Poster from first May Day rally officially allowed by the Turkish government since 1977. The rally brought 200,000 people to Taksim Square in Istanbul. The poster uses the image from the rally held in 1977. Collection of the author.
As a trade union leader and a political activist, I had occasions to attend national and international events. Often, other attendees would bring posters from their respective organizations. I would usually take one of each because I was attracted to either the graphics or the issue or both. After a few years of this, and having obtained a critical mass, I decided to try to raise some modest funds for inexpensive frames and create a couple of exhibits. It seemed a shame to have these interesting posters sitting in my attic.
The project started off modestly as I had a demanding full-time job and other commitments. The number of framed posters began increasing, as did the number of exhibits.
Flash forward 15 years and 4,000 posters later, and I now find myself staging at least three exhibits a month. Continue reading →
2012 was a big year for Canadians. We celebrated two important anniversaries: the thirtieth of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which made revolutionary changes in the way Canadian law works, and the two hundredth of the War of 1812. We Canadians have a quaint reputation in the States as peaceful, pacifistic, hockey-playing neighbours. So, which of these anniversaries do you think the Canadian government–now ruled with an iron fist by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper–spent millions of dollars commemorating? If you answered the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, you’d be wrong. Continue reading →
From the opening reception of Migrating Archives, on current exhibition at the GLBT Historical Society. Courtesy of E.G. Crichton.
The second part of this art and public history conversation series features artist E.G. Crichton. In addition to being professor in the Art Department at UC Santa Cruz, Crichton is the first artist-in-residence for the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco. Her work, since she began her tenure there, has intentionally pulled the archives into public and personal forums. In her first major project, LINEAGE: Matchmaking in the Archive, Crichton positioned herself as matchmaker, connecting living persons with a specific archival collection at GLBTHS. The living participants then authored original work based on their match with and connection to the dead. Crichton recently opened her newest exhibition, Migrating Archives, on February 1, which tells stories of LGBT lives from archival collections around the world.In her responses, Crichton reflects upon her work at the GLBTHS (and the extent to which it can serve as a model for other institutions), on the matchmaking process, and on introducing forgotten histories into public memory. The full transcript of the interview can be found here.
The first post in this two-part series, linking to an interview with the Atlanta based art/idea collective John Q, can be found here.
~ Julia Brock is Director of Interpretation for the Department of Museums, Archives, and Rare Books and is curator at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education, Kennesaw State University (near Atlanta, Georgia). She received her Ph.D. in Public History from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 2012.
The congregation of Cedar Grove Baptist, one of the two churches in Terra Cotta, in the 1930s Photo courtesy Dennis Waddell.
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 Ellen Kuhn, Shawna Prather, and Ashley Wyatt, students at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and co-creators of the exhibit “Past the Pipes: Stories of the Terra Cotta Community,” which won the 2013 Student Project Award.
What creates a community?
In the face of significant social and economic constraints, a tightly-knit, self-reliant community developed in Terra Cotta, a segregated company town located a few miles west of downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. From the 1900s to the 1970s, members of this community worked at the nearby Pomona Terra Cotta Company, manufacturing clay pipes used to build sewer systems. Terra Cotta was the kind of place where family meant more than just blood kin; it meant giving food to the homeless man who lived in the woods nearby–even though residents had to feed their own large families on less than eleven dollars a week. It meant sharing one church building between Baptist and Methodist congregations, alternating services each week. It meant welcoming white children to play in their homes when a reciprocal invitation to play at white homes was never extended. Today, community in Terra Cotta means keeping bonds initially formed in the neighborhood alive through shared memories.
Now, these previously unheard voices are featured at the Terra Cotta Heritage Museum in a permanent exhibition that was created through a collaboration known as the Terra Cotta Community History Project. Continue reading →
We public historians are increasing our fluency in languages. We are conversing with colleagues across the globe and across disciplines, we are ever dexterous in our work with new media, and we are constantly strengthening the ways we reach out to audiences, drawing from a language of engagement that has emerged since our field’s early days and that has blossomed in the last ten years. This emergent patois has meant more and different kinds of collaboration and models of practice, including institutional and individual partnerships with artists.
