Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Quick Reflection II --The Postwar Experience in Orange TV's New History of International Drive

Recently, I received a couple of comments and emails related to my post about Orange TV Scrapbook new documentary about the development of International Drive. In my comment I mention an omission of women and minorities in the story. This is what garnered the emails. First, as I mentioned in the initial post, this is an interesting documentary. Having said that, my perspective on the coverage of the documentary is based on a desire to contextualize the story of community development to include voices that are left out. By "left out" I do not mean a deliberate attempt to remove from the story, I do not believe that was the intent (I didn't think it in August and I don't think it now).

Since the 1960s, the turn toward social history in historical study has looked for ways to incorporate the story of the poor, women, and racial minorities into history. This is a difficult process, and it important to recognize that this blog by its very nature is about inquiry and trying to shift focus toward that discussion. The title is "NEW ADVENTURES IN DIGITAL HISTORY," so yep, I am looking for the stuff left out.

If you have been reading this blog over time, you must realize that students in my classes are forced (yep I said it) to examine the stories we (academic types like me) know are not getting a lot of attention and try to bring those voices and perspective into the story. Now, the goal of the producer of the documentary are similar, but they operate under greater constraint and need to provide an audience with a understandable narrative in 30 minutes. They are telling a story of development that focuses on decision makers and those decision makers are white and male. Any consideration of major economic, social, and political processes in the United States would come back with a narrative very similar and that is not a surprise given the story they need to tell.

For an academic like me, the opportunity to broaden the story by considering issues of the composition of the labor pool constructing the businesses, discussing the minorities and women employed in the service industry, or merely taking a moment to contextualize the multicultural history of the region as it is linked to tourism would have been a way to incorporate greater diversity into the story. These efforts would have broaden the context of the story, but did they have time for them or would they have made sense with the story they were trying to tell? These are good questions. This is the inherent tension between academics and general public, academic are suppose to look at something like this and go, "What about......?" I fully expect more minorities and women to make their way into the story, and I will watch it when the next part is available.

The history of I-Drive is not on my plate right now and I haven't done research to know all the details, so honestly, I'm happy to see Orange TV making the effort. Given the limited funds and long hours, the task to produce this program must have been considerable. My comments should not be seen as trivializing those efforts. I was surprise to find out that I know at least one of the people involved in the documentary! Indeed, our project on the Colony Theater was featured on Scrapbook, so I am a fan of their efforts. If you haven't watched the documentary, you should. The story they are telling is one part of the narrative we all should know. Central Florida is a region ripe for study and Orange TV is reaching out to the community to provide those stories. They deserve our support, but that support should come in the form of providing a rich diversity of stories for them to pull from. Efforts like our Golden Personalities project at Rollins provide profiles and history of well known people, but we strive to include voices of women and African-Americans. Recently the University of Central Florida has put together a great program called RICHES: Regional Initiative for Collecting the History, Experiences, and Stories of Central Florida. RICHES is an umbrella program housing interdisciplinary public history projects that bring together different departments at UCF with profit and non-profit sectors of the community.

With more efforts like these combined with the programs like Orange TV Scrapbook, I think we will get a greater diversity of voices in the stories of our community.

The last thing I want to say is, thanks for taking the time to read the blog. My students are forced to do it:-) So, I appreciate you wasting your time with my awful typing skills.

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