Long Range Plan: Advocacy

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The idea for the National Council on Public History began, in part, as a way to advocate for our field. In recent years the advocacy committee and NCPH leadership have responded to calls from the membership to expand the organization’s advocacy. Examples of this include both taking actions, like changes to the jobs board, and responding publicly to current events. With the new Long Range Plan (LRP), we recognized that our notion of advocacy needed to further evolve. That meant, for this plan’s advocacy pillar, it was time to put a stronger emphasis on public history as labor, something that was clear from your feedback. Rather than only elevating the strengths of the field, the plan has been redesigned and updated to include a greater focus on supporting practitioners as they seek employment and work to organize; NCPH will emphasize advocating for the public history community in addition to highlighting the field’s impact. We recognize that many public historians see their work as justice-oriented, and it is essential for NCPH to support the community so that individuals can focus on what they love and care about in their work.

Alena Pirok, wearing a colorful shirt and black cardigan, leans slightly forward, holding a microphone in front of a macbook. Andy Urban is on the screen of the laptop, addressing session attendees. He is wearing a black tee shirt that says “solidarity” in white text

Alena Pirok holds the mic so that attendees of the NCPH 2023 working group, “Empowering the Public History Workplace: Information, Advocacy, and Collective Power,” could hear Andy Urban. Photo credit: Lacey Wilson

What will it mean for NCPH to advocate for the individual in a pandemic-altered field? Moving forward, our membership will see the organization taking a more public stance on issues facing public historians through resources like new position papers. In particular, NCPH’s Advocacy Committee will be crafting a statement of support for labor unions, and you can expect to see more explicit support for labor unions overall at NCPH as the organization works to bolster their activities through programming that will educate public historians on how to build solidarity with other laborers at history institutions.

What are some other ways membership will see NCPH advocating for public historians? A crucial element to this pillar of the new LRP will see the organization working to enhance transparency in the public history job market. This much-requested update will include the development of new resources as well as the expansion of current tools, such as requiring salary ranges in job posts and only posting paid internships as indicated by our job advertisement expectations and best practices document. These efforts are being done with all levels of the field in mind: from job seekers to hiring managers, from the federal level to the local level, and from academic institutions to public organizations. Frontline staff, specifically, will be seeing more programming as we work to foster connections among people in those roles in part so that NCPH can learn more about and advocate for their needs.

When it comes to labor advocacy, we know from both feedback and experience that the work we’re called to do has a long road ahead. However, after spending a lot of time listening and researching, the Long Range Planning  Committee feels that we’ve crafted an Advocacy pillar that both sets NCPH up for success in the next five years and, most importantly, establishes our intention and ability to support the needs of our members. As we continue forward with this latest iteration of the LRP, we hope these new tools and resources will directly impact your livelihood for the better.


~Sam Opsahl works as a program associate for Indiana Humanities, encouraging Hoosiers on a daily basis to think, read, and talk. Twitter/X: @Sam_Opsahl; Instagram: @seopsahl

~Kristen Baldwin Deathridge is an associate professor of history at Appalachian State University, in Boone, NC, where she works with students and community members. Blue Sky: @k10death.bsky.social

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