Our visitors are our customers. We have to satisfy them in order to continue to exist. If we want to attract more visitors, we have to determine what WE need to do to bring them in the door.


Absolutely. And telling them "the ideas you have are stupid" isn't a great way to attract them.

It's why, of all the stories you can tell, telling the stories of African Americans is a good one right now. Lots of people are interested in it.

Meanwhile, everyone's already heard about the Irish immigrants and it's kinda an old story. Similarly, the issue of the treatment of Italian Americans, while interesting and an important one to talk about (especially when you consider its interplay with the symbology of Christopher Columbus), isn't going to bring in the masses, and is best saved for a day in the future where your audience's sensibilities are different.

You don't have to agree with those sensibilities, but you do have to be tuned in to them.


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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:07 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
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Location: Tucson, Arizona
Tyler Trahan wrote:
Alan Walker wrote:
In regards to the matter of African Americans and their experiences with American railroads, I would humbly recommend the following three books as recommended reading for anyone who considers them to be a railroad historian:


Great list, Alan. On segregation in particular, I also suggest "Right to Ride" by Dr. Blair Kelley., UNC Press, ISBN: 978-0-8078-7101-0. It is in two parts, covering segregation on streetcars and railroads, respectively.



Ordered now. As I am also involved in streetcar and bus preservation, I am certain to learn something new on those topics.

One of the other roads that has a direct connection with segregation is the Pennsylvania Railroad. African American passengers purchasing tickets and traveling on through trains that originated north of Washington, D.C. with destinations south of Washington were segregated at the point of embarkation. If a through accommodation was available, they would be put in the car that would become the segregated coach at Washington, D. C. or in a Pullman compartment, regardless of their reservation if they had a Pullman ticket. If no through accommodation was available, they would be ticketed to Washington and required to book a second reservation to their final destination from Washington.

Some roads like the B&O had a limited number of trains that terminated in states that had segregation laws. The B&O particularly had no interest in spending any more money than necessary to comply with those laws. They actually used removable partitions that were installed on eastbound passenger trains at Martinsburg, West Virginia and removed from westbound passenger trains at that point.

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 Post subject: Re: Don't Hijack Preservation with Politics
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:17 pm 

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Ed Kapuscinski wrote:
Meanwhile, everyone's already heard about the Irish immigrants and it's kinda an old story. Similarly, the issue of the treatment of Italian Americans, while interesting and an important one to talk about (especially when you consider its interplay with the symbology of Christopher Columbus), isn't going to bring in the masses, and is best saved for a day in the future where your audience's sensibilities are different.


Boy, talk about presumptuousness.

I've spent decades working with the Celtic-American "community" working with festivals, music festivals, and the like. As of late, there's been some serious problems with "promoting the message" due to a variety of factors, among them a severe clamp-down on visa approvals for travelling musicians, artists and other "folk ambassadors" from abroad (throw away your political presumptions--they started under Clinton and got worse under Obama) to the fade-off of the spotlight from now-long-ago shows like "Riverdance," "Lord of the Dance," "Braveheart," "Rob Roy," etc. Irish and Scottish festivals have had serious problems of late attracting the "next generation" of torch-bearers to keep the festivals going. And the widespread cancellation of just about every such festival worldwide for this year isn't helping.

I have heard similar reports from other such ethnic festivals in the East and their organizers/venues--Greek, Italian, Polish, Korean, you name it. Some of it is the same reiterations of what we see with "getting young people into [fill in the blank]"--"they're too occupied with their smartphones," "short attention span," "people's ancestry is getting overly diversified," etc. One central unifying focus of many of these cultural experiences used to be churches, where church halls typically hosted regular meetings of cultural/ethnic clubs and/or the annual Greek/Italian/German/whatever Festival either as a church fundraiser or as a community event. Then note the decline in the importance of religion in modern lives, as well as the thorough "blending" of the "American melting pot." (It's frequently said that Sunday morning still remains THE most segregated time of American life.)

But the educational issues are the same, no matter the culture or the location. New generations SHOULD mean renewed exposure to the culture as a touchstone to heritage, unless your aim is to totally eradicate the past and make everyone either individuals or one society with no distinguishing features.

Your paragraph above mentioning the Irish and Italian experiences seems to come from either one of two mindsets:
1) "we've heard it all, don't need to hear it again."
2) "that's no longer cool/important; someone else's is more important."
(Or maybe 3. "They were evil white oppressors and need to be eradicated.")

Understand how patently offensive those sound. Imagine if I dismissed the reiteration of all the African-American experiences with the exact same excuses--too old, heard it before, not going to attract Joe Public (which it won't, in large portions of "flyover country"), "that was then, this is now".


Now, to veer off a bit:
Let me point out that Baltimore has what many would consider to be THE PERFECT melding of ethnic, social, historical, and artifact preservation all rolled into one:

The Irish Railroad Workers Museum and Shrine:
http://www.irishshrine.org

This small museum, a mere three short blocks from the main entrance of the B&O Railroad Museum, combines several things simultaneously:
*Preservation of several of the oldest alley rowhouses left in Baltimore, a once-prevalent architectural style of central Baltimore;
*Preservation of the Irish immigrant experience--and, by extension, a lot of other immigrant experiences--in Baltimore;
*Preservation of how rail workers lived close to their place of employment in a major city.

The B&O Railroad Museum nearby preserves the artifacts, the rolling stock, the THINGS of the B&O. The Irish Railroad Workers Museum preserves the lives, the society, the culture behind these artifacts, or at least the part not all WASP rail "barons."

We unfortunately, for a variety of reasons (finances, priorities, etc.), seldom have the opportunity to properly preserve and interpret the social aspects of industry along with the factories, mines, etc. A few exceptions abound--the Eckley Miners Village in Pennsylvania, the lumber village of Cass, the Muddy Creek Forks general store and mill on the Ma & Pa, etc. There are locations such as Steamtown where such preservation should obviously be part of the picture, but seems not to be--the Railroaders Memorial Museum in Altoona, Steamtown in Scranton, and more.

Sadly, though, such efforts seem to have mixed success in terms of sustainability. I've watched several such "lifestyle preservation" efforts dwindle and close, among them the Baltimore City Life Museum. The Irish Railroad Workers Museum has trouble getting enough volunteers to keep the doors open, as many of us do, even though they can attract from three different channels--Irish, rail, and city history.

When rail historians do get pressured to interpreting the human side of railroading, often these days it may, again, be tied to the promotion of an agenda, social or political.
"Why aren't you highlighting the role of Africans/Hispanics/Natives in the history of the local railroads/transit lines?" (Well, heck, we're not highlighting ANY people at all!)

But if your area/market is heavily populated with African-Americans, you're a danged fool NOT to set up a relevant display of Pullman porters, streetcar operators, etc.


Last edited by Alexander D. Mitchell IV on Fri Aug 07, 2020 1:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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