Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor
Public Places: Exploring their History.
By Gerald A. Danzer. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History, 187. Illustrations. Maps. Appendices. Bibliographies. Index. 135 Pages. $9.95 Paperback.
The American Association for State and Local History has recently launched a “how-to-do-it” series of books for local historians. The list so far includes books on how to research houses and school buildings. The latest volume covers public places — monuments, buildings, town plans, streets, open spaces, and public places. The book devotes a chapter to each of those topics; in each chapter the author describes the element and gives several major examples of that public place. He also offers guidance on how to research that place, including lists of questions to ask (On public buildings, for instance, there is a long list of questions: who built it? What makes it unique?, Does it say anything about the people who built it? How does it fit into a community’s plan? Does the structure isolate people, or bring them together?) Each chapter includes an exellent bibliographical essay, and there are a number of appendices. The best is a four page long checklist to use when studying maps (which should be mandatory for anyone using maps as a historical source). As is usual with AASLH publications, most of the examples are from east of the Rocky Mountains (AASLH should be called the Eastern American Association for State and Local History!), but the concepts and questions can be adapted for local situation. All of the volumes in the series are highly recommended to anyone doing local history in any form or fashion.