National Council on Public History Putting History to Work in the World 2016-09-26T17:31:54Z http://ncph.org/feed/atom/ WordPress editors <![CDATA[Project Showcase: Hear, Here]]> http://ncph.org/?p=18973 2016-09-24T00:40:54Z 2016-09-26T12:30:55Z hear-here-image

“Hear, Here” volunteer Jennifer DeRocher dials one of the toll-free numbers in downtown La Crosse. Photo Credit: University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Hear, Here: Voices of Downtown La Crosse is an audio-documentary project that allows people to hear stories from the past in the exact location where they occurred. Read More

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“Hear, Here” volunteer Jennifer DeRocher dials one of the toll-free numbers in downtown La Crosse. Photo Credit: University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

Hear, Here: Voices of Downtown La Crosse is an audio-documentary project that allows people to hear stories from the past in the exact location where they occurred. The project, which debuted in 2015, trades the traditional historical plaque for mobile phone technology. And it shifts the historical spotlight from famous individuals and events to the experiences of ordinary residents and anonymous spaces in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Hear, Here is the product of a collaboration between local residents, the major in Public and Policy History at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of History, and several state and local arts and community organizations. The project emulates the bottom-up tradition of oral history. But whereas those oral accounts often languish on dusty archive shelves, Hear, Here embeds them in the urban grid through a series of street-level signs that display toll-free telephone numbers.

Each sign provides a portal to a different story from La Crosse’s past, with special attention to people traditionally underrepresented in historical narratives. Hear, Here highlights stories from La Crosse’s homeless, LGBTQ, disabled, African American, Ho Chunk, and immigrant communities. By dialing the numbers you can engage with people’s personal stories–in their own voices. The narratives will hopefully generate public conversations about how various people have experienced the streets of La Crosse differently depending on their level of privilege and access to resources.

Hear, Here differs from other space-based projects that use QR codes and other forms of smart technology. The toll-free numbers allow anyone, including homeless people who participated in the project, to listen to the stories at no extra charge.  In this way the method, as well as the content, of accessing the stories is democratic and inclusive. The user-generated nature of the project is also unique. After listening to a story people can remain on the line and record their own stories about that space or another space in the downtown. If the story fits the objectives of Hear, Here, it is re-recorded and added to the project. As far as we know, this is the only toll-free-number-accessible, space-based, oral history project actively collecting stories in North America.

With thirty-seven signs up so far, and twenty-three more in the works, Hear, Here will continue to evolve over its planned five-year life span as community stakeholders collaborate to interpret their own history.

Hear, Here is the 2016 Wisconsin state winner of the American Association for State and Local History Award for Leadership in History. Follow the project on Facebook.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Sept. 20, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=20868 2016-09-21T00:51:38Z 2016-09-21T00:51:03Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Conferences on history education, Southern U.S. labor history, collecting and displaying New World objects; workshops and webinars on interpreting difficult histories, historic district preservation, museum origins; new museum journal at University of Illinois

CONFERENCES and CALLS

  • Histories Seen and Unseen,” National Council for History Education (NCHE) conference – March 30-April 1, 2017, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
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newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Conferences on history education, Southern U.S. labor history, collecting and displaying New World objects; workshops and webinars on interpreting difficult histories, historic district preservation, museum origins; new museum journal at University of Illinois

CONFERENCES and CALLS

FUNDING and AWARDS

  • Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) now accepting applications for four museum grant programs (DEADLINE: Dec. 1, 2016)

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS and REVIEWS

To submit an item to this weekly listing, email us at historyatwork@ncph.org. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

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Jonathan Schaffer <![CDATA[Recognition of the Jewish past in Western Ukraine: Changing for the better]]> http://ncph.org/?p=20624 2016-09-15T14:12:43Z 2016-09-15T12:30:32Z Barn built on stones scavenged from a Jewish cemetery in Ukraine. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

Barn built on stones scavenged from a Jewish cemetery in Ukraine. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

I recently returned from a visit to the former Jewish shtetls of my ancestors now located in present-day Ukraine. This was my second trip in less than a decade, but it felt very different from my initial experience in 2010. Read More

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Barn built on stones scavenged from a Jewish cemetery in Ukraine. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

Barn built on stones scavenged from a Jewish cemetery in Ukraine. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

I recently returned from a visit to the former Jewish shtetls of my ancestors now located in present-day Ukraine. This was my second trip in less than a decade, but it felt very different from my initial experience in 2010. When I first visited, I was overwhelmed by the emotional impact of seeing firsthand once flourishing communities relegated to historical oblivion. This time, I was encouraged by the tangible progress I observed in acknowledging the Jewish past, as well as anecdotal evidence of a greater willingness to recognize Ukrainian collaboration in genocide during World War II. Still, it’s hard not to experience some ambivalence as to what represents “enough” in terms of remembering the legacy of millions of murdered innocents, especially since so little has been done to recognize this history in independent Ukraine.

