National Council on Public History Putting History to Work in the World 2017-09-21T17:09:31Z http://ncph.org/feed/atom/ WordPress Daniel Fisher <![CDATA[Project Showcase: Humanities for All]]> http://ncph.org/?p=28440 2017-09-15T23:02:25Z 2017-09-18T12:30:19Z In recent years, humanities practitioners at institutions of higher education have become increasingly engaged in public life. The National Humanities Alliance Foundation is currently leading a national study called “Humanities for All” to investigate and document this important work. Across the full range of humanities disciplines, these efforts have inspired curricular innovations, stimulated new areas of scholarship, and enriched community life. Read More

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In recent years, humanities practitioners at institutions of higher education have become increasingly engaged in public life. The National Humanities Alliance Foundation is currently leading a national study called “Humanities for All” to investigate and document this important work. Across the full range of humanities disciplines, these efforts have inspired curricular innovations, stimulated new areas of scholarship, and enriched community life. Public historians have played leading roles in this shift, theorizing and practicing the humanities at work.

The National Humanities Alliance Foundation advances the humanities by conducting and supporting research on the humanities and communicating the value of the humanities to a range of audiences including elected officials and the general public.

Along these lines, the Humanities for All national study surveys the range of ways that higher ed faculty, students, and administrators have connected with diverse communities through the humanities in the last decade. We are especially interested in initiatives that have involved collaboration with the wide range of organizations committed to public humanities—as public historians do every day in communities all around the country.

Our objective is to offer a cross section of the field, showcasing the breadth and impact of the publicly engaged humanities through a born-digital report featuring representative profiles and a series of synthetic essays assessing the state of the field. It is our hope that this systematic survey will serve at least two important purposes. First, it will support the efforts of historians and other humanists who are interested in embarking on or deepening their own publicly engaged work. Second, it will serve as a resource for advocates illustrating the relevance of the humanities in addressing society’s pressing concerns.

As we collect examples of publicly engaged humanities initiatives, we are asking for your assistance to ensure that we are able to represent public history’s critical role in advancing the field.

If you have been involved with or know of any projects that fit this description, we would be very grateful if you could please send the project title, a short description, and any auxiliary materials that might be helpful to Daniel Fisher, project director, by September 30th.

Learn more about the National Humanities Alliance on Twitter or Facebook.

This project has received generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

~ Daniel Fisher is a project director at the National Humanities Alliance Foundation and currently leads Humanities for All—A National Study of Public Engagement in the Humanities in Higher Education.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the Field September 13, 2017]]> http://ncph.org/?p=28410 2017-09-13T15:36:41Z 2017-09-13T15:32:42Z

From around the field this week: the 2017 Smithsonian Food History Weekend is coming up next month in Washington, DC; the Obama Foundation Fellowship Program seeks civic engagement innovators and good humans for their inaugural class; three Fitch Foundation fellowship applications for historic preservation and related fields are due October 25; applications for a ten-day Winter School in Oral History in Bangalore, India are due at the end of September; the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities has upcoming workshops on historic wood window restoration and seeking funding for history organizations; Oxford University Press is releasing The Oxford Handbook of Public History. Read More

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From around the field this week: the 2017 Smithsonian Food History Weekend is coming up next month in Washington, DC; the Obama Foundation Fellowship Program seeks civic engagement innovators and good humans for their inaugural class; three Fitch Foundation fellowship applications for historic preservation and related fields are due October 25; applications for a ten-day Winter School in Oral History in Bangalore, India are due at the end of September; the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities has upcoming workshops on historic wood window restoration and seeking funding for history organizations; Oxford University Press is releasing The Oxford Handbook of Public History.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular listing, fill out the form at http://ncph.org/around-the-field-form/. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

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Cathy Stanton <![CDATA[Where is the public history conversation headed?]]> http://ncph.org/?p=28138 2017-09-05T23:26:01Z 2017-09-07T12:30:40Z

Digital conversations now take place across a range of platforms, including a vigorous Twitter stream at NCPH conferences. Photo credit: Rebecca Pattillo

That’s the question that has engaged me since I first became an editor of the H-Public listserv back in 2005. Read More

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Digital conversations now take place across a range of platforms, including a vigorous Twitter stream at NCPH conferences. Photo credit: Rebecca Pattillo

That’s the question that has engaged me since I first became an editor of the H-Public listserv back in 2005. As the National Council on Public History wraps up its editorial involvement in the list, this seems like a good moment to reflect on H-Public’s role in evolving discussions around the field, how the list has fit in the suite of digital platforms that NCPH has developed since 2005, and where the conversation might be headed next.

When I say “where it’s headed,” I’m thinking not only about where the current issues and ideas are, but also literally (or virtually) about where the discussions are actually taking place. Over the past two decades, the venues where we encounter our peers and colleagues—not to mention our publics—have come to include the digital, to the point that it’s become hard to separate virtual and actual spaces as neatly as we once did. It’s the interplay of those two things that I’ve found most intriguing as NCPH has been building and refining platforms and spaces where public historians can gather and interact.

