Help us build a bibliography on public history and climate change

book cover

In many ways, environmental public history is still a very new field, with just one major title devoted directly to the subject.

Google “public history” and “climate change” and you’ll quickly realize that public historians are only just beginning to talk about how their work relates to the increasingly urgent questions posed by the earth’s rapidly changing climate.  You could make a case that environmental public history is itself still in its infancy, even though it’s been more than two decades since Martin Melosi, in his President’s Annual Address to the National Council on Public History, issued a call for “environmental history [to] be a means to make the value of history better understood to the public.”[1]  As Melosi pointed out, the combination is a natural one in many ways, yet there are also challenges to pursuing it–for example, the highly political nature of many environmental issues and historians’ caution about crossing the line into advocacy.  In the print realm, a single, now-decade-old collection, Public History and the Environment (co-edited by Melosi and Phil Scarpino and published by Krieger in 2004), has been devoted to the subject, and “global warming” makes only two brief appearances in its pages.  As the global atmosphere continues to warm and its effects are felt more and more widely, how should public historians respond? Continue reading

Conference P(review) #4: Canadian War Museum

Editor’s note: In preparation for the upcoming NCPH conference in Ottawa, The Public Historian has commissioned a series of Ottawa site reviews, as it does annually for sites in our conference city.  These “(p)reviews,” as we’re dubbing them, will inaugurate what we hope will be a growing partnership between The Public Historian and the Public History Commons.  Further online post-conference reviews will follow later this spring;  we invite readers to comment on these posts as they appear.

Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Pl, Ottawa. Tim Cook, Acting Director of Research; Andrew Burtch Curator of “Eleven Women Facing War” and “Khandahar: the Fighting Season;” Peter MacLeod, Curator, Pre-Confederation Canada. Open weekdays between 9 A.M. and 5 P.M., and Thursdays until 8 P.M. Free admission after 4 P.M.

Just a short walk from the Delta Hotel in Ottawa, the Canadian War Museum offers conference attendees an opportunity to see award-winning architecture and experience two photographic exhibits (one open until April 21), in addition to the museum’s expansive exhibits on war and conflict from a Canadian perspective. Visitors can easily spend four or more hours touring the galleries. Below are a few of the highlights that may be of interest to NCPH members.

The Canadian War Museum stands out on the barren land of LeBretton Flats, once covered with a thriving working-class neighborhood, felled by “urban renewal.” Now, nearly forty years later, mixed-used development is beginning to fill in the space. (Photo courtesy of Jo McCutcheon.)

The Canadian War Museum stands out on the barren land of LeBretton Flats, once covered with a thriving working-class neighborhood, felled by “urban renewal.” Now, nearly forty years later, mixed-used development is beginning to fill in the space. (Photo courtesy of Jo McCutcheon.)

The Canadian War museum moved from its earlier home in the former Archives building to a new purpose-built facility in 2005.[1] The new museum building is a stunning piece of art designed to push visitors to consider the grim reality and devastating consequences of war. Architect Raymond Moriyama is himself a casualty of conflict; at the age of twelve his family was interned in the interior mountains of British Columbia for several years, along with other Japanese-Canadians living on the country’s west coast. He told Maclean’s magazine in 2005 that his design for the war museum began with a sketch of the tree house he built as a boy in that internment camp. The tree house was both a refuge and a place of contemplation and regeneration during a time of conflict, and Moriyama wanted to bring these elements to the design of the War Museum.[2] The building’s low profile resembles a hideout or bunker, while the tall fin rising at the east end is reminiscent of the prow of a ship (the small windows on it spell out “Lest We Forget” in Morse code). Most of the building’s windows are on the east side, facing the sunrise – a symbol of hope – in keeping with Moriyama’s theme of regeneration. Inside, the low ceiling in the entrance hall, combined with the slanted and stark concrete walls, create a slightly claustrophobic and disorienting feeling. This is a building designed to make visitors slightly uncomfortable even before they get to the exhibit galleries. Continue reading

New issue of The Public Historian

A new issue of The Public Historian will be appearing in libraries and subscribers’ mailboxes soon.  Below is an advance look at the Table of Contents:

The Public Historian
A Journal of Public History
Volume 35    February 2013     Number 4

Editor’s Corner
The Past Enhanced, Endowed, Engaged
Randolph Bergstrom

Roundtable
Imagining the Digital Future of The Public Historian
William Bryans, Albert Camarillo, Swati Chattopadhyay, Jon Christensen, Sharon Leon, and Cathy Stanton

Public History and Public Humanities: State Humanities Councils
Public Works: NEH, Congress, and the State Humanities Councils
Jamil Zainaldin
Making the Humanities Public:  The Example of Connecticut’s Humanities Council
Briann Greenfield

Digital History at Historic Sites
#VirtualTourist: Embracing Our Audience through Public History Web Experience
Anne Lindsay

Crossing Borders: Conversations on the War of 1812 Bicentennial Online and in Print
Now You See It, Now You Don’t: The War Of 1812 In Canada And The United States In 2012
Karim M. Tiro

Special Reviews Section: War of 1812
1812: War and the Passions of Patriotism by Nicole Eustace
Reviewed by Christine Arato

The Star-Spangled Banner Weekend, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
Reviewed by Alice D. Donahue

(Look for new online pieces about the War of 1812 bicentennial appearing here in History@Work concurrently with the arrival of the journal.)

