Taking public history for granted: A grant-writing guide for public historians

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Sonya Lovine is a Sponsored Research Officer at California State University, Sacramento. She recently received her master’s degree in Public History from Sacramento State. For her thesis project, she wrote Taking Public History for Granted: A Grant-Writing Guide for Public Historians. H@W section editor Priya Chhaya asked her a few questions about the project and how it can be useful to public historians.

Why did you choose to develop this guide?

Photo credit: Penn Waggener, Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Penn Waggener, Wikimedia Commons

History brings immeasurable value to the public via various practices of public history. Everything that public history provides, though, requires some amount of financial resources. Executing a conservation plan, producing a traveling exhibit, or implementing a historic preservation plan all require funding. With a better understanding of the importance of grant-writing skills and the persistence to continually seek external funding, grant-seeking public historians can better share historical knowledge and contribute further to the growth of our society, culture, and nation. Public historians remain well aware of the importance and necessity of their profession, as well as the need for funding. The writing skills that they honed while studying to become historians provide the foundation for developing successful grant proposals.

I chose to develop this project–a grant-writing guidebook for the public history field–based on a recognized need for a public history-specific guide to constructing successful grant proposals and obtaining grant money. This working guide is directed toward public historians who might be new to grant writing, those unaware of where to locate funding programs, and those simply seeking tips on how to prepare the best research proposal possible.

What did you learn about grant writing that you want the guide to convey?

This guide explains that grant writing is an art form, and those who have mastered it realize the value in this skill. Learning to write grants does not rank as a high priority for most people unless they are employed at a research institution or establishing a grant-writing career. It requires hard work and a great amount of time, dedication, and resilience. Of course, grant-writing books do exist.  Some are written generically to be relevant to all aspects of grant writing in any discipline. Others focus on grants in specific fields, such as education, social services, sciences, or health. To date, a guidebook specifically for history or public history does not exist.

One purpose of this guide is to provide grant seekers with a list of potential funding sources for public history projects. Although time-sensitive by nature, it covers standard procedures, terminology, and examples that will remain relevant for years to come. The guidebook can be used in public historians’ pursuit of external funding from federal, state, and private funding sources for a multitude of public history projects.

What insight do you hope to share with this guidebook?

With this guidebook, I hope to share some insight into the proposal development process. This guidebook provides a comprehensive, current collection of funding sources geared towards research and project grants in history and public history for grant seekers. It outlines professional organizations for grant writers to consider and provides a listing of the ethical and professional standards to which grant writers must adhere.

You can find the guidebook in the Library here in the Public History Commons. As new information or edits are required, updated documentation will be provided.

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