History @ Work

History@Work is a multi-authored, multi-interest blog for all those with an interest in the practice and study of history in public. Learn More→

The value of history (Part 2)

Editor’s note: During the fall of 2013, the NCPH Consultants Committee distributed a survey to the NCPH consultants community in order to learn more about the community’s members and how best to serve them.  This piece is part of a series examining the results of that survey. 

Last year on this blog, I engaged in an ongoing discussion about how public history consultants determine the value of our work. I proposed that we would benefit from establishing fee standards across the discipline, ideally creating space in the market for consultants to make a living while improving the value of historical work in public spaces. This post came in response to a working group at the 2012 NCPH (National Council on Public History) annual meeting in which independent consultants discussed the need to communicate fee trends while the firms voiced their desire to keep their fees confidential. We all left with a general concept of how to help those who want to band together but not a clear understanding of how to accomplish that goal.

Chart showing public history consultants' fee scale varying by years of experience. Credit: Kathy Shinnick

Chart showing public history consultants’ fee scale varying by years of experience. Credit: Kathy Shinnick

As a step towards this end, the NCPH Consultants Committee conducted a survey, which, in part, asked consultants to anonymously divulge information about their fees. The survey was intended to determine trends by cross-referencing the fee scale with categories such as education level, region, and years of experience. For example, we should be able to assess the going rate for consultants in the Southeast who have a PhD and ten years of experience. Due to a somewhat small sample size of 148 consultants, the results leave a few unanswered questions. However, they also reveal a lot that can guide us to the next step. Continue reading

Top Gun “Introduction to Public History” for general education?

By Kucingbiru13 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A ‘top gun’ introduction to public history course for general education might be simpler than you’d think.

In 2006, when I arrived as “the public history hire” at DePaul University, in Chicago, my charge was to create an undergraduate public history concentration for history majors. At the time, the only public history course actively being taught was “Introduction to Public History,” a lower division course that served the university’s general education requirements. I decided that this course should stay on the books and that it would be one of two required courses (along with the internship) for would-be public history concentrators.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure my decision to keep this course on the books was a result of my being a bit overwhelmed. Not being native to Chicago and as a new tenure-line Assistant Professor with this public history charge, much of my time was absorbed with the business of forging new community connections while also designing (and getting approval for) an entirely new repertoire of public history courses. What? The “Introduction to Public History” has already been approved? Great! More time to develop internship prospects!

Within a few quarters, I resurrected the public history internship and developed a bevy of other courses: “Doing Local and Community History;” “Oral History Project;” “Women, Gender, and Public History;” “Living History and Historical Interpretation: American Historical Memory” (among others)–all courses for history majors and minors. Evaluations tended to be strong, but the “Introduction to Public History” course? I just couldn’t seem to ever get it quite right. Continue reading

Twenty questions for consultants

By Berdea (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo credit: Berdea, Wikimedia Commons

Providing assistance to individuals considering careers in consulting remains an ongoing task of the National Council on Public History (NCPH) Consultants Committee. In October 2012 and September 2014, forums held on Versatile PhD opened up discussions that generated valuable data that Consultants Committee members are using in devising initiatives to achieve this end. Both forums were populated with practitioners who represented a number of disciplines, including history. In particular, the forums gave graduate students, postgraduates, and other interested parties in the humanities and the social sciences the opportunity to ask practicing professionals about the business of consulting. The questions posed–the most germane of which are compiled here, in distilled form–can serve to guide the committee in its efforts to address the concerns and meet the needs of those who are considering a career in consulting. Indeed, this is an opportunity to be seized.

Continue reading

Reflections on the founding of NCPH

In recent months the NCPH Council of Past Presidents has discussed ways to honor some of the individuals who founded the National Council on Public History in 1980. As a result, at the 2015 NCPH Annual Meeting in Nashville, G. Wesley Johnson and Robert Pomeroy will receive the inaugural NCPH Founders Award, and they and others of the first NCPH generation will be invited to participate in an oral history project to be organized by the Council of Past Presidents. In this post, two past presidents, Ted Karamanski (Loyola University Chicago), and Rebecca Conard (Middle Tennessee State University) offer their personal reflections on the contributions of Johnson and Pomeroy to the organization and the field. For a brief history of NCPH’s early years, see Barb Howe’s “Reflections on an Idea: NCPH’s First Decade,” The Public Historian, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Summer 1989). Continue reading

Remembering Jann Warren-Findley

Jannelle Warren-Findley

Jannelle Warren-Findley will be posthumously awarded the Robert Kelley Award at the NCPH annual meeting in Nashville. Photo credit: Arizona State University

Dr. Jannelle Warren-Findley died at her home in Phoenix, Arizona, last week. Recently retired from Arizona State University, where she taught in and directed the public history program, she was a past President of the National Council on Public History (1997-98), an important voice in a number of areas of public history thought and practice (including women’s history and efforts to internationalize the field), and a dear friend and mentor to many. At the 2015 NCPH conference in Nashville, she will be honored posthumously with the Robert Kelley Award for distinguished service to the field. Some of her friends and colleagues offer their memories of Jann here. We welcome additional contributions and recollections via the comments at the end of this page.

Amsterdam Museum, a people’s history

(Editor’s note: This post is the first of a two-part series looking at the Amsterdam Museum.)

Amsterdam Museum. Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Morin

Amsterdam Museum. Photo credit: Jean-Pierre Morin

As a certified History Nerd and lover of cities, one of the first things I do when I arrive in a new city is check out the local history museum. I’m particularly fascinated by the way a city’s historical development influences its contemporary identity (and yes, I think all cities have their own unique identity). In my opinion, the way a municipality interprets and exhibits its history is a window into that collective identity. Continue reading

History without vision: A struggle over art at the City Museum of New York

Mike Alewitz's "The City at the Crossroads of History" mural was commissioned for the City Museum of New York, which has declined to display it.

Mike Alewitz’s “The City at the Crossroads of History” mural was commissioned for the City Museum of New York, which has declined to display it. Photo credit: Mike Alewitz

Muralist and activist Mike Alewitz has finished his tribute to the labor and social justice movements, an imposing four-panel painting titled The City at the Crossroads of History–but the museum it was commissioned for doesn’t want it.

The Puffin Foundation, a grant maker that frequently supports politically left artists, engaged Alewitz to create the mural for a new gallery at the Museum of the City of New York. The gallery is now open with an inaugural exhibit about social activism without the mural, while the artist has launched a petition drive to try to have it displayed as originally planned. Continue reading

An uneasy fit: History in historic preservation


The FBI Headquarters Building in Washington, DC, is an example of Brutalist architecture that is under scrutiny to determine if it should be saved. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Eleven years after earning a 1966 PhD in history from Washington State University, J. Meredith Neil arrived to work as the first historian hired to the relatively large staff of Seattle’s historic preservation office. He pulled strongly from his experience, and I’d dare say frustrations, in that new role for his 1980 article for The Public Historian, “Is There a Historian in the House? The Curious Case of Historic Preservation.” Neil argued that historians needed to be involved in preservation to prove that history was relevant, democratic, and as important as aesthetic or economic claims for preservation. From South Carolina’s equalization schools to Brutalist architecture, history has been successfully used to argue for the preservation of places that may not have initially been appealing for reasons of architecture or economics. Working for a State Historic Preservation Office, I have also seen that, while history and preservation often intersect, they do not always share motivations, people, or goals. The engagement of historians in preservation is critical, but the best preservation successes happen with a diverse network of support. Continue reading