National Council on Public History Putting History to Work in the World 2017-02-23T14:48:37Z http://ncph.org/feed/atom/ WordPress Elizabeth Belanger <![CDATA[Public history in the classroom]]> http://ncph.org/?p=23838 2017-02-22T00:39:07Z 2017-02-22T13:30:25Z

Sharing Stories: College students and teens dialoging at the community center.” Photo credit: Elizabeth Belanger

Over the past weeks my project colleagues have provided glimpses into public history’s “Radical Roots.” In these posts, key figures and sites have emerged: Gene Weltfish at the American Civilization Institute of Morristown, the campers and counselors at Camp Woodland , and Louis Jones at Cooperstown Graduate Program Read More

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Sharing Stories: College students and teens dialoging at the community center.” Photo credit: Elizabeth Belanger

Over the past weeks my project colleagues have provided glimpses into public history’s “Radical Roots.” In these posts, key figures and sites have emerged: Gene Weltfish at the American Civilization Institute of Morristown, the campers and counselors at Camp Woodland , and Louis Jones at Cooperstown Graduate Program. As these blog posts attest, radical public historians as early as the Progressive Era have sought out untold stories and voices, and worked in deeply local contexts. My own work explores how we can see the tendrils of public history’s radical past influencing its current practices.

With eight years of teaching under my belt and previous experience teaching an undergraduate public history practicum course, I entered into my current collaboration with a sense of confidence about how I could help my students navigate the complicated and often frustrating circumstances of community partnerships. “You need to be flexible,” I would caution my students. “You can’t expect community partners to conform to the academic calendar.” “You need to listen, and to respect community knowledge and expertise.” Above all, I reminded them, “You need to undertake this project with them, not for them.” The values of reciprocity, respect, and understanding were echoed in the social justice-oriented model projects we examined and the readings we did in the class. But as we worked to place reciprocity, respect, and understanding at the center of their interactions with community members, I found myself rethinking what it meant to teach a “successful” radical public history practicum course and what a “successful” radical student project looked like.

Brainstorming at the community center. Photo credit: Elizabeth Belanger

I work at a small, liberal arts college in western New York. Our collaboration with the community emerged from conversations with the director of an afterschool program for teens in the city. The teen center had a vibrant arts curriculum and we brainstormed ways in which we could integrate public history into an arts project for the city’s monthly celebration of arts and culture. What emerged was a ten-week collaboration where students from my course, “Art, Memory and the Power of Place,” and teen artists would craft a public humanities project.

The theoretical framework for the course came from the writings of both art critics and historians who talk about dialogical projects. As John Kuo Wei Tchen, one of the founders of the Museum of Chinese in America (formerly known as the Chinatown History Museum) notes, “to be dialogue-driven is a work process where documentation, meaning, and re-presentation are acknowledged to be co-developed with those whom the history is of, for, and about.”[1] As I started to craft my course, I discovered it was relatively easy to find evidence of public history work that shared similar values to the ones I wanted to encourage my students to adopt. Recent work like the Guantánamo Public Memory Project includes sections of the exhibit where exhibit authors articulated their personal viewpoints and stories. But for the most part, however, descriptions and reviews of final public history projects did not include descriptions of their classroom procedures. I found little evidence of how project collaborators built bonds of mutual respect and trust central to dialogical work. In addition, I found myself struggling to assess such values. How do you grade community interactions? Can you assume that these values are reflected in the end work? Is it possible to have a process that reflects meaningful collaboration and an end project that does not?

As my collaborator Rachel Donaldson notes in her post, despite an existing historiography which focuses on public history’s ties to traditional academic history, public history is, and has always been, interdisciplinary. Yet for the most part, we tend to assess public history projects using traditional assessment measures.  The Public Historian advises reviewers to explore the “work’s significance for public historians,” “how it fits within a body of scholarship,” and to “critically engage with the issues of the exhibition” in their reviews. A quick survey of on-line syllabi reveals public history student projects that are assessed on their historical accuracy, objective analysis which incorporates multiple viewpoints, and their overall “argument.” Teaching radical history requires us to rethink these notions of success.

In framing my course’s public history work as “with” the community and not “for” them, I turned to crafting course assessments which privileged processes over the product. A weekly reflective journal where students were asked to document and reflect on the process of undertaking a public humanities project served as the main assessment of student learning. The journal format, adopted from Dr. Edward Zlotkowski’s service learning model, was designed to facilitate deep reflection on the collaboration—asking students not only to record what happened, but to examine how their own biases and assumptions shaped their work. The journals were also exercises in listing and observation. Students had to recount specific interactions with their collaborators, exploring how social identities, and issues of power, authority and voice were evidenced in their relationships with others.

Teen and college student collaboration in the Arts Room. Photo credit: Elizabeth Belanger

When it came to assessing the final project, I turned to the students and teens themselves. “What,” I asked them, “will make this project successful?” What I found most interesting about their responses was their disregard for elements some historians might use to define “success” and rather, their embrace of the affective dimensions of the work. In their reflections and journals they clearly communicated how they had been personally transformed by the work, and how they hoped the work would transform viewers. It was a definition of success rooted in changing the hearts of their audience, not their minds.

College Collaborator: “I would rather be judged on the personal impact rather than the art itself. If it affects peoples, their emotions, they are inspired and it makes them happy—then that is successful.”

College Collaborator: “It will be successful if the people in the project feel that they had a voice [in the project] and were able to speak to community members through a different venue.”

Teen Collaborator: “I’ll be happy if it makes one person think. If they keep it with them while they are living. I mean it would be great if the whole community was affected, but I know for a fact that is probably not going to happen. It will probably make some people think for a little while then go away.”

Ultimately, the affective perspective my students brought to their radical public history work got me thinking that perhaps we need to look more closely at where our students are coming from and why they are choosing to take public history courses. Certainly some students enroll in public history courses because, as many department websites highlight, it provides them with job training, and teaches “hands-on” skills, including collaboration and project development, but for my students, undergraduates in a liberal arts setting, a public history practicum made evident their desire to learn more about themselves (their assumptions and biases) and to work with different groups of people. Thus a “successful” project was a project that pushed both its creators and audience to re-imagine their place in the world. As public humanities scholar Julie Ellison notes of her research on graduate students in the public humanities “we must take to heart the growing evidence that the desire to become a different kind of person is driving change in the humanities.”[2] While assessing “soft skills” like dialogue, critical reflection, and collaboration is difficult, doing so sends a message to our students that our course assessment aligns with the values we purport to teach in radical public history. If we want to educate the next generation of radical public historians, we need to not only be the change, we need to teach it.