On my first trip in 2010, I visited rural villages with connections to my family’s history and toured the city of Lviv. There, I ventured to the overgrown, garbage-strewn lot that, prior to their destruction in the Holocaust, had been home to the sixteenth-century Golden Rose Synagogue and adjoining Beth Hamidrash. As I carefully navigated my way, the site struck me as a depressing metaphor for the devastation and calculated neglect of a Jewish history that did not fit within a streamlined, Ukrainian nationalist narrative.

Jewish cemetery at Kolomiya. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

Jewish cemetery at Kolomyja. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

On my return this past June, my 70-year old mother accompanied me, bringing her trademark unsentimental perspective. We stopped first at the remaining Jewish cemetery of Kolomyja, which was also the site of mass shootings during World War II. In 2010, there was a lone marker to a nineteenth-century Hasidic rabbi. This time, prominent signage and a display of unearthed headstones rendered as a memorial wall declared the site’s existence as a Jewish cemetery. Hundreds of headstones from other former cemeteries in the area had been repatriated and were stacked neatly in a corner.

I was pleased to see that the cemetery was being partially restored and acknowledged for what it was. Granted, the guard who inquired as to our interest informed us that someone had torched a surviving ohel only months before, and local maps still listed the cemetery as a “park.” The excavation work appeared to be funded by outside Jewish organizations. At the same time, it was noteworthy progress that surely would have required some level of local support.

Barn resting on pillars of headstones. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

Barn resting on pillars of headstones. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

Perspective came into play at every turn. In the town of Obertyn, a barn rested on pillars of headstones from the former Jewish cemetery. How disheartening it was to see the Hebrew letters on broken chunks of stone that littered the barn’s perimeter. As my mother noted, though, there was no longer a Jewish cemetery in Obertyn, and there weren’t any Jews living there or coming to visit (at least not regularly). The Ukrainian residents were simple, practical people, she reasoned. Why wouldn’t they put the discarded stones to use? That may be true, I thought, but there were several steps taken that reduced these stones to improvised building materials. We were told that the barn owner was receptive to donating the stones for use in a future memorial. Only time will tell whether this will be the case, but at least it’s now discussed as a possibility.

"Babushka" sharing stories. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

A babushka sharing stories. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

There were other positive developments along the way. The babushkas in the villages we visited shared, however guardedly, tales of Ukrainian collaboration during the war, as did one of the mayors who spoke compassionately of his town’s Jewish past. And when we visited the former synagogue of Horodenka, which is now used as an athletic facility, the local kids lifting weights in the women’s balcony politely replied to our query and stated that they were well aware of the building’s original purpose.

Remains of the Golden Rose synagogue, 2016. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

Remains of the Golden Rose synagogue, 2016. Photo credit: Jonathan Schaffer

Before departing Ukraine, we visited the ruins of the Golden Rose Synagogue in Lviv. I was delighted to see that work was well underway on a memorial plaza to commemorate the former Jewish community. This was the very site which had stood abandoned on my prior visit. The remaining synagogue walls and foundation were also being restored with the Hebrew letters of a mural now visible. Yes, a “Jewish” themed café where patrons negotiate the cost of the meal (charming, isn’t it?) still operated next door, exploiting its proximity to the sacred site, but it was uplifting to witness what had transpired since my prior visit. Here was real progress for all to behold.

Despite these outward signs of improvement, I wrestled throughout my recent trip with how best to reconcile the reality of today with what happened in these places only decades earlier. The two-story buildings of Kolomyja that surrounded us as we enjoyed a leisurely dinner also bore witness to unspeakable horror and cruelty to the town’s Jewish population, much of which was perpetrated and supported by their Ukrainian neighbors. I surely didn’t want to forget what had happened (I was there, after all, to remember), but I also didn’t want to confuse past with present. Perhaps I was never completely at ease with the dynamic, but I chose as best as I could to balance what I was experiencing in the here and now with honoring those who had lived and suffered along those same streets.

Like any place and any people, Ukraine and its citizens are complex and defy generalizations. Much more can be done to honor the rich history of these lands once inhabited by Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians. Denying this past won’t serve modern Ukraine, and more needs to be done to acknowledge former Ukrainian complicity and culpability. At the same time, nothing comes of viewing an entire country as a mass grave and dismissing its citizens as boorish anti-Semites and unworthy partners in building a better future. We must never forget what happened, and we must insist on recognition and respect; but we must do so in the spirit of healing the world, one former shtetl at a time. I was glad to see glimmers of hope on my recent trip that suggest both sentiment and action are moving in a promising direction.

~Jonathan Schaffer is married with two young boys. By profession, he is a managing director at a tech-oriented investor relations firm in NYC. He wishes he asked his grandparents more questions when they were alive.

