“The past is never dead, it’s not even past,” wrote William Faulkner in his 1951 novel, “Requiem for a Nun.”
The University of Texas’ History Department is counting on many people sharing his sentiment that history lives on and affects the present. It has launched a new Web site, Not Even Past, to bring short, accessible articles on history to the masses.
Drawing on diverse research by the university’s faculty, the site will feature historical information from around the globe, along with book and film recommendations and
Not Even Past has its roots in the department’s visiting committee, which wanted an outlet for the history faculty to provide book recommendations. History Chair Alan Tully presented the idea to his faculty, and Professor Joan Neuberger offered to take on and expand the project. The result is the first of its kind from any university in the nation.
The site’s home page features a different faculty book each month with many ways to experience it. The author will write a description of it, appear in a video interview, recommend three related books and host a live chat. Recent and classic historical films will be at the ready, too.
Not Even Past will also feature faculty and graduate students discussing the stories behind images, documents, and objects from university and national archives. History buffs will be able to access oral histories and interview podcasts, including a special Texana section.
“History is dynamic,” Neuberger says. “Ideas about history change all the time. We want to encourage everyone to go look at anything to do with history.”
Nearly all history faculty contribute to the site, and for some it’s been a nice breather from their typical academic writing. Professor Jacqueline Jones, whose book about Savannah, Ga. during the Civil War was the first featured on the site, said she had to stop and think about the best way to introduce it to a larger audience. “A lot of people who go to the site won’t be professional historians or even academics,” she says, “but everyone loves a good story.”
Neuberger says they hope faculty’s prominent role will attract former students while giving return visitors a familiar voice to look to. Three virtual courses, touching on history from different parts of the world, will be offered each semester and taught by a history professor.
Spring semester offerings included “The Essence of Leadership: Franklin, Jackson, FDR” with Professor H.W. Brands; “Where Stalin’s Russia Beat Hitler’s Germany: WWII on the Eastern Front” with Associate Professor Charters Wynn; and “Between Cuba and the U.S., 1868 to the Present” with Associate Professor Frank Guridy. Reading lists were assigned, and the professors conducted live chats after each book’s reading deadline. The best part — no exams.
This article first appeared in Alcalde magazine.