Launching the NCPH and AASLH survey on sexual harassment and gender discrimination in public history

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The National Council on Public History (NCPH) and the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) have launched an online survey about sexual harassment and gender discrimination in public history. This effort is the culmination of more than a year of work by members of NCPH’s Board-Led Subcommittee on Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment, co-chaired by Kristen Baldwin Deathridge and Mary Rizzo. The survey, jointly authored by members of the Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Committee, represents one of many actions we have taken to end sexual harassment and gender discrimination in our field.

This is a screen shot of the introduction to the "NCPH and AASLH Survey on Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination in Public History." The background is white. The text is black. The 1980/2020 NCPH 40th turquoise and navy anniversary logo is in the upper-lefthand corner.

Screenshot of the NCPH and AASLH Sexual Harassment and Gender Discrimination in Public History Survey

Survey Background and Goals

The NCPH Diversity and Inclusion Task Force began examining the harm caused by sexual harassment and gender discrimination in public history in 2018. Its work suggested the need for a separate committee which has taken on creating the survey, developing restorative justice policies, compiling resources, and working with NCPH’s Governance Committee on updating NCPH’s Events Code of Conduct and the larger Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. Our committee thanks AASLH President and CEO John Dichtl and Chief of Operations Bethany Hawkins; AASLH Council Members Alexandra Rasic, Richard Josey, and Ashley Bouknight; and Anne Ackerson for collaborating on this project.

Our goal is to gather data about the extent and nature of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in public history. The #MeToo movement has led to examinations of the problem in academia, science, engineering,  medicine, and museums. But none of these excellent resources fully addresses the issues that public historians, who practice in many different kinds of workplaces and educational spaces, confront. From discussions on social media and at NCPH and AASLH conference sessions, it’s clear that sexual harassment and gender discrimination are problems in public history. We hope this survey will produce much-needed public history-specific data so we can enact meaningful change.

By gathering and analyzing this data, we intend to issue reports to the field about how gender discrimination and sexual harassment take place, who is most vulnerable, and whether current workplace and professional association policies are failing our efforts at diversity, equity, and inclusion. We hope that the survey will help us offer suggestions to public history sites and educational institutions about how to do better. We intend to put the needs of survivors at the center of our response to the survey and to work with them to create supportive community structures, where possible and wanted.

Who should take the survey?

Public history encompasses a broad range of job titles—including often unpaid roles like intern and volunteer—and takes place in a variety of professional and educational settings. We want the survey respondents to reflect this range. Anyone who works at a public history site, such as a museum, historic house, library or archive, school, or anyone who does public history work in other kinds of spaces as a freelancer or consultant, should take the survey.

What should I expect when I take the survey?

The survey seeks to collect data but also ideas for change. It begins by asking respondents to define sexual harassment and gender discrimination in their own words and then to reflect on experiences throughout their educational and professional careers to identify incidents that they have experienced or witnessed. Questions will gather basic information about no more than five of these incidents and then give respondents the opportunity to describe them in more detail, if they feel comfortable doing so. These details will help us understand the granular realities of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. But, to preserve the anonymity of the survey, respondents should not include any identifying information about themselves such as where incidents occurred or identifying information related to perpetrators involved. The survey is not a reporting mechanism.

After reflecting on these incidents, we’ll ask how respondents acted when the event occurred. They’ll then be asked what resources they think would have helped them. Gathering data is important, but our goal is action. What changes need to happen in public history to eliminate these problems? Your thoughts imagining paths forward, whether through different kinds of policies, restorative justice models, or community support, are essential to that process.

Finally, respondents will be asked to fill out some demographic information to help us understand who is most at risk of being victimized. This will help us focus our future efforts to protect these people.

How do I take and share the survey?

You can take the survey by clicking here. Please share the survey link with other public historians and your institutions. The survey is only as useful as the data we gather, so please help us accumulate a wide range of responses from public historians across the country representing different stages in their careers; the spectrum of gender, race, sexual orientation, and gender presentation; and varied institutions. This will be critical to our success.

What do I do if I’ve been a victim?

If survivors of sexual assault, abuse, or harassment in the public history community would like free, confidential support regarding past or ongoing experiences here are a few available resources:

  • The Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network (RAINN) organizes the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline. The Hotline is a referral service that can put you in contact with your local rape crisis/sexual violence program and has trained advocates on staff who can provide free, confidential support. You can call the hotline at 1-800-656-4673, or access RAINN’s online chat service:
  • Ana Sanz-Saumeth (she/her/hers and they/them/theirs) is a trauma-informed, survivor-centered activist and the former director of programming at End Rape on Campus (EROC). Ana is fluent in Spanish and English and can provide support for diverse members who may need it. Contact Ana by email at [email protected].
  • Chel Rose Miller (they/them/theirs), a public historian currently working at the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA), can assist you with locating advocates and resources in your community. Contact Chel by email at [email protected] or by phone at 518-482-4222 ext. 300, or visit for more information.

~Mary Rizzo is assistant professor of history at Rutgers University-Newark and co-chair of the committee on Gender Discrimination and Sexual Harassment with Kristen Baldwin Deathridge.

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