Granting organizations and professional associations that support public history projects are in a unique position to make the field more inclusive by directing resources and initiatives toward these efforts. Museums, historical societies, libraries, and other public history and public humanities organizations often want to work with grassroots populations and tell narratives from the perspective of workers, the poor, racial minorities, and other marginalized peoples, but are often stymied by their own lack of outreach or fears of repercussions from funders. For their part, even when grant makers and capacity-building organizations are excited by such work, they are uncertain how to seed success. How can organizations that support the public preservation, interpretation, and telling of history best assist communities assert their right to tell their own histories?
To explore this question, we have organized a Working Group for the National Council on Public History (NCPH) 2016 Annual Meeting in Baltimore that will serve as a collaborative forum for developing a draft of best practices that can help public historians guide collaborations and model effective partnerships that build the capacity of grassroots groups and community organizations to explore, document, preserve, and use their histories in meaningful ways.
Working Group participants are listed below. Follow the links on their names to read individual case statements.
- Minju Bae, Temple University
- Ariel Beaujot, University of Wisconsin La Crosse
- Elizabeth Belanger, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
- Leondra Burchall, National Endowment for the Humanities
- Andrea Copeland, Indiana University
- Ian Gray, West Virginia University
- Francesca Morgan, Northeastern Illinois University
- Eric Rhodes, Antioch College
In this working group, we aim to bring together practitioners, grantees, staff of state humanities councils, the NEH, other granting organizations, and professional associations or capacity-builders to reflect on the successes, challenges, and future of democratizing historical narratives in response to pressing social issues on the ground. In preparation for our in-person meeting at the NCPH meeting, the working group will engage with several questions:
- What are strategies for effective outreach and communication to draw new project ideas, communities, and voices into the field?
- How can larger organizations be responsive to the needs and capacities of individuals and communities on the ground while still aligning projects with guidelines and standards in the field?
- What might a framework of equity and inclusion look like for organizations supporting public history work?
- How can public historians best use our resources to partner with new audiences to shape a deeper understanding of history from multiple perspectives?
- In cultivating historical inquiry at a community level, how can larger organizations with resources respond to needs “on the ground” and share authority while also shaping their own programs and requirements?
In order to make the most of our time in Baltimore, we will host a pre-conference conversation here on History@Work. This post is the first in a series that will use case statements written by members of our working group as a starting point for identifying the key themes and issues affecting capacity building work. We also welcome anyone else interested in joining the conversation to add their voices in the comments section along with working group participants.
We will start things off with introductions. Please use the comment section below to tell us a bit about yourself and your work. What is your home institution? What is your role there? Why did you choose this working group or decide to comment on the working group’s post?
- Briann Greenfield, Executive Director, New Jersey Council for the Humanities
- Joseph Cialdella, Program Manager, Michigan Humanities Council
- Jesse Johnston, Senior Program Officer, National Endowment for the Humanities
- Samip Mallik, Co-founder and Executive Director, South Asian American Digital Archive