Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Not all carbon offset programs are created equal. For an assessment of some good ones, have a look at the Tufts Climate Initiative's run-down. I use Native Energy, and generally pay about $14 for travel within the same half of the country.
Go figure that public historians are easier going and better at creating environments for social interchange.
One of the many things that NCPH has going for it is that their graduate student social event is in the evening, rather than at 7:30am. The evening event provides a great kick-off to connecting with other graduate students and getting that bonding/plugging-in going into full gear. If you're a graduate student and not signed up for this, find out if there is still a chance to get one of those free tickets to this event!
The snack breaks in between sessions are also a great time for continuing discussions from sessions and stopping to talk to people whose names you've only seen on the covers of your books. And the way that NCPH handles student poster sessions offers an excellent time for interaction among diverse professional audiences. I suspect that the speed networking event will provide much of this as well.
But what I like most about NCPH is the culture of the meeting. At NCPH people tend to be interested in talking to up-and-coming professionals, introducing them to other professionals with similar work or research interests, and exploring what others are doing regardless of academic or publication pedigree. There is generally less of a feel of power heirarchies or pretension that you might find at other academic conferences. All in all, NCPH manages to provide a setting for individuals to discuss (in both structured and unstructured ways) public history regardless of how much they have published or how far along they are in their career or education.
Perhaps its graduate friendly environment is why it has so many graduate student members and growing graduate student participation. Regardless, I think that it speaks well for training and professionalism in the public history field. I also think that it will have an impact on long term professional development.
We'll see what stories come out of networking at this year's conference.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Have you proofread it? Yes? Well proof it again, twenty more times. Getting ready for the poster session has been a hectic adventure. Trying to figure out the best way to present history to the public is what we do-- and it is often difficult. But with the poster session, we are trying to find the best way to present public history to scholars. Do we emphasize local history, or do we present more on digitization? What is the most alluring?
I'm trapped in a maze of file formatting, on-line downloads, and e-mail attachments. When everything is digital it allows for more attractive options, but it can sure make things more complicated. I'm wondering now if we should have just gone with construction paper and a glue stick. I've done my fair share of social studies fair projects, and I'm certain I haven't lost my skills with a hot glue gun and markers.
However we do it, we really are looking forward to sharing our experiences, excitement, and challenges with everyone at the conference. Using festival to explore local history is fun, and broadens public exposure to public history. At festival, we are allowed to be silly, campy, and maybe even weird. We can reach many people who may not step foot in a museum-- but will attend every festival in the city. In creating this poster, it has been a challenge to capture the undiluted essence of New Orleans, and translate our experiences so anyone, in any city, can become part of a local history festival. I sincerely hope we meet our goal.
I consider public historians to be artists of history, and I look forward to meeting fellow creatives!
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Marianne Babal, NCPH President
While these are big numbers for NCPH, you may find yourself thinking, "This is still quite a small conference, compared with some of the mega-events staged by academic and professional organizations." And this is the beauty of the NCPH conference - it attracts many people from within the field of public history, but it offers a very human-scale conference-going experience, with lots of opportunity for connecting with like-minded colleagues, students, and practitioners. Speaking for myself, I'm really looking forward to another wonderful gathering!
Senators Robert Byrd, Edward Kennedy and Lamar Alexander have introduced a bill titled "Restoring American History and Civics to Classroom Prominence." Alexander (pictured here) described the bill in his floor speech, saying it "will help to put the teaching of American history and civics back in its rightful place, in our classrooms, so our children can grow up learning what it means to be an American. The legislation which we have introduced would expand summer academies for outstanding teachers, authorize new teacher programs, require States to set standards for the teaching and learning of U.S. history, and create new opportunities to compare the tests that students take on U.S. history."
Alexander's office also issued a press release which boiled the legislation down to bullet points, stating that the legislation would:
• Authorize 100 summer academies for outstanding students and teachers of U.S. History and align those academies with locations in the national park system, such as the John Adams House or Independence Hall
• Double authorization for funding “Teaching American History” programs in local school districts, which today involve 20,000 students as a part of No Child Left Behind
• Require states to develop and implement standards for student assessments in U.S. History, although there would be no federal accountability requirement as there is for reading and mathematics
• Allow states to compare history and civics test scores of 8th- and 12th-grade students by establishing a 10-state pilot program that would expand the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP)
The most exciting parts of the bill are the first two items. One hundred summer academies is a lot! Tying them to the National Park Service is an interesting idea, and a tribute the NPS lobbyists, who deserve a big raise. Summer academies or institutes have been among the most successful parts of many, many Teaching American History projects, and the model is also used by the NEH and Gilder-Lehrman Institute. If one goes to the NPS History pages, and begins exploring the many historic National Monuments, historic trails, and National Heritage Areas (and when were those created, anyway? I had not heard of them) you can see the many possibilities for these institutes. I am already thinking of the NPS historic sites in my region, and the possibilities of summer institutes.
