Long Range Plan: Diversity

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People of various genders and races standing arm in arm

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A key focus of the NCPH’s Long Range Plan (LRP) will be to continue the organization’s commitment toward creating an inclusive and diverse organization.  We commit towards reshaping the power structures of the field of public history in order to increase career access and equity for marginalized participants in the field. To paraphrase GVGK Tang, instead of “Columbusing” or “white savior narratives” that fall into co-optation, NCPH will push to highlight and support the public work already being done in marginalized communities that decolonize public history narratives and the power hierarchies within the public history field. In NCPH’s Long Range Plan, diversity is not only a major “pillar” of our goals for the next five years, but a value that is interwoven into all pillars of the Long Range Plan.

In 2022, the LRP Committee led a series of listening sessions that became the foundation of this section of the plan. Based on feedback from participants, the Committee identified a need to increase diversity both within NCPH membership and the profession, to increase diversity among NCPH staff and committee members, and to increase diversity in NCPH activities and publications. We recognize that these three goals are broadly defined and will take years to accomplish, in some cases beyond the timeline of the current Long Range Plan, but inclusion and equity are ongoing processes, not trophies to be won. The new LRP delegates these responsibilities across NCPH’s governance structure.

There are several short-term goals that will help NCPH implement the LRP’s goals for increasing diversity. For example, part of the annual meeting diversity discretionary fund will be converted into a travel fund to support representatives of minority-serving institutions and/or organizations whose work serves marginalized communities broadly defined, including universities, historic sites, and museums. Awardees will be able to use the funds to travel to our 2024 annual meeting in Salt Lake City. The finance committee and Board of Directors are also planning to create additional funding opportunities for diversity-related activities, including targeted support groups, support for volunteers, and targeted recruitment of diverse staff members at NCPH. One of the challenges of providing greater access and diversity in programming outside of the annual conference (including mini-cons, workshops, and mentorship programs) is that these efforts require labor and monetary resources that are in short supply. If you wish to support NCPH’s efforts, I hope you will consider donating to the annual fund and NCPH endowment.

Part of this work includes increasing diversity among NCPH staff and committees, and better supporting those committees (which are all-volunteer). We recognize that service obligations often fall unequally on members whose careers in museums and non-profit organizations do not support outside service work, and thus the LRP calls upon committee chairs to make sure that volunteer service is equitable and manageable. The Board of Directors launched a committee care and tracking subcommittee last year to provide additional support to committee volunteers. To better support the work of our staff, the Board of Directors has committed to taking on additional responsibilities, including additional subcommittee work and leadership of the annual fund. Finally, the LRP calls upon the NCPH to diversify the Board of Directors. In 2024, we will be adding our first graduate student elected by the NCPH body. This seat on the Board of Directors will add a sorely needed, new voice to our leadership.

Importantly, the LRP committee recognized that NCPH could do a better job of publicizing its efforts to promote its diversity and inclusion, by making that work visible and accessible to the most marginalized members of our community. The LRP highlights the need for a more dynamic communication strategy throughout, but especially in the Diversity pillar, which points out the need for different avenues of communication and support for our membership.  Through more targeted communications, we will be able to add to the increasing diversity of our membership and publicize free and low-cost events, such as workshops, support groups, and mini-cons more effectively. This goal can only be achieved through the hire of a fourth full-time staff member. Although Stephanie Rowe, Meghan Hillman, and Stasia Tanzer lift mountains in the work they do for NCPH, they sorely need additional support. Our 2024 Annual Fund call (which will be released after the 2024 Annual Meeting) prioritizes staff capacity.

Blue sky over brown field

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When taken as a whole, the LRP may seem like “blue-sky” planning.  But I hope that by breaking down our goals into small steps, we have given you some assurance. The Long Range Plan is a balance of what is practical and what is ideal for our membership. NCPH takes seriously the need to not only increase the diversity of our profession but to confront existing inequities head-on. I hope you will join us in the next year in making NCPH an even more welcoming and inclusive environment for all of us in the public history field.

~Cheryl Dong is assistant professor of Public History at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. She currently serves on the Board of Directors, the Board Sub-Committee for the NCPH Diversity Travel Award, and the Long Range Planning Committee at NCPH.

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