Ask a Consulting Archivist: Maija Anderson

Editor’s note: We are beginning a new series on the Consultants Corner, Ask a Consulting Archivist. In the series, we will interview archivists about their careers, including how they first got started in consulting work, challenges they face, and current projects. We will soon begin similar series with consulting preservationists and curators/museum professionals. Adina Langer leads our first interview, which is with Maija Anderson who, in addition to consulting, works as Head of Historical Collections & Archives at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.

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Maija Anderson surveying an archival collection on-site. Photo credit: Max Johnson

How did you get involved in consulting?
I value the idea that everyone’s history is valid and important and that everyone should have power over their histories. As a university archivist, I’ve always been encouraged to contribute professional service by teaching what I know. I’ve always done mini-consults with anyone who has questions or needs a sounding board, just as a professional courtesy.

My first independent client was a collector of fine-press books. She had purchased some production files from one of her favorite book artists and wanted to make them presentable within her book collection. I think I was really lucky that my first client was a woman entrepreneur.

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Consultants survey reminder

One week left to take the Consultants survey! The survey will remain up through October 15, 2013.

The National Council on Public History Consultants Committee is seeking responses to a survey that will help the committee determine how best to serve the consultant community. If you are a historical consultant or considering a career in consulting, please take a few moments to fill out the survey. Results will be kept confidential, and the committee will use what it learns to improve the NCPH Consultants List and other resources for the community.

Here’s the link to the survey. We look forward to posting the results once all of the surveys are in!

~ The Consultants Committee

Consultants survey

Calling all consulting historians/historical consultants:

SurveyMonkey icon courtesy of SurveyMonkey.com

SurveyMonkey icon courtesy of SurveyMonkey.com

The National Council on Public History Consultants Committee is seeking responses to a survey that will help the committee determine how best to serve the consultant community. If you are a historical consultant or considering a career in consulting, please take a few moments to fill out the survey. Results will be kept confidential, and the committee will use what it learns to improve the NCPH Consultants List and other resources for the community.

Here’s the link to the survey. We look forward to posting the results once all of the surveys are in!

~ The Consultants Committee

Post Conference Review #6: The Ultimate Field Trip!

Editor’s note: This post continues the series of conference city reviews published by The Public Historian in the Public History Commons

The Ultimate Field Trip! April 20, 2013.  NCPH Annual Meeting, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Created by: Canada Agriculture Museum. Tour Leader: Franz Klingender, Curator of Agriculture at the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation.

Imagining that the second-to-last Saturday in April might bring some spring weather to Canada’s national capital, I eagerly signed up for The Ultimate Field Trip, anticipating a desire for some fresh air and exercise after three long days of sessions in a stuffy conference hotel. As mid-day approached on April 20th, it became clear to me and my tour companions that we were about to get more fresh air (and possibly more exercise) than we had bargained for as Franz Klingender of the Canadian Agriculture Museum led us briskly toward the nearest city bus stop.

Dominion Observatory, located near the north entrance of the Central Experimental Farm (Photo courtesy of Adina Langer.)

Dominion Observatory, located near the north entrance of the Central Experimental Farm (Photo courtesy of Adina Langer.)

Boarding city bus 85 proved to be an auspicious start to our tour of the Central Experimental Farm (CEF) and Canada Agriculture Museum (CAM). I was intrigued by the very notion of a working farm accessible by public transit from the heart of a capital city. When the bus let us off across from the entrance to the farm and we were greeted by a cluster of stately late nineteenth-century research facilities,[i] I felt as if I were about to enter the campus of a Big Ten United States university. I quickly learned that my first impressions were justified. Klingender explained that the CEF was founded in order to teach European immigrants how to farm scientifically in Canada. Similar to the Morrill Act of 1862, which established land grant agriculture and mechanical colleges throughout the United States,[ii] Canada’s CEF was established by An Act Respecting Experimental Farm Stations passed in Parliament in June of 1886.[iii] Continue reading

Eighth monthly Consultants’ Corner TweetChat

It’s graduation season, also known as commencement. What better time to commence reflecting on the roles we want to play as historical consultants! Tomorrow, Monday, June 3rd, will bring you our eighth monthly Consultants’ Corner Tweetchat. The chat will be held at 4:00 p.m. EST and the topic will be “consulting and advocacy.” We will discuss the roles consultants should or shouldn’t play as advocates for historic preservation, public access, multiple points of view and other key issues we encounter regularly in the field. We hope you can join us!Twitter_Bird

To participate in this and future TweetChats, you will need to sign up for a Twitter account by going to www.twitter.com. When it’s time for the chat, go to http://tweetchat.com/ and enter #phconchat as the chat hashtag. Alternatively, you can work with a special Twitter browser like TweetDeck. Let us know if you have any questions in advance of the chat, and we hope to see you there on Monday!

