National Council on Public History Putting History to Work in the World 2017-01-17T18:52:52Z http://ncph.org/feed/atom/ WordPress editors <![CDATA[New Year’s update from the History Relevance Campaign]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22934 2017-01-11T13:43:57Z 2017-01-11T13:30:23Z hrc-logo-feb-2015The value of history–both understanding historical events and the process by which we analyze them–has been demonstrated many times in 2016. The skill at the very core of the research process, critical thinking, cannot be overemphasized in today’s society. Evidenced-based inquiry and discussion is more important than ever. Read More

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hrc-logo-feb-2015The value of history–both understanding historical events and the process by which we analyze them–has been demonstrated many times in 2016. The skill at the very core of the research process, critical thinking, cannot be overemphasized in today’s society. Evidenced-based inquiry and discussion is more important than ever.

The History Relevance Campaign was busy in 2016.

We held an evening event during AAM’s Museum Advocacy Day and introduced more organizations to our efforts. We gave several presentations at state, regional, and national conferences. In May we convened a gathering at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and heard from Richard Kurin, acting provost of the Smithsonian Institution. And in October we convened a meeting at the National Archives and heard from David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, who said he is a fan of HRC’s work.

Both meetings gathered representatives from organizations with national scope, including the American Alliance of Museums, National Park Service, National Archives, Library of Congress, Smithsonian Institution, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Coalition for History, American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Civil War Trust, National Endowment for the Humanities, Institute for Museum and Library Services, Center for History and New Media, National History Day, and others.

A direct result of the May meeting was a renewed emphasis on development of a template to measure impact of history organizations, and this effort became the primary focus of the October meeting. We are exploring options for a grant to create this set of common metrics for measuring the impact of history organizations, and have been drafting proposals and speaking with national and local partners.

This month HRC will debut a new website that will serve as a clearinghouse for tools and news to share the work of HRC. We continue to build a relationship with the National Governors Association. And, we’ve begun a collaboration with LINK Strategic Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based communications firm, to create a communications plan to help the field be more strategic about how we talk about history. We’re grateful for LINK’s shared vision and generosity in donating their skills and time.

The HRC steering committee is comprised of sixteen members who represent a variety of history organizations that span the breadth of the country. Several new members were added this past year.

The number keeps growing

Over 150 organizations and counting have endorsed the HRC Value of History statement, including the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, the Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Archivists, the National Humanities Alliance, and Conner Prairie. Check the full list at http://www.historyrelevance.com/endorsers and please invite organizations to sign on.

We encourage you to challenge your colleagues in history to use the language in the Value Statement. Please also share any successful ways that you have employed the Value Statement.

Here are two elegant videos by state historical societies that incorporate the Value Statement:

Made by History
http://bit.ly/2iFiFTc

History Is Essential
http://bit.ly/2iAvY50

~ The History Relevance Campaign is a diverse group of history professionals posing questions about what makes the past relevant today. The Campaign serves as a catalyst for discovering, demonstrating, and promulgating the value of history for individuals, communities, and the nation.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Jan 10, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22939 2017-01-11T00:08:22Z 2017-01-11T00:07:23Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: A new issue of Public History Review; revival of Public Scholar Program at the US National Endowment for the Humanities; labor history conference in Detroit takes public history as its theme; course on American Architectural History in New Jersey

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

Read More ]]>
newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: A new issue of Public History Review; revival of Public Scholar Program at the US National Endowment for the Humanities; labor history conference in Detroit takes public history as its theme; course on American Architectural History in New Jersey

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

  • 10-week course on American Architectural History from Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities (MARCH) – starts Feb 16, 2017, Camden, New Jersey, US

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular 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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Evan Faulkenbury <![CDATA[Sticky notes as tools for public history]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22678 2017-01-06T23:57:12Z 2017-01-09T13:30:12Z Source: Minnesota Historical Society, screenshot from YouTube taken on November 21, 2016.

Prince memorial exhibition, Minnesota Historical Society. Photo credit: Screenshot from MHS “Remembering Prince” video

Several years ago, on a visit to the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina, I encountered an exhibit that asked me to participate. Read More

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Source: Minnesota Historical Society, screenshot from YouTube taken on November 21, 2016.

Prince memorial exhibition, Minnesota Historical Society. Photo credit: Screenshot from MHS “Remembering Prince” video

Several years ago, on a visit to the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina, I encountered an exhibit that asked me to participate. No, this was not high tech. No selfies, no QR codes, no downloads, just pencil and paper–yellow sticky notes. Many of us use sticky notes in our daily lives for making lists and jotting down ideas, and history museums have utilized them to invite visitor feedback on exhibits for a long time. What caught my attention at the Levine Museum, however, was that in an age of digital innovation and experimentation, something as simple as sticky notes had the power to invite introspection from guests–dozens of multi-colored sticky notes dotted a wall, each with unique hand-writing and each with personal memories.

