Government Historians and the NCPH

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United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. and Parliament, Centre Block, Ottawa, Wikicommons.

United States Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. and Parliament, Centre Block, Ottawa.  Photo credit: Wikicommons

As employees of municipal, local, state, provincial, and federal governments, government historians have been a core group of the National Council on Public History since its founding. Yet, for a variety of reasons, these practitioners have at times felt “out on the edge” within the organization. During the 2014 annual meeting in Monterey, a small group of government historians pondered this conundrum: What was the best way to insure that questions related to the experiences, challenges, and unique working environments of government history practitioners were better represented within the organization?

As it has grown and developed over the years, NCPH has responded to the changing needs of its membership, in part by establishing committees to promote the interests and needs of various public history practitioners. In 2014, with NCPH support, we established a working group of historians who are employed at various levels of government in the United States and Canada. Since the Monterey meeting, the working group conducted a vibrant cyber conversation (which you can read here) exploring a wide range of issues and concerns specific to government history work and its representation within the organization. We concluded that a permanent committee would be useful as a means to continue to explore these issues.

The NCPH Board of Directors agreed, formally establishing a committee at the Nashville meeting. They gave us a multipart assignment: to serve as a forum for practitioners working in government, to advocate for the needs and interests of this particular group within the broader public history community, and to recruit presentation proposals to highlight government history work at annual meetings. In the coming year, we will develop a mandate and define our scope and mission. Look for updates on the committee’s progress on the NCPH website.

The next year will be an exciting one for government historians in the NCPH. The 2016 annual meeting in Baltimore, which meets jointly with the Society for History in the Federal Government, will provide a unique forum for government historians to discuss their work within the larger field of public history. The meeting’s theme, “Challenging the Exclusive Past,” lends itself to discussions at the intersections of public history, oral history, and government history. We encourage government historians of all stripes to submit proposals and join us in Baltimore. The call for proposals is now open.

~ Katherine Scott is co-chair of the Government Historians Committee and is a historian at the US Senate Historical Office.

~ Jean-Pierre Morin is co-chair of the Government Historians Committee and is the departmental historian at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, and Public Servant in Residence at Carleton University.

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