Facilitators: Rachel Boyle, Newberry Library
Theodore Karamanski, Loyola University Chicago
Dan Ott, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
Stella Ress, University of Southern Indiana

Discussants: Catherine Fleming Bruce, TNOVSA LLC
Rachael Finch, Preservation Consultant
Nichelle Frank, University of Oregon
Na Li, Centre for Public History, Zheijiang University
John Mann, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
Edward Roach, Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical
Park, National Park Service

Who can access and practice “radical” public history and on what
economic and social terms? Building on #ncph2017, this working
group will move beyond “radical” public history to consider the
ethical challenges of public history practice and training in light
of conservative political contexts and austere economic realities.
Additionally, the group will creatively consider economically
sustainable and socially inclusive models for public history practice
beyond traditional institutional settings. Contentious and lively
discussion promised.

The following issues will be considered:

  1. Ethics and Economics of Community History/Heritage (Feb. 16)
  2. Ethical Training for Laboring Realities (March 2)
  3. Shared-Authority in Perspectives (March 16)


1 comment
  1. Rachel Boyle says:

    The conversation continues to rotate around the central question posed by the working group: how can public historians ethically negotiate the challenges of shared authority within existing economic and power structures? Folks brought up an overwhelming number of compelling dimensions to explore, so here are just a few things that stood out to me that could be avenues for advancing the discussion:

    1) What are the tangible economic benefits of public history for communities? Should there be? How do we reconcile that motive with truth-telling? This especially comes up in pieces for John working with Lemhi history, Edward at Dayton Aviation, Rachel’s vision of a public history cooperative, and Catherine’s examination of civil rights tourism.

    2) Regarding the job market, Stella and Dan discuss managing student expectations. Nichelle and Dan also call for more organizational space for public historians to talk about the hard lessons and realities of public history jobs. Stella makes an even bolder proposition: A National History Practitioners Union to advocate for better working conditions across the field. I am eager for us to further interrogate and pursue these calls to action.

    3) Shared authority seems to be a persistent sticking point lingering behind the entire conversation. Should historians be “neutral” (Rachael), “allowing the general public to judge” (Nichelle)? Or do public historians need to be “diplomatic and nuanced” (Dan) as they use history as a “a corrective to heritage” (John)? What do we do when adhering to shared authority means compromising “the hard won right public history professional have earned to opine on what is fact and what is not”? (Ted) Is there more to be said for the power of explicitly utilizing history to facilitate “political and economic action” (Catherine)? Does this mean moving beyond existing economic models (Rachel)?

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