The original header for H-Public on the H-Net website. Image credit: NCPH

In the beginning, when dot matrix printers still roamed the earth, there were listservs, simple electronic mailing lists built on another then-cutting-edge technology: email. NCPH got involved with the H-Public listserv—then known as PUBLHIST—in 1995, three years after it was founded. Three years later, PUBLHIST joined the H-Net network of listservs. Under its new name of H-Public, it was one of 90 lists devoted to humanities and social science topics.

I became an editor in 2005 after I raised a question to NCPH leadership about how the list was being moderated and was rewarded by being invited to take over the job myself (kids, don’t try this at home). Debbie Ann Doyle joined me as an editor shortly afterward, and she has continued in that role ever since.

For several years, H-Public was the main online venue for active long-distance discussion about public history topics. It didn’t reach absolutely everyone involved in the field, but when you posted a message, you could be reasonably certain you were talking to a broad cross-section of the community. People raised questions, offered advice, discussed methods and ethics, and occasionally took a run at the perennial question of defining what public history was. (Here’s a report on a 2007 listserv thread that did that.)

With the advent of Web 2.0 platforms in the early aughts, H-Public and other listservs began to become more like handy bulletin boards than lively discussions around the water cooler. NCPH formed a Digital Media Group as a kind of working advisory committee in 2008, and the organization became a fairly early adopter of social media in the professional history world. (Our conference is still one of the most Twitter-friendly in the field.)

From the outset, staff and members of the DMG wrestled with issues we’re still discussing: What was happening to the formerly more cohesive public history conversation as people self-selected into different media spaces? What was our role as a professional organization within the newer constellation of platforms? Was there some kind of ideal balance between the dignified pace and absolute control of an academic journal and a free-wheeling and increasingly contentious milieu like Twitter? Did it really matter what we thought, when those discourses and the algorithms that powered them were being defined in practice and evolving from one year to the next?

Many of these issues mirror larger questions about public historical projects in general, and talking them over within NCPH has always been challenging and usually fun. For several years now we’ve been asking ourselves on a regular basis whether it still made sense for the organization to be involved in H-Public, and this year we finally reached a consensus that it didn’t.

H-Net was creating its new H-Net Commons platform at precisely the same time as NCPH was developing a more integrated web presence. By the time the H-Net Commons rolled out in 2014, our own new WordPress-based digital home was already up and running. For some time all we’ve been doing is pushing out our biweekly news listing on H-Public, which also sees an occasional query but very minimal discussion. The work of recruiting and training new editors, as well as putting together a required Advisory Board for the list, felt out of proportion to that level of activity.

So, on June 30 we stepped down from our editorial role, which H-Net hopes to fill with new recruits. (Anyone who’s interested should contact the VP for Networks.) We’ll be continuing to build on our successes with the History@Work blog, the various projects of the Public History Commons discussion area, and our Facebook, Twitter (@ncph), and perhaps other social media presences as well.

We continue to ask “Where is the public history conversation headed?” and to look for ways to convene, participate, or sometimes just listen in on it. One of the things we’ve noticed recently is that Facebook groups are starting to function a lot like the listservs of yore. They are lively spaces used by self-selecting groups of like-minded people for a range of reasons from the most personal to the highly professional.

We’ve created a new group on our Facebook page—look for the NCPH Members Forum there. We hope this space will allow members to connect where they already are without having to share their personal profiles or remember a separate login. Spirited conversations are already happening in the group, and we invite all members to join us. For now this space will be a member benefit, something we’re always looking to create so that there are more incentives to support the organization by joining.

We know that the Facebook group won’t reach or engage everyone, and we’re open to suggestions about other ways that we can continue to tweak our online spaces and projects. Email Membership Manager Christine Crosby with ideas about social media or Executive Director Stephanie Rowe with more general feedback. Or post a comment below. The conversation is here too, and we’re always glad to see more people joining it.

~ Cathy Stanton is a senior lecturer in the department of anthropology at Tufts University. She is in the process of stepping down as NCPH’s Digital Media Editor but looks forward to continuing to be part of the conversation.

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James F. Brooks <![CDATA[Monumental moments]]> http://ncph.org/?p=28104 2017-09-01T01:48:57Z 2017-09-05T12:30:50Z

George Washington Custis Lee, on horseback, with staff in Richmond, Virgina, at the unveiling of a monument to Jefferson Davis, in June 1907. Photo credit: Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-58277. Photograph by Edyth Carter Beveridge.

On Monday, August 14, roped and yanked from its pedestal by people angered by the violence that unfolded the preceding night in Charlottesville, Virginia, a statue commemorating “THE BOYS WHO WORE THE GRAY” lay crumpled on the lawn before the old courthouse in Durham, North Carolina.  Read More

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George Washington Custis Lee, on horseback, with staff in Richmond, Virgina, at the unveiling of a monument to Jefferson Davis, in June 1907. Photo credit: Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-58277. Photograph by Edyth Carter Beveridge.

