Saturday, April 4, 2009

The never-ending question

The "Whither the Field?" session sponsored by the NCPH's 30th anniversary committee turned into a free-ranging discussion about the necessity to define public history and its standards in way that was, well, definitive and able to be communicated clearly to academics, employers, and the public at large.  At the end of the session, Jann Warren-Findlay from Arizona State University pointed out, somewhat bemusedly, that she had been hearing essentially the same discussion over the whole history of the organization, which suggested that on some level, this is likely always to remain an open question that reflects the multi-facetedness and adaptability of public history.  (See the NCPH website for an organizational stab at addressing the question--and there's room to add definitions there, if you feel inspired to contribute yours.)

One point that struck me in the discussion was that while nailing down a definition probably isn't going to happen, the field and the NCPH do have histories, and we might do a better job of communicating those, as a way of passing along our own institutional culture (and dilemmas!).  Some of that is on the NCPH website, too--click here for more on our own history.

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