The second item, doubling the funding for the TAH program, is wonderful news. The Teaching American History program is designed to improve the teaching of American history in the schools by bringing together teachers, historians, and enough resources (by which I mean funding) for them to do some interesting collaborations. I have been deeply involved in the TAH program from the beginning, writing grant proposals, teaching the teachers, and most recently as an evaluator and consultant.
I really dislike the third item. I can see the goal here, making states develop history standards will help to ensure that history is taught and valued in the public schools. But who writes the standards? I see these standards becoming a political football and reigniting the culture wars of the 80s and 90s on the state level. Remember the disastrous reception to the 1994 National History Standards? This was a top-down attempt by an idealistic but politically naive history profession to impose a new set of historically sound standards on the nation's schools. Denounced (unfairly, but predictably) by Rush Limbaugh and Lynne Cheney as being politically correct, they were condemned by the U.S. Senate, 99 to 1. Lets pick that scab, shall we?
The last item, using NAEP to roll out a pilot project for standardized testing in history, also runs the risk of politicization. The great dilemma here is that in the era of NCLB high-stakes testing, that which is not tested does not get taught. And that which does get tested is "taught to the test"--stifling the teacher creativity that is one of the great strengths of our system.
Overall this bill is great news. Thank you, Senators!
Historians: Let's get out in front of this. Go to the NPS site and see what historic site matches your specialty and pick up the phone. But then make contact with your university School of Education (I know, I know) and find out how to get involved in the drafting of those state standards. This kind of bureaucratic work is time consuming and unrewarding. But not nearly so time consuming and unrewarding as teaching your survey classes in ten years if you do nothing and your class is full of young people who were taught all sorts of incorrect historical mischief in the public schools!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Art+History is an exhibition and community programming series about the processes of interpreting history. The John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage has commissioned Carla Herrera-Prats and Jill Slosburg-Ackerman to make new artworks influenced by the physical and historical parameters of the Nightingale-Brown House. Built in 1792 and boasting gardens designed by the Olmstead landscape design firm, it was home to five generations of the Brown family and now houses the JNBC. Art+History is a catalyst for conversation about how historical narrative is crafted and a different model for engaging audiences in historical sites and museums through contemporary artwork. The exhibition is curated by students in the master's in public humanities program, Meg Rotzel and Rosie Branson Gill.
April 1 – October 2, 2009
Tuesday, March 31
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
But having said that, I do think that it is important to take some time to get to know the city that is hosting the conference. The surrounding city is part of the context and flavor of each conference and I believe that it is important to experience that aspect as part of a comprehensive conference experience. I always find at least one block of sessions where nothing truly grips me as being compelling, and I use that time to go do some exploration. While I do often have some landmarks set aside that I want to visit, I often like to just meander over a city on foot to see what I happen to discover.
In part, I think this comes from my survey training at the Center for Historic Preservation at MTSU, but I know that it is also heavily influenced by me reading John Stilgoe's Outside Lies Magic early in my Public History classwork. What it comes down to is that I think one of the best ways to experience a place is on foot. You get that visceral experience of the landscape/streetscape that you can only acheive by hoofing it.
I end up gathering interesting examples of architecture, signage (I'm a signage fanatic), public programming, public planning, etc., and you get a real feel for the people in those spaces. I also have a habit of getting photos of myself interacting with public art/landmarks. That makes for good fun on facebook when I post the photos (the best one is me posing at the wrong end of the Bull on Wallstreet when I was in Manhatten for OAH...good times).
Even those who do not have the same penchant for mischief that I have will get a lot out of exploring the conference city. Go to the sessions that NCPH has to offer and interact with those walking books (or walking exhibits or public programming), but also make time to discover Providence while you're there. Get that authentic experience!
This year’s Endowment Fundraiser has moved locations. Originally scheduled for the Providence Children’s Museum, it is now being held a mere two blocks from the conference hotel (Biltmore) at the chic Tazza Café. Built in 1898, the Alice Building in Providence, is home to lofts, art galleries, bookstore as well as Tazza Café. A local downtown hotspot, Tazza offers live music, art for sale, eclectic cuisine, and local flare in its historic surroundings. Tickets are still available for purchase at the registration table on the 17th floor of the Biltmore. Student tickets are $45; Individual tickets are $75. Meet us in the hotel lobby at 6:45 pm to walk to Tazza (linking arms while singing and skipping is not required). Of course you are welcome to come to 250 Westminister Ave anytime between 7:00 and 9:00pm (don't forget your ticket).
