How We Grow: Going Regional
06 March 2020 – William Stoutamire
Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series that illustrates the role of the NCPH Endowment in supporting the work of the organization. To find out more about how the NCPH Endowment Fund supports the work of public historians and to make your gift, please visit: https://ncph.org/giving/endowment/.
In this penultimate post in the How We Grow series we hear from campaign co-chair Will Stoutamire. Will is an Assistant Professor of History and Co-Director of the Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia.
Why are you a member of NCPH?
I joined the National Council on Public History (NCPH) more than a decade ago, as a first-year graduate student in the public history program at Arizona State University (ASU). New to the field, with only a couple unpaid internships under my belt, I wasn’t exactly sure how much I would benefit from membership in a large, national organization. But Noel Stowe—director of the ASU public history program and one of the founding members of NCPH 40 years ago— was insistent. All of his students, if possible, needed to be a part of this organization. Noel understood, as I later came to realize, that the professional and personal relationships developed through membership in NCPH and regular attendance at the annual meetings would prove invaluable to our careers.
I remain a member today because Noel was correct in a myriad of ways. Like many of our other How We Grow authors, I’ve found NCPH invaluable for the professional network it provides. The relationships I’ve been able to develop with other practitioners have helped see me through the difficult challenges of our field — finding that first full-time job, navigating career change, wrestling with ways to better interpret our often difficult and contentious pasts. And the annual meetings serve as a much-needed “booster shot,” providing me with renewed energy and fresh ideas to help tackle the problems or challenges in my own work.
How has the NCPH Endowment fund helped you in your work as a public historian?
I’ve most directly benefited from the NCPH Endowment fund as the 2016 recipient of the New Professional Travel Award, which provided financial support for presenting at the 2016 Annual Meeting in Baltimore. At the time, I was the director and sole professional staff person at a small historic house museum on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Kearney. New to the position and fresh out of graduate school, I appreciated the opportunity to speak about my work and engage in important conversations about the challenges I faced with other professionals from across the country. The award proved important at home as well, helping me to gain further support for my efforts to redevelop the museum among university administrators and the museum’s advisory board.
In what way would you like to see NCPH further support public historians?
As NCPH continues to grow, I would like to see the Endowment fund provide additional support for regional and local public history work through webinars, mini-cons, and other low-cost opportunities for exposure to the latest ideas and issues in public history. Many of us are fortunate enough to be able to regularly attend the annual meeting. But for others this is a financially difficult proposition—especially students, new professionals, and those who work at institutions that cannot (or do not) provide travel funding. What are some creative ways our growing national organization can also continue to help serve the needs of the thousands of public historians on the ground who are attempting to put history to work in their worlds?
~Will Stoutamire is an Assistant Professor of History and Co-Director of the Center for Public History at the University of West Georgia.