Capsule History

Americans have been launching time capsules into the future for over a century now, and today we’re creating more than ever. Why is it that so few reach their destination? And that so many merely bore their recipients?

Ever since it was dedicated in 1933, Cincinnati’s Union Terminal has been one of the city’s most stirring sights. It’s a museum center now, but when I was growing up in the 1950s, train trips with my parents began and ended in that vast half-dome rotunda. There’s one thing about being a kid, and a short one at that: You get to know what’s close to the ground. So it was that while most eyes were drawn up to the terminal’s majestic murals, I spotted a small plaque to the right of the entrance, just above the pavement.

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Memory As History

Seeking the truth of an event in the memories of the people who lived it can be a maddening task—and an exhilarating one

The chords of memory may be mystic, as Abraham Lincoln described them, but how accurate and reliable they are as evidence is a dilemma every historian must face. From the time Herodotus walked through Asia Minor two thousand years ago, asking questions, tapping the recollections of hundreds of eyewitnesses, historians have depended on the retentive faculty of the human mind for information about the past, and they have learned that such reliance has its minuses as well as pluses. Read more »

History Still Matters

A distinguished journalist and former presidential adviser says that to find the meaning of any news story, we must dig for its roots in the past

I am fascinated by what I see in the rearview mirror of experience. The future, being a mystery, excites, but the past instructs. When I was a student at the University of Texas, one of the favorite campus legends concerned a professor of anthropology, whose great power was in bringing the past alive through his brilliant lectures on the ascent of the human species.Read more »