Working Groups


NCPH working groups are seminar-like conversations of 8-14 people before and during the annual conference that explore, in-depth, a subject of shared concern.  Working groups have a purpose they are working toward, a problem they are actively trying to solve. The working group proposal must articulate this as well as an end product(s) that the group seeks to create.


Two things.  When a group convenes at the annual meeting, the conversation has already begun. Participants are invested in the outcome. Facilitators have had time to refine their questions and perhaps refocus on the issues. Second, facilitators lead their group in  developing an end product, such as an article, a list of resources, an exhibit, a manifesto, a white paper, or a new collaborative project.

HOW DO I join a working group?

2019 working groups have been selected. If you’d like to propose a working group for 2020, proposals are due July 15, 2019 (CFP coming soon!). If you’re interested in joining a working group for 2020’s conference in Atlanta, look for the call for discussants in September!

2019 working groups

Building The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook

This working group will invite discussants to participate in the process of developing The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook, a new digital resource co-sponsored by the National Council on Public History and the American Association for State and Local History. Discussants will provide feedback on selected entries from the Handbook, such as “Civic Engagement,” “Collaborative Practice,” “Digital History,” “Diversity and Inclusion,” “Memorials and Monuments,” and “U.S. Founders” (electronic copies of the essays will be pre-circulated). They will also participate in brainstorming regarding future entries and offer advice on how to connect the Handbook to specific communities of practitioners. The Handbook’s editors, as well as
members of the advisory committee, will facilitate the conversation.

Facilitators: Sheila Brennan, Independent Historian
Bill Bryans, Oklahoma State University
Modupe Labode, IUPUI
Kimberly Springle, Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives
William Walker, Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta
Robert Weible, Independent Historian
Discussants: Nicole Belolan, Rutgers University-Camden
Alima Bucciantini, Duquesne University
Joseph Cialdella, University of Michigan
Katie Stringer Clary, Coastal Carolina University
Elena Gonzales, Independent Scholar, Curator
Amanda L. Higgins, Kentucky Historical Society
Susan Knowles, Center for Historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University
Perri Meldon, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Steven Vider, Bryn Mawr College

Read a summary of the group’s work and excerpts from case statements here. 

Repairing National Register Nominations: the Struggles and Challenges of Maintaining Accurate Documentation in a Changing World

National Register nominations are foundational documents in community preservation efforts, but many are already outdated when we celebrate their listing. Old and inaccurate nominations hinder grant and tax credit applications, researchers, and preservation commissions. Others omit the histories of marginalized groups. As the preservation field evolves, updating nominations is essential despite the struggle to balance time, funding, and priorities. This working group seeks to identify the best practices, policies, and strategies to guide our way forward.

Facilitators: Jennifer Betsworth, New York State Historic Preservation Office
Heather Carpini, S&ME
Joanna Doherty, Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission
Sarah Kautz, Preservation Long Island
Michelle Lee McClellan, Ella Sharp Museum
Discussants: Betsy Bradley, Goucher College
Carolyn Barske Crawford, Muscle Shoals National Heritage Area
Rich Freitas, Self-employed
Jim Gabbert, National Park Service
Leah Glaser, Central Connecticut State University
Donna Graves, Heritage and Arts Planning
Rachel Leibowitz, Center for Cultural Landscape Preservation, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Catherine Morrissey, Center for Historic Architecture and Design, University of Delaware
Jennifer Scofield, Connecticut State Historic Preservation Office

Read the case statements here. 

Early Career Public History Academics: Questions, Issues, Resources

Stemming in part from developments in the larger structures of academia, more history departments are creating undergraduate and graduate tracks in public history. Because of the realities of the academic job market, it is likely that new hires in public history programs come to their positions from different regions, face complicated retention, tenure, and promotion standards, and take on extensive administrative responsibilities that can involve picking up existing projects, negotiating the infrastructures of multiple academic units and local organizations, and bringing in funding for projects and students. Where are the professional resources and networks for these kinds of challenges? And where are the structures of accountability that protect junior faculty embarking on public history careers? The goal of this working group is to begin a conversation about the issues and opportunities specifically faced by early-career public history academics—these might include building relationships, navigating institutions and infrastructures, and advocating for diversity and inclusion as relative newcomers.

Facilitators: Torren Gatson, University of North Carolina-Greensboro
Jennifer Le Zotte, University of North Carolina-Wilmington
Mary Rizzo, Rutgers University-Newark
M.J. Rymsza-Pawlowska, American University
Discussants: Sarah Doherty, North Park University
Kathryn Lasdow, Suffolk University
Anne Lindsay, California State University, Sacramento
Mollie Marlow, University of West Georgia
Heather Stanfiel, University of Notre Dame
Jennifer Thornton, West Virginia University
Lindsey Wieck, St. Mary’s University

In order to protect the privacy of participants and allow for candor in discussions, this working group has opted to assemble a group case statement in response to the prompt:  “If you were talking honestly to your dean, what would you tell them are the major issues they need to be thinking about in order to most effectively support public historians?” Read the group’s collective statement here. 