~Elizabeth Belanger is an associate professor of American Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. Her work has been published in the Journal of American History, The History Teacher, The Public Historian, and Arts and Humanities in Higher Education. She is currently the director of the People’s History of Geneva, a community oral history project which is working with the Geneva City School to create a local history curriculum.

1  John Kuo Wei Tchen and Liz Ševčenko, “The ‘Dialogic Museum’ Revised: A Collaborative Reflection,” in  Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World,  edited by Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski (Philadelphia: Pew Center for the Arts, 2011), 82.

2  Julie Ellison, “The New Public Humanists,” PMLA 128, no. 2 (2013), 296.

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editors <![CDATA[Ask a consulting historian: Patrick Cox]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22954 2017-02-06T14:07:20Z 2017-02-20T13:30:34Z At the historic Luckenbach, Texas store and dance hall with bust of Texas legend Honda Crouch. Photo credit: Patrick Cox.

Patrick Cox at the historic Luckenbach, Texas store and dance hall with bust of Texas legend Honda Crouch. Photo credit: Patrick Cox.

Patrick Cox, Ph.D., is an award-winning, nationally recognized historian, author, and conservationist. A sixth-generation Texan who resides with his wife Brenda in Wimberley, Texas, he is president of Patrick Cox Consultants, LLC. Read More

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At the historic Luckenbach, Texas store and dance hall with bust of Texas legend Honda Crouch. Photo credit: Patrick Cox.

Patrick Cox at the historic Luckenbach, Texas store and dance hall with bust of Texas legend Honda Crouch. Photo credit: Patrick Cox.

Patrick Cox, Ph.D., is an award-winning, nationally recognized historian, author, and conservationist. A sixth-generation Texan who resides with his wife Brenda in Wimberley, Texas, he is president of Patrick Cox Consultants, LLC. His firm specializes in historical research and projects for individuals, corporations, legal firms, and nonprofit organizations.

Describe how you first became interested in history.

I have been interested in American history since my childhood. Family trips usually involved trips to historic sites, state and national parks, and museums. My favorite books were American histories and biographies. Even today my friends and family insist that I regale them with engaging stories and historic anecdotes when we are having dinner or traveling together. Time and space do not allow for further elaboration, but there will always be future opportunities. I am also a former journalist and newspaper editor so I know all about word limitations. As for my formal education, I received my Ph.D. in history and B.A. in history from the University of Texas at Austin, and my M.A. in history with honors from Texas State University (formerly Southwest Texas State University). I was very proud to receive the Texas State University Distinguished Alumni Award in 2014. Over my career, I served as the editor of our family newspaper, The Wimberley View, as assistant land commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, and as associate director of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. I am the author of nine books and have published hundreds of articles and reviews on U.S. and southwestern history, natural resources, and conservation. I also serve on the boards of many nonprofit organizations involved with education, history, the environment, the arts, and service in the community.

When did you start consulting?

Whit Jones and Patrick Cox on the historic Jones Ranch in South Texas. Photo credit: Patrick Cox.

Whit Jones and Patrick Cox on the historic Jones Ranch in South Texas. Photo credit: Patrick Cox.

Following my retirement from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011, I wanted to stay involved as a professional historian and be more active in public history. I formed my limited liability corporation, Patrick Cox Consultants, LLC, which is based at the ranch headquarters in Wimberley, Texas, about thirty-five miles southwest of Austin. I encourage anyone interested in securing consulting contracts or providing historical services to incorporate as a business. This takes a little time and effort, but the benefits provide more opportunities and protection for your business, whether you will be working by yourself or have dozens of employees or subcontractors.

Do you specialize in a particular field of public history?

I devote most of my research, writing, and consulting work to political and cultural American history. I also conduct and direct oral history and historic preservation projects. I enjoy working with others on projects, spending time outdoors in the field on historic preservation projects, doing research in archives, and providing presentations to students, nonprofit groups, businesses, and friends on the importance and relevance of our history.

Describe an average day at work.

Coffee, a little more coffee, reading (mostly history, of course, but some current news), walks with my wife and our dogs, a little meditation, checking wildlife feeders, and working on the project du jour. I agree with many of my wise colleagues who believe that, when it comes to history, evolutionary thinking is both knowing and not knowing at the same time.

Describe your typical clients.

Nonprofit organizations, private corporations, legal firms, and government agencies.

Do you collaborate with other consulting historians?

Yes, definitely. I have worked on many collaborative efforts with other historians and employed subcontractors for specific tasks such as research and transcript services. And a lot of them are good friends as well as outstanding professionals. I also provide information and collaborate with the public history program at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas.

Do you collaborate with professionals outside of public history?

Yes, I continue to work with and consult other academic and retired historians, government officials, university professors, active and retired professionals, attorneys, architects, and many others. They provide valuable information, advice, and contributions.

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

Leave this to the professionals. My LLC has professional accounting services for filing required reports and taxes, legal services for more complex contracts and agreements, and web professionals for website development and maintenance.

Describe some of your recent projects. 

Current projects include: an organizational and oral history of distinguished and historic figures of Sam Houston Alumni, Delta Theta Phi Legal Fraternity, University of Texas at Austin; a biography on Tom Sealy, a distinguished attorney, University of Texas regent, civic and education leader; a National Register of Historic Places nomination of the W.W. Jones and the Jones Family Ranches of South Texas; and the Texas Dance Hall Preservation Association nonprofit organization’s strategic plan to recognize and protect historic dance halls. My recent publications are: Picturing Texas Politics (University of Texas Press, 2015); Ranching in the Wild Horse Desert (Grunwald Printing, 2014); and Writing the History of Texas (University of Texas Press, 2013), essays on famous Texas historians with their noteworthy contributions; “W.W. Jones of South Texas” in Texan Identities (University of North Texas Press, 2016) and  “’Harry, the President is Dead’: Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas, Vice President Harry Truman and Congressman Lyndon Johnson at the ‘Board of Education’ on April 12, 1945,” to be included in Eavesdropping on Texas History (University of North Texas Press, 2017).

