As the photo above indicates, sure, I can build something out of wood that's more-or-less functional and, if given a sufficient amount of paint, I can even succeed in hiding some of the more egregious blemishes on what I build.
Contrast this with what a professional custom cabinet and furniture maker can do:
The difference between the furniture that I have made and my friend Tom's artwork is vast. It's the difference between night and day; it's the difference between an amateur and a professional.
In the field of history, like the field of fine furniture design & building, there's a difference between amateurs and professionals.
The Oregonian's D.K. Rowe recently wrote an article about the financial situation of the Oregon Historical Society in the aftermath of the November 2010 passage of a special Multnomah County levy. In reply to this article, Dana Carlile writes:
- The Oregon Historical Society promoters' inability to learn from history (and arithmetic) might seem ironic if it were not so common among history promoters. People aren't interested in learning from history. If they were, the world would be a very different place. Just witness the past decade. Besides being exceedingly complex and uncertain, real history is frequently disturbing, subversive and humbling. Even sanitized and politically correct "history" peddled at exhibits and on TV cannot conceal that history is about people that are dead and eventually forgotten -- a fate most people don't wish to be reminded of.
- The OHS has two assets: an extensive collection of materials and some real estate. What it does not have is popular appeal or benefit. Let the state universities have the OHS collection to manage for serious researchers and develop the real estate to fund an endowment for such.
In response to Carlile, Multnomah County Archivist Terry Baxter wrote a letter that (I'm led to believe) will be in the Letters section of an upcoming Oregonian:
- In a recent letter to the editor (March 14) titled “Selling History,” Dana Carlile bats .250 in his analysis of history and the Oregon Historical Society. Now that is above the Mendoza Line, but barely.
- He gets a hit with the comment that “real history is frequently disturbing, subversive, and humbling.” I’d agree and would add that it is diverse, multi-voiced, and always open to revision.
- He misses on the following three observations, though.
- History is not about “people who are dead and eventually forgotten.” History is about you and me. We use records and artifacts from the past as a mirror to see who we are and how we got here. History is the story that describes that interaction and we use it to understand ourselves, not the past.
- Nor is history only for “serious researchers.” History is for all of us. There is an explosion in both the sources available to study history and in the types of stories told by an increasingly diverse pool of researchers. There are a lot of strands in the rope called history – and they don’t all come from academic historians.
- And finally, the Oregon Historical Society has been a key source for that diverse research for over 100 years. Its appeal is clear. County voters paid to keep it in operation so we could use its collections to meet our various historical needs. We all have a voice and we all have stories to tell and OHS and history let us do it together.
 This is my home office laptop stand, by the way. I'm taking orders . . .
 This isn't a statement that Glenn Beck would agree with.
 D.K. Rowe, "Oregon Historical Society could end up no better off despite millions from taxpayers," Oregonian, March 8, 2011. See also here and elsewhere.