The “new normal”: Is there one?

panel participants

Lee White and Angela Sirna during the “New Normal” panel. Photo credit: Max Van Balgooy

“Sequester” was a dirty word during last year’s conference season. At the March 2013 conference of the George Wright Society in Denver, attendance was down nearly 75 percent because of travel limitations put into place right before the meeting. At the National Council on Public History meeting in Ottawa a few weeks later, I noticed a number of my colleagues were absent. Travel cutbacks were just at the top of a long list of issues caused by the recession and then the across-the-board US federal budget cuts known as sequestration. I was deeply disturbed by what I saw in Denver, and this was before I watched the gates close at Catoctin Mountain Park (where I was working at the time) in October 2013 when the federal government shut down. I hoped that public historians could talk openly at this year’s meeting in Monterey and share responses to their “new normal.” Fortunately the program committee agreed, and on Thursday, March 20, we held an open conversation in a session titled “Situation Normal? Ways Past Sequestrations, Shutdowns, and Budgetary Woes.” Continue reading

What’s your new “Situation Normal”?

protester with sign

US federal government workers at an August 2013 protest of budget sequestration and employee furloughs. Photo credit: American Federation of Government Employees

As I sit down to write this post (and by the way, this is my first “official” history blog post), I am pondering what my “New Situation Normal” is as a public history practitioner for a federal agency. How has my work reality changed, for good and for ill, over the past 16 years? Certainly, technology and social media provide public historians with avenues to new and varied audiences. And with the Internet’s narrowing of time and space, interesting and exciting possibilities now exist for researchers and public historians.

However, there have been less positive workplace changes, namely budgetary and staffing constraints, which have created stresses and reprioritization at work for many American public historians in the public and private sector—as well as in other countries—regardless of agency or organization. Continue reading

Unpaid internships: A foot in the door or a step backward?

woman sowing coinsA recent History@Work post by Matthew Exline prompted a lively discussion of the challenges of getting a foot in the door as a new public history professional.  One topic that appeared several times in the many comments was the unpaid internship, and the opinions on it were divergent enough that we thought it was worth following up on them.   So we asked a number of practicing public historians from various areas of the field to share their thoughts on pursuing unpaid internships or volunteer opportunities as part of public historians’ professional training.

There’s no clear consensus, as you’ll see, but we hope this roundtable post will further clarify some of the issues and questions. Continue reading

Professional opportunities June 19, 2013

ANNCT: New community website for digital historians: join or start a group at Digital Historians.

ANNCT: National Coalition for History moves into social media realm with Facebook and Twitter

CFP: Papers on travel and tourism for MAPACA (Mid-Atlantic Popular/American Culture Assn.) , Nov. 7-9, 2013, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
DEADLINE: June 30, 2013

CFP: Chapters on “autobiography and trauma” and “gender and trauma” for edited collection on Mapping Generations of Traumatic Memory in American Narratives
DEADLINE: June 30, 2013

CFP: Historical Justice and Memory: Questions of Rights and Accountability in Contemporary Society, second annual conference of Columbia University’s Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability/Dialogues on Historical Justice and Memory Network, Dec. 5-7, 2013, New York, New York, U.S.
DEADLINE: Sept. 5, 2013

CFP: The Archaeological Review seeks multidisciplinary contributions for its Archive Issue (November 2014)
DEADLINE: Oct. 30, 2013

CFP: Picturing the Family: Media, Narrative, Memory, July 10-11, 2014, London, U.K.
DEADLINE: Nov. 30, 2013

EDU: 4-week Museum Microclimates online course from Northern States Conservation Center begins July 1

EDU: Collections Camp: Costume and Textiles workshop from American Assn. for State and Local History, Kingston, Rhode Island, U.S. July 24-26, 2013

EDU: E-Workshop: Getting Started with Oral History from Baylor University Institute for Oral History, Aug. 7 and 14, 2013

FUNDING: New funding opportunities from U.S. National Endowment for the Humanities for media, historical, and cultural projects and organizations

DEADLINE: August 14, 2013

REV: Memory and Representation in Contemporary Europe (Kattago)

Impacts and outcomes (part two): Tools to use

In my last post, I talked about some of the trainings and conceptual frameworks that help me to measure the impact of my programs at the Trustees of Reservations. I wanted to expand on the idea of measuring success and highlight some of the tools I have used for various programs and organizations that I have worked with.

These days I start by organizing the items we want to measure into two equally important categories: Organizational Goals and Engagement Impact Goals. Although I did not always explicitly make this distinction, looking back over the engagement activities I’ve worked with at different organizations, I can see that this distinction was more often present than not. Continue reading

Professional opportunities May 29, 2013

ANNCT: On the BBC Radio’s “The Essay” – Life in Fragments: Stories from the Cairo Genizah, airing May 27-31 and available as podcast
Website and iplayer

  2013 International Congress on Digital Heritage, Oct. 27-Nov. 1, 2013, Marseille, France
DEADLINE:  June 23, 2013

CFP:  “Fabricating History: Representations, Manipulation, Evidence” issue of Hungarian Historical Review
DEADLINE: June 30, 2013

Digital Humanities Luxembourg (DHLU) 2013 – Reading historical sources in the digital age, Dec. 5-6, 2013, Luxembourg
DEADLINE:  August 30, 2013

EDU:  Reading Artifacts Summer Institute, Aug. 19-23, 2013, Canada Science and Technology Museum, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
APPLICATION DUE:  June 14, 2013

EDU:  2013 Leadership Academy from Association of Midwest Museums (AMM) for mid-level museum professionals and new directors, Sept. 23-27, 2013, Chicago, Illinois
Email for information

FUNDING: NEH Grant Opportunity – Humanities Collections and Reference Resources
APPLICATION DUE:  July 18, 2013

REV: Toppled: A Book by Florian Göttke (Göttke)

REV: The Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization (Brandon, Lower, eds.)