On Monday, August 14, roped and yanked from its pedestal by people angered by the violence that unfolded the preceding night in Charlottesville, Virginia, a statue commemorating “THE BOYS WHO WORE THE GRAY” lay crumpled on the lawn before the old courthouse in Durham, North Carolina.  We saw many more statues and monuments defaced, removed, or relocated in the weeks that followed, as citizens and politicians seized the moment to debate what some saw as commemoration of the heroism of Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Others argued these monuments served as enduring nostalgia for the “Lost Cause,” while many pointed out the timing of their establishment (like that of the 1907 Richmond, Virginia memorial to Jefferson Davis on our cover) to evidence their purpose as not-so-subtle endorsements for the eras of slavery and white supremacy in the New South.  While dozens of historians stepped forward to contextualize the timing and intent of these memorials and endorse their removal, in the weeks that followed many Americans agreed with President Donald J. Trump that it was “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments . . . you can’t change history, but you can learn from it.”

Seizing the final clause in the president’s message as our license, we at The Public Historian take this opportunity to share a dozen essays from the journal’s backlist, ranging across some twenty years, that illustrate the evolving historiography on the issue of monuments, memory, history, and heritage and broaden the discussion beyond the focus of the Civil War, Redemption, and resistance to the expansion of civil rights during the 1960s and 1970s. We lead this special virtual issue, “Monuments, Memory, Politics, and Our Publics,” with an OpEd authored by recent TPH assistant reviews editor and doctoral candidate Cheryl Jimenez Frei.  She suggests we consider the model of Argentina’s Comisión Nacional sobre la Desaparición de Personas (National Commission on the Disappeared, 1983–84) as something “good to think with” about our own dilemmas: “Argentina became a nation obsessed with memory, at the forefront of struggles to confront and account for a painful past.” The essays that follow range from the colonial era to World War II, from Czechoslovakia to Germany, and encompass attempts to redress episodes in Native American, Japanese, and Holocaust history in addition to the specific issue of the United States’ experience with slavery and racial injustice.  Overall, we see this collection as offering deeper understanding and empathy for the full range of responses across the public sphere in recent weeks, as well as ideas for discussing the issues and developing them in your classrooms.

We thank our publisher, the University of California Press, for bringing this special issue to “print” so quickly and allowing free access through the end of November.

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

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field August 30, 2017]]> http://ncph.org/?p=28136 2017-08-30T13:47:39Z 2017-08-30T13:13:41Z
From around the field this week:
 the Chapel Hill public library is holding a panel discussion on Confederate monuments this evening, August 30; NCPH’s 2018 awards cycle is open; the American Association for State and Local History has issued a Call for Book Proposals on controversial monuments and memorials; submit a proposal for the 2018 Museums and the Web conference in Vancouver by September 30; The New School is offering a free online course, “Race in the USA,” this fall; register now for October’s workshop on writing a grant proposal under NAGPRA in Austin, Texas. Read More

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From around the field this week:
 the Chapel Hill public library is holding a panel discussion on Confederate monuments this evening, August 30; NCPH’s 2018 awards cycle is open; the American Association for State and Local History has issued a Call for Book Proposals on controversial monuments and memorials; submit a proposal for the 2018 Museums and the Web conference in Vancouver by September 30; The New School is offering a free online course, “Race in the USA,” this fall; register now for October’s workshop on writing a grant proposal under NAGPRA in Austin, Texas.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • “Beyond the Headlines: Confederate Monuments, Historical Memory, and Free Speech” panel discussion – Aug 30, 2017, Chapel Hill Public Library, Chapel Hill, NC, US
  • Art & Architecture on Historic Cooper Street tour co-sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, Oct 1, 2017, Camden, NJ, US
  • The American Association for State and Local History has issued a Call for Book Proposals for a work entitled Controversial Monuments and Memorials (DEADLINE: Sept 18, 2017)

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular listing, fill out the form at http://ncph.org/around-the-field-form/. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

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Aaron Shapiro <![CDATA[Paneriai, Poland, and “Public History and the Study of Memory”]]> http://ncph.org/?p=27580 2017-09-01T14:11:54Z 2017-08-30T12:30:37Z  

Exploring the historic and current landscape at Paneriai, outside Vilnius. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Exploring the historic and current landscape at Paneriai, outside Vilnius. Image credit: Aaron Shapiro

I find The Public Historian indispensable not only for keeping up with the field but also for introducing students to public history scholarship. And while I regularly assign more recent articles, I often return to David Glassberg’s “Public History and the Study of Memory” (vol. Read More

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Exploring the historic and current landscape at Paneriai, outside Vilnius. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Exploring the historic and current landscape at Paneriai, outside Vilnius. Image credit: Aaron Shapiro

I find The Public Historian indispensable not only for keeping up with the field but also for introducing students to public history scholarship. And while I regularly assign more recent articles, I often return to David Glassberg’s “Public History and the Study of Memory” (vol. 18, no. 2, Spring 1996) in my undergraduate course, “Introduction to Public History.” Two decades after the essay first appeared, what Glassberg saw as rare is now commonplace in public history scholarship—projects draw on theories of memory, while scholars of memory incorporate public history. At the same time, public historians have increasingly heeded his call to create spaces for dialogue about competing historical and memorial narratives at historic sites and how they are created, interpreted, and understood by diverse audiences and participants.

Glassberg encourages his readers to “understand the interrelationships between different versions of history in public” (9). In previous classes, I have typically used Glassberg’s article to highlight connections between memory studies and public history, the interdisciplinary nature of the field, and the origins and development of public history theory and practice. In some classes, the reading has launched an assignment where students address questions of tragic memories and place on the landscape. While class readings address this issue, I find that on the landscape, students can see versions of the past competing for influence and explore the context in which those versions were created.

