The Master’s Tools, 2.0

Kings College, Cambridge. Photo by Colin Smith, Wikimedia Commons.

King’s College, Cambridge. Photo credit: Colin Smith, Wikimedia Commons

In her thought-provoking post from November 2012, Mary Rizzo opened up a conversation about the relationship between the rapidly growing field of digital humanities and public history. Reflecting on a recent THATcamp meeting, Rizzo concluded that existing divisions between the producers and the critical thinkers of digital humanities projects had the potential to re-inscribe gender and racial hierarchies. I want to take Rizzo’s still-salient concerns as a starting point for a conversation in a slightly different direction, namely the potential for the democratization of historical knowledge made possible by digital tools and the role of public historians in this process. Continue reading

A cry for help: collegial syllabus revision

By Berdea (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo credit: Berdea, via Wikimedia Commons

My public history courses are complicated.

Over the eight years since I took over as Director of Public History at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), I have found myself juggling and re-juggling course content, trying to achieve just the right mix of reading, discussion, research, and practice. I worry constantly about how to balance quality control and authority against student creativity and development. This worry manifests in every decision I make about each course: How much description of the assignment should I include? Which readings will be most effective for advancing students’ understanding of both the roots and the practice of core methodologies? How can I break assignments into manageable bites? What is the difference between graduate and undergraduate study in public history? What are the learning goals? What kinds of assignments will be enjoyable and meaningful for students? Continue reading

Consultants survey

Calling all consulting historians/historical consultants:

SurveyMonkey icon courtesy of SurveyMonkey.com

SurveyMonkey icon courtesy of SurveyMonkey.com

The National Council on Public History Consultants Committee is seeking responses to a survey that will help the committee determine how best to serve the consultant community. If you are a historical consultant or considering a career in consulting, please take a few moments to fill out the survey. Results will be kept confidential, and the committee will use what it learns to improve the NCPH Consultants List and other resources for the community.

Here’s the link to the survey. We look forward to posting the results once all of the surveys are in!

~ The Consultants Committee

Shoeless Joe Tumbles and Tweets

Every fall I teach a course at the Chicago History Museum (CHM) for DePaul University students interested in museums and public history. Students become immersed in museum functions through behind the scenes tours and guest speakers from our staff. The students’ capstone experience includes group projects focused on CHM’s media, primarily researching, interviewing, and writing for posts to the Museum’s blog.

Shoeless Joe Jackson Black Sox criminal trial testimony, 1921 (ICHi-51766) (Courtesy of Chicago History Museum)

Shoeless Joe Jackson, c. 1919 (SDN-058463A) (Courtesy of Chicago History Museum)

While working on the syllabus last fall, a story about a University of Nevada, Reno librarian using Facebook to tell two early-twentieth century students’ histories inspired me to use social media on a Chicago history story. With help from our multimedia team, we developed a Shoeless Joe Jackson social media project for one student group for the fall 2012 class. This project would cover his life and last only for the 2013 baseball season. Continue reading

Seventh monthly Consultants’ Corner TweetChat

Happy spring, all you consultants out in cyberspace! Monday, May 6th, will bring you our seventh monthly Consultants’ Corner Tweetchat. The chat will be held at 4:00 p.m. EST and the topic will be “international perspectives in historical consulting.” We hope you can join us, and we especially welcome consultants from nations outside the United States.Twitter_Bird

To participate in this and future TweetChats, you will need to sign up for a Twitter account by going to www.twitter.com. When it’s time for the chat, go to http://tweetchat.com/ and enter #phconchat as the chat hashtag. Alternatively, you can work with a special Twitter browser like TweetDeck. Let us know if you have any questions in advance of the chat, and we hope to see you there on Monday!

~ The Consultants’ Corner Editorial Team (@NCPHconsultants)

Fourth monthly Consultants’ Corner TweetChat

Twitter_BirdHappy Groundhog Day, consulting historians and all followers of History@Work!  Monday, February 4, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time will mark our fourth monthly NCPH Consultants TweetChat. This month, we will talk about what inspires us and how we keep in touch with a larger public history and consulting community.

To participate in this and future TweetChats, you will need to sign up for a Twitter account by going to www.twitter.com. When it’s time for the chat, go to http://tweetchat.com/ and enter #phconchat as the chat hashtag.
Let us know if you have any questions in advance of the chat, and we hope to see you there on Monday!
~ The Consultants’ Corner Editorial Team (@NCPHconsultants)

Does the “Ken Burns Effect” work in an age of social media?

