Entries by Kenneth Durr

Heroes, Historical Consulting, and Marquis James

The roots of historical consulting lie in the early to mid-20th century when corporations began to see their stories as an asset even as professional historians grew more specialized and less interested in institutions. Two biographers led the field. Alan Nevins attempted to craft compelling and contemporary history that met academic standards. Marquis James, on […]

Late Nineteenth: Today’s News Ripped from Yesterday’s Headlines

In 2003, after Behind the Backlash was published, I needed a break from cutting-edge historiography. But I still yearned to read history. So when I encountered a copy of In the Days of McKinley, I bought it. Margaret Leech’s classic (it won a Pulitzer Prize in 1960) was the book that had first started me […]

Get in Line, Its 1973 All Over Again

This afternoon I went out for a few groceries. Five minutes from home I encountered a sight that resurrected long buried memories from my youth. On one block there were a dozen cars clogging traffic lanes to line up at the local Sunoco station. Around another corner were at least a score of vehicles jockeying […]

“The New” and the Old at and America’s Newest National Park

Last December, a 5,593-page omnibus bill made it through Congress at the last minute. Buried in the bill intended to provide COVID-19 relief and keep the government operating was a section promoting the New River Gorge National River to New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. Some legislation spends years in the hopper—this measure, it […]

A Bank Failure and a Political Transformation

One hundred and forty-seven years ago the banking empire of Jay Cooke, a financier who had bankrolled the North during the Civil War, failed. The event rippled through the financial markets, setting off the Panic of 1873, widely recognized as the precipitating event of a long period of economic contraction during the late 19th century. […]

Historical Consulting and Partnership

The prospect of putting your organization’s story down on paper can be daunting. The most perplexing questions have to do with content: what if we do not get the story right? What if people feel left out? What if we learn things that do not conform to our current aspirations? A second tier of concerns […]

Storytelling and Company History Books

What do most clients expect from a company history book? After 25 years and hundreds of discussions I think I have gotten an idea, even if the people I talked with had trouble putting it into words. A good place to start is to consider the evolving meaning of the word history. When is a […]

Voices and Viewpoints: Oral History

I had been an oral history consultant for a decade before I discovered how important my work could be. It happened one the day in 2005 when I visited the home of labor lawyer Eugene Keating.  He was in bed, weak with cancer and days away from the end, but Keating wanted to get his […]

Voices and Viewpoints Part II: Conducting an Oral History (and After)

The fact that it took an entire blog just to get to the point where we can talk about conducting the actual oral history interview shows how important preparation is. By the time the actual session starts, therefore, many of the toughest tasks are complete. Now the oral history consultant can enjoy talking to the […]