Editor’s Note: I encountered Jonathan Schaffer’s website, http://www.returntogalicia.com/info while working on a new exhibit for the Museum of History and Holocaust Education. Although Schaffer does not think of himself as a public historian by profession, I appreciated his nuanced reflections on his observations during two trips to the Galicia region in Eastern Europe, now part of Ukraine. I invited him to write an essay about his personal experience and the challenges of negotiating history and memory in a place with a marked lack of continuity with the past of its former Jewish minority. Public historians should consider his reflections as they plan projects to commemorate forgotten histories in communities around the world.

~ Adina Langer

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Sept. 13, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=20734 2016-09-14T01:29:58Z 2016-09-14T01:29:07Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Nature, race, and diversity in US National Park Service; storytelling in archives and museums; the color of money in the Cotton Kingdom; approaches to perpetrator studies in the Netherlands; new journal issues and book on postindustrial casino capitalism

CONFERENCES and CALLS

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newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Nature, race, and diversity in US National Park Service; storytelling in archives and museums; the color of money in the Cotton Kingdom; approaches to perpetrator studies in the Netherlands; new journal issues and book on postindustrial casino capitalism

CONFERENCES and CALLS

FUNDING and AWARDS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS and REVIEWS

To submit an item to this weekly listing, email us at historyatwork@ncph.org. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

 

 

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Joseph Locke and Ben Wright <![CDATA[Mass collaboration and historical synthesis in “The American Yawp”]]> http://ncph.org/?p=20511 2016-09-07T23:40:59Z 2016-09-08T12:30:41Z American Yawp home page. Screenshot courtesy Joseph Locke

“The American Yawp” home page. Screenshot courtesy Joseph Locke

The American Yawp, the profession’s first multi-authored open textbook, contains thirty chapters and almost 300,000 words. It covers everything from indigenous creation stories to Instagram. How, with historical input accelerating and the scope of scholarship expanding, could any individual or small group of historians hope to capture the breadth of American history and to do so as expansively as a textbook demands? Read More

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American Yawp home page. Screenshot courtesy Joseph Locke

“The American Yawp” home page. Screenshot courtesy Joseph Locke

The American Yawp, the profession’s first multi-authored open textbook, contains thirty chapters and almost 300,000 words. It covers everything from indigenous creation stories to Instagram. How, with historical input accelerating and the scope of scholarship expanding, could any individual or small group of historians hope to capture the breadth of American history and to do so as expansively as a textbook demands? They can’t. But with this project, over three hundred historians have tried.

It’s difficult–particularly for academics–to write synthetically. We are trained to nurture complexity and readily sacrifice accessibility to do so. How, then, could we respect the winding paths of the profession’s many sub disciplines while still crafting a coherent narrative?

Feedback screen for the American Yawmp. Screenshot courtesy Joseph Locke

Feedback screen for “The American Yawp.” Screenshot courtesy Joseph Locke

We believed that a narrative synthesis could emerge from the many innovations of our profession’s various subfields. We found that individual contributions would not only track with the broad range of research being done in American history, but that something unitary could emerge amid the tumult, something coarse yet cohesive–what we called “The American Yawp.”

Over a decade ago, in the pages of the Journal of American History, pioneering digital historian Roy Rosenzweig pondered the democratic triumph of Wikipedia. Rosenzweig encouraged academics to not only improve the site’s quality directly, but also to produce scholarly alternatives of our own.[1] Rosenzweig knew that emerging technologies could liberate knowledge beyond the bounds of our monographs and our conferences, but he also knew that knowledge needed gatekeepers and academics were uniquely positioned to do what wide open platforms such as Wikipedia never could. Hundreds of contributors shared their knowledge for the The American Yawp, and its editorial team wove their contributions together into a cohesive whole. But rather than closing the conversation, or relying upon a handful of reviewers to spot-check content, we opened the project up to review. Inspired by Jack Dougherty and Kristen Nawrotzki’s Writing History in the Digital Age, we released a separate platform (using CommentPress) to facilitate paragraph-by-paragraph discussion of our material. Reopening the text to the profession’s font of knowledge has, we hope, begun an endless back and forth between on-the-ground research breakthroughs and synthetic historical writing.

Historians are publishing more than ever before and the field of American history is broader than ever. Journals and specialized historical societies have proliferated. Historians published 10,000 books in 2003 alone.[2] It would take a scholar more than a lifetime to read what the profession produces in a single month. As the field broadens and output grows, subfields narrow and public accessibility declines.

In a profession in which “to complicate” is complimentary and “to simplify” is pejorative, historians are trained to specialize on particular topics. This training exposes us to frequent public criticism for getting lost in minutiae. Every few months brings a new plea to think bigger and broader.[3] Meanwhile, teachers, too, are increasingly encouraged to forego the broad sweep for the deep dive by embracing an “uncoverage” model of teaching. How, then, can scholars expect to command the breadth of knowledge needed to synthesize four-hundred years–or, perhaps, over ten-thousand–into a cohesive narrative?