How do you seek new work? 

I primarily rely on my network of colleagues, participation in professional historical associations, my involvement on numerous boards of nonprofit organizations (local, regional, and national). Having worked and been active in the field for many years, I am fortunate to have many contacts and a reputation for producing results based on solid research and analysis. I also try to have coffee or lunch with friends on a regular basis to share stories and friendship. In addition to my website, I have Facebook and LinkedIn accounts and try to update those on a regular basis. And I have been fortunate over the years to work with many engaging and inspiring people who are interested in providing our history to people from all walks of life.

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

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Melissa Marietta <![CDATA[The Women’s March on Washington: A practical resistance]]> http://ncph.org/?p=23803 2017-02-17T13:36:05Z 2017-02-17T13:30:46Z  

Melissa Marietta (right) and a friend preparing for the Women’s March on Washington. Photo credit: Melissa Marietta

On November 9th, I put my kids on the bus and cried in the shower. I was embarrassed by my own visceral reaction to the news of the election and tried to recover for my day in the office. Read More

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Melissa Marietta (right) and a friend preparing for the Women’s March on Washington. Photo credit: Melissa Marietta

On November 9th, I put my kids on the bus and cried in the shower. I was embarrassed by my own visceral reaction to the news of the election and tried to recover for my day in the office. What I soon discovered, however, was that I was not alone in my shock, grief and anger. A few weeks later, when I learned that a march was being planned in D.C. for the day after the inauguration, I didn’t think twice about signing myself up to participate. For the first time in my life. Like many others (before the march none of us had any idea just how many others) newbie marchers joined with seasoned protesters to participate in the largest march in modern times.

I reflect here on my own experience as a demonstrator and emphasize to historians the importance of the things we carried that day.

My biggest material culture lesson from the Women’s March on Washington (WMOW) is to dress the part. Historically, dress has been an integral aspect of protest material culture. As a protester, the act of marching is an impactful, theatrical, political performance. The costuming, accessories, scenery, words and music all come together to make a defining sensory statement to the intended audience.

In the article, “Protesters, You Better Dress for Success,” author Craig Mills provides us with a synopsis of the importance of protest attire and the message it conveys about the wearer. What you wear, or don’t wear, sends a strong message both to those protesting and those observing the protests. For example, Mills argues that at the turn of the century, suffragettes matched their political demands with the “new woman” look, which included less restrictive undergarments, and wore white, purple, and green at marches. The Black Panthers’ berets and fatigues were both unapologetic and provocative statements. Mills also writes that the Panthers’ clothing and actions alienated those who might have otherwise sympathized with the movement. As much as protest clothing sends messages to the observer, to those within the protests, the uniformity of costume says, “I belong here, too.”

During the early stages of planning, the organizers of the WMOW garnered quick criticism regarding lack of intersectionality and inclusivity. In response, they quickly diversified their leadership and spoke transparently about the WMOW as a march for all. The march’s unity principles countered critiques of alienation, clearly defining support of “Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women.” This inclusivity, however, alienated some white women, who questioned their place in the march, feeling they did not belong, even if the march was for “all humans.”

So what does protest costume and attire look like for hundreds of thousands of protesters seeking common ground while not diminishing marginalized voices? What would marchers from such diverse backgrounds, with unique and individual march motives, wear that would say, “I belong here, too”?

The WMOW took place in the northeast in January. March costume is not only an act of performance, it is practical, and mind you,”Black women, Native women, poor women, immigrant women, disabled women, Muslim women, lesbian queer and trans women” and white women are practical. What did that mean for WMOW protest attire? Marchers wore a hat, specifically a pussy hat.

Pussy hats worn by protesters during the Women’s March on Washington. Photo credit: Melissa Marietta

A material culture record of the WMOW would not be complete without the pussy hat. As captured in a simple yet powerful image on the cover of Time magazine, the hat is a critical part of the legacy of the WMOW and serves as a symbol of the resistance and democracy in action mixed with practicality. The pussy hat, worn by a majority of marchers, made by knitters across the country and donated to the cause, is a message of marginalized groups “taking back,” and mostly, a unifier for marchers, who despite their differences in race, age, religion, economic status, and motive for marching, could don the hat and say, “I belong here and so do you.” The sea of pink also showed that women protesters are practical planners and many (though not all) are moms. We wear hats in the winter and we make sure our kids do, too. WMOW 101: use common sense when practicing political resistance.

However, what might be the most overlooked symbol of the WMOW, and use of common sense during resistance, is the clear, plastic backpack. The backpack, as prevalent at the march as the pussy hat, and regulated by organizers to be no larger than 17″ x 12″ x 6’’, demonstrates a global climate of fear and the push for transparency in matters related to security at mass gatherings. In his article, “How the Trump Inaugural Cleaned Out Amazon’s Clear Backpack Supply”, author Galen Moore cites the clear backpack’s rise in use by the general population post-Columbine, post-Boston Marathon, post-Berlin attack and the seriousness with which marchers took the advice of organizers, selling out the stock of national online retailer Amazon.

In the article “What It really means to wear a clear backpack to the women’s march,” Rory Satran reminds readers of the fashionable, and somewhat odd, popularity of the plastic backpack of the 1990s, an item used by ravers and proudly sported by teenage girls along with plastic barrettes and knee socks. Satran also references the darker side of the clear bag, when its use is imposed, as is was on high school students at an Annapolis school who felt the mandatory clear bag was a sign of lack of trust. As Satran so articulately states, “the clear backpack sends a mixed message. It’s both a fashionable counterculture symbol and a symptom of oppression.”

Dr. Edythe Ann Quinn, author, professor of history at Hartwick College, a colleague of mine and a seasoned protester, shared this observation in a recent email conversation: “The backpack is a metaphor for the WMOW: clear, even transparent, individual motivations for personal and local and national well being. And common resistance. What are we about; just look inside us, our dreams, our hopes, our faith, our anger. Nothing is hidden. We invite you to look.”

Politicians and historians: start taking notes. You can’t miss us with our chants, our signs, our pussy hats and our clear backpacks. Our motives are bright and clear. The movement is here.