By no means am I dismissing the importance of interactive digital technologies, but in recalling my experience at the Levine Museum, it made me think: How do other history museums use sticky notes in the twenty-first century? Does writing and reading these notes improve visitor experiences, and if so, how? And what happens to all those sticky notes? Are they thrown out, or preserved as historical artifacts? Dreaming up innovative ideas for turning museums into participatory spaces is nothing new, as Nina Simon and Lilia Ziamou have written, but how exactly have historical sites fostered interactivity by using sticky notes?

Prince memorial exhibit, Minnesota Historical Society. Photo credit: Screenshot from YouTube taken on November 21, 2016.

Prince memorial exhibition, Minnesota Historical Society. Photo credit: Screenshot from MHS “Remembering Prince” video.

At the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, Lori Williamson, from the collections department, turned tragedy into a moment of historical reflection after Prince passed away in April 2016. The museum exhibits Prince’s outfit from Purple Rain, and the day after his death, visitors were encouraged to write sticky notes and post them on a wall nearby. In this video, Williamson shared that over 1,000 patrons left memories of what Prince meant to them. One read, “Prince taught a very sad, bullied weird 13 year old Emily that it’s ok to be yourself. Changed my life. I love you, Prince! Love, 34 year old Emily.” Williamson said that the museum has not always kept sticky notes in the past, but it will archive a selection of the Prince memorial notes. “We will add these to the collection, and so people in the future, one hundred years from now or more, will be able to review them and really get a better understanding of what Prince meant to this generation.”

Newseum Pinterest page. Photo credit: Screenshot taken on November 21, 2016.

Photo credit: Screenshot of Newseum Pinterest page.

For the Newseum in Washington, D.C., walls can become overcrowded with sticky notes asking patrons to “talk back” to exhibits. Before recycling, the Newseum digitizes selected notes and promotes them on social media. Carrie Christoffersen, curator of collections, pointed out the Newseum’s Pinterest page. As part of the exhibit, JFK: Three Shots Were Fired, which detailed the history of the media’s portrayal of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, the Newseum published several anonymous sticky notes asking patrons to recall where they were when they learned about Kennedy. One visitor wrote, “I was in 6th grade. No one told our class but when we went out in the hall for recess, the janitor was watching a TV. I asked him what happened & he said the President had been shot. I asked if he would die. He answered ‘Only God knows that.’”

Not every museum uses sticky notes; others make available comment sheets that are later typed, preserved, and exhibited as pieces of history themselves. At the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, patrons, upon exiting, can write and leave memories of personal connections and thoughts about the permanent exhibit. According to Jeffrey Carter, the records management officer and institutional records archivist, the museum currently holds 103 boxes of visitor comments stretching back to 1996. Staff members select pertinent quotes, and Carter maintains an electronic document that now exceeds 1,000 pages. “We consider these to be public records and allow researchers to see and copy the original forms as well as the electronic summary,” Carter wrote me in an email. Similarly, at the Richmond National Battlefield Park and the Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site in Richmond, Virginia, Andrea DeKoter, chief of interpretation for the National Park Service (NPS) at these two sites, told me that patrons leave comments, and every quarter NPS staff updates a binder of past comments that new visitors can flip through. The binder receives “quite a bit of use,” illustrating that visitors want “to connect with the site and find out how they are a part of the story” and “to leave a piece of [themselves] behind.”

Making use of sticky notes and visitor reflections varies from museum to museum, but what lessons can they give public historians working in the techno-centric twenty-first century? First, sticky notes are an inexpensive, kinetic way for visitors to attach themselves to history that surrounds. Not everyone has a smartphone, and allowing people to handwrite memories is a way to include everyone. Second, sticky notes can be preserved and archived. Unlike the transience of some digital technology, hard copies of memories on sticky notes (or typed out in databases) ensure the preservation of public experiences at historical sites.

I’m no Luddite, and perhaps it feels old-fashioned to suggest sticky notes as tools for public historians, but think of our vast audiences. Draw them in, simply, with colorful sticky paper and pencils. If, for some, that’s all it takes, then it’s an easy, inexpensive, and potentially powerful tool for us to use.

~ Evan Faulkenbury is an assistant professor of history at the State University of New York at Cortland specializing in public history and the civil rights movement in the American South. Subscribe to his podcast The So What? Question and follow him on Twitter @evanfaulkenbury.