Bródno Jewish Cemetery, Warsaw. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Bródno Jewish Cemetery, Warsaw. Image credit: Aaron Shapiro

Recently, I traveled to Poland and Lithuania, where I’ll be returning with students over the next three years to conduct cemetery preservation work and study the changing memorial landscape as part of a grant-funded project entitled “Preserving Memory in the Digital Age: Charlotte–Eastern Europe Cemetery Experience.” I was reminded of Glassberg’s piece, particularly its discussion of collective memory and all its forms—official, popular, vernacular, and public. At Paneriai, Lithuania, the memorial landscape from the Soviet period competed and clashed with more recent interpretations of the mass killings that took place here in the forest outside Vilnius. There, one hundred thousand individuals—including seventy thousand Jews—were killed by the Nazis. But mention of the role of Lithuanian collaborators in these events was nowhere to be found in the small museum at the site or on the memorial landscape. Our guide, an employee of the state museum that operates the site, discussed the process that will occur over the coming years to revise the interpretation to include discussion of Lithuanian collaborators.

My visit to Paneriai reminded me that many sites—as well as nations—continue to grapple with tensions between official and vernacular memory. Before traveling to Poland, I reread James Young’s The Texture of Memory, which appeared several years before Glasssberg’s essay. Young highlights the deep connections between memory, commemoration, and history in places like Warsaw and Auschwitz. By having students read Young in combination with Glassberg during the spring semester course that will precede their field experience in Poland and Lithuania, I hope that students will learn how scholars have addressed these issues and, ultimately, how they are reflected on the memorial landscape. As part of the project, students will contribute to the changing memorial landscape not only by studying it but also by working with local partners, officials, and communities to restore and interpret Jewish cemeteries. Not only will they see how memory is used to interpret the past at memorial sites, but they will become part of the process themselves.

Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, Warsaw. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Monument to the Ghetto Heroes, Warsaw.  Image credit: Aaron Shapiro

Their work over the next three years will build on class assignments that analyze how local monuments/memorials, museum exhibits, and historic sites interpret the past to contribute to fuller interpretations of this contested landscape. At a place like Paneriai, this grounding will be essential—to better understand narratives and memories tied to Soviet propaganda, Lithuanian heroism, and more recent efforts to provide a full critical lens to this landscape of horror. Similar issues will arise when students examine Warsaw’s reconstruction by the Soviets and the changing interpretive and memorial landscape at places like the Warsaw Rising Museum, Polin Museum, the Ghetto Memorial Trail, and Nathan Rapoport’s Ghetto Heroes Monument.

Next year, we’ll emphasize questions Glassberg raised about whose version of the past becomes institutionalized and apply them to places like Poland and Lithuania. We will pay particular attention to the state’s role in establishing an official memorial landscape and, in the post–Soviet era, to how that landscape has occasionally remained static. At the same time, we will also address changes that draw on vernacular memory and that offer new official memories at sites. Students reading Glassberg will be better positioned to address questions about how societal memory is “created, institutionalized, disseminated, and understood” (7) in a local as well as global context. Ultimately, reading Glassberg will help students explore changes in public historical representation over time and allow them to compare public historical practices across cultures.

Finally, I am reminded of the wonderful passage in the opening chapter of Glassberg’s Sense of History: The Place of the Past in American Life, which I return to often with students—reminding them that the same historian is responsible for both pieces. Glassberg reminds us that a sense of history locates us in space, time, and society. It is this sense that connects official and vernacular memory, that allows us to analyze a changing landscape—memorial and otherwise—and that encourages us to ask questions about who we are individually as well as collectively and about how the world that we occupy came to be and our place in it. Over twenty years later, “Public History and the Study of Memory” still resonates in the classroom and well beyond.

~ Aaron Shapiro is associate professor and director of public history at UNC Charlotte, where he teaches courses in museum studies, digital history, historic preservation, and modern US history. In addition to directing the “Preserving Memory in a Digital Age” project, he is currently at work on a book that explores the complicated relationship between historical interpretation and place-based history in America’s public, semi-public, and private spaces.

 

Editor’s note: The post is the first in a series commissioned by The Public Historian that focuses on essays published in TPH that have been used effectively in the classroom. We welcome comments and further suggestions! If you have a TPH article that is a favorite in your classroom, please let us know. You can send your suggestions to tamara.gaskell@rutgers.edu.

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Melissa Barthelemy <![CDATA[Documenting resilience and community healing in Orlando]]> http://ncph.org/?p=27848 2017-08-30T20:49:37Z 2017-08-28T12:30:41Z

Bennett Barthelemy taking a photograph of memorial in front of Pulse Nightclub. Photo credit: Melissa Barthelemy.

In June, my brother and I traveled from Santa Barbara, California to Orlando, Florida to help document the one-year remembrance events and exhibitions honoring the victims, survivors, and all those affected by the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Read More

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Bennett Barthelemy taking a photograph of memorial in front of Pulse Nightclub. Photo credit: Melissa Barthelemy.