~ Melissa Marietta is the director of career services at Hartwick College. She holds a bachelor of arts in American Studies from Mount Holyoke College and a master of arts in museum studies from the Cooperstown graduate program.
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Rachel Donaldson <![CDATA[Broadening our understanding of the roots of public history education]]> http://ncph.org/?p=23303 2017-02-15T01:31:51Z 2017-02-15T13:30:09Z

Camp Woodland Photo Credit: SUNY Albany Archives

How closely is public history tied to academic history? Judging by the historiography of public history, it would seem that the answer to that is “very”; after all, the generally accepted view is that the field came into its own in the 1970s directed by formally trained academic historians. Read More

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Camp Woodland Photo Credit: SUNY Albany Archives

How closely is public history tied to academic history? Judging by the historiography of public history, it would seem that the answer to that is “very”; after all, the generally accepted view is that the field came into its own in the 1970s directed by formally trained academic historians. While we all know that the methodologies of, and audiences for, academic and public history differ, public history—particularly the pedagogy of public history—has nevertheless been treated as essentially a branch off the tree of scholarly history.

Yet, how can this be, when our field is inherently interdisciplinary? In fact, interdisciplinarity is one common thread that I could find running through every US graduate program in public history, both in programs that stand on their own and in those run through history departments. While some graduate programs in academic history encourage students to take courses in other departments, interdisciplinarity is not the norm of the field; historians are trained in the disciplinary specifics of history.

Public historians, however, come from a variety of backgrounds. When I entered the field through training in historic preservation after earning a PhD in history, I was (pleasantly) surprised by how few of my colleagues came from a historical background. For the first time, I was able to truly engage with ideas and approaches in anthropology, archaeology, American Studies, vernacular architecture, urban planning, and material culture, to name just a few. Perhaps, then, in addition to emphasizing the historians who moved into the public realm as the vanguard of public history, we need to pay closer attention to the figures from a variety of fields and scholarly backgrounds whose activities reflected an early form of contemporary public history practice well before the first graduate program in public history began.

My own work focuses not on the applied history programs of the early twentieth century, but rather on the significance of another applied field: public folklore. In the US, before folklore became a discipline of its own, most folklorists were trained as scholars in anthropology or literature. Although they were not really tied to history departments at all, many of them focused on the past, interpreting folklore as a key part of American history and heritage. Unlike their academic counterparts, public folklorists presented their work, including their understandings of how and why folklore provided critical insight into social history (as key public folklorist Benjamin Botkin described it), to a public audience. Public folklorists, particularly during the New Deal, disseminated their work through radio programs, craft and music festivals, and popular books. While many directed their message to a general audience, others focused on teaching children how to appreciate, collect, and conserve folk traditions—not only because they were vital aspects of their shared heritage, but also because they were important traditions that continued to serve a function in their communities.

While this education often occurred in schools, it was not tethered to the traditional classroom setting. This is where, in my view, the story gets interesting. A cohort of public folklorists in New York, several of whom were traditional educators, began teaching children the rudiments of what we now recognize as key facets of contemporary public history in summer camps. A primary example of this effort was Camp Woodland in the Catskill Mountains. Every summer, from 1938 until 1962, the staff at Camp Woodland—none of whom were trained historians—taught campers how to conduct oral interviews with local residents in order to understand local history, took campers on field trips to collect examples of tangible and intangible folk culture, and engaged the local community through public performances and a museum of work tools. Through these activities, Woodland introduced schoolchildren to local history in addition to teaching them rudimentary methods of applied folklore, material culture conservation, and oral history—all of which would become foundational for the emergence of public history pedagogy programs of the late twentieth century.

By shifting our focus from history to other fields like folklore, we can trace an alternative origin of the ideas and practices that would come to form the core of public history. We can see how the pedagogical practices of these fields shaped the development of public history training that would come to the fore in the later decades of the twentieth century. Furthermore, we can locate here the methodological roots of the field—as well as its radical roots. Many of the camps steeped in public folklore like Woodland were tied to the Communist Party during the 1930s and 1940s. Although Woodland was not directly affiliated with the party, its founders and staff members shared the same progressive social and political views that the Communist Party USA espoused throughout this period. The camp staunchly supported cultural pluralism, racial integration, and civil rights both during times when these ideas were acceptable in mainstream society and when they were not.

Even if this were all there was to the story of Woodland, it would make the history of this camp important to our historical understanding of twentieth-century political radicalism in the United States and the cultural history of the country during the early Cold War. However, there is also an important tie between the camp and the history of public history. In surveys conducted in the late 1990s, many campers, several of whom actually became public historians, responded that their experience at Woodland profoundly shaped both their political views and their careers, further tying Woodland to the genealogy of the field and to the development of its political identity.

By broadening our understanding of how the field of public history developed, as well as our appreciation for how early aspects of what now form the core of public history practice were taught both inside and outside of the classroom, we get a much richer—and much longer—view of the ideas, approaches, and politics that have undergirded the field in both its past and present forms.

~Rachel Donaldson is an assistant professor of public history in the department of history at College of Charleston, in Charleston, South Carolina. She holds a PhD in history and a masters degree in historic preservation. She has two books on the folk music revival, “I Hear America Singing”: Folk Music and National Identity (2014) and Roots of the Revival: American and British Folk Music in the 1950s co-written with Ronald Cohen (2014). Currently, she is revising the Labor History theme study for the National Historic Landmark program.

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editors <![CDATA[Around the field Feb 14, 2017]]> http://ncph.org/?p=23939 2017-02-15T01:05:50Z 2017-02-15T01:04:35Z From around the field this week: A new Chief Historian for the US National Park Service; conferences on oral history (Australia), women’s history (Texas and Indiana), religion and public memory (Canada), museums and human rights (Argentina); summer field schools in Italy/Greece and Ukraine; big new book on museum blogs. Read More

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From around the field this week: A new Chief Historian for the US National Park Service; conferences on oral history (Australia), women’s history (Texas and Indiana), religion and public memory (Canada), museums and human rights (Argentina); summer field schools in Italy/Greece and Ukraine; big new book on museum blogs.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

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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editors <![CDATA[Project Showcase: Mapping the Fourth of July]]> http://ncph.org/?p=20157 2017-02-06T13:59:32Z 2017-02-13T13:30:18Z Image_Mapping the Fourth

Screenshot credit: Mapping the Fourth of July, Virginia Tech

For more than two centuries, Americans have come together every July 4th to celebrate national unity. What happened during the deeply divided Civil War era? How did Americans commemorate their nation’s birthday as the nation was falling apart? Read More

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Image_Mapping the Fourth

Screenshot credit: Mapping the Fourth of July, Virginia Tech

For more than two centuries, Americans have come together every July 4th to celebrate national unity. What happened during the deeply divided Civil War era? How did Americans commemorate their nation’s birthday as the nation was falling apart? A new project called Mapping the Fourth attempts to answer these questions.