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editors <![CDATA[Top five posts of 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22806 2017-01-04T19:11:13Z 2017-01-04T18:08:48Z reed-hamilton-screen-shotAs we mark the end of a tumultuous 2016 and begin what promises to be an eventful new year, History@Work’s editors are reflecting on the posts that prompted the widest readership and dialogue among our community:

Annette Gordon Reed, Hamilton the Musical: Blacks and the Founding Fathers

Matthew Exline, Looking for a Job in Public History: An Outsider’s Perspective

Cathy Stanton, Does the National Park Service have a Culture Problem? Read More

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reed-hamilton-screen-shotAs we mark the end of a tumultuous 2016 and begin what promises to be an eventful new year, History@Work’s editors are reflecting on the posts that prompted the widest readership and dialogue among our community:

Annette Gordon Reed, Hamilton the Musical: Blacks and the Founding Fathers

Matthew Exline, Looking for a Job in Public History: An Outsider’s Perspective

Cathy Stanton, Does the National Park Service have a Culture Problem?

Lyra Monteiro, It’s not just a Musical

The editors, A Response to the Election

Two of our top posts from the past year were contributions to the highly stimulating roundtable discussion of Lyra Monteiro’s review in The Public Historian of the smash Broadway musical Hamilton. Annette Gordon-Reed reflected on her own discomfort seeing the show, as well as the sharp criticisms of Monteiro and Ishmael Reed regarding its depiction of early American history, in particular the absence of critical histories of race and racial oppression. As a capstone to the roundtable, Monteiro responded to the reactions to her original review, asserting that Hamilton is not “just a musical” and reiterating her critique that the show “obscures the white supremacist origins of our country.”

In addition to witnessing the explosion of the Hamilton phenomenon, this past year we marked the centennial of the National Park Service. Although the longevity and accomplishments of this venerable institution undoubtedly deserve celebration, Cathy Stanton reminded us that the Park Service’s leadership has not always lived up to its obligation to operate ethically. Perceptively analyzing NPS’s organizational culture, Stanton illustrated how issues related to improper dealing and sexual harassment in the Park Service have not received adequate attention nor have they been addressed constructively.

In addition to a venue for constructive critique and self-reflexivity, History@Work is also a practical resource for public historians seeking to enter the field and develop their skills. Matthew Exline’s frank reflections–although originally posted in 2013–continue to attract a wide readership, demonstrating the challenging employment market that emerging public historians face. Exline’s open and honest narrative resonates with readers who hope to make their own contributions to our field through meaningful employment.

Finally, the past year was perhaps most notable for the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency. In their post, History@Work’s lead editorial team identified several areas of concern based on president-elect Trump’s policy positions and statements during the campaign. They encouraged public historians to apply their skills to the task of historicizing issues of immigration, race, reproductive health, LGBT rights, and bullying. Moreover, the editors recommended that public historians re-double their ongoing efforts to “foreground stories of marginalized people seeking justice and inclusion” and “strengthen emerging practices of direct engagement and civic action.”

The editorial team could not be more pleased with the level of engagement and discourse on History@Work. We hope our readers continue to value the blog as a vital resource as all of us press our work in new and challenging directions.

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Jackie Gonzales <![CDATA[Interpreting climate change through human stories at coastal national park sites]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21777 2016-12-07T23:22:44Z 2017-01-02T13:30:04Z Editor’s note: This is the third of a series of blog posts commissioned by The Public Historian on the topic of history and the interpretation of climate change in the national parks, extending the conversation on history in the national parks during this centennial year begun in its November 2016 issue. Read More

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Editor’s note: This is the third of a series of blog posts commissioned by The Public Historian on the topic of history and the interpretation of climate change in the national parks, extending the conversation on history in the national parks during this centennial year begun in its November 2016 issue. Read other posts in the series.

Samuel de Champlain's 1605 map of /Malle Barre/ (present day Nauset Marsh). Photo credit: National Park Service.

Samuel de Champlain’s 1605 map of Malle Barre (present day Nauset Marsh). Photo credit: National Park Service.

For an interpreter at Cape Cod National Seashore, talking about climate change is easy. It’s everywhere you look. Canoeing with visitors through the same marsh in which Samuel de Champlain once dropped anchor sparks an easy connection–how could even the most talented navigator steer a French frigate into a marsh? The interpreter guides the visitor, explains that shorelines at the Cape have been receding since the last ice age at a fairly steady pace, and that Champlain’s Mallebarre was a harbor some four hundred feet out in the Atlantic from today’s Nauset Marsh. This steady shoreline recession is the same reason that Wampanoag settlements are found on the beach after major winter storm events.

