National Park Service history webinars: A short survey

This exhibit from the Chancellorsville Visitor Center at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park imagines how historical documentation can inform interpretation of the Civil War. Photo credit: Joan M. Zenzen

The Organization of American Historians Committee on National Park Service Collaboration is hosting a short survey to determine interest in developing a series of webinars. These webinars would address a perceived need for information about NPS and its history with respect to such topics as contracting, job pursuits, and research and writing. Based upon the responses, the OAH Committee will work with qualified individuals within NPS and others from academic and/or public spheres to offer one or more relevant webinars. Continue reading

Ask a Public Historian Q&A: Nicole Belle DeRise

Interior of workbook.|Courtesy: Nicole Belle DeRise

Photo credit: Nicole Belle DeRise

This is the second in a new series “Ask a Public Historian,” brought to you by the National Council for Public History New Professional and Graduate Student Committee.

Nicole Belle DeRise is a Historian with the Wells Fargo Family & Business History Center. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, she was the Program Manager of Brooklyn Connections, an educational outreach program at the Brooklyn Public Library. Nicole has an MA in Public History from New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Science and a BA in History and Italian from University of Massachusetts Amherst. She lives in Queens, NY.

What was your career trajectory?

After I graduated with an MA in Public History, I got my “dream job” at a great museum. Unfortunately, within two months, the museum was shut down due to funding, and I was laid off. Continue reading

History Communicators: The next step

Illustration by visual note-taker Amanda Lyons, who will be one of the participants in the March 2015 History Communicators meeting at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Illustration by visual note-taker Amanda Lyons, who will be one of the participants in the March 2015 History Communicators summit at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  Used with permission.

In January 2015, I introduced the idea of History Communicators on this blog. “History Communicators, like Science Communicators,” I wrote then, “will advocate for policy decisions informed by historical research; step beyond the walls of universities and institutions and participate in public debates; author opinion pieces; engage in conversation with policymakers and the public; and work diligently to communicate history in a populist tone that has mass appeal across print, video, and audio. Most important, History Communicators will stand up for history against simplification, misinformation, or attack and explain basic historical concepts that we in the profession take for granted.”

But what might it actually mean to be a History Communicator in the twenty-first century? What are the core issues at the heart of communicating history in this new information age? This is what we’ll be asking at the first-ever summit on History Communication, March 4-5 at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Continue reading

Public history and the campus anti-racism protests

"Created Equal" dialogue program, Cooperstown Graduate Program (SUNY Oneonta, May 2015. Photo credit: Cooperstown Graduate Program.

“Created Equal” dialogue program, Cooperstown Graduate Program (SUNY Oneonta), May 2015. Photo credit: Cooperstown Graduate Program

As I’ve read obsessively the news of campus protests these past few weeks and shared support for protesters both publicly on social media and privately in email conversations with college administrators, I’ve been challenged to think deeply about my position as both a public historian and a faculty member at a state university. In my career, I’ve spent a lot of time teaching, researching, writing, and facilitating dialogue on issues of race and racism. Several of my courses explore the ways in which museums are (or should be) addressing these issues, past and present. Right now, however, perhaps the most direct way I am engaging with the current protests is in my role as the chair of my college’s President’s Council on Diversity (PCOD). In this advisory capacity, I have offered suggestions and participated in sensitive discussions on how to respond to bias acts and transform our campus into a more inclusive place. Continue reading

Project Showcase: Building Histories of the National Mall

mallhistory-guideEver wondered how a digital project came to be?

The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) shares how they built their NCPH-award winning project in a new free digital publication, Building Histories of the National Mall: A Guide to Creating a Digital Public History Project.

For institutions eager to begin developing their own version of Histories using Omeka, the technical specifications and code are available for download now. For organizations embarking on a new digital public history project, Building Histories of the National Mall offers an open source and replicable example for history and cultural heritage professionals wanting a cost-effective solution for developing and delivering mobile content.

