A 90-kilowatt solar array is one of the first things visitors see at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Photo credit: Cathy Stanton.
As part of its ongoing efforts to facilitate greater mutual accommodation between sustainability and public history imperatives and to better define the NCPH’s role in that process, the NCPH Task Force on Sustainability and Public History conducted an online survey during September of 2013. Responses were invited via the H-Public listserv, the weekly Public History News Update from NCPH, and this blog. The survey questions measured the level of interest in environmental sustainability among public historians across specialties, the level of interest in environmental sustainability in the greater public history community as perceived by respondents, the level to which environmental sustainability concerns were integrated into public history institutions and training programs, and respondents’ views on whether environmental sustainability should be integrated into public history education and the core values of the NCPH. As a whole, the survey suggested a significant concern over environmental sustainability in public history practice but a marked lack of institutional and educational integration. This finding reveals an unmet need which NCPH can provide leadership in rectifying–a role which respondents endorsed. Continue reading
Conference Poster. Photo credit: Arts Extension Service at UMass Amherst.
For most of my experience as a public-historian-in-training, I did not often think about the arts in any purposeful way. I played in an orchestra from elementary school through college, have a not-so-secret love for musicals (my roommates are probably tired of hearing me sing Disney songs in the shower!), and enjoy visiting art museums as much as the next person, but I would not consider myself an artist. After all, my formal training is in history. This all changed last year when I decided that I needed some practical management skills in order to feel confident about running a historical organization after graduation. To learn about financial management, strategic planning, development, and the like, I decided to pursue a certificate in arts management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst to complement my public history degree. I felt like a bit of an outsider in the Arts Management Program. Everyone that I met at the Arts Extension Service (AES) organization on campus that runs the arts management program was lovely, but I did not necessarily feel like I was part of that world.
My perspective changed on September 26, when I attended the Arts Extension Service’s conference titled “Arts Policy on the Ground: The Impact of the National Endowment for the Arts.” First, we had a lot to celebrate. Not only is AES commemorating its 40th anniversary, but the National Arts Policy Archives and Library (NAPAAL), which will be part of the UMass Special Collections and University Archives, is opening this year as well. NAPAAL currently contains publications and research reports from the National Endowment for the Arts, records from the Arts Extension Service, and will soon also include papers from Americans for the Arts as well as the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. Continue reading
Deed books line the walls of the DeKalb County, Ga., land records research room. Photo credit: David S. Rotenstein.
The depression of 1893 hit the Atlanta Suburban Land Company hard. The Georgia firm, founded in 1890 to develop residential subdivisions along a new six-mile streetcar line linking downtown Atlanta with Decatur to the east, had bought nearly 2,000 acres in its first two years in business. But by 1896, it was more than $100,000 in debt, and a receiver held its assets. In its fall 1896 term, the Fulton County Superior Court ordered the receiver to sell the remaining real estate to settle the debts.
More than a century later, I requested the case files. The Fulton County Clerk employee who handed them to me once they had been retrieved from offsite storage told me that if I wanted copies of the tri-folded documents, I would have to request them from the service counter, and another staff member would photocopy them on a Xerox-type machine for fifty cents apiece.
My request to take flash-free digital photos was rebuffed despite my explanation that it would be better for the aging documents than forcing them flat against a copier’s glass platen and then closing the machine’s cover. I also questioned whether mandatory third-party intervention for copying records was consistent with Georgia’s Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. §50-18-70), and I was invited to speak with the county clerk. Continue reading
Continued from Part 1 and Part 2.
Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park, Key West, Florida. Photo credit: Matthew Paulson.
~ Christine Arato, Chief Historian, National Park Service, Northeast Region
After Imperiled Promise landed with something of a magnificent thud almost two years ago, I liken the NPS response to a progression along the five stages of grief articulated by Swiss psychiatrist Elizabeth Kübler-Ross in 1969: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. I’m not sure where the agency is as a whole, though I think that our public conversations at Rutgers-Camden earlier this month intimate that some members of the family are striding towards healing and new life. And while I’m not certain if the grieving metaphor is entirely apt—since the Organization of American Historians (OAH) report suggests that the patient was merely moribund—I do think that the OAH’s rather grave prognosis has helped us to introduce some healthy exercise regimens, including the initiatives described by my colleague Lu Ann Jones, both at Rutgers-Camden and again, here, in this virtual forum, which articulate and embody the assertion that history is at the heart of the NPS and, more importantly, is a pillar of civic life. Continue reading
Signs at Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, Colorado. Photo credit: howderfamily.com.