Civil War chapter from the American Yawp. Screenshot courtesy JJoseph Locke

Civil War chapter from “The American Yawp.” Screenshot courtesy Joseph Locke

Mass collaboration can mirror contemporary historiographical debates and track the questions and answers emphasized by our profession. To tell the history of the Civil War, for instance, we could have digested the accumulated knowledge of two writers who have only lightly interacted with parts of its vast historiography. Instead, we turned to those who have devoted their professional careers to teasing out the details. We turned to Angela Esco Elder, who studies Civil War widowhood, and Thomas Balcerski, who studies the political history of the sectional crisis. Ann Tucker offered her knowledge of Confederate nationalism and Andrew Lang shared his exploration of black soldiers in the war. These contributors, and the eight others who worked on the chapter, distilled a world’s worth of knowledge. Each sentence represented the accumulation of knowledge compiled from an entire subfield.

New technologies have liberated the production of scholarship. The Internet has torn down barriers to shared production and professional networking. Historians across the world can share links and communicate–if only 140 characters at a time–without institutions or organizations. A dozen historians can work on a single document in real time. The world of post offices and carbon copies and professional directories has long since given way to Google Docs and Twitter and WordPress. In 2011, American Historical Association president Anthony Grafton urged historians to reject the idea of the solitary scholar. Arguing against Wilhelm von Humboldt’s idealization of “loneliness and freedom” as the hallmarks of academic life, Grafton wrote “that there is much to be gained by recognizing, and promoting, collaboration. . . and, with it, the elements of joy and creative fantasy that can too easily be lost as we go about our traditionally lonely craft.”[4]

Mass multi-authorship is not only a practical way to complete a textbook, it’s a more honest reflection of how our field already works. Whereas a senior scholar might reflect decades of reading and research, mass collaboration, by pooling the collective expertise of our profession, can produce an instantaneous, up-to-date snapshot of the entire field. Even the finest scholar can spend a lifetime in academia and only skim the surface of certain topics. American history is simply too big and too broad for any one individual, or even a small team, to master. Simply put, we need one another.

Digital spaces tantalize public historians with widely accessible platforms unbound by the constraints of physical space, but a world of endless possibility offers new challenges. Curation has always been a central mission of public history, but the liberating promise of unlimited knowledge demands new and creative strategies. To make meaning out of an information glut, historians must therefore rely upon one another to prioritize content. The production of The American Yawp taught us that scholars and historians are eager to volunteer their time and to share their knowledge with public audiences. If controlled crowd-sourcing can build a textbook, creative experiments in project management can certainly be used to shape museum exhibits, historical sites, and other emerging forms of public history. The historical profession has no better tool than the collective expertise of its many members.

And so, as historians struggle to reach public audiences, they need not sacrifice complexity and variety for cohesion and simplicity. The collective energy of our profession is ready to craft synthetic narratives. It only needs historians to harness it.

~Joseph Locke is an assistant professor of history at the University of Houston-Victoria. His first book, Making the Bible Belt: Texas Prohibitionists and the Politicization of Southern Religion, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. His work has previously appeared in the Southwestern Historical Quarterly and the Georgia Historical Quarterly. He also co-edits The American Yawp.
~Ben Wright is an assistant professor of history at the University of Texas at Dallas. His book manuscript, “Antislavery and American Salvation” is under advance contract with LSU Press. He is also the coeditor of Apocalypse and the Millennium in the American Civil War Era and The American Yawp. Ben also manages Teaching United States History (teachingushistory.co), an online forum exploring pedagogy in American history classes.

[1] Roy Rosenzweig, “Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past,” The Journal of American History 93 (June, 2006): 117-46.

[2] Robert B. Townsend, “Slight Decline in History Book Publishing, but Still Near Record Highs,” Perspectives on History 43 (December 2005).

[3] Among the most recent and notable is Jo Guldi and David Armitage’s The History Manifesto (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

[4] Anthony Grafton, “Loneliness and Freedom,” Perspectives on History 49 (March 2011).

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Sept. 6, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=20585 2016-09-07T00:40:46Z 2016-09-07T00:39:58Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week:  Canadian historians ponder sesquicentennial; practitioners reinvent historic house museums; iconic British heritage site focuses on bridging; and awards for US federal history exhibits and applied anthropology students CONFERENCES and CALLS

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newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week:  Canadian historians ponder sesquicentennial; practitioners reinvent historic house museums; iconic British heritage site focuses on bridging; and awards for US federal history exhibits and applied anthropology students CONFERENCES and CALLS

FUNDING and AWARDS

  • John Wesley Powell Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government for historic exhibit or display projects completed in 2015 or 2016 within or on behalf of US government (DEADLINE: Nov. 30, 2016)
  • Peter K. New Student Research Competition/Award from Society for Applied Anthropology for graduate and undergraduate students in the social and behavioral sciences (DEADLINE: Dec. 31, 2016)

