Sunday, March 25, 2012

“Crystalized” Participant Accounts May Change How Davis History Is Written (48)

Ken Kemmerling recently wrote a letter to the Davis Enterprise in which he chronicles some of the history of the City of Davis’ Contract Arts program--a program he says has been discontinued. (His letter, dated March 22, 2012, is reproduced here.)

I am struck by the degree to which his account has performed much of the spadework that has historically fallen to professional historians. But I suppose this is what we should expect in an educated and socially and culturally-aware population.

If significant numbers of such a population write accounts of this kind, the task of the traditional professional historian becomes both easier and different.

For example, the Davis histories written by professional historian David Vaught could draw on few, if any, Kemmering-style accounts. Vaught had to boot-strip himself to that level before then going on to critical assessments of the data and to a narrative. (Among other Davis history works, see his Cultivating California and After the Gold Rush.)

Future historians of Davis will be able to begin at a “higher,” more participant-history-crystalized level of “raw” Davis data. Although these participant-history accounts still need critically to be evaluated, quite a lot of the basic assembly of data will already have been done. 

Two additional recent participant-history-crystalized accounts come to mind. Taken with others, this “level” could become quite significant.  
One, there is Bill Cavans’ report I reproduced and discussed on this blog in post # 45 (March 11, 2012).

Two, the under-publicized large volume titled The Circle: The History of the University Farm Circle by Judith James Wydick will surely provide an enormous “leg up” to future historians.

And, there are, of course, the ordinary autobiographies on which historians have always drawn. What is new regarding Davis is the unusually large number of them that are now being produced (some of which I list in this blog’s post number #07, August 28, 2011).

A breaking news addition to the “participant-history-crystalized” category: The DavisWiki gnomes have constructed and continue to work on a Davis “Annual Events” list that is quite impressive for its sheer size.  I have posted a screenshot of part of it.