Mapping the Fourth is the product of a collaboration between faculty, staff, and students at Virginia Tech who are creating a digital archive from thousands of primary sources—newspaper articles, diaries, letters, and speeches. Having long used July 4th documents in his research and teaching, project director Paul Quigley recognized their unique ability to uncover diverse first-hand perspectives on the transformation of American national identity and race relations during the Civil War era.

Funded by a “Literacy and Engagement with Historical Records” grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, Mapping the Fourth draws on expertise across the Virginia Tech campus: Civil War historians, crowdsourcing experts from computer science, a social studies education specialist, and data management and mapping personnel from the university libraries.

The site makes the sources accessible for anyone to read. It also uses crowdsourcing to transcribe, tag, and thematically connect different documents. Ultimately, Mapping the Fourth will become a new kind of historical resource of interest to professional historians, students, and history enthusiasts around the country. It is inspired by crowdsourced transcription sites such as Old Weather and Operation War Diary, but offers its users deeper levels of engagement with a wider range of primary sources.

Anyone can use the site, but the creators envision it as an especially valuable resource for high school and college teachers. July 4th primary sources can be used to teach the biggest themes of Civil War era history in a focused and uniquely engaging way. Right now the Virginia Tech team is working on an online tutorial feature that encourages users to think about key issues of primary source interpretation, such as perspective, context, and timing.

Mapping the Fourth is already fully functional, and the team will be adding new features in the coming months. Whether you’re looking for an innovative new teaching tool or you’re simply interested in finding out how people celebrated Independence Day in your hometown, check out Mapping the Fourth and join the conversation. For more information contact Paul Quigley.

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Matthew Barlow <![CDATA[Curating punk rock]]> http://ncph.org/?p=23262 2017-02-09T16:24:28Z 2017-02-10T13:30:29Z

Elvis Presley in his iconic pose. Photo credit: Elvis Presley Music.

I was reading in The New Yorker a few weeks ago about the “museumification” of rock music. The article was about an exhibit on the Rolling Stones in New York City, Exhibitionism! Read More

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Elvis Presley in his iconic pose. Photo credit: Elvis Presley Music.

I was reading in The New Yorker a few weeks ago about the “museumification” of rock music. The article was about an exhibit on the Rolling Stones in New York City, Exhibitionism!, and the curator, Ileen Gallagher, was talking about her experiences at the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. She argues that it was the first place rock music was museumified. Gallagher gave credit to MTV, claiming that it gave rock music a visual culture. She is flat-out wrong. Rock music has had a visual culture from the get-go. Think of those iconic images of Elvis Presley, with his stand-up microphone thrown back to his side, as he shakes his hips and dances. Or the Beatles, with their iconic 1967 album cover for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  

Or, there is the great punk band the Sex Pistols. In many ways, the Pistols were a carefully contrived multi-media assault on rock music and British society in the late 1970s. The band’s manager, Malcolm McLaren, carefully constructed and curated a visual culture for the band based on frontman Johnny Rotten’s (né Lydon) unique style.

McLaren’s partner, in romance and business, was the fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, and together, they operated a clothing boutique in Chelsea, London, called SEX. The Sex Pistols had the run of the store, picking and choosing their clothing (with McLaren’s approval). McLaren also carefully controlled nearly every other aspect of the Pistols’ public life. And he manufactured many of the “crises” that the Sex Pistols experienced during their short career at the end of the 1970s. However, while McLaren carefully curated the visual culture of the Sex Pistols, they were an authentic band. They formed two years before McLaren became their manager and they wrote their own music.

Sid Vicious, Steve Jones, and Johny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_Pistols.

Sid Vicious, Steve Jones, and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

When McLaren died in 2010, his trove of Sex Pistols and punk-related memorabilia went to his son with Westwood, Joe Corré. For the past half decade, Corré has wondered what to do with all of the detritus of the Sex Pistols and the early years of punk. In March 2016, Corré announced plans to torch around £5 million worth of punk memorabilia.

He was appalled by what has happened to punk since the late 1970s. In particular, Corré was gobsmacked and offended by Punk.London, an on-line exhibit site to complement a year-long commemorative program to celebrate the 40-year anniversary of the rise of punk in 2016. I can understand this. Punk.London comes complete with a tacky boutique, where on-line, one could buy over-priced and decidedly non-punk t-shirts commemorating the 100 Club, where the Sex Pistols played their first gig. While Corré hyperbolically claims that the Queen had given her official imprimatur to Punk.London, it was supported by the British Library, British Fashion Council, the National Lottery, and the Mayor of London.

Aging punks may be forgiven their skepticism, of course. It was not for nothing that the Sex Pistols commemorated Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 with the classic track “God Save the Queen.” The entire purpose of punk was to rile the establishment, to challenge convention, to point out that the status quo of late 1970s England was not good enough. For Corré, the idea that the very establishment that the Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, and other English punks challenged should be behind the movement’s commemoration is appalling: “Rather than a movement for change, punk has become like a fucking museum piece or a tribute act.”

Indeed. In 2012, London hosted the Summer Olympics and in the countdown to the opening, the Clash’s 1979 track “London Calling” was featured in official adverts. This was a classic example of the denuding of punk’s message. “London Calling” is not a happy song. It is set in a dangerous, depraved London, one still feeling the effects of the Blitz of World War II, three decades previously. And as I write this article, the Specials’ “A Message to You, Rudy” is playing on the TV in an advert for Fidelity Investments.

So Corré had a point. He set the date of 26 November 2016, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the release of the Pistols’ Anarchy in the UK.  And he carried through on this threat, torching his legacy on a barge on the Thames. This was also symbolic, as it recalled the Sex Pistols’ trolling of the Queen on 7 June 1977 by playing a hired boat on the River Thames outside of Parliament.