Making Radical Repairs: How to Tell an Inclusive Story when your Collections are Stuck in the Past

Dive into the nation’s historic collections and it soon becomes clear that there is an (over)abundance of objects stashed away in the storage areas of our museums, historic sites, and historical societies across the country. This legacy of collecting has preserved the past, but whose past? Many of these collections were founded to preserve the history of the dominant culture and do not reflect the full story of the people at that site or in that community. While public history organizations are embracing telling the fuller story, it often comes at the expense of object-based storytelling because the material culture simply does not exist within the collection. Working group discussants will unpack the challenges they face when evaluating their existing collection to align it with a more inclusive interpretation and help to create guidelines for the field in how to evaluate and “repair” collections to align with modern interpretive directions.

Facilitator: Carrie Villar, National Trust for Historic Preservation
Discussants: Aja Bain, American Association for State and Local History
Christina Bleyer, Trinity College
Rebecca Bush, The Columbus Museum
Amanda Finn, North Carolina State University
Joshua Gorman, Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Meghan Gelardi Holmes, Gibson House Museum
Steven Lubar, Brown University
Jessie MacLeod, George Washington’s Mount Vernon
Kate Silbert, University of Michigan
Will Stoutamire, G.W. Frank Museum at the University of Nebraska at Kearney

Read the working group’s case statements here. 

Listening Is Emotional Labor: Self-Repair and Community Care

How does listening manifest in both the informal and formal work of public humanities practice? Whether we are oral historians, frontline interpretive staff, archivists, or something else, how can the attention we give to our listening allow us to function with an ethic and aesthetics of care for ourselves and our communities? How can we value and evaluate these practices, as advocates for ourselves and our field? This collaborative working group will seek to produce recommendations and imaginations for how to better integrate self-repair and deep care for the communities we work in—both our professional community and our publics—and placing listening at the center of this work.

Facilitators: Diana Lempel, Practice Space Design Studio
Sady Sullivan, Oral History Consultant
Discussants: Emma Boast, Brown University
William Buie, National 9/11 Memorial and Museum
Joanna Federico, Kentucky Historical Society and Kentucky Oral History Commission
Jennifer Gunter, South Carolina Collaborative for Race and Reconciliation
Emily Harrington, University of West Georgia
Mary Mahoney, Trinity College
Tracy Phelps, University of West Georgia
Julia Renaud, Brown University

Case statements are forthcoming.

Economic Justice and the Ethics of Public History (Part II)

Calling all public historians frustrated by economic precarity and jobs that stifle meaningful, ethical work. This action-oriented working group will break out into three groups: 1) developing peer resources for professionals negotiating the workplace and improving standards for ethical public history training; 2) exploring alternative economic models for public history practice—like community co-operatives and community benefits agreements; and 3) creating a public history guild or union with standards for professional conduct and remuneration.

Facilitators: Rachel Boyle, Newberry Library
Dan Ott, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
Stella Ress, University of Southern Indiana
Discussants: Catherine Fleming Bruce, Tnovsa Global Commons
Rachael Finch, Historic Franklin Masonic Hall Foundation
Nichelle Frank, University of Oregon
Kimber Heinz, Bull City 150, Duke University
Jess Lamar Reece Holler, Caledonia Northern Folk Studios
Theodore Karamanski, Loyola University Chicago
Alexandra Lord, Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Read the working group’s case statements here. 

Interpreting Our Heritage in the 21st Century

This working group will reevaluate Freeman Tilden’s Interpreting Our Heritage (1957). Tilden’s ideas about interpretation were written during a period when there was a demand for “repairing” interpretive practice. This working group seeks to reexamine Tilden’s principles and to synthesize changes in the field since he first wrote this foundational guide. Our goal is to then create a new set of interpretive principles suited to the needs of public historians in the 21st century

Facilitators: Allison Horrocks, National Park Service
Nick Sacco, National Park Service
Discussants: Chuck Arning, retired, National Park Service
Alice Baldridge, Saint Mary’s College
dann J. Broyld, Central Connecticut State University
Hanna Howard, North Carolina State University
Savannah Rose, National Park Service
Edward Roach, National Park Service
Taylor Stoermer, Johns Hopkins University
Jeff Strickland, Montclair State University
Megan Tewell, North Carolina State University
Anne Whisnant, Primary Source History Services
Sara Patton Zarrelli, The Old Manse

Read the working group’s case statements and explore their website here. 

Repairing Historic Sites: The Successes and Challenges of Working Under and with Consortia

What successes and challenges do historic sites operating within consortia face? How do various consortia structure their organizations to aid and assist such sites, and conversely, how do sites that participate in consortia get the most out of these partnerships? How does working together (site-consortium, site-site) benefit partner sites? These are the questions that this working group will pose, as we work to create a best practice model for consortia and their member sites.

Facilitators: Libbie Hawes, Cliveden of the National Trust
Craig Stutman, Delaware Valley University
Carolyn Wallace, Cliveden of the National Trust
Discussants: Tuomi Forrest, Historic Germantown
Julie McPike, Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area
Michelle Moon, Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Carrie Villar, National Trust for Historic Preservation