Editor’s note: This post continues a series commemorating the anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act by examining a past article published in The Public Historian, describing its significance, and relating it to contemporary conversations in historic preservation.
Harbor of Town of St. George, Bermuda, 2006. Photo by Aodhdubh at English Wikipedia. CC BY 2.5, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/.
Editor’s note: This post concludes a series commemorating the anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act by examining a past article published in The Public Historian, describing its significance and relating it to contemporary conversations in historic preservation.
Historic preservation exists to tell stories of our journeys as a people and as a nation, but somehow along the way the stories of America’s African American, Latino, Asian, and Native American communities are erased or obscured as historians and preservationists tell the great American story. As we celebrate fifty years of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), America’s historical record overwhelmingly favors a well-to-do minority. This anniversary should be characterized by a rigorous assessment, inventory, and look back at what has been preserved and what has been ignored. The challenge is to ask: When the preservation of heritage is the vision of the privileged few, is the American public being served? Continue reading →
“Created Equal” dialogue program, Cooperstown Graduate Program (SUNY Oneonta), May 2015. Photo credit: Cooperstown Graduate Program
As I’ve read obsessively the news of campus protests these past few weeks and shared support for protesters both publicly on social media and privately in email conversations with college administrators, I’ve been challenged to think deeply about my position as both a public historian and a faculty member at a state university. In my career, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching, researching, writing, and facilitating dialogue on issues of race and racism. Several of my courses explore the ways in which museums are (or should be) addressing these issues, past and present. Right now, however, perhaps the most direct way I am engaging with the current protests is in my role as the chair of my college’s President’s Council on Diversity (PCOD). In this advisory capacity, I have offered suggestions and participated in sensitive discussions on how to respond to bias acts and transform our campus into a more inclusive place. Continue reading →
College Board logo. Image courtesy Wikimedia commons
In a surprising turn of events, the College Board re-revised the Advanced Placement United States History curriculum framework, releasing its newest version at the end of July. While the move by the Board, which had instituted a public comment period seeking feedback on the framework back in February, is not overly surprising, the reaction among many historians and among the opponents of the original revised framework is. Both historians and critics are largely satisfied. Continue reading →
Students in Black’s seminar learning collections management software in May 2015. Photo credit: Ron Faraday, Greater Pittston Historical Society
Last September, an undergraduate approached me to inquire about potential internship opportunities. As a new faculty member in a department with no formal public history program, there were few established connections with local community partners that I could tap. Yet the main obstacle to placing this student in an internship was her need for income; as a single mother, she had to support herself and her son. In fact, financial constraints often prevent history majors from engaging in educationally rich internships because they are unpaid. If we can find a way to invest in our students, however, we can provide them with worthwhile educational experiences that pack a bigger punch in terms of professional development because paid fellowships are attractive to potential employers. Continue reading →
With the support of a one-year Foundations planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the seven women’s colleges once known as the “Seven Sisters” recently launched College Women: Documenting the History of Women in Higher Education. College Women brings together digitized letters, diaries, scrapbooks, and photographs of women who attended Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, Vassar, Wellesley, and Radcliffe (now the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University). These materials, documenting women’s campus cultures, have long been preserved in the libraries of the seven schools; College Women makes them available online and searchable together for the first time. Continue reading →
How should public history graduate programs measure success? Photo credit: Wikipedia Lufkin tape measure
What constitutes success for a public history graduate program? A strong placement record? Student mastery of a set of professional skills? Or perhaps cultivation of our discipline’s habits of mind?
One might say, “It depends”–on whom you ask, when you ask them, and why you want to know. But does that ambiguity compromise our ability as program directors to represent our programs accurately and effectively to the students we serve and the administrators who oversee us? In defining success, should we pursue clarity or get comfortable with uncertainty?
The Library at the University of South Carolina, on a campus that has had a long-time and active public history program. Photo credit: USC
The Curriculum and Training Committee of the National Council on Public History has prepared a draft best practices document, “Best Practices for Establishing and Developing a Public History Program.” This document is intended to supplement the existing best practices documents on MA programs in public history, public history for undergraduate students, and certificate programs in public history. By focusing on resources and support, it seeks to ensure high-quality training at the graduate level. Designed mainly for college and university faculty and administrators, the draft provides guidance on subjects, such as funding, hiring practices, tenure and promotion, curriculum development, and areas of specialization. We invite comments on this document. Please send comments and suggested revisions to email@example.com by July 31. We look forward to hearing your thoughts. Here is a link to the document.
~ Daniel Vivian is assistant professor of history and director of public history at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky. He is chair of the Curriculum and Training Committee for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Willowbank students squaring and carving stone. Photo credit: Juliana Glassco
It is often said that everyone should work in the customer service industry at some point in their lives so that they can understand what it’s like to interact with the world from the other side of the cash register. I feel the same way about traditional building trades. Anyone who works with old buildings should spend at least a few days learning about what it takes to be a carpenter, plasterer, mason, or blacksmith. As a student in a course of study in heritage conservation (called historic preservation in the United States) at Willowbank School, a small private college in southern Ontario, that is precisely what I do.
Willowbank’s curriculum blends hands-on experience with design, heritage management, and theory. Professional craftspeople–and architects, historians, planners, conservators, and others–take time away from their jobs to teach a group of students from diverse backgrounds about their profession. Every day is a lesson in humility and patience. At its heart, being a student here is about cultivating respect for the many perspectives, skills, and disciplines that interact with “heritage” in all of its varied forms. In studying these points of intersection, we are unlocking potential for cross-disciplinary creativity, communication, and collaboration. Continue reading →
You’ve got your must-do list all set–a visit to the Grand Ole Opry (wait, since when is that in a suburban shopping center?), a night out at the Blue Bird Café, and a lunch date with your college roommate at The Wild Cow.
Now, like all good public historians, you pull up the program and begin to map out your conference schedule.
THATCamp NCPH Boot Camp on Wednesday afternoon? Check.
“History on the Cutting Edge” on Saturday and the Nashville Crime Walking Tour Friday? Add those to the list.
And speed networking on Thursday morning? You definitely want to make time for that.
But wait. You have a free two hours on Thursday afternoon. How will you ever fill the time? Continue reading →
Banners telling the stories of particular El Paso buildings were the first iteration of the Museo Urbano project. Photo credit: Bruce Berman
Hardball history that places historians at the center of politics, advocacy, and activism can be a difficult journey, but it can also be inspiring. My introduction to public history coincided with the 2006 unveiling of a controversial downtown revitalization plan in the city of El Paso, Texas. The plan included the demolition of more than thirty acres of El Segundo Barrio, a historic and predominantly Mexican-American neighborhood.
I was twenty-two and a senior at the University of Texas at El Paso. I learned about the downtown plan in a political science class, where everyone was given a brochure and a map of the area slated for construction. In place of churches and homes were shopping malls and parking lots. The woman giving us the presentation also mentioned that residents who could not afford new tax increases would need to be relocated. I was not the only student that had questions about the plan, the residents, and the process. The same semester I was also taking a Mexican-American History class taught by Dr. Yolanda Chávez Leyva. Her class incorporated the rich history of the area. Ironically, I had Dr. Leyva’s class right before the political science class. Continue reading →