Survey Questions adapted from “The Presence of the Past”

Survey Questions adapted from

The Presence of the Past: Popular Uses of History in American Life

by Roy Rosenzweig and David Thelen (Columbia University Press, 1998).

 

Part I: Activities

 I am going to ask you some questions about the past. By the past, we mean everything from the very recent past to the very distant past, from your personal and family past to the past of the United States and other nations. There are many activities that relate to the past. I’m going to ask you about some activities that you may have taken part in during the last 12 months.

1. During the last 12 months, have you watched any movies or television programs about the past?

2. What kinds of movies or television programs about the past do you like?

3. During the last 12 months, have you read any books about the past?

4. What book or kind of books about the past do you like?

5. During the last 12 months, have you looked into the history of your family or worked on your family tree?

6. What were the reasons you looked into your family tree?

7. During the last 12 months, have you looked at photographs with family and friends?

8. What are some of the reasons or occasions when you looked at photographs with family or friends?

9. During the last 12 months, have you written in a journal or diary?

10. Generally, what types of things have you written in your journal or diary?

11. During the last 12 months, have you attended a family reunion or a reunion of some other group of people with whom you have shared a common experience?

12. Have you participated in any hobbies or worked on any collections related to the past during the last 12 months?

13. What hobbies or collections have you worked on?

14. What are some of the reasons you participate in these hobbies or work on these collections?

15. During the past 12 months, have you visited any history museums or historic sites?

16. What were the reasons or occasions that you visited a history museum or historic site?

17. During the past 12 months, have you taken any photographs or videos to preserve memories?

18. Can you please tell me some of the occasions or reasons you took photographs or videos to preserve memories?

19. During the last 12 months, have you taken part in a group devoted to studying, preserving, or presenting the past?

20. What group was it?

21. What were the reasons you participated in a group devoted to studying, preserving, or presenting the past?

 

II. Trustworthiness of Sources of Information About the Past

Now I’m going to ask about some places where people might get information about the past. Please tell me how trustworthy you think each is as a source of information, using a 1 to 10 scale where 1 means not at all trustworthy and 10 means very trustworthy. If you don’t know enough about any particular source to rate it, just let me know and we’ll move on.

1. Generally, how trustworthy do you think museums are as a source of information about the past, using a 1 to 10 scale where 1 means not at all trustworthy and 10 means very trustworthy?

2. Overall, how trustworthy do you think movies and television programs about the past are as a source of information about the past, (using a 1 to 10 scale where 1 means not at all trustworthy and 10 means very trustworthy?)

3. Generally, how trustworthy do you think non-fiction books are as a source of information about the past? (Again, use a 1 to 10 scale where 1 means not at all trustworthy and 10 means very trustworthy.)

4. How trustworthy do you think personal accounts from your grandparents or other relatives are as a source of information about the past (using a 1 to 10 scale where 1 means not at all trustworthy and 10 means very trustworthy?)

5. Generally, how trustworthy do you think high school history teachers are as a source of information about the past (using a 1 to 10 scale where 1 means not at all trustworthy and 10 means very trustworthy?)

6. Generally, how trustworthy do you think college history professors are as a source of information about the past (using a 1 to 10 scale, where 1 means not at all trustworthy and 10 means very trustworthy)?

7. How trustworthy as a source of information about the past is a conversation with someone who was there (using a 1 to 10 scale where 1 means not at all trustworthy and 10 means very trustworthy?)

 

III. How Connected to the Past People Feel on Certain Occasions

Now I’m going to ask about your sense of connection to the past on certain occasions. Please tell me how connected to the past do you generally feel on those occasions, using the 1 to 10 scale where 1 means not at all connected to the past and 10 means strongly connected to the past. [You may choose to ask the follow up questions provided].

1. Celebrating holidays. (Generally, how connected to the past do you feel when you do that? Use the 1 to 10 scale where 1 means not at all connected to the past and 10 means strongly connected to the past.)

Which holiday makes you feel most connected to the past?

2. Visiting a history museum or historic site.

Please give me an example of a museum or historic site that made you feel connected to the past? Why did that museum of historic site make you feel that way?

3. Gathering with your family.

How does gathering with your family make you feel connected to the past?

4. Watching a movie or TV program about the past.

What movies or TV programs about the past make you feel especially connected to the past? How do those movies or TV programs make you feel more connected than other TV programs of movies?

5. Studying history in school

Please tell me of an occasion studying history in school where you felt particularly [FILL: CONNECTED OR UNCONNECTED] to the past.

6. Reading a book about the past.

Please give me an example of a book that made you feel particularly connected to the past? What about the book made you feel that way?


IV. The Importance of Various Pasts

Next, I’d like to ask you about some areas of the past that might be important to you.

 

1. Knowing about the past of which one of the following four areas or groups is most important to you:

<1> the past of your family

<2> the past of your racial or ethnic group

<3> the past of the community in which you now live, or

<4> the past of the United States?

2. Why is knowing about the past of [FILL-IN] important to you?

3. Besides the four I just asked you about, is knowing about the past of any other area or group very important to you?

4. Is the past of any other place in the world more important to you than the past of the United States?

5. How much of a common history do you think you share with other Americans? Would you say:

<1> A lot

<2> Some

<3> A little, or

<4> No common history?

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