REV: Voices from the Vietnam War: Stories from American, Asian, and Russian Veterans (Li)

Wave of the future or budget cut tsunami? Evaluating technical conference solutions

What do you do when suddenly your panel goes from six people to two? When the U.S. government sequester and tightened institutional budgets mean that your carefully crafted slate of experts can’t make the trip to Ottawa to present in person? This is exactly the situation in which Adina Langer and I found ourselves, mere weeks before this year’s NCPH conference. We had been planning our panel, on the ways that different sites present stories of September 11th, since before the call for proposals last July. We had recruited panelists from the National 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Pentagon Memorial, and the Flight 93 Memorial Park. We had discussed and planned and collaborated.

A screenshot of the Google Hangout interface, courtesy of Adina Langer

A screenshot of the Google Hangout interface, courtesy of Adina Langer

And then…one by one, our panelists began breaking the bad news. They couldn’t make the trip. What to do? Everyone was still excited to talk about their work and their audiences, but we couldn’t fund them to get to Canada. Adina and I decided to turn to some of the same technology that had allowed us to collaborate on planning the panel in the first place, and see if we could make the show still go on. Continue reading

Professional opportunities May 16, 2013

ANNCT:  Museum Assessment Program (MAP) application now available from IMLS
DEADLINE:  July 1, 2013

  PopMatters seeks 1200+ wd articles on “Is anachronism good or bad for consumers of historical fictions?
DEADLINE:  May 31, 2013

CFP:  “Talking about protest – Oral history methodology in social and political movements research,” Sept. 20, 2013, Warwick, U.K.

CFP:  Panel on “Co-Creation, the Public and the Archaeological Record” for Society for American Archaeology Meetings, April 24 – 27 Austin, Texas, U.S.
DEADLINE:  June 15, 2013

CFP:  REHAB 2014 International Conference on Preservation, Maintenance and Rehabilitation of Historic Buildings and Structures, March 19-21, 2014, Tomar, Portugal
DEADLINE:  June 30, 2013

CFP: IMAGES (3)/Images of the City Conference, Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 2013, Istanbul, Turkey
DEADLINE:  June 30, 2013

CONF: Food in History: Anglo-American Conference 2013, July 11-13, 2013, London, U.K.

CONF:  Digital Directions: Fundamentals of Creating and Managing Digital Collections, July 21-23, 2013, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.

EDU: Special Summer Course on Teaching History with Museums, July 8-18, 2013, Dobbs Ferry, New York, U.S.

FUNDING: Charlton Oral History Research Grant available from Baylor University Institute for Oral History
DEADLINE:  June 21, 2013

New Reviews from H-Net:


Professional opportunities April 25, 2013

CFP:  “Contact and Connections”: Travel and Mobility Studies Symposium, June 27, 2013, University of Warwick, U.K.

CFP:The Politics and Practices of Urban Renewal
DEADLINE:  May 15, 2013

CFP:The Office as an Interior (1880-1960),” Oct. 17-18, 2013, Bern, Switzerland
DEADLINE:  May 31, 2013

CFP:Sweat Equity Investment in the Cotton Kingdom” Symposium and Cotton Pickers Ball, Oct. 16-17, 2013, Itta Bena, Mississippi, U.S.
DEADLINE:  Sept. 6, 2013

CONF:  3rd Annual Public History Community Forum (PubComm), April 26, 2013, Camden, New Jersey, U.S.

CONF: Materiality: objects and idioms in historical studies of science and technology, May 3-4, 2013, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

CONF:  Pennsylvania Statewide Conference on Heritage, July 16-19, 2013, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.

EDU:  Digital Directions: Fundamentals of Creating and Managing Digital Collections, July 21-23, 2013, Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S.
EARLY BIRD DEADLINE:  April 30, 2013

EDU:  Establishing a Museum – online course from Northern States Conservation Center begins May 6

FUNDING:  Charlton Oral History Research Grant
DEADLINE:  June 21, 2013.

FUNDING:  Grant for sustainability initiative at a California museum
DEADLINE:  June 28, 2013

REV: Seeing Culture Everywhere, from Genocide to Consumer Habits (Breidenbach and Nyíri)

REV:  The Battle of the Greasy Grass/Little Bighorn: Custer’s Last Stand in Memory, History, and Popular Culture (Buchholtz)

Professional opportunities April 15, 2013

CONF: “Corporate Voices: Institutional and Organisational Oral Histories” – Oral History Society UK, July 5-6, 2013, University of Sussex, U.K. Registration now open

FUNDING: Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History short-term fellowships for researchers using New York City archives
DEADLINE: May 1, 2013

NCH: Recent stories from the National Coalition for History
Advisory board report offers strategies to strengthen 21st century National Park Service

Obama Administration submits FY14 budget to Congress

PUB: New MuseumsEtc book catalog available