Personally, I am of two minds about Corré’s actions. As a public historian, I know I should be appalled by Corré’s vandalism. He has willfully torched and destroyed £5 million worth of memorabilia. This included original Westwood-designed clothing, initial pressings of Sex Pistols’ singles and albums, posters, and other representations of visual culture. My inner public historian says this all needed to end up in a museum, to be displayed, for the history of punk’s challenge to authority to be explained, contextualized, and used as a teaching moment. The activist in me thinks that punk’s message of the late 1970s and early 1980s is essential for today, as we face increased globalization, corporatization, and, of course a world dominated by the likes of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Theresa May (who wears Vivienne Westwood’s designs), and Marine Le Pen. There are valuable lessons to be learned from punk.

On the other hand, as an aging punk, I sympathize with Corré. Punk has been co-opted by the mainstream; it is used to sell everything from cars to retirement plans. It is on display in shopping malls around the world. It has been shorn of its politics and cleaned up, given a bath, and become an essential suburban culture. London.Punk isn’t going to do anything to actually remind people of the politics behind punk. Why would it, when people can giggle at the ridiculous hairdos and get themselves a 100 Club t-shirt?

Advertising is focused on taking stories about change and revolution to sell product. The lesson to be learned from individuals and movements who challenged and changed society is not that. That’s unimportant. What is important is how Volkswagen, Fidelity, PepsiCola, and so on have used the spirit of misfits, oddballs, and revolutionaries to challenge conventional thought in car design, retirement planning, and soda.

So I am left with questions about what we do with that which we cannot properly commemorate, curate, and exhibit? Punk is not difficult knowledge in the traditional sense; it’s a cultural movement. But I find myself wondering if the techniques used to curate and exhibit the undescribable might be useful in the case of protest movements that were a riot of color and sound like punk. Or are such things un-commemoratable, un-curatable, un-exhibitable?  

Matthew Barlow teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is an aging punk. His first book, Griffintown: History & Memory in an Irish Diaspora Neighbourhood, is out in May from UBC Press.

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James F. Brooks <![CDATA[Going public]]> http://ncph.org/?p=23068 2017-02-07T14:01:37Z 2017-02-07T13:30:34Z Editor’s note: We publish TPH editor James F. Brooks’s introduction to the February 2017 issue of The Public Historian. The entire issue is available online to National Council on Public History members.

I write surrounded by residues. One month ago, a national election laid waste my faith in the sense and sensibility of many of my fellow citizens. Read More

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

I write surrounded by residues. One month ago, a national election laid waste my faith in the sense and sensibility of many of my fellow citizens. Two weeks on and ash still hangs in the air over the charred homes and shaken hopes of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Two days ago, the Ghost Ship warehouse caught fire in Oakland, ending scores of  young, creative, and impassioned lives. Today I revisit the contents in this issue of The Public Historian and find a lesson amid the rubble. Public history is about more than “making history accessible to the public,” it is about going public with the stories of lives buried, literally or figuratively, in state violence, in the shadows of violence, and in the all-too-human capacity to all-too-easily forget.

Rachel Hatcher’s exploration of the courage with which Guatemala’s street artists, spray paint and buckets of glue in hand, have forcefully kept alive the history of that nation’s thirty-six-year internal war leads the issue. State-sponsored militias, funded by the US “anticommunist” geopolitical agenda, waged war against the poorest of indigenous peoples, dispossessed of their traditional lands by corporate monopolization; and against activists, union members, students, academics, and members of the official opposition. Some two hundred thousand Guatemalans died, another forty-five thousand remain “disappeared.” Recast by Guatemala’s street artists in flashes of bright paint, the Diario Militar (Death Squad Dossier), the once-secret catalogue of torture and death, has now “gone public.”  So too has indictment of the elite economic sector’s alliance with multinational capital in the scourge of the poor. Hatcher shows in rich visual detail how provocative public visual history demands this past remain in the forefront of public memory, and that “history” takes many forms. Street art provides lessons “that even those Guatemalans often excluded from conversations about the past can access, and each lesson is an invitation to open a dialogue about the past.”

Gregory Rosenthal’s “Make Roanoke Queer Again” is likewise an exercise in “going public.”  A product of the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, a community-based history initiative that Rosenthal cofounded in September 2015, the essay explores aspects of community history theory and practice through the contributions of more than “fifty people from the local community—including students and workers, cisgender and transgender individuals, gay, straight, bisexual, queer, and questioning folks” and shows how “queer flourishing” proved a critical element of the rebirth of Roanoke after post–WWII deindustrialization and white flight to the suburbs. It is also a timely example of street-level courage, in that the project “went public” in the April 29, 2016, with the #MakeRoanokeQueerAgain bar crawl, in the face of a fierce regional backlash against municipal ordinances that allow use of public restrooms to match the user’s gender identities.

Rosenthal employs the history of the movement to expand the public historiography of the queer South as well. He argues that the Roanoke case, with its urban setting, provides a new field for place-based, popularly driven oral history. In distinction from a tendency to see the queer South as predominantly situated in small towns or rural spaces, where privacy was essential to safety, he suggests that gentrifying cities such as Roanoke created a vast complex of social and cultural venues in which queerness could be more publicly expressed. Thus, southern queer history is also southern urban history, and perhaps among the most important underexplored elements of urban rebirth in the last three decades.

Like street history and queer history, Rachel Donaldson’s “Placing and Preserving Labor History” works in the face of erasures—the toil of and toll on working-class Americans of many nationalities and races seems rapidly fading in public memory and discourse. Although the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966 included the first cases of public commemoration of working-class sites—the Mountain Iron Mine, the Soudan Iron Mine, and the Washburn Flour Mill in Minnesota—the trend over the subsequent decades of national deindustrialization has been toward forgetting, rather than remembering. Even those sites on the National Register are often interpreted within narratives that “focus on their ties to important industrial leaders, their being places of technological achievement, or the roles they played in regional and national economic advancement, rather than acknowledging workers and their communities.” Counterexamples such as the Tsongas Industrial History Center of the Lowell National Historical Park and the Tenement Museum are powerfully rendered cases that forefront working-class life and struggle.

