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
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
This 1954 Airstream trailer is the home of UL Lafayette’s Museum on the Move. Photo: Museum on the Move.
Building upon our innovative approaches to teaching and practicing Public History, the History Department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette is proud to announce an exceptional project called Museum on the Move. Public History students will outfit a vintage Airstream trailer (left) with an interpretive exhibit that will then hit the road to take history directly out of the classroom and to the public. Exhibits will be created on a rotating basis and require the melding of two courses and a cohort of students.
The first course will be a traditional history course where students conduct research projects geared toward the planned exhibit. The next phase of the project is for a Museum Studies course where students re-craft the research done in the first class to create exhibit components that they will install in the trailer. Once the exhibit is up and rolling, the trailer will be sent out on short runs to venues around the state where the students’ (and the program’s) work will be on display.
The first planned exhibit will be on Louisiana Women and it is being timed to coincide with the publication of Louisiana Women: Their Lives and Times, Volume 2 (University of Georgia Press) being edited by the department’s own Dr. Mary Farmer-Kaiser. Students currently enrolled in her course on Louisiana Women are pursuing their studies with an eye toward the future exhibit and are excited to be a part of something with such potential for hands-on success. In the end, it is our intent for the program to teach students the methods and value of creative approaches to practicing history and to establish a recognizable product in the form of rotating exhibit topics in a compelling package. The trailer has been purchased, the class is underway, and everything is coming together.
~ Bob Carriker, University of Louisiana at Lafayette
Join us for two digital-public-history events today at the NCPH conference:
Lightning Talks (12:30-1:30 p.m.) – An informal brown-bag lunch session in the Frontenac Room where you can showcase your own digital project and hear what’s new and exciting in the digital humanities. At this brown-bag lunchtime session, presenters will each have two to three minutes to describe their projects. At least twentyspaces will be available on a first-come, first serve basis. Advance sign-up suggested but not required; you can sign up at the registration desk this morning.
Digital Drop-In (5-6:45 p.m.) – Stuck on a digital project? Looking for some general advice on how to make your digital idea a reality? At NCPH’s version of the “genius bar,” experienced digital public historians (see list below) will be available to help you with questions about project development and management; audio and visual media; specific platforms like WordPress and Omeka; mapping; social media; user-generated content; and more. Drop in for quick, targeted advice on your way to the poster session or consultants’ reception. Remember, there are no stupid questions!
Digital Drop-In Advisors:
- Devon Elliott, Western University
- Mary Larson, Oklahoma State University
- Diana Lempel, Harvard University
- Josh Macfadyen, Western University
- Caroline Muglia, U.S. Library of Congress
- Jon Berndt Olsen, University of Massachusetts at Amherst
- Joel Ralph, Canada’s History
- Ron Rudin, Concordia University
- Will Tchakarides, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
- Mark Tebeau, Cleveland State University
The public history twitterverse is an ever-livelier place, to the point that the relative absence of public historians (as at this year’s Organization of American Historians conference, held jointly with the National Council on Public History last spring but separately this year) correlates to a sharp decline in social media traffic, as David Austin Walsh reported last week.
For those not following the Twitter feed for #ncph2013, here’s a quick selection of tweeted thoughts from the first day, which featured a number of workshops and working groups and the third THATCamp NCPH. Even from afar, it’s pretty easy to tell that Devon Elliott’s 3D printer was the star of the day! Continue reading
Editors’ Note: This series showcases the winners of the National Council on Public History’s annual awards for the best new work in the field. Today’s post is by Cathy Stanton, winner of the 2013 NCPH Excellence in Consulting Award in the individual category for “Plant Yourself in My Neighborhood: An Ethnographic Landscape Study of Farming and Farmers in Columbia County, New York.”
In 2009, Martin Van Buren National Historic Site expanded its boundaries beyond the eighth President’s post-Presidential mansion to encompass his 200+ acre farm as well. This change meant that the national park found itself in a working relationship with a modern farm that was cultivating much of the acreage. The park had previously commissioned other studies to help support its shift toward interpreting Van Buren as a gentleman farmer as well as a politician, but the Ethnographic Landscape Study [PDF] that I was hired to produce was somewhat different. It needed to connect more directly with the present day, including the contemporary agricultural economy of Columbia County, New York, where the park is located, as well as with the burgeoning “local food” movement that the farm is part of. I jumped at the chance to work on this project and found it enormously satisfying because it gave me a chance to put into practice a notion that I’d been talking about for several years around the public history community: namely, that cultural anthropology offers an extremely useful set of tools for public historians as they work with living communities and try to articulate the importance of a sense of history in the contemporary world. Continue reading
We are interested in applying a new theoretical approach to public history, and we need your help.