Alliances between public historians and artists are not new but are growing. Museums and archives have been inviting artists to reimagine their collections and broaden their public reach since at least the mid-1990s. As Laura Koloski argued in her recent case study of the artist-in-residency program at the American Philosophical Society Museum, there should be a development of shared language between collaborators concurrent with the rise in artist/historian partnerships. In working with artists, we might begin to articulate a contemporary aesthetic of historical knowledge. How do we (and audiences) make sense of and draw conclusions about the past when it is represented in contemporary art practice or embodied by artistic performance? 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 →
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 Yolanda Chávez Leyva, co-director of Museo Urbano at 500 S. Oregon, the winner of the 2013 NCPH Public History Project Award.
El Paso is a windy city. Its dusty winds blow noisily into homes and offices, tear shingles off roofs and lift trash swirling up into the atmosphere where papers and plastic bags dance with desert sands that hide the mountains beneath a hazy cloud. Most El Pasoans dread the wind but I am grateful for it because it helped me learn what a public history project could mean to a community.
One summer day in 2011, I woke up early and on a whim decided to take a drive to Museo Urbano, a community museum I co-directed in El Segundo Barrio, one of the most historic Mexican American neighborhoods in the United States, located in one of the poorest zip codes in the county. When I arrived, I noticed a group of men sitting on the stoop of the turn of the 20th century tenement building where we were located. For over a hundred years, men have gathered on street corners in El Segundo waiting to be contracted for work so I wasn’t surprised to see them. What did surprise me was what they had to say. Continue reading →
The recent History@Work post postulating the importance of peer review and its possibilities in digital form challenges us to rethink more traditional methods of scholarly review. History@Work’s inaugural year demonstrates that the uptick in attention to public history’s products and projects in academic, international, and other circles is pushing and pulling us in new directions. Some of these can be seen in/as a demand for speedier, more inclusive methods of subjecting our histories to broader audiences, a wider array of scholarly and professional disciplines, and the subjects of history themselves. We also see this push and pull in perceptions of NCPH’s conference and publications, where long-standing tensions around the balance between scholarship and practice, professionals and publics, continue to make themselves felt.
Coincidentally, late last year, my chapter proposal “Popular History Makers and Activist Tools: Public Memorials in a Post-Conflict Society” was accepted for an innovative project whose ultimate goals “are to enhance the democratization of knowledge through an open review process and to enrich teaching, research, methodology, and theory in the discipline of History by providing a forum that enables the thoughts and contributions of the wider public to have direct impact on the discipline of History.” Subjecting History: Building a Relationship between History and its Alternatives (Ohio University Press) utilizes a digital forum to subject contributors’ chapters to not only peer review but, of equal importance, the public writ large. Continue reading →
In a recent post on History@Work, Zachary McKiernan discussed the utility of an international vision of public history. In many ways, this post encapsulates the rising interest in public history practices outside North America. The recent creation of the International Federation for Public History (IFPH) is a prime example of this. The IFPH embodies the ideas recently put forth by Robert Weyeneth in his post “Writing locally, thinking globally.” The next annual NCPH meeting in Ottawa will bear the mark of this internationalization of public history, as many panels and activities will deal with projects and practices outside North America.
It is in this framework that the working group on public history teaching was designed. Our working group is by no means the first attempt to address the teaching of public history. Its specificity lies in our wish to explore the international dimension of public history teaching practices. The idea of organizing such a working group emerged in the many conversations I have had with the members of the IFPH steering committee. My objective is to widen the scope of discussion on public history teaching practices and to take into consideration other programs that have blossomed in different parts of the world. Continue reading →
In August, 2012, an extraordinary thing happened: a small museum, dubbed the Friends of Science East (FSE, now the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe), which was being run out of two unused classrooms in a local high school on Long Island, began an online fundraising campaign which raised over $1 million in just over a week. The money was to be used to buy a local historical site, a laboratory utilized by the 19th century inventor Nikola Tesla called Wardenclyffe; the museum planned to repair the site and convert it into a science and technology museum to honor Tesla’s legacy. The story quickly went viral on the Internet, as journalists and bloggers asked the same set of questions: How did a small, virtually unknown museum manage to marshal such incredible resources so quickly? And what implications does this success carry for fundraising for public historians? Continue reading →