~ The Consultants’ Corner Editorial Team (@NCPHconsultants)

Seventh monthly Consultants’ Corner TweetChat

Happy spring, all you consultants out in cyberspace! Monday, May 6th, will bring you our seventh monthly Consultants’ Corner Tweetchat. The chat will be held at 4:00 p.m. EST and the topic will be “international perspectives in historical consulting.” We hope you can join us, and we especially welcome consultants from nations outside the United States.Twitter_Bird

To participate in this and future TweetChats, you will need to sign up for a Twitter account by going to www.twitter.com. When it’s time for the chat, go to http://tweetchat.com/ and enter #phconchat as the chat hashtag. Alternatively, you can work with a special Twitter browser like TweetDeck. Let us know if you have any questions in advance of the chat, and we hope to see you there on Monday!

~ The Consultants’ Corner Editorial Team (@NCPHconsultants)

Sixth monthly Consultants’ Corner TweetChat

Tomorrow may be April Fool’s Day, but don’t be fooled into forgetting about about the monthly Consultants’ TweetChat! April 1, 2013, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time will mark our sixth monthly NCPH Consultants TweetChat. This month, the topic is the Ottawa conference. We’ll discuss sessions that may be relevant to consultants as well as the consultants’ reception.Twitter_Bird

To participate in this and future TweetChats, you will need to sign up for a Twitter account by going to www.twitter.com. When it’s time for the chat, go to http://tweetchat.com/ and enter #phconchat as the chat hashtag. Let us know if you have any questions in advance of the chat, and we hope to see you there on Monday!

~ The Consultants’ Corner Editorial Team (@NCPHconsultants)

Fifth monthly Consultants’ Corner TweetChat

Twitter_BirdWelcome to the month of March. Depending on where you live, spring may still be a few weeks away, but it’s a great time for a consultants’ TweetChat. Tomorrow, Monday, March 4, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (please note the new time!) will mark our fifth monthly NCPH Consultants TweetChat. This month, the topic is collaboration. Do you collaborate regularly with other consultants? If not, why not?

To participate in this and future TweetChats, you will need to sign up for a Twitter account by going to www.twitter.com. When it’s time for the chat, go to http://tweetchat.com/ and enter #phconchat as the chat hashtag.
Let us know if you have any questions in advance of the chat, and we hope to see you there on Monday!
~ The Consultants’ Corner Editorial Team (@NCPHconsultants)

Peer review in a world of professional practice

One of the reasons for creating History@Work (and its predecessor, “Off the Wall“) was to contribute to discussion about peer review in public history–where it happens, what gets reviewed, how professional public historians might locate their critiques in dialogue with critical commentary outside the field, and whether traditional scholarly peer review can capture and respond to the increasingly wide range of projects and products that come under the heading of “public history”–everything from apps to tweets. In this Q&A post, History@Work co-editors Adina Langer and Cathy Stanton discuss some of the issues and possibilities that have emerged from History@Work’s first year of publication.

Ecole des Beaux-Arts Atelier, late 1800s

Ecole des Beaux-Arts Atelier, photograph late 1800s, public domain

Cathy:

There are some big questions that seem to keep coming up in the conversations happening around this, and one of them has to do with the fact that the personal and institutional separation on which conventional peer review is based is very hard to maintain once you get into the relatively small world of professional public history, particularly when you go beyond the usual reviews of scholarly books or big-name museum exhibits and web projects.  People are often unwilling to critique their peers really rigorously in public, for a whole range of reasons that, as an anthropologist, I can’t help trying to analyze!  It seems to me that one reason may be fear of offending someone in an agency or institution you might want to work for someday.  Another may be uneasiness about “letting the side down” – everyone is scrambling for funding and legitimacy, and poking holes in someone else’s project may feel like opening our own work to scrutiny that could undermine its political, institutional, or financial support.  Are there others, and are there ways we might get around them?

Adina:

I think that the bulk of these concerns have to do with the “public” nature of public history. By going out in the world, whether on our own or as part of an organization, we remove the legacy of protection that comes with the traditional “ivory tower” package (which I know is fraught with its own deceptive restraints ranging from seniority to relative publishing prestige). Aspiring consultants and public history professionals assert “academic freedom” at their own risk. We must be diplomatic in tone and focus, or we really do risk alienating our tenuous community of advocacy and support. I agree that there’s a sense that we’re “all in this together,” but, at the same time, I think that communities benefit from a healthy spirit of self-critique. I think that we would all benefit from acceptance of this as part of the profession across the board. Continue reading