Stairway at Nauset Light Beach, Eastham, Massachusetts, following a winter storm in 2010. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Stairway at Nauset Light Beach, Eastham, Massachusetts, following a winter storm in 2010. Photo credit: National Park Service

While the Atlantic has been stripping sand from the Cape’s eastern shore since the last ice age, the rate of erosion has increased exponentially with the onset of human-made climate change. Increasingly frequent and increasingly intense storms erode and redeposit sand more quickly than the gradual rate with which the Cape Cod landmass has morphed since the last ice age. The climate went from changing at a glacial pace, where settlements had years between significant storm events to recoup, to destructive storm events occurring nearly every year. Staircases down to beaches, once replaced every five to ten years, are now destroyed and rebuilt yearly. Climate change and human stories are so intricately intertwined at Cape Cod that it is choosing which of so many to tell–not creating the links–that is difficult. Most national parks have a different problem.

In Imperiled Promise, the 2011 report on the state of history in the National Park Service (NPS), chair Anne Mitchell Whisnant and her co-authors recommend linking human history to natural history as one way of addressing the divide between history in the NPS and the interpretation of that history to the public. Teaching climate change through human stories is a critical component of this strategy.

Communicating the concept of linkages between climate change and human stories can help the American people understand their place in a changing world. Marcy Rockman, the NPS climate change adaptation coordinator for cultural resources, has developed a framework for addressing climate change in cultural resources management that emphasizes communication. Interpreters at parks with ready visuals, or with an interest in this field, have already begun to successfully interpret these connections. However, ensuring consistency in interpretation remains a systemic problem in the Park Service, where seasonal employees are the face of the agency to much of the public.

Glacial cliffs in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Photo credit: the author.

Glacial cliffs in Wellfleet, Massachusetts. Photo credit: Jackie M. M. Gonzales

Cape Cod interpreters integrate connections between human history and climate change on a daily basis, but the onus is on the interpreter out in the field to draw these connections to the public. Interpreters point to two-by-fours, bath fixtures, and cement pylons that lie on the beach–a hundred feet below their former residences–to illustrate how winter’s turbulence redeposits cultural resources at a speedy pace in this era of climate change. The houses of the famous are not exempt; park guides can point to Coast Guard Beach, where the same harsh winters that writer Henry Beston captured on the page later destroyed the cottage in which he wrote them. To ensure that interpreters make such connections consistently, the Park Service must include an emphasis on human stories of climate change in training for seasonal rangers. Only then can the Park Service institutionalize the connections between climate change and human history.

Upstream from Cape Cod at Fire Island National Seashore, extensive human building on a fickle shoreline provides a ready visual for facilitating interpretation. The Army Corps of Engineers’ century-long activity on the island and Robert Moses’s decades-long attempt to build a road on Fire Island show both the human material uses that have caused climate change and the effects that climate change has on our built environment and cultural resources. Even the best-engineered coastal embankments face the possibility of destruction in the wake of increasingly intense storms and rising sea levels.

Programming at Fire Island does a relatively good job incorporating these narratives at a small scale. Past programs have included a “Coastal Breach Hike,” in which visitors walk with a coastal scientist to the break that Hurricane Sandy re-created in the barrier island. While programs like this often are led by natural resources scientists interpreting climate change, this discussion of human coastal engineering practices and responses on the island incorporates human stories of coastal control into a natural narrative. These programs should include discussions not only the natural processes of barrier islands, but also of how agencies such as the Army Corps and the National Park Service have shifted their management methods of such events with an eye to more frequent occurrences in a more turbulent climate. National Park Service interpreters could also benefit from a longue durée approach to history–programs about how archaeological sites are threatened by breakages can also address how humans who lived at those sites thousands of years ago dealt with their own slowly warming, post-glacial environment.

The Indiana Dunes, which abuts Gary, Indiana, has been part of the NPS for fifty years. The park’s inholdings include a public port with steel mills and coal-fired power plants, built concurrently to the establishment of the National Lakeshore as a legislative compromise. This highly polluted area, however, is also the birthplace of American ecology. Individuals who launched the study of ecology in the U.S. studied at the dunes, lived in Chicago in buildings made of steel forged in the dunes, used electricity generated in dunal power plants that supplanted the plants of yesteryear, then bemoaned the destruction of the natural environment they had studied. Was there ever a better opening to tell the story of how humans both caused climate change and then tried to fight it?

Present day view of Nauset Marsh from Fort Hill, Eastham, Massachusetts, looking northeast. Photo credit: the author.

Present day view of Nauset Marsh from Fort Hill, Eastham, Massachusetts, looking northeast. Photo credit: Jackie M. M. Gonzales

By linking climate change to historical interpretation, the National Park Service isn’t just remaining relevant–the agency is interpreting one of the most important human actions of the last two centuries. As the NPS has started saying in official literature, “Climate change is the heritage of the future.” In this former park ranger’s experience, the public loves to be given the chance to make connections that they never saw coming. Drawing lines that connect seemingly disparate topics can enable history to remain relevant and a new generation of Americans to see their role in creating and addressing climate change. Coasts are an easy place to start, but they are just the beginning. Integrating human stories into narratives of climate change at all Park Service sites isn’t as hard as it sounds; we just need to bring out the stories that are hiding in plain sight.