Your contribution is greatly appreciated and helps NCPH continue to offer awards and new programming.
Please join us.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The following Dine-Arounds will be offered during the NCPH Annual Meeting, Saturday evening, April 4th. If any interest you, please sign-up at the registration table. Most can accommodate 10-12 people. Please feel free to join any that interest you, even if you are not directly affiliated with the topic, group, or theme. Of course, graduate students are invited to attend any dine-around. In fact all of them should have the phrase "and anyone interested in working. . ."
1. "Arizona State University Alumni, Students, and friends of Noel Stowe." Restaurant: Blue Elephant.
2. "National Collaborative for Women's History Sites." Restaurant: Union Station Brewery.
3. "History Education in the Public Sector" Restaurant: Cafe Paragon.
4. "Junior and mid-career faculty." Restaurant: Kabob & Curry.
5. "National Park Service staff, consultants, and anyone interested in working for the NPS." Restaurant: TBA
If you have an idea for a Dine-Around that you would like to host, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Its best if you have a local contact to co-host, but we may be able to help you out.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Going hand-in-hand with this is my need to ask questions. I'm generally not afraid to ask questions (or make a fool out of myself) and use conferences as an opportunity to ask experts and colleagues about research questions that are weighing on my mind. I've never been big on being star struck, but it does tickle my geeky soul to be able to talk directly to the historians who have written the books that I dearly love and have shaped my path as a historian. Writing up my questions of an author's work in a book review helps me to frame my interpretation of that person's book, but asking for feedback directly is so much more gratifying.
Yes, this does sometimes backfire. I've gotten a little over excited about grilling two different prominent southern historians (and I'm hoping that they forget both my name and face), but one of those instances resulted in me being asked to write an exhibit review for the JAH (word of advice, don't quote someone's book at him in the middle of a session...that's a little too sycophantic). Also, those occasions have made for great stories afterward (and what historian doesn't love a good story?). So my advice is don't be afraid to put yourself out there and take the opportunity to engage other scholars, ask questions, and explore new horizons.
It is also kind of amusing to be able to say in a seminar discussion after a conference, "Well, when I was talking to Cathy Stanton last week about this very topic, she said..." For historians who are already well established in the field, these kinds of conversations are normal. For grad students...well, I just think that it is cool.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
James Brewer Stewart, this year's NCPH conference keynote speaker, has written powerfully about the abolitionists, an early contribution to a key topic that has changed dramatically. When his book, "Holy Warriors" appeared in 1976, historians tended to interpret anti-slavery activism as part of a wide range of ante-bellum utopian, social reform movements. These days the focus has shifted from white religious abolitionists to an emphasis on the black public sphere, decoding slave narratives, and the network of African American helpers who made the Underground Railroad a path to freedom. Documenting the historical evolution of appeals to "Let My People Go" to the direct action imperatives of "Let's flee slavery now!" is an important part of public history work on this popular topic.
Historian David Blight has edited a superb collection of articles dealing with conflicts of heritage and history, called "Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory" and James and Lois Horton have collected state-of-the-art essays in "Slavery and Public History." On the web see sources from the National Park Services site The National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom http://www.cr.nps.gov/ugrr/. The Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Abolition and Resistance has in-depth resources at www.yale.edu/glc/
Check out podcasts, tours, museum objects and library documents from the Run for Your Life projects on the New-York Historical Society website. www.nyhistory.org (or directly https://www.nyhistory.org/web/default.php?section=whats_new&page=society_detail&id=43)
--Kathleen Hulser, public historian, New-York Historical Society
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Over the course of the next month, I'll be posting items from the FAQ list that we developed. The whole document has been uploaded into Scribd and will also be excerpted in the March NCPH newsletter.
NCPH Conference FAQs
I graduated from Indiana University in 2004 with a B.A. in History, a certificate in Jewish Studies, and a minor in East Asian Languages and Cultures. With all of these incredibly practical degrees in hand and a spirit of idealism in my heart, I joined Teach For America and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina. For three years I taught different versions of U.S. history—standard, ESL, inclusion, AP, IB History of the Americas—and AVID at West Charlotte High School. These various experiences, professional and personal, got me thinking about how individuals and communities think about the past, where they encounter “history,” and the challenges of making these processes accessible and meaningful. I moved to Providence, Rhode Island in 2007 to enroll in Brown University’s masters of public humanities program. While my interests have often shot off in all directions, the core of my academic study has been how to craft enriching educational programs and experiences that deliver humanities, especially history, scholarship and make it relevant for diverse audiences.