To submit an item to this weekly listing, email us at historyatwork@ncph.org. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Aug. 31, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=20452 2016-08-31T13:12:59Z 2016-08-31T13:10:43Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Conferences on migration in Argentina, automotive heritage in Pennsylvania, radical libraries and archives in London; award for history in U.S. National Park Service; new online program in historic preservation; reviews of recent books on maritime commemoration, postwar Japanese memory, sex museumsCONFERENCES and CALLS

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newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Conferences on migration in Argentina, automotive heritage in Pennsylvania, radical libraries and archives in London; award for history in U.S. National Park Service; new online program in historic preservation; reviews of recent books on maritime commemoration, postwar Japanese memory, sex museumsCONFERENCES and CALLS

FUNDING and AWARDS

  • Stanton-Horton Award from Organization of American Historians for Excellence in National Park Service History (DEADLINE: Dec. 1, 2016)

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this weekly listing, email us at historyatwork@ncph.org. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

 

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editors <![CDATA[Asking a consulting historian: Morgen Young]]> http://ncph.org/?p=20352 2016-08-29T22:15:08Z 2016-08-30T12:30:08Z Morgen Young. Photo credit: Courtesy of Aya Fujii.

Morgen Young. Photo credit: Courtesy of Aya Fujii.

Morgen Young is a project historian with Historical Research Associates, Inc. (HRA). She recently joined the firm’s Portland, Oregon office, after running her own consulting business for seven years. Her work focuses on exhibit development, oral history, digital history, and historic preservation. Read More

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Morgen Young. Photo credit: Courtesy of Aya Fujii.

Morgen Young. Photo credit: Courtesy of Aya Fujii.

Morgen Young is a project historian with Historical Research Associates, Inc. (HRA). She recently joined the firm’s Portland, Oregon office, after running her own consulting business for seven years. Her work focuses on exhibit development, oral history, digital history, and historic preservation. She currently serves as the co-chair of NCPH’s Consultants Committee and manages the committee’s Twitter account, @NCPHConsultants.

How did you first become involved in historical consulting?

I started my consulting career almost immediately after graduate school. I received my MA in Public History from the University of South Carolina in May 2009. That month, my husband and I drove across the country to move to Portland, Oregon. My rationale was that since the country was in the middle of a recession, it would be difficult to find work anywhere, so we might as well live in a cool city. As it turned out, it was practically impossible to get a volunteer position, let alone a paid job, at any of the public history organizations in Portland. I reached out to a former employer in Anchorage, Alaska, and they brought me on board as a consultant. With little knowledge about what exactly I was doing, I registered a limited liability corporation that fall and started building my business. Initially, I took on every project that came my way, volunteered for several local nonprofits, got myself listed on some resource and business directories, and built up my digital presence until I couldn’t be ignored. After nearly two years, I became known well enough around town to maintain a steady stream of clients and projects.

What advice would you give to those interested in becoming consulting historians?

I often meet graduate students and new professionals at the NCPH annual meeting who are interested in historical consulting. My first piece of advice to them is to avoid doing what I did. I was only able to focus full time on consulting because we had two incomes in our household. Those first couple of years were challenging. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in consulting, I would first look for a job at a consulting firm, like HRA, Gray & Pape, or New South Associates. If you are determined to start your own business, then I recommend that you begin to build a client base slowly while working full or part time. This can mean working evenings and weekends–so you need a certain level of determination and a steady source of caffeine. Once you have a solid client base, you can then transition to working for yourself full time. I also recommend that you establish a strong online presence–a business website as well as social media accounts that you update regularly.

Do you specialize in a particular field of public history?

Much of my work centers on exhibits and historical displays. Often, a client, such as a hospital, university, or port authority, hires me to curate an exhibit. Sometimes these projects commemorate a big anniversary, sometimes they are topic specific. I will come on board as the curator and I am responsible for all the research and writing. Many of these exhibits involve project management, so I coordinate with the client, exhibit designer, fabricators, and installers, and if the show is to be displayed in a museum, the institution’s staff as well. Oral history is another focus of mine. I currently serve as the project manager of a university’s oral history program. I frequently incorporate oral history into the research phase of my projects. In the last few years, I have also increasingly focused on digital history, developing content for websites, curating digital exhibits, and directing short documentary films.

In 2015, Morgen co-curated an exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society that examined the global and statewide impacts of World War II. Image courtesy of Morgen Young.

In 2015, Morgen co-curated an exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society that examined the global and statewide impacts of World War II. Photo credit: Courtesy of Morgen Young.

 

How do you handle the business aspects of your consulting work?

Now that I work for HRA, someone else handles the administrative side of things. When I was working solely for myself, I managed all the accounting for my company, including billing clients and paying quarterly taxes. I had to learn all the business aspects, including contracts, insurance, and profit-and-loss statements, on my own. I hired a lawyer early on to prepare a standard contract for me to deliver to clients. And I have an accountant to help me during tax season.

In addition to museum exhibits, Morgen also curates historical displays for grocery stores, like this one for New Seasons Market in Portland, hospitals, and universities.