 

~ Jackie M. M. Gonzales, PhD, is a former National Park Service interpreter at Cape Cod National Seashore, Manzanar National Historic Site, and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park. She currently works as a research historian at Historical Research Associates.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Dec 30, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22706 2016-12-30T19:50:00Z 2016-12-30T19:49:13Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Award for public archives work; symposium on heritage and revolution; collection of writing on history in the Gilmore Girls; online workshops on maker spaces in museums, metals conservation, interpretive planning; dreaming of summer with field courses on heritage management in Cambodia and Islamic Persian architecture in Iran

AWARDS and FUNDING

Read More ]]>
newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Award for public archives work; symposium on heritage and revolution; collection of writing on history in the Gilmore Girls; online workshops on maker spaces in museums, metals conservation, interpretive planning; dreaming of summer with field courses on heritage management in Cambodia and Islamic Persian architecture in Iran

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular 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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Rick Kendall <![CDATA[Cultural resources and climate change: bridging the relevancy gap]]> http://ncph.org/?p=21926 2016-12-05T20:53:05Z 2016-12-19T13:30:07Z Editor’s note: This is the second of a series of blog posts commissioned by The Public Historian on the topic of history and the interpretation of climate change in the national parks, extending the conversation on history in the national parks during this centennial year begun in its November 2016 issue. Read More

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Editor’s note: This is the second of a series of blog posts commissioned by The Public Historian on the topic of history and the interpretation of climate change in the national parks, extending the conversation on history in the national parks during this centennial year begun in its November 2016 issue. Read other posts in the series.

Sunrise over Mount Ascutney, from the Little Studio, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Sunrise over Mount Ascutney, from the Little Studio, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. Photo credit: National Park Service.

When it comes to climate change, some impacts are more easily recognized than others. Rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and changing ecosystems are just some of the more visible impacts of changing climate. National parks along the coast or that include glaciated peaks or are squarely in the crosshairs for evolving ecosystems have been the early focus of the National Park Service’s efforts at climate change response. These high-profile issues are just the tip of the iceberg; all parks, even small historic sites, will have to contend with changes to their local climate. And many of the changes are the same changes that the visiting public can expect at their homes and gardens.

At Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire, we have been monitoring the effects of climate change for many years now. One of the biggest potential impacts at the park could be to our cultural landscape, and we are already noting changes in local phenology. Over the last few years, the bloom schedule appears to have advanced dramatically. In 2012, the park’s bloom schedule was more than a month ahead of historical averages. In 2013, it was about two weeks ahead of normal. These early blooms have continued in subsequent years. Spring weather at the park has been warmer with less snow and higher daytime temperatures. What is “normal” for the onset of spring has been creeping ever earlier in the season over the last thirty to fifty years as evidenced in the ethnographic/historical record. In many New England towns, there used to be lilac festivals on Memorial Day weekend. Today, we are noting that lilacs more frequently peak before, and start to decline by, Memorial Day.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens's monument to the Massachusetts 54th Regiment led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, in snow, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens’s monument to the Massachusetts 54th Regiment led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, in snow, surrounded by the park’s signature hedges, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. Photo credit: National Park Service.

As the climate changes in northern New England with milder winters and longer summers, we have been watching nervously as certain non-cold-tolerant invasive species continue their northward march. Park staff are particularly nervous about the hemlock wooly adelgid. Saint-Gaudens NHS has two-thirds of a mile of hemlock and white pine hedges that define the park’s landscape. In the mid-Atlantic states, the adelgid has caused massive hemlock die-off. Twenty years ago, there was no adelgid activity reported in New Hampshire, but today the adelgid has been identified in the county where Saint-Gaudens is located. Park staff are starting to consider the appropriate response for continued cultural landscape preservation.

Climate change has many manifestations. Between 1958 and 2012 the incidence of major rainstorm events in New England increased 70 percent, a trend that is expected to continue. Though some of these events, such as Tropical Storm Irene, are wide ranging, others are more localized. In 2013 at Saint-Gaudens NHS a significant microburst thunderstorm dropped 2.5 inches of rain in about an hour, swelling the park’s brooks, destroying the park’s trail system, and severely damaging two historic dams. Increased rain events like these will also impact historic structures. Wooden structures may experience more wood and sill rot, brick structures (particularly historic structures with older mortar) will note greater water infiltration through cracked and deteriorating mortar. Buildings with basements may suffer additional water infiltration into previously dry spaces, leading to mold growth and other new challenges.