In June, my brother and I traveled from Santa Barbara, California to Orlando, Florida to help document the one-year remembrance events and exhibitions honoring the victims, survivors, and all those affected by the Pulse Nightclub shooting. On June 12, 2016, forty-nine people were killed and sixty-eight people were injured by a gunman during a Latinx Night at Pulse, a gay (LGBTQ+) nightclub. As we walked up to the temporary memorial site, we saw the large black and white Pulse sign overhead and hundreds of people milling about, reading the messages and signs draped on the security fencing around the nightclub. Loved ones knelt down to light numerous candles and to leave bouquets of flowers, condolence cards and letters, rosaries, teddy bears, and handmade artwork. Families wore t-shirts with photographs of their loved ones silk screened on the front and they gathered for group photos. Comfort dogs and even a therapy pony were on hand for people to pet and hug. There was generally a hushed tone and lots of strangers hugging one another. The numerous and vibrant rainbow flags and clothing reminded me of an LGBTQ+ Pride event, but the somber mood indicated this was a mournful showing of pride, a story about resilience, community, and the power of love to overcome hate.

Therapy dog from Comfort Dog Ministry, Lutheran Church Charities. Photo credit: Bennett Barthelemy.

My brother, Bennett Barthelemy, is a professional photojournalist and I am a doctoral candidate in public history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Several months after the shooting occurred, I began advising the mayor’s office of the City of Orlando regarding response efforts and memorialization projects. I have first-hand experience in this type of work because three years ago, a twenty-two-year-old went on a violent rampage in Isla Vista, the residential and commercial district that adjoins the UC Santa Barbara campus. He killed six UCSB students and injured fourteen other individuals. In the wake of this tragedy I worked closely with the campus administration and the families and friends of the victims. I initiated a project to collect the condolence items left at the four spontaneous memorial sites and to create an archive in our department of Special Research Collections at the UCSB Library. I also curated a 6,000-square-foot exhibit for the one-year memorial anniversary. This work has become the basis of my dissertation and has led to my work with archivists around the nation to develop ways to better support those tasked with managing these condolence collections amidst public tragedy.

Condolence items. Photo credit: Frank Billingsley.

There are a number of memorial efforts underway in Orlando. Barbara Poma, owner of the Pulse Nightclub, founded the onePULSE Foundation Memorial to create a permanent memorial and museum to honor those who were killed and injured along with the first responders and healthcare professionals who cared for the victims. One person who has played an instrumental role in Pulse memorial efforts is Pamela Schwartz, the chief curator of the Orange County Regional History Center, and an advisory council member for the onePULSE Foundation Memorial. During an oral history interview, Schwartz confided that within hours of hearing about the horrible shooting she realized that it would be essential to create an action plan for documenting the unfolding tragedy and for collecting the condolence items that would invariably be left at sites of mourning.

Under Schwartz’s leadership, the One Orlando Collection Initiative was formed in partnership with the Orange County Regional History Center, Orange County Government, the City of Orlando, the Historical Society of Central Florida, and other stakeholders. Schwartz and her team collected over 5,000 artifacts from the memorial sites that appeared in Orlando, as well as condolence items received in the mail. They also conducted fifty oral history interviews with family members of victims, survivors, first responders, and city officials—and their collection grows by the day.

During the interview, Schwartz detailed the often invisible labor that she and her team performed at these spontaneous memorial sites over the course of weeks: removing thousands of deteriorated flowers and transporting them to Leu Gardens, a site owned by the City of Orlando, where they were turned into compost that was used to nourish gardens all over the city;  scraping wax from candles off concrete sidewalks so that pedestrians wouldn’t slip in the rain; and keeping burning candles away from flammable items.

Staff underneath the rain canopy, preparing artifacts for transportation. Photo credit: Courtesy of Orange County Regional History Center.

To protect the condolence items and memorials from Orlando’s near-daily afternoon rain showers, Schwartz and her team set up canopy shelters. They moved delicate objects under these canopies and tried to dry the artifacts out as best they could for future preservation. I also heard stories about a homeless man who helped care for the largest memorial site, lighting the candles each night for weeks on end. This serves as a reminder that these sites belong to everyone and no one at the same time. It is difficult to put into words how intensely emotional and meaningful the experience of caring for temporary memorial sites, collecting and preserving artifacts, and working with families and friends of victims can be. It is an immense responsibility that one cannot fully prepare for.

For the one-year memorial anniversary, hundreds of family members of victims and survivors toured an exhibit curated by Schwartz called “One Year Later: Reflecting on Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub Massacre.” The exhibit commemorated “one year of pain, grief, loss, love, fear, resilience, coping, and community.” Patrons were invited to “recall the heroes in our midst and the ways our city banded together in defiance of hate; to support all those who continue to live through this nightmare; to remember the murdered and hold the families of the victims in your hearts.” The exhibit featured a representative sample of the condolence artifacts that had been collected, including free standing wooden crosses that had been made and personalized in honor of each victim, and exhibit cases filled with rosaries and other religious iconography. There were also sections that focused on the healing power of art and music, messages and signs from around the nation and the world, and the roles of first responders and mental health service providers.