In addition to museum exhibits, Morgen also curates historical displays for hospitals, universities, and grocery stores, like this one for New Seasons Market in Portland. Photo credit: Courtesy of Morgen Young.

Do you collaborate with other professionals on projects?

I frequently collaborate with graphic designers on exhibit projects. I also work closely with video producers, both on oral history projects and documentary films. One of my favorite aspects of consulting work is the opportunity to both work with other public history professionals as well as those in creative fields like design and videography.

Describe a recent project you completed.

One project I’m particularly proud of is Uprooted: Japanese American Farm Labor Camps During World War II which is a traveling exhibit produced by the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission. I served as the project director. I was responsible for researching and writing the content, managing an oral history program, directing two documentary films, and overseeing all of the dedicated individuals involved in producing the show and its companion website. That project combined the aspects of public history, and in turn historical consulting, I’m most interested in: exhibit development, oral history, digital history, and community history. The exhibit, which documents a little-known aspect of the Japanese American wartime experience, has received a strong public response. It has been traveling throughout the Pacific Northwest and will make its California debut this fall at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.

What are the biggest rewards and the biggest challenges of historical consulting?

The biggest challenge for me is the feast or famine manner in which consulting happens. I prefer being as busy as I can, so I still haven’t learned how best to handle those quiet days, or sometimes weeks, in between projects. It can be terrifying, especially when you are working as a sole practitioner, to have a lull in work. But, you have to learn to appreciate your down time, because another project will come along.

The rewards are numerous. I had no idea when I started consulting full time in 2009 that it would become such a passion of mine. Through the NCPH Consultants Committee, I’ve been able to advocate for the historical consulting community. We often have different work scenarios and worries from other public historians–we have to determine our hourly fees, we have to market our services, and we have to balance doing historical work with running a business. Beyond the advocacy component, I love historical consulting because I get to constantly work on new projects. For many of the exhibits I’ve curated, I have had to become a quick expert on any number of subjects, and sometimes, those projects can lead you to becoming interested in a new field of public history. I was hired to develop an exhibit about diversity in the health sciences early in my consulting career. That project led to another, and suddenly, much of my work focused on the history of health sciences. I find it exhilarating to not always know which project is coming around the bend and how it might influence my career for the next several years.

~ This post is part of our “Ask a Consulting Historian” series, brought to you by the NCPH Consultants Committee. Follow the Consultants Committee on Twitter at @NCPHconsultants. You can find more “Ask a Practitioner” posts here.

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James Brooks <![CDATA[Practice, in place]]> http://ncph.org/?p=19759 2016-08-29T12:49:07Z 2016-08-29T12:47:09Z TPH_38_3_cropEditor’s note: We publish TPH editor James Brooks’s introduction to the August 2016 issue of The Public Historian. This digital version of the piece differs slightly from the print edition. The entire issue is available online to National Council on Public History members. Read More

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TPH_38_3_cropEditor’s note: We publish TPH editor James Brooks’s introduction to the August 2016 issue of The Public Historian. This digital version of the piece differs slightly from the print edition. The entire issue is available online to National Council on Public History members.

“Oh no. Not law school. Do something useful with your life.” These words, spoken by New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici to our immediate NCPH past-president Patrick K. Moore during a stint as a young legislative intern in Washington, DC, provide a point of entry into this issue of The Public Historian. Quoted in his presidential address in Baltimore this past March, “Places, Privilege, and Public History: A Journey of Acknowledging Contested Space,” the senator’s admonition underlies Moore’s engaging personal reflections on how a boy raised in the sealed-off world of the Los Alamos National Laboratory became an impassioned advocate of “doing” history at the local and community level. Honing his “practice in place” led to personal and professional awakenings that many of us in the public history sector have likewise experienced. “As I began to probe the deeper–and often uncomfortable–questions surrounding historic places and events,” he writes, “I often found myself asking ‘which story is right? Or more importantly, how would it be possible to allow very different perspectives to overlap?’”

Moore’s notion of “contested space” is grappled with by the full range of articles and reports from the field in our August issue. We are delighted that, at the request of our editorial office, past NCPH president Bob Weyeneth and Daniel J. Vivian worked together to author a pointed and insightful essay on the state of public history programs today, and the perils that lie ahead as dozens of colleges and universities leap toward public history as “the new black” in humanities education. We at UC Santa Barbara, the department that established the discipline in 1976, have grown increasingly uneasy with the proliferation of programs that seem–not always, but often–to be aimed as much at generating tuition revenue as developing new professionals for a field that, while dynamic, is hardly a solution to chronic underemployment in the academy and allied enterprises. Their essay offers professional insights from Weyeneth’s distinguished University of South Carolina public history program and Vivian’s experience in the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office, as well as his directorship of the public history program at the University of Louisville. Observing the NCPH’s own explosive growth over the last decade, “Charting a Course: Challenges in Public History Education, Guidance for Developing Strong Public History Programs” lays out three components for the future–the building blocks essential for a public history program, the motivations that inspired the NCPH to develop a comprehensive “best practices” document in recent years, and that report in its entirety under the authorship of Vivian and Jon Hunner of New Mexico State University. We agree with Weyeneth’s assessment that “the fundamental issue that underpins current concerns is quality: in programs old and new, big and small.” The very fact of the collaborative effort in this essay speaks to the professionalism and commitment of its authors.