Donaldson challenges us to revise “the official statement of historic significance [in industrial and manufacturing sites] to include an emphasis on workers’ perspectives and experiences, [so that] preservationists can present a more nuanced understanding of the multiple meanings attributed to sites like this, which can, in turn, potentially broaden any future public interpretations.” She insightfully compares the interpretive language around the Highland Park Ford plant site, in which Ford’s Five-Dollar-a-Day plan, antiunionist at its core, received no comment on the national historical landmark nomination form, whereas the more recent nomination of the Ford Piquette Avenue plant does address labor’s pushback. It fails, however, to engage the divisive racialized consequences. White workers departed the plant and abandoned any solidarity with black coworkers, offering a powerful example of the challenges we face. Likewise, her attention to laborers’ “third spaces” of ethnic halls and cultural societies leads us back to the importance of making the informal and quotidian in worker’s lives as much a part of our interpretive toolkit as shop floors and union halls.

So, we pull ourselves collectively together and “go public,” ever committed and constant to our core principles of helping to build a society that demonstrates the best in us, rather than our darkest corners. Each of us harbors each quality; it is in the process of working side-by-side, in our lives and in the profession, that we can best enliven the qualities of light, rather than smoke.

~ 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[Ask a consulting historian: Alicia Barber]]> http://ncph.org/?p=22942 2017-02-04T17:35:27Z 2017-02-06T13:30:42Z Consulting historian Alicia Barber. Photo by Sarah Cowie.

Consulting historian Alicia Barber. Photo credit: Sarah Cowie.

Alicia Barber is a writer, historian, and consultant living in Reno, Nevada. Founder of the multi-faceted historical consulting firm Stories in Place, she edits the website and app Reno Historical and serves on the NCPH Consultants Committee. Read More

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Consulting historian Alicia Barber. Photo by Sarah Cowie.

Consulting historian Alicia Barber. Photo credit: Sarah Cowie.

Alicia Barber is a writer, historian, and consultant living in Reno, Nevada. Founder of the multi-faceted historical consulting firm Stories in Place, she edits the website and app Reno Historical and serves on the NCPH Consultants Committee.

How did you first become interested in history?

I’ve always been interested in the American cultural landscape. I was an undergraduate English major, but both my M.A. and Ph.D. are in American Studies, which allowed me to explore place identity and place attachment through the lenses of literature as well as history, architecture, geography, and other disciplines. When I was first introduced to the foundational literature of public history and public memory, it was like a light had clicked on. I was fascinated by the intersections of history, memory, and place. I spent two summers during graduate school researching historic roads and buildings for the National Park Service’s Historic American Building Survey and Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER). At the end of each project, I wrote a formal report for the Park Service and then put together separate presentations about those places for park staff and for members of the surrounding communities. I absolutely loved interacting with so many different groups of people, and I realized then that maybe I didn’t have to choose between academic and public work, that ideally I could both study the idea of place and also help to strengthen a sense of place in the communities I researched. After earning my Ph.D. at University of Texas at Austin, I taught for ten years, putting together courses in public history, museum studies, and oral history among other more “traditional” academic subjects. I learned a lot by creating and directing hands-on public projects for my students.

When did you start consulting?

I founded my consulting business in 2013, but I had been consulting in a mostly unpaid capacity for years before that. While working as a professor, I helped formulate exhibits for a new children’s museum, conducted historical research for a hospital’s sesquicentennial, and curated the text and images for an outdoor historical installation. I learned much more about the financial and administrative aspects of consulting—and how to better value my own work—while directing my university’s oral history program. Writing grant proposals, overseeing budgets, and managing multiple projects served as great preparation for running a business. When that program was dismantled, I began to consult full time, first as a sole proprietor and then forming an LLC.

Do you specialize in a particular field of public history?

Many of my projects involve oral history, but I also specialize in historical displays, coordinating and developing content for digital history projects, and researching all aspects of the built environment. My scholarly expertise centers on the American West, and Nevada in particular, and I’m interested in bringing that history to the public in as many formats as possible.

How and where do you conduct most of your business?

Thanks to digital tools and databases, I’m able to conduct a great deal of research, edit audio, and, of course, write, at my desk. Any off-site research I need to conduct is generally at local or regional archives. When I’m working on an oral history project or researching buildings, I spend more time out in the community. I’m constantly balancing client work with my own writing projects, speaking engagements, and service on local and state history and historic preservation-related boards and commissions.

Describe your typical clients.

Most of my work is with public agencies or institutions. My repeat clients include the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries, Nevada Humanities, and the Regional Transportation Commission of Washoe County. Lately I’ve started to conduct research and develop displays for private businesses, and I’ve conducted a few oral histories for private clients, too.

Do you collaborate with other professionals on projects?

I’m always brainstorming with librarians and archivists about how to make materials and information more accessible to the public. Over time I’ve developed excellent relationships with a photographer, a graphic designer, a transcriber, and a web developer who I hire as subcontractors as projects require. It’s critical to identify those go-to people you can count on.

How do you handle the business aspects of your consulting work, such as billing, taxes, and insurance?

At this point I handle the business end myself. There’s a learning curve, but for someone without permanent employees it isn’t too difficult. Early on, I became certified as a woman-owned enterprise, which was a lengthy process but extremely worthwhile when working with public agencies that prioritize diversity in hiring. Securing local and state business licenses, purchasing liability insurance, and acquiring a federal tax ID are all fairly straightforward once you’ve clearly determined your mission.

How do you seek new work? 

I secure a lot of work from former clients or via referrals. Sometimes I’ll partner with organizations to apply for grants that write me into the budget. I get a lot of queries through my website from people who have heard me speak in the community.

Describe some of the projects you’ve recently worked on.

One of the permanent transit station displays Alicia Barber developed for the Regional Transportation Commission’s 4th Street-Prater Way History Project, which also included oral histories, architectural research, and designs for eight historically themed bus shelters. Photo by Alicia Barber.

One of the permanent transit station displays Alicia Barber developed for the Regional Transportation Commission’s 4th Street-Prater Way History Project, which also included oral histories, architectural research, and designs for eight historically themed bus shelters. Photo credit: Alicia Barber.

We recently launched Illuminating Reno’s Divorce Industry, a website about Reno’s historic migratory divorce trade. I also completed two major community oral history projects including the 4th Street-Prater Way History Project and an oral history of Reno’s Midtown District. Those both included architectural research that I incorporated into Reno Historical. I’ve worked on historical displays for two bus stations and a historic post office-turned-retail development, and I recently researched the history of a turn-of-the-century ranch and a hotel-casino. If you value variety and independence, this may be the job for you, but it’s not the easiest path. I feel very passionate about making places more meaningful through history.