Schwartz consulted some of the victims’ families when deciding what to include and highlight in the exhibit. However, she told me that few of the hundreds of families, friends, and survivors who attended the private viewing knew who had saved the artifacts or understood how the artifacts had been preserved. Some friends and family members asked for permanent markers so that they could add their names and messages to memorial items on exhibit that had been created in memory of their loved one. Schwartz and her staff explained that artifacts are preserved in the same state that they were in when they were collected and she directed them to a banner specific to the exhibit where visitors could leave messages and sign their names. Condolence exhibits such as this one engage the community in profound ways. They bring the process full circle so that people can see the things they created and left at spontaneous memorial sites. They also speak to our humanity by individualizing each death and reminding us that behind each person who is killed or injured is a loving community that is suffering from the deeply personal loss.

The needs of the community of Orlando are still great. With forty-nine killed, sixty-eight injured, and over 250 eyewitnesses, these wounds will last a lifetime. Community healing takes both time and resources. The City of Orlando, Orange County Government, and Heart of Florida United Way partnered to create an Orlando United Assistance Center (OUAC) where those who have been affected by the Pulse shooting can receive support and resources. The OUAC helped arrange transportation and accommodations for the many family members of victims who traveled from Puerto Rico and South America to attend the one-year memorial anniversary. The OUAC also provides services and referrals year round and will continue to do so for years to come.

Painted rock at Pulse Nightclub spontaneous memorial site. Photo credit: Melissa Barthelemy.

In addition to providing these basic needs, there is also a need for historians to support the work being done in Orlando. With so many victims and survivors, and with such a large number of first responders and affected community members, there are many people who are eager to tell their stories. There is a palpable need to preserve the immediate past for the benefit of the present and the future. We cannot underestimate the importance of memory making and memorialization efforts for communities that have suffered public tragedies, and especially those who have suffered a long history of marginalization and discrimination. It is my hope that professional historical organizations and federal government agencies will help provide funding and resources to those in Orlando doing this work.

One of the most moving memorial items I saw along the remembrance fence in front of Pulse Nightclub was a printed rock that I discussed with Sara Grossman, a friend of victim Christopher Andrew Leinonen. The rock said, “For all those who just wanted to dance.” It is a reminder of the innocence of those who were killed and injured. No community can fully prevent a mass shooting or other terrorist attack, but what matters is how we respond—and how we document that story of resilience, compassion, and hope.

Melissa Barthelemy is a doctoral candidate in public history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her dissertation focuses on memorial projects in the wake of school shootings and other public tragedies. Since June 2014, she has served as the project manager for the May 23, 2014 Isla Vista Memorial Collection Project at UCSB.

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Dina A. Bailey <![CDATA[Teachable moments: Lessons to take to heart]]> http://ncph.org/?p=27905 2017-08-23T20:51:40Z 2017-08-24T12:30:38Z A teachable moment at the 2017 AAM Conference

Early Tweet about controversial figures at the AAM 2017 conference. Screenshot used with permission of @Their_Child

In walking through the expo hall at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) conference in May, a friend of mine and I came upon one of the vendor displays that showed the figure of an enslaved black man shackled to a pole and a grey (white) auctioneer figure standing as if to accept bids. Read More

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A teachable moment at the 2017 AAM Conference

Early Tweet about controversial figures at the AAM 2017 conference. Screenshot used with permission of @Their_Child

In walking through the expo hall at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) conference in May, a friend of mine and I came upon one of the vendor displays that showed the figure of an enslaved black man shackled to a pole and a grey (white) auctioneer figure standing as if to accept bids. This display immediately brought to my mind thoughts of slavery and contemporary racial power dynamics and stereotypes. Over the next few hours, a Twitter hashtag, #aam2017slaveauction, went viral and emotions ran high. 

During this time, a lot was happening behind the scenes. With a theme of “Gateways to Understanding: Diversity, Equity, Accessibility and Inclusion in Museums,” it was clear to me that both expectations and sensitivities would be higher than usual at this year’s conference. I quietly applauded AAM for its intentionality in choosing a theme that addressed issues that are particularly relevant in our contemporary society even as I wasn’t surprised that attendee sensitivities were heightened. These reactions reflected myriad personal and professional temperaments and knowledge bases. Some museum professionals are well-versed in topics and themes related to equity and inclusion, while others have not engaged deeply, or perhaps have even avoided, such issues. AAM’s conference generally, and the vendor’s display specifically, presented an opportunity for a (needed) field-wide conversation.

Within approximately twenty-four hours of the vendor’s display triggering reactions, AAM staff: had a lengthy discussion with the CEO of the company that created the display; fabricated a white board for attendees to leave their thoughts; changed pre-planned sessions in order to provide a space for debriefing; spoke with conference venue staff; and wrote a statement that went out to the membership. And, the CEO committed to driving to St. Louis the next morning to speak with conference attendees. However, also during this time, the vendor made the decision to cover the figure of the enslaved man with a black cloth while the white auctioneer was left uncovered. Without making assumptions about intention, the impact of this “cover up” only led to more criticism. The next morning, the CEO came to the expo hall where approximately thirty people stood waiting for him.

Almost from the start, each “side” grew more defensive and less able to actively listen. While there seemed to be an initial absence from AAM, this wasn’t quite true. As I stood next to one of my friends, who is on the AAM board of directors, an AAM staff member began quietly talking to my friend. This staffer said that someone needed to step in and facilitate. They agreed that it wouldn’t be appropriate for a staff or board member to do it. Then, my friend turned to me and asked if I would facilitate. Did I step up? Of course.