Early last year, the NBC television show Community produced an episode entitled “Pillows v. Blankets.“ The episode depicts a pillow fight that reaches epic brother-against-brother proportions by involving the entire Glendale Community College campus. It very cleverly relates the war’s progression through text messages (complete with emoticons), emails, and Facebook updates. Footage of pillow skirmishes comes from cell phones. Episodes of Community often parody elements of popular culture (a particular favorite is an episode that mocks the show Law & Order). For this particular conflict, the writers looked to Ken Burns’ popular documentary, The Civil War.  The conversation below spooled out from our (Priya Chhaya and Vanessa Macias’) mutual love of pop culture and history.

Vanessa: I was so happy to hear that you found Community’s “Pillows v. Blankets” episode as funny as I did! I thought it was just the history nerd in me that was tickled by the spot-on parody of Ken Burns’ documentary, The Civil War.

Priya: I know. Part of the reason I found the episode so enjoyable was just how seriously it took the conflict, thus underscoring the Civil War’s over-dramatization in that much-beloved documentary. However, in being so obvious the Community episode illustrated the way in which our lives have changed from the 1860s. I’ll readily admit that watching the film is one of my favorite memories of my high school history class. At the time it was only a few years old (the documentary came out in 1990) and emphasized what I would later learn was social history—telling history through the eyes of ordinary people on the ground, rather than just military formations and movements. Who didn’t love hearing about the first-hand accounts and letters–or looking at the great photographs—which made the documentary so groundbreaking.

Vanessa: I remember being captivated by The Civil War when I first watched it years ago. Now the format is ripe for parody. “Pillows v. Blankets” is an effective imitation of all the signatures of the “Ken Burns Effect”—the somber voiceover, sepia-toned battle maps, fiddle-heavy soundtrack, and slow tracking shots of photographs. I stopped airing segments of the documentary in my US History classes for fear that my students’ eyes would glaze over and become heavy each time the mournful “Ashokan Farewell” plays. How can I expect my students, whose daily lives’ include instant communication via social media and text messaging, to become engaged in a documentary format that even I find slow and outdated? Continue reading

Third monthly Consultants’ Corner TweetChat

Happy New Year all you historians out in cyberspace! Tomorrow, Monday, January 7, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time will mark our third monthly NCPH Consultants TweetChat. This month, we will discuss the ins and outs of crafting a solid project proposal.

To participate in this and future TweetChats, you will need to sign up for a Twitter account by going to www.twitter.com. When it’s time for the chat, go to http://tweetchat.com/ and enter #phconchat as the chat hashtag. Jennifer Welborn (@JennWelborn) will serve as the chat moderator, and the NCPH Consultants Committee co-chars,  Adina Langer (@artiflection), and Morgen Young (@alderllc), will be there to help keep things rolling along.
Let us know if you have any questions in advance of the chat, and we hope to see you there on Monday!
~ The Consultants’ Corner Editorial Team (@NCPHconsultants)

Second Consultants’ TweetChat

Can you believe it’s been a whole month since our inaugural consultants’ TweetChat? Our second session is scheduled for this Monday, December 3, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. This month, we will focus on that ever-elusive goal of the self-employed: time management! Our preliminary TweetChat attracted a small but diverse set of participants including Twitter newbies and veterans, and consultants hailing from the East Cost, the West Coast, and the Phillippines.  Help spread the word to make this Tweetchat even more successful!

To participate in this and future TweetChats, you will need to sign up for a Twitter account by going to www.twitter.com. When it’s time for the chat, go to http://tweetchat.com/ and enter #phconchat as the chat hashtag. Jennifer Welborn (@JennWelborn) will serve as the chat moderator, and the Consultants’ Corner co-editor,  Adina Langer (@artiflection), will be there to help keep things rolling along.
Let us know if you have any questions in advance of the chat, and we hope to see you there on Monday!
~ The Consultants’ Corner Editorial Team (@NCPHconsultants)

Consultants’ Corner TweetChat!

Next Monday, November 5, at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, the NCPH Consultants Committee will debut a new monthly feature for the public history consulting community: a TweetChat. Our preliminary TweetChat will return to a topic that helped launch our presence on HIstory@Work back in the spring. In March and June, Melissa Mannon’s posts about social media were widely read and appreciated.  We hope to continue the conversation via TweetChat, discussing such specifics as  favorite social media services, social media and marketing, blogging, and tracking followers.
To participate in this and future TweetChats, you will need to sign up for a Twitter account by going to www.twitter.com. When it’s time for the chat, go to http://tweetchat.com/ and enter #phconchat as the chat hashtag. Jennifer Welborn (@JennWelborn) will serve as the chat moderator, and the Consultants’ Corner editors, Morgen Young (@alderllc) and Adina Langer (@artiflection) will be there to keep things rolling along.
Let us know if you have any questions in advance of the chat, and we hope to see you there next Monday!
~ The Consultants’ Corner Editorial Team (@NCPHconsultants)