In keeping with our “Practice” focus, we offer two Reports from the Field that likewise emphasize methods, professionalism, and the importance of place. Erin Conlin’s report on meaningfulness and manageability in community-based oral history projects cautions that enthusiasm alone cannot guarantee success. Drawing upon extensive experience with the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida, Conlin argues that this is especially the case in establishing the early phases of a project, where practices and parameters must be made clear to practitioners and narrators alike. Oral history solicitation and collection often involves students from relatively secure socioeconomic locations engaged with narrators whose experience embraces more precarious lives, and unless clear benefits to the community are evident, interviews and archives may be seen as much an exploitation as a contribution. Alliance in advance with community leaders, and guidance toward good listening, reflection, and thoughtful questioning are essential to success.

Conlin’s Florida-based project insights are followed by a far distant, and pathbreaking, exploration of public history training in China, co-authored by Na Li and Martha A. Sandweiss. Over nearly two weeks in July 2014, and involving sixteen participating Chinese faculty and a cohort of nineteen faculty, staff, and student visitors from Princeton University, discussion and debate rapidly moved from “best practices” to substantial tensions between the “esoteric” and isolating elitism of archive-based academic history and the “marketplace” qualities of public consumption of historical places and products. The essay includes a discussion of a joint visit to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, a wrenching experience for those unwilling to accept its “univocal and simplified” representation of the “evil Japanese.” Displays featuring the actual bones of the dead represented “forensic evidence” for the Chinese visitors, while they indicated “disrespect for the dead” to the Americans. If historic awareness and perspective are “transferable skills,” they are also “deeply local and historically specific.” As Sandweiss points out in her concluding thoughts, “public history [in the United States] is a messy process: loud, contested, and contentious.” Such open exchange and conflict is simply not possible in contemporary China, and so how then can the very essence of what we historians practice–the production of knowledge through rigorous interpretation–be demonstrated in the Chinese settings? “For many of the American seminar participants,” she writes, “the very meaning of public history in China seemed an uncertain thing.”

Clearly, we need always to attend to practice, in place, as we seek to strengthen our profession and extend it to histories that have yet to come under its embrace. We see Moore’s call brought to life in our special section, “Baltimore Reviews,” in which Kaitlin Holt, Lauren Safranek, Angela Sirna, Jodi Skipper, Robert Wolff, Françoise Bonnell, Michelle Antenesse, and Vanessa Camacho offer their thoughts on an array of historic sites, tours, and digital media that enriched our experience at the annual meeting. Thanks to each for crafting these “in real time” so that we could publish them herewith. Highlighting this special section is our cover, featuring an image from the Preserve The Baltimore Uprising 2015 Archive Project, a digital repository that seeks to preserve and make accessible original content that was captured and created by individual community members, grassroots organizations, and witnesses to the protests of last year (http://baltimoreuprising2015.org/home). We hope you’ll prosper as much from this entire issue as have we in bringing it to publication.

~ James Brooks is editor of The Public Historian and professor of history and anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Alexandra Lord <![CDATA[NCPH welcomes new executive director]]> http://ncph.org/?p=20298 2016-08-23T20:17:24Z 2016-08-23T14:47:04Z At the 2016 National Council on Public History meeting in Baltimore, then-Interim-Executive-Director Stephanie Rowe (left) joined Founders Award winners Arnita Jones and Phil Cantelon and former NCPH Executive Director John Dichtl (right). Photo credit: NCPH

At the 2016 NCPH annual meeting in Baltimore, then-interim-executive-director Stephanie Rowe (left) joined Founders Award winners Arnita Jones and Phil Cantelon and former NCPH executive director John Dichtl (right). Photo credit: NCPH

A year ago, on a hot, sweltering Indiana day, the search committee for the next executive director for the National Council on Public History met in person for the first time. Read More

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At the 2016 National Council on Public History meeting in Baltimore, then-Interim-Executive-Director Stephanie Rowe (left) joined Founders Award winners Arnita Jones and Phil Cantelon and former NCPH Executive Director John Dichtl (right). Photo credit: NCPH

At the 2016 NCPH annual meeting in Baltimore, then-interim-executive-director Stephanie Rowe (left) joined Founders Award winners Arnita Jones and Phil Cantelon and former NCPH executive director John Dichtl (right). Photo credit: NCPH

A year ago, on a hot, sweltering Indiana day, the search committee for the next executive director for the National Council on Public History met in person for the first time. The task we faced, led by chair Bill Bryans, seemed monumental: to not only find a new executive director who respects and understands the complex history of NCPH, but one who also recognizes that the organization is undergoing tremendous change and growth, and who will become a collaborative colleague within the history department at the Indiana University (IU) School of Liberal Arts at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), NCPH’s host university.