While I do not make light of the turning point, my role in it, or the productive dialogue that followed, my focus was (and continues to be) on how and why it ended more successfully than it started. I believe the moment ended as well as it did because we paused, making room to breathe, validate everyone’s feelings and refocus on what lessons we might individually and collectively learn. As the dialogue came to a close, I counted over 100 people in attendance.

Dina Bailey acting as facilitator for a discussion between AAM 2017 attendees and the CEO of LifeFormations. Image credit: Juilee Decker @RITmuse

What We Should Take to Heart

Today, the impact of this dialogue continues to ripple out. And the lessons grow even more clear. First, the CEO didn’t have to come, stay, or accept responsibility for decisions made. Yet he did all of these things and we should acknowledge this. Second, AAM acted on what it heard from its members and did so with significant speed. We should acknowledge that not many of our organizations would have been able to do this as quickly and completely. Third, the moment would not have ended productively if there hadn’t been people who were open and willing to stay, listen, and participate. And, finally, the teachable moment would not have presented itself (in this way) without those who initially spoke up through Twitter and other platforms.

The moment didn’t end there—what can we learn? We have all made mistakes along the way, we will make more mistakes in the future, and we are all responsible for how we engage with and react to any particular moment. Perspectives are inherently unique; my perspective may be completely different from that of the person next to me. Perspectives can only ever be partial. Only reading the Twitter thread or being there in-person can’t tell us the whole story or the nuances and complexities of the moment. Further, we will never know all of the actions that have rippled out from this moment. For example, I have been in contact with the CEO and I know the deep, genuine, and concerted actions that he and his staff have taken in the past several weeks and intend to take in the next several months.

Each of us still has work to do. We each have the potential for growth and we will all make mistakes. We need to have faith that we aren’t intentionally bruising each other. We can’t be truly inclusive if we are excluding people by saying “white people need to” or “the vendor should have” or “why didn’t AAM” or “of course, it was a woman of color who had to step in and facilitate the dialogue.” I hope that we become more aware and more sensitive to what may happen despite our best intentions. Context matters: even when something like the slave auction display is “decontextualized” by being moved into a conference exhibit hall, it has actually been placed into a new context and this new context will have a different (but just as relevant) impact. And, as a field, I want us to courageously have even more difficult conversations in order to embrace even more teachable moments.

~ Dina A. Bailey is the CEO of Mountain Top Vision. Dina can be reached at dina@mountaintopvisionllc.com and @DinaABailey.

This is a personal reflection of the 2017 AAM conference. My views are my own and are meant to encourage further reflection by NCPH stakeholders.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field August 16, 2017]]> http://ncph.org/?p=27809 2017-08-16T15:39:35Z 2017-08-16T12:51:58Z
From around the field this week:
several new grant and fellowship cycles have begun for the IMLS, Gilder Lehrman, the ACLS, and the National Humanities Center; conferences in Chicago, Illinois and Cologne, Germany have submission deadlines this month; the New England Museum Association is offering a free workshop on salary negotiation for women; a group of Canadian history organizations is holding the first-ever Canadian history Twitter conference. Read More

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From around the field this week:
several new grant and fellowship cycles have begun for the IMLS, Gilder Lehrman, the ACLS, and the National Humanities Center; conferences in Chicago, Illinois and Cologne, Germany have submission deadlines this month; the New England Museum Association is offering a free workshop on salary negotiation for women; a group of Canadian history organizations is holding the first-ever Canadian history Twitter conference.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

  • “Beyond 150: Telling Our Stories” – first Canadian history Twitter conference, sponsored by Active History, Unwritten Histories, and Canada’s History Society, Aug 24-25, 2017, #Beyond150CA

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular listing, fill out the form at http://ncph.org/around-the-field-form/. Please make sure to include a URL where readers can find more information about your posting.

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James F. Brooks <![CDATA[A vexing issue]]> http://ncph.org/?p=27271 2017-08-14T23:48:28Z 2017-08-15T12:30:50Z Editor’s note: We publish TPH editor James F. Brooks’s introduction to the August 2017 issue of The Public Historian. The entire issue is available online to National Council on Public History members.

At first glance, a collection of essays that range from Jesuit Mission historic sites to faux Indian statuary to Liberty ships and war museums seem impossible to arrange in a conceptual matrix—at once evidence of the great range of public history engagements and, simultaneously, a scattershot deployment of their substance. Read More

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Editor’s note: We publish TPH editor James F. Brooks’s introduction to the August 2017 issue of The Public Historian. The entire issue is available online to National Council on Public History members.

At first glance, a collection of essays that range from Jesuit Mission historic sites to faux Indian statuary to Liberty ships and war museums seem impossible to arrange in a conceptual matrix—at once evidence of the great range of public history engagements and, simultaneously, a scattershot deployment of their substance. Yet one uniting theme does emerge from this issue—the vexing instability of how we align interpretation with the shifting ground of economics and politics in our profession.

