Monday, June 11, 2007


‘Whose Story Gets Told? Human Rights and the Power of Records’ Topic of Discussion

(MURFREESBORO, Tenn.)—“Whose Story Gets Told? Human Rights and the Power of Records” is the topic and title of an open forum and panel discussion that will be presented 6-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 19, in the Business Aerospace Building’s (BAS) State Farm Lecture Hall on the MTSU campus.
Among its panelists, the 90-minute discussion will feature internationally known archivist Dr. Trudy Huskamp Peterson, MTSU’s 2007 Visiting Distinguished Public Historian. Dwight Lewis, a columnist and regional editor for The Tennessean, will serve as moderator.
Regarding the forum, Dr. Ellen Garrison, an associate professor of history at MTSU, said, “Throughout history, the victors in human conflicts have usually enshrined their account of those conflicts in carefully selected official records and standard published narratives, leaving the story of their victims untold.”
However, she continued, “In the 20th century, victims and their advocates began a systematic effort to recover those lost voices through truth commissions, video, film and oral history projects, and opening the complete record of government actions to the public.”
In addition to Peterson, participating panelists set to share their own efforts to preserve such lost voices include the Rev. Edwin King, plaintiff in the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission Records lawsuit; MTSU alumnus John Awan, a Sudan native and naturalized U.S. citizen; and Dr. Clare Bratten, an assistant professor of electronic media communications at MTSU and producer of a documentary on Kurds in Iraq and those who immigrated.
James E. Staub Jr., who volunteers with several Nashville-based social justice groups, said it is crucial to conduct educational discussions about the importance of accurate historical records within the realm of human rights and whose stories get told.
"When we work to change the world, we must make ourselves counted, and we must hold people with power accountable for their decisions," said Staub, a government information librarian. "Public records—and new records built from the people's stories when the official record is insufficient or injurious—expose truth and give us raw material to replace injustice with justice."
Those who attend the June 19 forum at MTSU will “hear a diverse panel explore contemporary examples of … recent human rights conflicts ranging from South Africa and the Sudan to Iraq and Mississippi,” remarked Garrison, event coordinator. And each panelist, she noted, has participated in the struggle to preserve the voices that have not been preserved in the official records of these conflicts.
“The late historian Carter G. Woodson, who is regarded as the father of what is now called Negro History Month, once said, ‘We must give our own story to the world,'” observed moderator Lewis “(and) I truly believe that, regardless of who ‘we’ happens to be.
Moreover, “Anytime I can help take part in doing that I seize the opportunity,” he said. “And Middle Tennessee State University’s public forum on human rights is, I think, one of those great opportunities.”
Visiting scholar/historian Peterson, who will be at MTSU from June 5 to July 7, is the founding director of the Open Society Archives and a consultant to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. She has served as an archivist for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and is the former executive director of the Open Media Research Institute. Additionally, she is the former acting archivist for the U.S. and author of “Final Acts: A Guide to Preserving Records of Truth Commissions” (John Hopkins Press, 2005).
“Dr. Trudy Huskamp Peterson’s reputation as an archivist is unparalleled in the United States and abroad,” confirmed Garrison, also a certified archivist. “During a 21-year career at the National Archives, she rose through the ranks to become the deputy archivist and acting archivist of the United States … (before leaving) the National Archives to embark upon an even more challenging career working with international organizations to identify, preserve and maintain control over records essential to prosecuting human rights violations.”
During her MTSU visit, in addition to speaking at “Whose Story Gets Told? Human Rights and the Power of Records,” Peterson—whose prior lectureships and professorships include George Washington University, University of Iowa, University of Maryland, University of Hong Kong, Central European University in Budapest and Finland’s University of Oulu— also will teach “Current Issues in Public History Practice: Human Rights and the Power of Records,” a summer session course offered by the Department of History.
“Her prolific scholarship is matched by a distinguished record of public speaking and teaching in the U.S. and Abroad,” Garrison said of Peterson, who has garnered numerous awards and fellowships, including a grant from the U.S. Institute of Peace in 2004-2005.
Sponsorship for the upcoming forum was provided by the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost, the College of Liberal Arts, the Middle East Center, the Department of Political Science and the Department of History’s public history program.
• For more information on the free and open June 19 event, which will be followed by a dessert reception, please contact the history department at MTSU at 615-898-2536.


***ATTENTION, MEDIA: To request jpegs of Peterson or the cover of her latest book for editorial use, or to request interviews with Peterson, Garrison or other forum panelists, please contact Lisa L. Rollins in the Office of News and Public Affairs at MTSU at or by calling 615-898-2919. Media are welcomed and encouraged to attend this event.

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