Where in the world is the Public History Commons?

Rockefeller Center Observation Deck. Photo credit: NVinacco

Rockefeller Center Observation Deck. Photo credit: NVinacco

If you’ve visited the website of the National Council on Public History lately, you’ll know that it’s been renovated and refreshed, with a brighter, cleaner look and (we hope) an easier-to-use design. Now it’s time for Phase II of the re-set, and since that involves the blog you’re reading—History@Work—and the space where it has lived until now—the Public History Commons—we wanted to explain what you can look for in the near future and some of the thinking that went into these changes. Continue reading

History Communicators: The next step

Illustration by visual note-taker Amanda Lyons, who will be one of the participants in the March 2015 History Communicators meeting at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Illustration by visual note-taker Amanda Lyons, who will be one of the participants in the March 2015 History Communicators summit at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Used with permission.

In January 2015, I introduced the idea of History Communicators on this blog. “History Communicators, like Science Communicators,” I wrote then, “will advocate for policy decisions informed by historical research; step beyond the walls of universities and institutions and participate in public debates; author opinion pieces; engage in conversation with policymakers and the public; and work diligently to communicate history in a populist tone that has mass appeal across print, video, and audio. Most important, History Communicators will stand up for history against simplification, misinformation, or attack and explain basic historical concepts that we in the profession take for granted.”

But what might it actually mean to be a History Communicator in the twenty-first century? What are the core issues at the heart of communicating history in this new information age? This is what we’ll be asking at the first-ever summit on History Communication, March 4-5 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Continue reading

Leo Frank commemoration: Museum partnerships and controversial topics

Leo Frank circa 1910. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-B2-1234]

Leo Frank circa 1910. Photo credit:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-B2-1234]

As museums increasingly become spaces for engaging challenging topics, three metro Atlanta institutions joined together to address a century-old rift in the community. Using expanded audiences, a shared strategic mission, and a network of public historians, the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History forged a partnership with the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum and the Museum of History and Holocaust Education to present the exhibit, “Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited.” The following reflective case study provides an example of how public history can address a controversial subject in its most sensitive geographic location.  Continue reading

Project Showcase: Building Histories of the National Mall

mallhistory-guideEver wondered how a digital project came to be?

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) shares how they built their NCPH-award winning project in a new free digital publication, Building Histories of the National Mall: A Guide to Creating a Digital Public History Project.

For institutions eager to begin developing their own version of Histories using Omeka, the technical specifications and code are available for download now. For organizations embarking on a new digital public history project, Building Histories of the National Mall offers an open source and replicable example for history and cultural heritage professionals wanting a cost-effective solution for developing and delivering mobile content.

Co-authored by the team that developed Histories of the National Mall, this guide is divided into seven main sections, including the project’s rationale; content development and interpretative approach; user experience and design; and outreach and publicity, including the social media strategy. This publication shares the project team’s decision to build for the mobile web and not a single-use, platform-specific native app. The guide also offers lessons learned and challenges faced throughout the project’s development, as well as how the team measured success for this digital public history project.

Building Histories of the National Mall and the website were funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Project Showcase: AmericanScience

Tag cloud for the AmericanScience blog.

Tag cloud for the AmericanScience blog

AmericanScience is a team blog tracking all things science–both contemporary and historical. Graduate student- and early career-editors (as well as guest posters) bring a historical perspective to current issues in American science and technology­­­–from the Anthropocene and climate change to Thomas Kuhn and Uber. The site also serves as a venue for reports on conferences and workshops, reviews of books and public exhibits, and reexaminations of classic texts from new vantage points. In the spirit of historicizing science for the public, the team maintains an active Twitter account that rounds up daily links to science news and institutional announcements–from developments in the Volkswagen emissions fraud to new museum exhibits worth visiting.

A new series of posts focuses on science and natural history museums in the context of public history and public science. Placing museum studies in conversation with science and technology studies allows for fresh interrogations of outreach, science education, and the politics and cultures of display in popular institutions. The wide-ranging interests of the blog’s editors generate diverse conversations about science and society, revealing the impact of historical narratives on contemporary issues.

For more on the project, visit the blog, Tweet us, or contact one of the current editors: Leah Aronowsky (laronowsky@fas.harvard.edu), Elaine Ayers (eayers@princeton.edu), Jenna Healey (jenna.healey@yale.edu), Evan Hepler-Smith (ehepler@princeton.edu), or David Singerman (singsing@mit.edu).

~ Elaine Ayers is a PhD candidate in the History of Science at Princeton University and an editor of the blog, AmericanScience.