Co-authored by the team that developed Histories of the National Mall, this guide is divided into seven main sections, including the project’s rationale; content development and interpretative approach; user experience and design; and outreach and publicity, including the social media strategy. This publication shares the project team’s decision to build for the mobile web and not a single-use, platform-specific native app. The guide also offers lessons learned and challenges faced throughout the project’s development, as well as how the team measured success for this digital public history project.

Building Histories of the National Mall and the website were funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Ask a Public Historian Q&A: Anne Mitchell Whisnant

This is the first in a new series “Ask a Public Historian,” brought to you by the NCPH New Professional and Graduate Student Committee.

Anne Mitchell Whisnant, PhD, is Deputy Secretary of the Faculty and Adjunct Associate Professor of History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is also Consulting Historian, Primary Source History Services, and the author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History (UNC Press, 2006).

Anne Mitchell Whisnant.  Photo credit: Evan Whisnant

Anne Mitchell Whisnant Photo credit: Evan Whisnant

Why did you choose to enter your field?

I have two fields–“alt-ac” university administration (where I make the majority of my living) and public history consulting and teaching.

I started graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1989 to become a college professor. By 1997, I had my degree and a husband who was a full professor of English at Chapel Hill. Doing a national assistant professor job search was not an option, and I spent five years raising our two sons. Only after my husband David retired and the stock market tanked (in that unfortunate order) did I start trying to figure how to forge some “other” kind of career/employment path with my history PhD. In 2002, I attended a joint OAH-NCPH (Organization of American Historians and National Council on Public History) meeting featuring many public-history-related sessions about “what you can do with a History PhD.” I was introduced both to the wide world of “public history” and the radical idea that history training could be useful beyond professor positions. The insight about transferable skills led directly to my first “alt-ac” job, and I’ve remained in that realm. Continue reading

Defining success: Seeking clarity or accepting uncertainty?

A 50-foot (15 m) tape measure produced by the Lufkin Rule Co. in Saginaw, Michigan at some point after 1929 (patent 1,713,807).

How should public history graduate programs measure success? Photo credit: Wikipedia Lufkin tape measure

What constitutes success for a public history graduate program?  A strong placement record?  Student mastery of a set of professional skills?  Or perhaps cultivation of our discipline’s habits of mind?

One might say, “It depends”–on whom you ask, when you ask them, and why you want to know.  But does that ambiguity compromise our ability as program directors to represent our programs accurately and effectively to the students we serve and the administrators who oversee us?  In defining success, should we pursue clarity or get comfortable with uncertainty?

Continue reading

Do you hire public historians?

three people at table

Participants at the “speed networking” session at the 2016 National Council on Public History Annual Meeting. Photo credit: National Council on Public History

Do you have a role in hiring public historians? Do you review applications and weigh in on hiring decisions? Or do you make those decisions yourself? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, we need you to take the public history employer survey. The joint task force on public history employment and education has developed the survey as part of its efforts to understand the current state of the public history job market. Although job opportunities have improved from their low point in 2008-2010, questions remain about the overall health of the field. To better understand employers’ expectations and needs, the task force seeks information about what employers look for in hiring historians at all levels. The results will be used to identify emerging areas of activity, align training with employers’ expectations, and provide professional organizations with information needed for advocacy, constituent support, and formulating policy. Continue reading

“Why this topic?”: Inspiration and growth through writing history

 The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.  Photo credit: Flickr user trini_map

The Schomburg Center at the New York Public Library. Photo credit: trini_map

As I scrolled through my list of unread emails a couple weeks ago, I paused on a subject line that was at once nostalgic and saddening: “A Celebration of the Life of Dr. Vivian O. Windley.” Dr. Windley was a well-respected educator and highly regarded volunteer at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Although we did not know each other personally, some brief remarks that she and another volunteer made to me in 2009 regarding a request for oral history interviews have profoundly influenced my understanding and appreciation of writing history. Continue reading