In our lead article, “A Tale of Two Missions: Common Pasts/Divergent Futures at Transnational Historic Sites,” Debora Ryan and Emily Stokes-Rees provide a long-view comparative history of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons (Wendats) in Midland, Ontario, and Skä•noñh–Great Law of Peace Center (Haudenosaunee), associated with Sainte-Marie de Gannentaha in Syracuse, New York. Each has roots deep in seventeenth-century French imperial enterprises and the mission machinery of Catholicism that fostered entry into the fur networks of the St. Lawrence region. Each historic site was born of Depression-era research, the 1960s expansion in national-heritage travel tourism, and, at least initially, aimed to celebrate the “first” European presence in their respective locales. Each experienced periods of interpretive introspection in the 1980s, including attempts to recruit Native perspectives to the narrative and “invert the gaze,” experienced visitor pushback, and wrestled with the business side of operations dependent upon visitor fees and public funding. As the authors explain, “Historically, both were places of contact between Europeans and Native peoples, and in many ways, this is still true today. Perhaps more importantly, both institutions are places that inform public perceptions about indigenousness.” Yet while current interpretation demonstrates real progress away from nostalgia for “French Forts” and “settler days,” both sites grapple with the reality that history is as much about the present as it is the past, a present in which funding, visitor expectations, and tribal participation are seldom in happy alignment.

Madeline Bourque Kearin brings us a very different public perception of indigenousness in the figure of Chief Kisco, a statue located in the center of the village of Mount Kisco, New York. Rather than critique the invented tradition of the statue itself—one of many identical statues cast at the turn of the twentieth century by the J. L. Mott Company of New York City and in wide circulation representing local legends—she weaves an extraordinary analysis of how the statue served as “a piece of temperance propaganda with nativist undertones that tapped directly into the class, religious, and ethnic divisions running through the turn-of-the-century village.” Just how an image of an indigenous “leader” came to act as a rallying symbol for white, middle-class Protestants anxious about the increasing numbers of working-class Irish Catholic immigrants is just one part of her story, however. The Chief Kisco statue, and all it ironically represented as a symbol for white moralism, became one of many such symbols subject to a fiery critique from Arthur C. Parker, a Seneca archaeologist, ethnographer, and folklorist who “reasserted the humanity and persistence of Native Americans in defiance of dehumanizing tropes and narratives of decline.” As a fourth-generation resident of the village, Kearin demonstrates a form of autoethnography that brings the ironies of commemoration to inform the still-unfolding immigrant history of her hometown, which now includes thousands of Latin Americans, who themselves puzzle at the meaning of the statue of Christopher Columbus erected in 1992, directly opposite Chief Kisco.

Philip R. Byrd’s “The Continuous Existence of Historic Ship Museums” will please readers who attended the 2016 NCPH conference in Baltimore—if you, like me, spent much time strolling the decks and chatting with the crew of the SS John W. Brown. While I found the business-side backstory of the vessel’s mission fascinating, I didn’t learn during those two hours that the ship is at the edge of an interpretation crisis. Byrd argues that “the current approach to historical interpretation, which emphasizes a fixed period of historical significance, makes it difficult for historic ship museums to remain part of public memory, as well as to attract visitors and revenue streams,” since the National Park Service interpretive guidelines require National Register sites to conform to the period they are meant to represent (in the ship’s case, 1925–49). Byrd argues that we ought to see the period of significance “as a starting point for interpretation” and that “historic sites often put too much collective pressure on historic integrity, narrowly understood.” The maintenance, operation, and educational mission of the SS John W. Brown requires a much more flexible, and diachronic, approach, since the students who experience overnights and the volunteers who serve as voyage crews, as well as the conventional tour visitors, are constituents and producers of history. This critique applies, not only to SS John W. Brown but to other such vessels, like the USS Olympia, and aligns well with the “life-cycle” approaches now represented at leading-edge historic house museums (see our special issue on the topic, “Open House: Reimagining the Historic House Museum,” The Public Historian 37, no. 2, May 2015).

We conclude with a painful example of the vexing challenges facing national museums today with Anna Muller and Daniel Logemann’s Report from the Field that looks at the just-opened Second World War Museum in Gdańsk, Poland. Conceived in one economic and political moment (2008, under Prime Minister Donald Tusk) with global context and civilian suffering at the interpretive core, but opened in another, with a new nationalist and populist government in power. Much of the original staff was fired within the first few weeks of the museum’s life. The political climate in Poland has changed dramatically, and members of the populist-rightist-nationalist Law and Justice Party object deeply to the museum’s approach and want to take control over the institution to change its content. They want a museum that focuses solely on the Polish experience, with primacy given to the heroism of Polish soldiers who resisted the Germans. New leadership has promised to make changes that might present a more nationalistic interpretation of this fraught history.

Finally, we want to thank Professor Jacki Thompson Rand for two years’ service as our book reviews editor at The Public Historian, and especially for how she brought her public history graduate students into our conversations around digital history. We likewise welcome David D. Vail, assistant professor of environmental and agricultural history at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, as our new colleague in the reviews department. His research focuses on the history of aerial pesticide application, health, and food production in North America’s grasslands. He teaches environmental and agricultural history, the history of science and technology, the American West, and public history, a range of expertise that we know will serve the journal superbly.

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

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