Makeover in progress: New NCPH website coming soon

History@Work will become more visually integrated with the main NCPH website. Design draft supplied by NCPH.

History@Work will become more visually integrated with the main NCPH website. Design draft supplied by NCPH.

We are excited to announce the launch of a brand new National Council on Public History website and History@Work blog this fall! The new site will reflect who we are as an organization: a vibrant, active, and approachable community.

Phase One of the project will be a redesign of the NCPH website. The same valuable content found on the current website will be easier to find, share, and interact with, and will be accessible across a variety of devices. The site will now be a user-friendly gateway to valuable resources on public history practice, training, and scholarship. Continue reading

Genealogy, public history, and cyber kinship

Editor’s note: In “On Genealogy,” a revision of the plenary address delivered in October 2014 at the International Federation for Public History’s conference in Amsterdam, Jerome de Groot argues that widespread popular interest in genealogy, and the availability of mass amounts of information online, challenge established historiography and public history practice. He invites other public historians to contribute to a debate about how we might “investigate, theorize, and interrogate” the implications of this explosion of interest in genealogy. We invited four scholars to contribute to this discussion. Regina Poertner is the third of these scholars.  To read the two prior posts, see Paul Knevel, Sara Trevisan.

Achim Gercke (1902-1997) was appointed expert on racial matters for the NS Ministry of the Interior in 1933. He was instrumental in implementing the new racial laws ‘for the restitution of the civil  service’, demanding proof of ‘Aryan’ descent as a precondition for employment. Gercke was dismissed in 1935 on suspicion of homosexuality. From 1933, the National Socialist ‘Reich Genealogical Authority’ enlisted the services of professional genealogists to ‘purge’ the state of ‘non-Aryans’. The laws of 1933 and 1935 inaugurated the NS racial policy that was to result in the segregation,deportation, and murder of the Jewish population of Germany and occupied territories. Sources: Image: Wikimedia Commons, supplied by the German Bundesarchiv, Image number 183- 2006-1009-500/CC/BY-SA Further reading:  Eric Ehrenreich, The Nazi Ancestral Proof: Genealogy, racial science, and the final  solution, Indiana University Press 2007.

Achim Gercke (1902-1997) was appointed expert on racial matters for the German National Socialist Ministry of the Interior in 1933. He was instrumental in implementing the new racial laws “for the restitution of the civil
service,” demanding proof of “Aryan” descent as a precondition for employment. Gercke was dismissed in 1935 on suspicion of homosexuality.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

To date, historians’ debates on the impact of new technologies have focused primarily on the challenges to the academic profession, raising important questions about, for example, the future tools and methods of professional historical research, the visualisation and archiving of data, sharing of digital resources and research outputs, and more generally the ways in which the current digital revolution is changing our perception of who we are and what we do. The article by Jerome De Groot broadens this debate to encompass the public as the consumer and producer of a new brand of public history in the making: digital genealogical research has become a lucrative commercial venture–significantly, without clearly demarcated national borders–and is becoming the remit of the amateur historian who simultaneously is the object and author of the “curated self.” Continue reading

Project Showcase: Working History podcast

slsa-logoThe Southern Labor Studies Association (SLSA) has launched a new podcast, Working History. Hosted by SLSA President Beth English, Working History spotlights the work of leading labor historians, activists, and practitioners focusing on the U.S. South. The podcast is available for listening on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Working History seeks to inform public debate and dialogue about some of today’s key labor, economic, and political issues, with the benefit of historical context. Through the podcast SLSA is able to bring the research and expertise of its members to bear on an array of topics.

The inaugural episode, posted in June, features an interview with Hood College Assistant Professor Jay Driskell who discusses his book, Schooling Jim Crow, and traces the roots of black protest politics to early 20th century Atlanta and the right for equal education there. The latest episode features Professor Elizabeth Shermer of Loyola University Chicago, who talks about her forthcoming book on the impacts of corporate influence and the politics shaping higher education, past and present.

To keep up to date on future episodes, subscribe to Working History on iTunes or SoundCloud.

The Southern Labor Studies Association promotes the study, teaching, and preservation of southern labor history.  All podcast inquiries should be directed to Beth English at workinghistorypodcast[at]gmail.com.

Public History on the Edge of Nowhere: A working group report

Photo credit: Giannis Angelakis

Photo credit: Giannis Angelakis

Our “Public History on the Edge of Nowhere” working group consisted of individuals from institutions that face issues of isolation due to physical location or a lack of awareness by the surrounding communities. In Nashville at the 2015 National Council on Public History conference, we sought to facilitate a group discussion centered on developing creative solutions for institutions lacking direct access to large populations. Continue reading