Snow on the brick porch of the Little Studio, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Snow on the brick porch of the Little Studio, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Historically, in northern New England the first snows fall in November or December. Cold temperatures kept that snow on the ground all winter, with additional snowfalls adding to the snow cover. The new normal, however, seems to be a snow in November or December followed by a period of warming in which the snow melts. The pooled water then freezes again in the evening before melting again during the warmer daytime hours. This freeze-thaw cycle may occur throughout the winter and into the spring. Saint-Gaudens NHS has brick paths, patios, and stairs, many still constructed from historic materials, and these accelerated freeze-thaw cycles seem to be stressing our historic brickwork. Some bricks have popped free of their mortar, creating safety hazards on stairs and paths. Other bricks have cracked and spalled, necessitating their replacement.

In seeking to gain a better understanding of how climate change would impact park resources, we found some keys to making climate change and its impacts relevant to members of the public. Flashy impacts of climate change such as glaciers melting and seas rising are distant reminders of a changing climate for most people. If you don’t live in a flood zone, it is the more immediate impacts, such as those witnessed at Saint-Gaudens, that we will all experience in our homes, in our yards, in our everyday lives that are the most relevant to us.

To get this widely applicable message out, Saint-Gaudens NHS has hosted a variety of public presentations and even sent rangers on the road to speak about climate change impacts in the park. In 2014, the park partnered with the Union of Concerned Scientists on a climate change and cultural resources speaker series. We are also developing a wayside exhibit that identifies some of the changes noted at the park, relating them to impacts visitors may note at their own homes. Our consistent message has been that our climate change impacts are your climate change impacts.

Mansion and formal garden, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Mansion and formal garden, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Twenty miles away, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock, Vermont, has taken a different approach to bridging the relevancy gap, an approach that focuses more on environmental leadership. The park tells the story of the history of conservation in the United States through three families, all with roots on this Vermont property. George Perkins Marsh–lawyer, diplomat, linguist, and polymath–was a keen observer of the Vermont environment. As early as 1847, in remarks to the Agricultural Society of Rutland County, Marsh recognized that human activities were causing changes to the Earth’s climate.

Man cannot at his pleasure command the rain and the sunshine, the wind and frost and snow, yet it is certain that climate itself has in many instances been gradually changed and ameliorated or deteriorated by human action. The draining of swamps and the clearing of forests perceptibly effect the evaporation from the earth, and of course the mean quantity of moisture suspended in the air. The same causes modify the electrical condition of the atmosphere and the power of the surface to reflect, absorb and radiate the rays of the sun, and consequently influence the distribution of light and heat, and the force and direction of the winds.

Marsh’s 1864 book Man and Nature awakened the country’s environmental consciousness. The subsequent occupants of the Marsh property sought to turn Marsh’s theories into practice. Frederick and Julia Billings and their daughters reforested the slopes of Mount Tom within the park and applied scientific forestry techniques to helping the overgrazed and overforested lands recover. Mary and Laurance Rockefeller took the Marsh and Billings legacy of conservation across the nation with their advocacy for national parks and protected lands.

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller NHP has become a model for sustainable building and energy practices. The park’s landscape is a working forest, the oldest sustainably managed forest in the United States. Each year, timber stands planted by the Billingses and managed by the Rockefellers are thinned and harvested for sustainable yield. That wood returns to the park in a variety of ways.

Forest Center, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Forest Center, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Photo credit: National Park Service.

In 2008, the park opened its first sustainably built building. Certified at the LEED Platinum level, the Forest Center is made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood harvested from the park and is heated with park wood via a wood gasification boiler system. Photovoltaic cells provide power to the building as well as to a historic pony barn that the park rehabilitated in 2012 into a completely off-grid artist studio, also heated with park-harvested wood. The park has replaced numerous oil-fired boilers with wood- and pellet-burning technologies that use the park’s forest as a sustainable fuel source and is in the process of replacing an oil-fired heating system with a geothermal system. With these new systems in place, the park anticipates fossil fuel energy reductions of 80 percent over baselines established in our master energy plan.

These technologies coupled with the conservation message inherent to the park’s story provide ample opportunities for interpretation. Programs focus on the contributions of the park’s key historic figures to conservation history and highlight the park’s role in continuing that conservation leadership. Special programs tie modern technology to the trailblazing work of Marsh, Billings, and Rockefeller. Some systems, as well as stores of cordwood, are purposely easy for visitors to see, in order to drive home the sustainability message that is core to the park’s mission.

Uniquely, the park’s founding was accompanied by the establishment of an institute to help advance conservation practice. If the park is concerned with sharing the history of conservation, the NPS Stewardship Institute is charged with continuing the Rockefeller legacy of promoting conservation practice across the nation. The Institute supports conservation leaders in the NPS, advances practice among conservation professionals, and helps nourish and implement emerging ideas that can benefit conservation practitioners and educators.