The theory is called “threshold concepts.” Jan Meyer and Ray Land (both education specialists) developed threshold concepts as a way of explaining how students grasp (or don’t grasp) particular disciplines. Their work is usefully explained here. Each discipline, Meyer and Land explain, has a core set of ideas that one must master to become an expert practitioner. These ideas are so fundamental that they become a habit of mind to those within the discipline, which often makes them difficult to explain to students and other outsiders.
A key element of threshold concepts is that they are “troublesome knowledge.” While completely familiar to those within a field, threshold concepts appear counter-intuitive to outsiders. How many people can explain the concept of the limit in calculus, the idea of signification in cultural students, or the theory of imaginary numbers in a way that makes sense to a novice? For historians, one common example of a troublesome threshold concept is the notion that there is no unitary account of the past. Historians understand that history is full a competing narratives that differ, in part, because of the different life experiences and perspectives of historians themselves. That’s troublesome for many students or the public as a whole, who are more comfortable with textbook approach to history. Continue reading
CFP: 2014 Organization of American Historians Annual Meeting, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: February 28, 2013
CFP: CITY TEXTureS: Reflecting the City in Literature and Museums, Aug. 12-15, 2013, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: March 15, 2013
CONF: The Secrets of Mary Bowser: Black History Month/Civil War 150th Event in Detroit, Feb. 12, 2013, University of Detroit-Mercy, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
CONF: In Search of Freedom: African Americans and the Civil War, March 1-2, 2013, Frederick Community College, Frederick, Maryland, U.S.
EDU: “Radical Realities”: Writing and Oral History Workshop – Race and Identity, 8 Workshop Sessions: Saturdays, March 16 – May 4, 2013, Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
EDU: Historic New England’s Tenth Annual Program in New England Studies, June 17-22, 2013, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
EVENT: “History of the U.S. Census – Rationalizing Race, April 18, 2013, New York, NY, U.S.
Left to right: Roger Gregory, Eric King, Tom Robinson, Joel (J.T. Speed) Murphy at the bar at Blind Willies. October 24, 1990. (Photo: David S. Rotenstein)
Can you remember where you worked during graduate school? To pay my way through Penn in the 1980s and 1990s I worked in cultural resource management and as a freelance writer. Although history and material culture are my true professional loves, the writing gig was the more interesting, though less profitable, job.
During a two-year break from classes–it’s a long story–I began writing a blues column for a short-lived Atlanta alt-weekly called Footnotes. Between August 1990 and March 1991, I wrote performance reviews and feature stories about musicians derived from lengthy tape-recorded interviews. I also interviewed bar owners and others to develop background material for future stories.
By the time I decided to return to Penn to finish my coursework, Footnotes had folded and I had begun writing about folk and blues music for the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Charlotte Observer, and other papers and magazines throughout the United States. Always the historian, I held onto my research files and interviews, including verbatim transcripts for many of them. Continue reading
Academic interest in public history is growing, and an increasing number of history departments are looking for a public historian to train students for public history jobs. But what does it mean to start a public history program? Is it as simple as hiring a PhD with a field in public history and telling them to get going? Is there more to it than that? Continue reading
On a recent conference call that connected public history practitioners from Bangladesh, Brazil, Italy, Spain, South Africa, and the U.S., one participant remarked on the utility of replicating historic site and museum programs from different geographic locations in others. Another extolled the benefits of sharing ideas, methods, and experiences across the different regions of the world. Meanwhile I mapped these diverse localities in my mind, juxtaposing one local program with another; drawing others into the picture; putting in conversation an oral-history archive in Santiago with an aspiring one in Cambodia; comparing what to do with the former UN Special Courts building in Sierra Leone and what to do with a former site of detention and torture in Argentina; the universal linkages, I think, that connected these diverse locales.
Truth be told, I am interested in the idea of an international public history (maybe as part of a broader shift to public humanities) as much as I am with the idea, articulated in Robert Weyeneth’s recent piece in this blog, that the bedrock of public history remains rooted in the local, a particular place, a house’s history, the story of a neighborhood, the “location-specific case study.” Continue reading