Given the scope of this task, it shouldn’t be surprising that it took us a year and a half to find a new executive director. The surprising thing is that we found a candidate who not only meets all of these expectations, but exceeds them: Stephanie Rowe.

I want to take a moment to thank the entire search committee for their hard work and to congratulate them on a job well done. The committee included: Bill Bryans, chair, Oklahoma State University; Marianne Babal, Wells Fargo; Raymond Haberski, IUPUI history department; Lisa Junkin Lopez, Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace; Kisha Tandy, Indiana State Museum; and myself. I also thank the history department faculty and IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI for their support of, and involvement in, the process, especially Thomas Davis, dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI; Didier Gondola, chair of history department; and Daniella Kostroun, acting chair of the history department. The NCPH board and search committee would also like to extend a huge thanks to the IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI and the history department at IUPUI for their support of NCPH throughout the search and appointment processes.

As the interim executive director for NCPH, Stephanie underwent what was, in many ways, a year-long interview process. Like all of the candidates, she gave a job talk, answered a detailed questionnaire about her vision for the organization, and interviewed with NCPH search committee members, as well as faculty and administrators at IUPUI. But Stephanie also repeatedly demonstrated her outstanding managerial skills and abilities throughout the past year, a period which saw the largest NCPH conference, as well as continued and fairly rapid growth in its membership, and a complete redesign of the organization’s website, blog, and print materials.

When she agreed to accept the position this summer, the search committee, board of directors, and our colleagues at IUPUI were thrilled. We believe NCPH members will share our enthusiasm as they learn more about Stephanie and her vision for NCPH.

Stephanie brings multiple strengths to this position, including the fact that she spent several years as a practicing public historian before coming to NCPH. A graduate of one of the nation’s premier and oldest history museum studies programs, she possesses strong academic credentials. And, of course, having worked for NCPH as its program manager and associate director for four years, she has an in-depth understanding of the organization, its mission, the challenges it faces, and, perhaps most importantly, its members.

In her previous position at Museumwise, now the Museum Association of New York (MANY), Stephanie worked primarily with small to mid-sized history museums, offering professional development, training, and other capacity-building opportunities. This experience has given her insight into both the work many NCPH members do on a daily basis, as well as the needs and challenges that face practitioners. While working at MANY, Stephanie had the opportunity to learn how a non-profit organization handles growth and change while working collaboratively with other similar organizations.

One of the most important relationships for NCPH is its connection to IUPUI. Having worked at NCPH for four years, Stephanie understands this relationship from not only an administrative angle but also from a personal perspective. When asked during her interview to discuss the direction NCPH needs, Stephanie articulated several critical ways in which NCPH and IUPUI can continue to build on their relationship, even as both institutions change and grow. The search committee was impressed not only by Stephanie’s vision for this relationship but also by her deep knowledge of the IUPUI faculty, administration, and programs (both old and new). This knowledge bodes well for the future longevity of this all-important relationship.

Stephanie Rowe and Susan Ferentinos, who served as Acting Director during Stephanie's recent maternity leave, at the 2016 NCPH conference in Baltimore. Photo: NCPH

Stephanie Rowe and Susan Ferentinos, who served as acting director during Stephanie’s recent maternity leave, at the 2016 NCPH conference in Baltimore. Photo: NCPH

Knowing NCPH, its members, and its mission through her previous work with the organization also meant that Stephanie was able to point to the very real challenges which face the organization overall. During her job talk, she discussed at some length the ways in which NCPH can play a central role in bridging the very real divisions which exist between public history practitioners who work in the academy and those who work outside the academy, how NCPH can develop and maintain greater financial stability (especially as its explosive growth has strained existing resources), how the organization can take a leading role in creating a more diverse field of historians (and a more diverse NCPH), and finally, how she can guide the organization in addressing widespread perceptions (and misperceptions!) about the value and relevance of history and public history in particular.

There are no easy answers to the challenges NCPH faces in the upcoming years. Acknowledging these issues–and beginning to foster a nuanced discussion in which all voices are heard–will require a steady and thoughtful leader, one who is willing to advocate for an innovative and new approach to these different challenges but one who also understands and can build on the organization’s past successes.

After a lengthy and thorough search, we are confident that Stephanie Rowe will be able to take up these challenges and to lead NCPH–and the history profession overall–in addressing these issues. We are also confident that as she leads the organization, she will be able to maintain the welcoming culture that has made NCPH a much-loved institution among both its old and new members.

And we hope, reflecting that culture, that you will join us in welcoming Stephanie as the next NCPH executive director.

~ Alexandra Lord is chair and curator of the Division of Medicine and Science at the National Museum of American History and president of the NCPH board of directors.

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