Book Reviews

Born in the U.S.A.: Birth, Commemoration, and American Public Memory edited by Seth Bruggeman
Reviewed by Michael Kammen

Preserving Local Writers, Genealogy, Photographs, Newspapers, and Related Materials edited by Carol Smallwood and Elaine Williams
Reviewed by John A. Fleckner

Reshaping Our National Parks and Their Guardians: The Legacy of George B. Hartzog Jr. by Kathy Mengak
Reviewed by Laura R. Kolar

Mark Twain’s Homes and Literary Tourism by Hilary Iris Lowe
Reviewed by Kathleen Corbett

Tourism and Archaeological Heritage Management at Petra: Driver to Development or Destruction? by Douglas C. Comer
Reviewed by Barbara J. Little

Reconstructing Beirut: Memory and Space in a Postwar Arab City by Aseel Sawalha
Reviewed by Michael Gasper

Saving Wright: The Freeman House and the Preservation of Meaning, Materials, and Modernity by Jeffrey M. Chusid
Reviewed by James A. Jacobs

How to Write a Historic Structure Report, by David Arbogast
Reviewed by Christopher McMorris

Museum and Exhibit Reviews

Wyandotte County, Kansas, Museum Crawl
Reviewed by Seth Bate

Flint Hills Discovery Center, Manhattan, Kansas
Reviewed by Jay M. Price

NCPH News and Conference Updates Feb. 13, 2013

NEWS

New Editors Join The Public Historian. The editorial team of The Public Historian (TPH) will grow this spring to include a co-editor and two international consulting editors. NCPH and the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) have signed an agreement with Rutgers University-Camden, which is creating a new staff position for a Public Historian in Residence whose primary responsibility will be to serve as TPH co-editor. At the same time, NCPH and UCSB are pleased to welcome Manon Perry and Paul Knevel as international consulting editors for the journal. Members can learn more about this expansion in the March issue of Public History News.

We Have a Video Contest! Make a 1-2 minute video introducing yourself and your public history audience(s), and enter it to win. We want to hear/see what you think about the conference theme, “Knowing Your Public(s)….” Post your video to Youtube and email us the link by March 11, and we’ll add your submissions to the contest playlist. Voting for the “People’s Choice” winner will be conducted March 16-29. Winning videos will be announced onsite in Ottawa!

CFP for The Public Historian. TPH invites proposals for articles in a special issue that examines the historian as expert witness.

NCPH CONFERENCE UPDATES

Have Ideas for a Fine Dine Around? We’re looking for volunteers to suggest topics for ‘Dine Arounds’ on Thurs., 4/18, in Ottawa. Facilitators pick a focus for the dinner conversation, make reservations at a nearby restaurant (see p. 6 in Program), and agree to lead their group to dinner. Sample topics are here. Propose a topic to ncph@iupui.edu by March 11.

Follow Working Groups Discussions As They Develop. Case statements are coming in for our 2013 Working Groups—visit our website for more. Two groups are using public blog platforms to start their discussions: Public Historians and the Local Food Movement are holding their discussions here . Best Practices for Establishing a Public History Program is using the History@Work blog to hold their pre-meeting discussions.

Hotel Rooms for Ottawa Conference. Waiting to make your hotel reservation? Don’t delay! The NCPH room block is filling up fast at the Delta—we have a limited number of rooms at the discounted rate of $159/night CDN left for Thursday-Saturday nights. If your stay will be longer, there are a few rooms at a rate of $185 and $205/night CDN. We are working on getting rooms at a nearby hotel, so stay tuned for more information.

It’s Easy to Add Tours and Events to Your Ottawa Registration. Already registered for the conference but forgot to add your reception attendance or want to add a workshop or tour or meal? Don’t worry, simply visit the NCPH Online Store and select the events you wish to add from the list of products. (Please do not fill out another registration form.) If you haven’t registered yet, the early bird rates are available through March 11, 2013, register today and save.

Speaking of the survey (Part 6): Models for a 21st century public history journal

people looking at documentThis is the sixth and final in a series of posts about the findings of our summer 2012 survey on the current state and possible future directions of The Public Historian journal and other NCPH media.

from Anne Mitchell Whisnant, NCPH Journal Task Force:

As a member of the NCPH task force considering the future of The Public Historian, I, like several of my colleagues, have been mining the data from last summer’s survey about the journal.  I focused on questions that asked about the “most or least compelling, interesting, or useful” aspects of other publications respondents identified as “exciting models” for NCPH.