Harvest moon over the hills of Vermont, as seen from Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Harvest moon over the hills of Vermont, as seen from Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. Photo credit: National Park Service.

Two different national parks and two different approaches to using cultural resources to bridge the relevancy gap. Saint-Gaudens has focused its efforts on identifying the likely impacts of climate change on historic resources as a means of raising awareness and building a future constituency. Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller has used its historical legacy of action to become a model for sustainable technologies. As parks with strong cultural and historical slants, talking about complex natural resource topics such as human-caused climate change can be a challenge. But as the National Park Service continues to develop its abilities in this area, both parks will be well-situated to even more effectively link history to climate change to bridge the relevancy gap.

~ Rick Kendall, an archaeologist by training, is superintendent of Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, and the NPS Stewardship Institute in Vermont.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Dec 13, 2016]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22585 2016-12-14T00:48:20Z 2016-12-14T00:47:15Z newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Awards for film and other public history projects; conferences memorial art, justice and memory practices, oral history, dark tourism; summer teacher workshops for US educators; reviews of two recent Canadian environmental/public histories.

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

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newspaper-in-fieldFrom around the field this week: Awards for film and other public history projects; conferences memorial art, justice and memory practices, oral history, dark tourism; summer teacher workshops for US educators; reviews of two recent Canadian environmental/public histories.

AWARDS and FUNDING

CONFERENCES and CALLS

 LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

PUBLICATIONS

To submit an item to this regular 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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Levi Fox <![CDATA[Project Showcase: Trump’s Gambling Heritage Tour]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22021 2016-12-11T23:44:39Z 2016-12-12T13:30:33Z trump-tour-photo

Levi Fox discusses recent Atlantic City history outside the former Trump Plaza, which closed in 2014. Photo credit: backpackbears

Public historians are occasionally presented with opportunities to engage in projects relevant not just to our local communities, but of immediate importance to the entire country. Read More

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Levi Fox discusses recent Atlantic City history outside the former Trump Plaza, which closed in 2014. Photo credit: backpackbears

Public historians are occasionally presented with opportunities to engage in projects relevant not just to our local communities, but of immediate importance to the entire country. Last summer, Donald J. Trump’s nomination as the presidential candidate of the Republican Party, combined with the decision to close Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal in the midst of a labor strike, offered me just such an opportunity. So, in September I launched the “Trump’s Gambling Heritage Tour” on the Atlantic City Boardwalk.

As a PhD candidate at Temple University, president and CEO of Jersey Shore Tours, and a native of Atlantic County, New Jersey, I saw the rise of Trump and the fall of the Taj Mahal as a teachable moment of tremendous political and economic consequence. The walking tour begins at the Taj and takes visitors down the Boardwalk to the shell of the shuttered Trump Plaza. I stop along the route at several points to discuss president-elect Trump’s multiple casino bankruptcies, as well as the broader history of legalized gambling in Atlantic City.

Visitor questions have tended to focus on local stories that had not previously made the national news, such as Trump’s strategic acquisition of three nearly-completed casinos by 1990. Tourists have also inquired about tax loopholes which allowed Trump to boast that he took nearly a billion dollars of wealth out of Atlantic City, without investing much of his own money. While most visitors have responded very positively to the tour experience, some passersby have been upset by my sharing of unflattering facts about Trump.

This new tour immediately garnered media attention from the Philadelphia Inquirer and our local National Public Radio affiliate, as well as digital coverage.  The interest which I have received from international journalists has offered the most intriguing opportunities. I have been able to lead tours for German, French Canadian, and Spanish journalists, helping shape their coverage of president-elect Trump’s career in Atlantic City.  Moreover, the results of the election seem likely to provide me with an extended window to continue to share the real story of Trump’s legacy in our local community with a global audience. I will be offering this tour every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. through Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.

I hope tourists take away from the experience a sense of how Trump’s history in Atlantic City may provide a useful context to understanding some of his campaign claims, and potentially, how he might act as president. I also hope visitors leave with a deeper appreciation of the ways local stories, told through material culture and sites of memory, can speak to national narratives.

~ Levi Fox is a PhD candidate at Temple University and founder of Jersey Shore Tours.

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Meghan Hillman <![CDATA[Something new is “popping up” in Indy]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22404 2016-12-05T19:40:28Z 2016-12-07T13:30:39Z Mickey Mouse History Pop-up, 2015 Annual Meeting. Photo credit: NCPH.

Mickey Mouse History Pop-up, 2015 Annual Meeting, Nashville, TN. Photo credit: NCPH.

The National Council on Public History is offering a new way for attendees to get involved in the 2017 NCPH Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, April 19-22, by opening our first-ever Call for Pop-Ups. Read More

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Mickey Mouse History Pop-up, 2015 Annual Meeting. Photo credit: NCPH.

