All the news that fits: The view from where I sit

mosaic of typesetter

Typesetter, John A. Prior Health Services Library mosaic mural, Columbus, Ohio. Photo credit: Ehschnell at en.wikipedia.

For quite a number of years now, I’ve been one of the people involved in gathering and disseminating news about the public history field through the various channels of the National Council on Public History:  the H-Public listserv, the News Feed here in the Public History Commons, and the regular emailed updates that go out to NCPH members.  More or less once a week, I cull through other listservs, submitted announcements, and odds and ends that come to us through various professional and social networks and try to reduce the pile to a more or less digestible-sized list of professional opportunities for public historians.  Sometimes this feels like a purely clerical task (there’s a lot of cutting and pasting involved!) but every once in a while I realize what a valuable and broad perspective it’s given me on our ever-evolving field.  In return for those hours of cutting and pasting, I get an ongoing education about what people are doing “out there” and how a very wide range of practitioners are putting history to work in the world.  Here’s how things look to me at the moment. Continue reading

“Illuminating” the Legacy Concept in Higher Education

In this election cycle, like just about every previous election cycle of recent memory, the role of higher education in improving society has been raised and debated. The past sixty years have seen unprecedented growth in the higher education sector, with a proliferation of for-profit and distance-learning options supplementing established research universities, liberal arts colleges, and community college programs. (For a more comprehensive, but not exhaustive, look at the history of higher education, see John Thelin’s A History of American Higher Education).

This growth, coupled with an ever-increasing pool of student applicants, has created a situation in which institutions of higher learning must distinguish themselves from each other in order to attract qualified students, and “alma maters” must compete with other deserving charities for the discretionary spending of alumni in order to maintain and improve programs to sustain this high level of competition. The result is the advent of a highly sophisticated marketing program! But what can a particular institution of higher learning market beyond widely available and sometimes stultifying statistics? The answer is something very familiar to public historians and historic preservationists: heritage. Continue reading

Independent Research for the Independent Consultant Part 2: Making Your Clients’ Interests Your Research Interests

In Part I, I talked about balancing your consulting work with your own research work. Setting aside the fact that pursuing your own research in addition to your consulting work may throw the rest of your life out of kilter, you will have to assign a rather high priority to your own research—after your clients’ needs, of course—if you want it to come to fruition in the form of publications. So it helps if the research you do for clients neatly dovetails with your own interests, as was the case for me with the book project I discussed in Part I.

As an independent consultant, you are free to pursue work in your area of interest. (And the more broadly you define your area of interest, the greater the chances that you’ll work in your area of interest: I fit a lot under the headings of “20th Century business and urban history.”) Operating on the theory that beggars can’t be choosers, you should never turn down work, however, and so, if a client engages you in what is, for you, a new topic, consider leveraging it as a new direction of research for you. Continue reading