Continued from Part 1
~ Seth Bruggeman, Associate Professor of History and Director, Center for Public History, Temple University
I’ve been fortunate to have had several points of contact with the Imperiled Promise report since its release, from attending early conference sessions with its authors to being a conversation facilitator myself and, most recently, speaking about where it may lead the NPS’s history program. From the outset, I’ve worried that the report, like so much grey literature commissioned by the agency, would languish on some forgotten shelf. So far, at least, that is not the case, thanks largely to the authors—especially Marla Miller and Ann Mitchell Whisnant—and others who’ve played a critical role in ensuring an audience for the report.
Who that audience is, however, and how it discusses the report, raises another set of questions. Continue reading
Editor’s Note: On November 6, 2013, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) at Rutgers University-Camden convened a public forum to explore the changing presentation of history in US national parks. The gathering took as its starting point the 2011 report “Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Parks,” which has sparked other similar conversations over the past year and a half (for example, this one a year ago in Boston).
In this three-part series, some of the participants in the event reflect on the state of the conversation about history in the Park Service and their personal and professional takeaways from the gathering.
Outline of Benjamin Franklin’s house, Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo credit: Shana L. McDanold.
Charlene Mires, Director, Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities
At the forum at Rutgers-Camden, the Imperiled Promise report framed the conversation, but it was clear that we had turned a corner from reviewing its findings to thinking about its implications for our work. The event created time and space for discussion and reflection on individual practice. Whatever may occur at the level of agency reform, change will require action on the ground by individuals such as those who participated. I hope that ways will be found to highlight their transformative work as models for the future. While I was glad to see how the conversation is evolving, I also came away from the forum concerned about the need to widen the circle of participation. Nearly all of the university-based scholars who attended were faculty in public history programs — what will it take to interest more of our colleagues? If the state of history in the national parks cannot muster greater attention within the profession, what are the chances of building public and political support for the resources that the Imperiled Promise report identifies as essential? Continue reading
Continued from Part 1 and Part 2.
A Nash Motor Home, one of the artifacts “read” in the RASI class. Photo credit: Canada Science and Technology Museum, Nash Motor Car Company, 1983.0258, 2012
On the final day of Reading Artifacts Summer Institute (RASI), each group was required to present its artifact to an audience of other participants, museum staff, and volunteers. Throughout the morning, artifacts that had initially seemed ambiguous and daunting at the start of the week were slowly separated into layers of meaning and their hidden histories were recounted. A small piano was revealed to be a portable ecclesiastical device used in religious sermons; a Gestetner printing press was exposed as a post-war business venture for a Japanese immigrant; a cannon-shaped lens viewer proved to be one of the first novelty cameras; a radiography device turned out to be one of the earliest home service x-ray machines; and a Nash Motor Home was an intact summer retreat, complete with additions such as a wooden arm that came down to signal a turn.
In our presentations, we were challenged to consider various methods suitable for presenting research on artifacts, from traditional slide show presentations to performances. Continue reading
Editor’s Note: This piece continues a series of posts related to the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, a collaboration of public history programs across the country to raise awareness of the long history of the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay (GTMO) and foster dialogue on its future. For an introduction to the series, please see this piece by the Project’s director, Liz Ševčenko.
Remembering, an act of courage.
Speaking and listening, a gesture of empathy.
My understanding of the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay (GTMO) comes primarily from my experiences as a Cuban refugee between the years 1994-1995 after the Balsero Rafter Crisis but also through my attempt to shed light on the complexity of the Cuban Diaspora via my project EntreVistas and most recently by learning and participating in the Guantánamo Public Memory Project. In 2008, I began interviewing Cuban immigrants mostly living in the United States from different waves of migration in Cuban history: the Early Exiles of the 1960s, the Mariel Boatlift immigrants of the 1980s and the Balseros of 1994.
January 8, 2008 – Caguas, Puerto Rico
I placed a video camera in front of my father, handing him a microphone. “What is your name?” I asked. He looked at me in silence. At the time he was serving as a volunteer doctor in Puerto Rico. I wanted to ask him about how he felt about his decision to leave Cuba and the aftermath but ended up surrendering, understanding that he wasn’t ready to speak, at least not in front of a video camera. He went to the balcony to smoke a cigarette.
There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the number of academic public history programs, the saturation of the job market, and concern about the training students are receiving (see Robert Weyeneth’s article “A Perfect Storm”). Curtailing the number of public history programs, growing the public history market, and accrediting programs are all big challenges. I’d like to propose a small change: that potential students gain work experience BEFORE they enter an academic program.
Does the culinary school model hold promise for public history education? Photo credit: Bill Way, HPRMan on Flickr
What would happen if public history programs demanded that applicants worked in the public history field before they could apply to an academic program? Culinary schools have long used this model and have required that applicants have kitchen experience before they apply to a program. In fact, there are lots of similarities between culinary arts degree programs and public history programs. Continue reading