Mickey Mouse History Pop-up, 2015 Annual Meeting, Nashville, TN. Photo credit: NCPH.

The National Council on Public History is offering a new way for attendees to get involved in the 2017 NCPH Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, April 19-22, by opening our first-ever Call for Pop-Ups.

We realize this may seem counterintuitive; surely a pop-up is intended to just, well, pop up? Since 2014, NCPH meetings have featured pre-arranged pop-up exhibits or activities in the commons area of the exhibit hall. In each case, the pop-up emerged as a refreshing opportunity for attendees to interact with presenters in a relatively informal and unstructured way. Previously these pop-ups have been arranged between NCPH staff and members or presenters who have privately expressed interest. Now that we’ve seen some excellent models of successful pop-ups, we think it’s time to open up this presentation opportunity to all.

From NCPH’s perspective, pop-ups are a valuable way to add an additional level of fun and interest to our exhibit hall space. In our quest to emphasize non-traditional conference presentation styles, we’re always pursuing inventive ways for conference-goers to connect and learn from one another. Pop-ups provide additional space for flexible, collaborative experimentation, where attendees get to control the amount of time they spend with the pop-up and can provide immediate one-on-one feedback to its organizers.

A brief history of NCPH pop-ups

The first NCPH conference pop-up, held at the 2014 meeting in Monterey, California, was the brainchild of a group of American University graduate students who wanted to create an exhibit examining the intersection of public history, the environment, human labor, and cultural resources entirely onsite at the conference. This tied in with the meeting’s theme, Sustainable Public History. (Connecting with the conference theme is a great place to start if you are considering proposing a pop-up for the 2017 annual meeting but need a little direction.) The organizers asked attendees to contribute their own experiences–along with images and labels–to the exhibit, Seeds of Change, and awarded prizes for standout entries.

Jenks Museum Pop-up. 2015 Annual Meeting. Photo credit: NCPH.

Jenks Museum Pop-up. 2015 Annual Meeting. Photo credit: NCPH.

At the 2015 conference in Nashville, three groups held pop-ups in the exhibit hall. Graduate student winners of the 2015 Student Project Award brought a traveling version of the Jenks Museum, a natural history collection that once existed at Brown University, but has since been lost to time. Participants recreated lost museum specimens in miniature, and these creations joined the home exhibit. A pair of public historians held a pop-up about copyright and fair use, gathering stories and experiences from their fellow public historians and answering questions from attendees. Finally, members of the 2015 working group Free, Separate, Uncertain: Can Public History Play? set participants loose on historical games and asked them to fill in a memory wall about educational play. The Call for Pop-Ups contains more information about each of these examples, including links to History@Work blog posts written by their organizers.

Unfortunately, several potential pop-ups in the works for the 2016 meeting in Baltimore ended up falling through. We missed having them in our exhibit hall, and we think our attendees did too–which is why we’ve decided now is the time to take a more active role in giving your creative, unconventional ideas room to grow.

What, exactly, is a pop-up?

That’s up to you! If you’re interested in putting together a pop-up but aren’t quite sure where to start, those from previous conferences offer good templates. However, NCPH has no specific expectations in terms of format or content. The beauty of pop-ups is that they can be what their organizers need them to be. We merely ask that they be visual and interactive and that they offer attendees a fundamentally different experience than they would get during a breakout or poster session. You can set up shop in the commons area of the exhibit hall for two hours, half a day, or a full day depending on the scope of your project. You can crowd-source an exhibit, share a collection or project you’re working on and ask attendees to evaluate it, or inspire attendees to write, draw, build, or play. The possibilities are endless.

Why should I propose a pop-up?

Pop-ups are ideal for people who are still looking for a way to get on the official Program for Indianapolis, or for anyone who is already presenting as part of a session or working group but thinks that an aspect of their work might really shine in a more interactive and informal format. In the past, pop-ups have been student-friendly opportunities, and they’re also a low-pressure way to dip your toes into presenting at an NCPH conference if you’ve never done so. This format might be especially well-suited to museums and organizations looking to share their programming with public historians and Indianapolis locals who want to help attendees get to know the city better.

Finally, if you’ve had a look at the preliminary Program and think there’s something missing that public historians should be talking about, this is your chance to make it happen. NCPH is your professional organization, this is your conference, and we want it to reflect the topics and issues important to you.

To submit a proposal for a pop-up, please see the Call for Pop-Ups. Proposals are due by January 15, 2017. Program Committee co-chairs Peter Liebhold and John Sprinkle will evaluate proposals and make their selections by early February, a deadline selected to ensure that pop-ups will be listed in the revised digital and onsite printed Program. If you have any questions about pop-ups or just want to float an idea before you officially propose it, send me an email at meghillm@iupui.edu.

~ Meghan Hillman is NCPH’s program assistant.

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