How should NCPH commemorate the past and help shape the future of federal preservation policy?
24 November 2014 – Denise Meringolo
The year 2016 is a momentous one for public historians in the United States, particularly those who work for and with federal agencies. The National Park Service will mark the 100th anniversary of its founding, and the National Historic Preservation Act will have been in effect for 50 years. These two landmark moments come just two years after the National Museum of American History quietly marked its own 50th anniversary in 2014.
We have organized a Working Group for the National Council on Public History (NCPH) 2015 Annual Meeting in Nashville that will serve as a collaborative forum for planning a scholarly symposium to mark these important events. The symposium will take place in March 2016 during the NCPH Annual Meeting in Baltimore.
We have several goals for our working group.
First, we would like to create a symposium that will not simply commemorate the history of federal preservation, cultural resource management, and historical interpretation but will invite dialogue about the future of federal cultural policy and practice in the 21st century.
Second, we are not interested in repeating the important work that has already been done to reframe and energize the goals, purpose, and impact of federal cultural institutions. We are indebted to the work of professionals in both the Smithsonian Institution and the National Park Service, and interested scholars from outside these institutions, who have been engaged in conversations about how best to revitalize the role of these institutions as cultural stewards, educators, and innovators in the 21st century. These initiatives have resulted in a number of internal and external reports–including Imperiled Promise and A Call to Action in the Park Service and the Grand Challenges Consortia program at the Smithsonian. We envision a symposium that can focus attention on the ways in which creativity, collaboration, and civic engagement are already transforming the value and function of nationally significant cultural sites and resources.
In order to make the most of our time in Nashville, we will host a pre-conference conversation here on [email protected]. This blog post is the first in a series of three posts that will invite the members of our working group–and anyone else interested in joining the conversation–to identify the key themes and issues that should be at the heart of the 2016 symposium.
We will begin with pointed introductions: Please use the comments section below to tell us a bit about yourself. What is your home institution? What is your role there? Why did you choose our working group or decide to comment upon the working group’s blog posts? What unique experiences or research did you want to bring to our project?
Please respond no later than December 15. Our next blog post will appear after the winter holidays. It will draw attention to our common interests and highlight unique perspectives, and it will pose a second question.
~ Michelle Anne Delaney is the Smithsonian’s Consortia Director for the American Experience and World Cultures and also serves as Senior Program Officer in the Office of the Under Secretary for History, Art, and Culture. Delaney recently chaired the editorial team and wrote the introduction for Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection (Smithsonian/Random House, 2013).
~ Barbara J. Little is the program manager for the NPS cultural resources office of outreach in Washington, DC, and is adjunct professor of anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her most recent book, co-authored with Paul A. Shackel, is Archaeology, Heritage and Civic Engagement: Working Toward the Public Good (Left Coast Press, 2014).
~ Denise D. Meringolo is Associate Professor of History and Director of Public History at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She is also a member of the NCPH Board of Directors.
~ Julia Washburn is the National Park Service Associate Director for Interpretation, Education, and Volunteers. She also serves as Adjunct Professor of Museum Education at George Washington University.