Collaborating with consultants

The historical society was sparsely decorated when it opened in 1975. Photo credit: Courtesy of Morgen Young.

The historical society was sparsely decorated when it opened in 1975. Photo credit: Morgen Young

In early 2014, a small historical society outside of Portland, Oregon, circulated a request for proposals (RFP). Having received a grant from their local government, they sought to hire a curator for a one-year contract. The duties of the curator included: inventorying and assessing collections, developing and implementing a policy and procedural structures for managing collections, creating an interpretative plan, developing a public services strategy, and staffing the museum every weekend. Continue reading

What we can learn from our Australian colleagues

I have long admired the Australia Council of Professional Historians Associations (ACPHA). It promotes the profession of history and the work of its members by keeping consultants’ registers, offering employment services, and maintaining a scale of fees. I have often wondered if some of these benefits could be replicated in the United States by NCPH.

Photo credit: Morgen Young

Members of the Victoria Chapter of the ACPHA meet.  Photo credit: Morgen Young

While visiting Melbourne in November, I had an opportunity to meet with members of the ACPHA’s Victoria Chapter. I related some general issues facing public history in America, from our current overabundance of educational programs, and the problems arising from it, to the impact of the Great Recession on employment. Our Australian colleagues face the opposite situation. With the closure of Monash University’s masters in public history program earlier this year, Australia now has no public history programs. At the same time, I was fascinated to learn what the ACPHA is doing to secure employment for public historians, consultants especially. I hope that we might be able to emulate some or all pieces of their program.

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Russell Lee in the Northwest: Documenting Japanese American Labor Camps in Oregon and Idaho

As a full-time consulting historian, it is difficult to carve out time for my own research interests. Michael Adamson has discussed this challenge in this space.

In graduate school, I studied Farm Security Administration documentary photography. Upon starting my business, I found little time to continue my research–until a year ago. While researching images in the FSA collection, I found several hundred photographs of Japanese American labor camps in the Pacific Northwest, taken by Russell Lee in the summer of 1942. The sole Oregon camp–near the town of Nyssa in Malheur County–was created to bring in laborers for the sugar beet crop. Continue reading

Project Showcase: “History of Medicine in Oregon” website

medical students

University of Oregon Medical School anatomy class (date not known). Image courtesy of Oregon Health & Science University Historical Collections & Archives.

The History of Medicine in Oregon Project launched a website this month. The project was created by the Oregon Medical Education Foundation in 2001, and joined in succeeding years by Oregon Health & Science University and The Foundation for Medical Excellence, to document and interpret the history of medicine in what is now the state of Oregon and to present that history to the medical community as well as the general public.

During the first decade of the project, seventy oral history interviews were recorded with physicians, administrators, lawyers and others who greatly shaped the development of medicine in the state. I was approached, as a consulting historian, in late 2011 to advise the steering committee on how to move the project forward as well as to potentially develop a cohesive narrative for an eventual series of videos about medicine in Oregon.

My first meeting with the steering committee coincided with their decision to launch a website for the project and so my work has primarily focused on that goal. Since January, I have researched and written content for the site, including a timeline of significant events, people and legislation related to medicine in Oregon; little known medical trivia that places Oregon medicine within a national and international context; and a list of resources for historians of medicine. The website will be continuously updated with new content, so stop by often and follow the project on Twitter – @HOMinOregon.

~ Morgen Young, Alder LLC

Finding a niche as a public history consultant: Advice from the Northwest History Network

On June 20, 2012 the Northwest History Network, a non-profit organization in Portland, Oregon, hosted a professional development program entitled A Future in Historical Consulting: Is It for You? Four consulting historians sat on a panel and answered a series of questions. The participants included Richard Engeman, Principal, Oregon Rediviva, LLC; Donna Sinclair, Independent Historian; William Willingham, Consulting Historian; and Morgen Young, Consulting Historian, Alder, LLC. The panelists related how they first entered the field, shared professional advice, and participated in a frank discussion regarding fees, positives and negatives of such a career path, and other lessons learned. The following is an excerpt from the program. Continue reading

Recapping the consultants’ reception


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It was another great Consultants’ Reception at the annual NCPH Annual Meeting. Dozens of consulting historians and those interested in consulting gathered to network, discuss projects, and recap the conference. Consultants’ Committee chair Hugh Davidson addressed the crowd and updated … Continue reading