“Hmm,” one respondent mused, “I usually don’t put ‘journal’ and ‘exciting’ in the same sentence.”  Nevertheless, 229 survey respondents identified over 100 different publications that might be worth a look.  Only eight publications, however, (discussed below) garnered four or more mentions.  Meanwhile, nearly 100 respondents either named no models or seemed satisfied with the status quo. Continue reading

Speaking of the survey (Part 5): The NCPH journal and digital publishing

people looking at documentThis is the fifth in a series of posts about the findings of our summer 2012 survey on the current state and possible future directions of The Public Historian journal and other NCPH media.

from Cathy Stanton, NCPH Digital Media Group:

I looked at the question “In what ways would you like to see the possibilities of digital history and digital publishing transform the NCPH journal?” Predictably, the 187 responses to this question covered a wide range from strongly positive to strongly negative. I didn’t do a detailed analysis of the demographic breakdown between the strongly-pro-digital-only people (“Everything online would be great. No paper.”) to the strongly-pro-status-quo people (“I think digital history/digital publishing is overblown and trendy. Stick with print–it works!”) because they were about equally balanced and I think we already have a sense that broadly speaking, this reflects a generational difference in perceptions of digital materials and media. Continue reading

Speaking of the survey (Part 4): Perceived weaknesses of The Public Historian

This is the fourth in a series of posts about the findings of our summer 2012 survey on the current state and possible future directions of The Public Historian journal and other NCPH media.

from Linda Shopes, member, NCPH journal advisory group:

As a member of NCPH’s task force considering the future of The Public Historian and its relationship to other NCPH media, I reviewed responses to question #4 of the Council’s recent Public History Readers Survey: What do you think are the weaknesses of The Public Historian? 211 people answered the question; their responses fall into several broad categories, summarized here.

Many respondents said the design and format of the journal were “old fashioned,” “stodgy,” ‘boring,” and otherwise “dull, dull, dull.” Especially noted was the lack of visual interest, reflecting, I suspect, the greater visual capacity and appeal of digital materials.

Similarly, many respondents expressed concerns loosely grouped around what might be termed digital matters: a lack of open access; the long production time of a paper journal and hence lack of timeliness, especially for exhibit and book reviews (“slow pace of journal production somewhat out of synch with dynamic qualities of the field”); the infrequency of publication; the “lack of dynamic content.” Continue reading

Speaking of the survey (Part 3): Diversity and challenge in public history’s information landscape

people looking at pageThis is the third in a series of posts about the findings of our summer 2012 survey on the current state and possible future directions of The Public Historian journal and other NCPH media.

from Rob Townsend, Deputy Director, American Historical Association:

The Public History Readers Survey demonstrates the wide array of information sources that now dot the landscape of our professional lives, and the challenges that the National Council on Public History faces as it considers the future of its publishing program. Of the 626 respondents to the survey, 88% indicated they value at least one of NCPH’s print and electronic publishing venues, but they differed widely in their preferences. Continue reading

Speaking of the survey (Part 2): What role for the NCPH journal?

people looking through magnifying glassThis is the second in a series of posts about the findings of our summer 2012 survey on the current state and possible future directions of The Public Historian journal and other NCPH media.

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from Robert Weyeneth, National Council on Public History Board President:

A number of folks are busy analyzing the information gathered by the NCPH Readers Survey conducted this summer on the future of its journal. We got over 600 responses to all or some of the questions. I’ve had a chance to look at the responses to the question: “In the proliferating world of publishing venues today, is there a unique role or niche that the NCPH journal should play?” Among the 178 responses, I found that there is wide agreement that the NCPH journal should:

• be the journal of record for the field
• assess the state of the field
• present new and innovative work
• be a venue for public historians to communicate with each other
• be an umbrella journal (for an umbrella organization)
• serve public historians in the academy
• serve public history practitioners
• be a bridge between the academy and practice Continue reading

Speaking of the survey (Part 1): A look at who responded and how

people looking at documentEditor’s note:  This summer, the National Council on Public History asked public historians, including its own members but also other readers of its publications, to comment on the current state and possible future directions of The Public Historian journal and other NCPH media.  For some background on the reasons for the survey, read Bob Weyeneth’s recent post on the journal.  In order to open up the ongoing conversation and deliberations as widely as possible, History@Work will be publishing a series of reports drawn from the survey data.  First up, an overview of the survey, the respondents, and some next steps in the process.  We welcome any additional layers of response and analysis that blog readers may want to contribute!

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from John Dichtl, Executive Director, National Council on Public History:

When you ask people to be critical, especially historians, they’ll often oblige. And if you ask in the form of an anonymous online questionnaire, their feedback is likely to be—shall we say—especially honest.

The 627 respondents to NCPH’s 56-question Public History Readers Survey were precise about what they like and don’t like in The Public Historian, the NCPH newsletter, this blog, and other publications.  While many comments head in different, sometimes contradictory directions, the overall tone was one of eagerness to discuss change. Continue reading