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

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Will Walker <![CDATA[Folklore and the roots of public history training in Cooperstown]]> http://ncph.org/?p=23252 2017-02-03T15:00:08Z 2017-02-03T13:30:17Z

Louis C. Jones in the Folk Art gallery, New York State Historical Association. Photo credit: New York State Historical Association.

In January 1950, in a keynote address at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, pioneering museum studies educator Louis C. Read More

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Louis C. Jones in the Folk Art gallery, New York State Historical Association. Photo credit: New York State Historical Association.

In January 1950, in a keynote address at the annual meeting of the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, pioneering museum studies educator Louis C. Jones illuminated the vital connection between folklore and history and its relationship to the public history community. Jones was director of the New York State Historical Association at the time and, a decade and a half later in 1964, he would found the Cooperstown Graduate Program, the first master’s degree program in the United States explicitly designed to train professionals to work in history museums.[1] In St. Paul, Jones made the case that museum professionals should embrace folk culture and social history, and he suggested that this shift in focus away from traditional, elite narratives would be transformative for U.S. museums. Jones prodded his colleagues, stating that the:

historical societies of America must start thinking, in a way they have never thought before, about the workingmen and women who are the essential creators and defenders of our democratic faith, about the men and women who caught the later boats and whose children who stand among us as proud, full-fledged citizens.[2]

Working people, immigrants, and others whose stories had largely been ignored by museum professionals should, Jones maintained, be the focus of a transformed public history.

“Hop picking,” Otsego County, New York, postcard. Image credit: New York State Historical Association.

Louis Jones had an unusual background for a historical society director. Trained as a literary scholar, he gravitated to folklore as a young English professor at the New York State College for Teachers in Albany in the 1930s. His research and teaching, primarily on New York State folk culture, spurred an interest in social history, and the connections he made in Albany led him to be offered the directorship of the New York State Historical Association (NYSHA) in the mid-1940s. Relocating to Cooperstown, Jones set about building The Farmers’ Museum, an outdoor living history museum in the vein of Old Sturbridge Village, as well as expanding the institution’s history and art collections. He brought his folklorist’s perspective to historical interpretation, arguing against an emphasis on war, politics, “leaders and the rich” and in favor of narratives of working people’s lives. Reflecting on these early years, Jones stated that he “found comfort among the social historians” and wrote that he believed that “[h]istory had to seek an all inclusiveness it lacked in those days.”[3]

Jones speaking with the first class. Photo credit: Milo Stewart.

Jones understood that he was offering a challenging and progressive vision for history museums, and he recognized that the best way to initiate such change was by educating the next generation of public historians. Therefore, he wove his vision into the DNA of the master’s program he founded, and alumni subsequently carried it to numerous museums, historical societies, historic sites, cultural institutions, and even other museum studies programs throughout the United States. Jones along with another folklorist, Bruce Buckley who came from Indiana University, designed a curriculum in Cooperstown that emphasized practical museum skills, fieldwork, oral history, and social history research in two related tracks—History Museum Studies and American Folk Culture. Each year, students’ traversed the rural villages and farms of Central New York State, uncovering stories of skilled labor, craft traditions, gender dynamics, farming practices, animal husbandry, transportation, water systems, and much more. Talking to people about their lives, work, and material culture was an essential skill that students acquired. Moreover, they learned how to create exhibitions, design educational programs, manage collections, and administer non-profit institutions. Students practiced these skills and incorporated narratives of working people into interpretation at The Farmers’ Museum and disseminated them to museums, historic sites, and living history farms across New York State and beyond.

Jones’s most famous student, public folklorist Henry Glassie, embodied this marriage of folklore and social history. A member of the first class of the Cooperstown Graduate Program in 1964-’65, Glassie has recently commented that he “always had a vision of engaged scholarship, right from the beginning—a folkloristic version of public history.”[4] In the late 1960s, one of his first projects after graduate school was documenting in-depth the Poor People’s Campaign and creating a photography exhibition about it. Around the same time, he was involved in the founding of the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife and, as state folklorist of Pennsylvania, he worked with educators to create a “bibliography of ethnic culture for Pennsylvania.”[5] Moreover, in the early 1970s, he was a major consultant for Conner Prairie in Fishers, Indiana, and the Museum of American Frontier Culture in Staunton, Virginia.[6] Although Glassie is certainly an exceptional example, he is representative of a broader movement among young public historians toward engaged, pluralistic, and community–based scholarship and practice in this period. As demonstrated by Glassie, the organic intersections between folklore and history were at the core of this transformation.

In the years following the founding of the Cooperstown Graduate Program, the black freedom struggle, women’s liberation, and other movements for social justice pressed public historians further in their efforts to document and share subaltern narratives and expand the inclusiveness of cultural institutions. A new generation of public historians called for the critical interrogation of the structures of power that fueled inequality, racism, and sexism. Folklorists like Jones found their semi-romantic notions of working people’s lives challenged by analyses that centered systemic oppression and institutional racism. Today, the curriculum in Cooperstown reflects these changes. Nevertheless, Jones’s vision still resonates with an understanding of public history as inclusive and public-oriented and as a field that emphasizes narratives of the ignored or under-represented.

~ Will Walker is associate professor of history at the Cooperstown Graduate Program (SUNY Oneonta) and co-lead editor of History@Work. This is the second post from the “Radical Roots: Civic Engagement, Public History, and a Tradition of Social Justice Activism” collaborative research project. You can find the first post here.

[1] Winterthur and the Hagley Program, both founded in the 1950s, pre-date the Cooperstown program; however, neither was founded explicitly to train history museum professionals. Originally, there were two related programs at Cooperstown: History Museum Studies and American Folk Culture. Students often took courses in both areas. The folk culture program was discontinued in the 1980s. The Cooperstown Graduate Program is an academic program of SUNY Oneonta.

[2] Jones, “Folk Culture and the Historical Society,” 12.

[3] Jones, Three Eyes on the Past, xxiv.

[4] Henry Glassie and Barbara Truesdall, “A Life in the Field: Henry Glassie and the Study of Material Culture,” The Public Historian 30, no. 4 (Fall 2008): 69.

[5] Glassie and Truesdall, 71, 73.

[6] Glassie and Truesdall, 75.

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