Friday, March 26, 2010

Vintage Roadside T-Shirts

New to this year's NCPH conference book sale was the Vintage Roadside T-Shirt stand. Strategically well positioned right at the entrance to the book sale room, the colorful t-shirts featured Diners & Drive-Ins, Motel & Motor Courts, Bowling Alleys, Skating Rinks, and other authentic vintage roadsides attractions. What's cool: Kelly and Jeff, the business owners, show their enthusiasm for history not only through the unique t-shirts prints but also by supporting the preservation of these America's roadside treasures:
A portion of of their sales is donated to the National Trust for Historical Preservation. To check out the T-shirts and other memorabilia visit the website!

Two weeks later and I'm still thinking about presentations and conversations from the annual NCPH conference, held in Portland. Mira and I tried to see separate panels to allow for more wide-ranging coverage, and both of us were at turns inspired, provoked, and vexed at what we heard (in short, exactly what we hoped for!).

My first panel on Friday (we didn't arrive until Thurs. night) was the roundtable, Promoting Community Engaging with Service Learning. I'd never heard the term 'service learning,' but it refers to "a teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning exprience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities" (taken from the Learn and Serve Clearinghouse). It's a missive that seems to fit neatly within goals of public history education and practice. The panel was made up of undergraduate educators - Rebecca Bailey from Northern Kentucky U., Katrine Barber from Portland State U., Denise Meringolo from U. of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Gregory Smoak from Colorado State U. - all of whom engage in service learning projects.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

National Council for Public History 2010 Conference

This year's NCPH conference took place in Portland, Oregon from March 10th until the 14th. Under the theme of "Currents of Change" scholars and practitioners of public history gathered to present and exchange ideas about their profession. The next few posts will report on some of the sessions and discussions to give the reader an impression of what was going at the conference.
Pretty much since the creation of the public history field, teachers and professionals have been debating the question of how to prepare public history students for their jobs outside the academy. What are the skills, experiences, and qualities that make a person a successful public historian? "Preparing the professional historian: Connecting Academic Training with the Changing Marketplace" was a title of a the "working group" composed of academics and practitioners that met on Saturday morning to explore these characteristics. Here's an overview of what's important for those who would like to try their luck as a public historian:


· Primary Research ·Secondary Research ·Oral History Interviewing

· Artifact and Material Culture Analysis and Interpretation ·Grant Writing

· Management ·Digital Technologies and Fluency ·Evaluation/assessment

· Communication ·Teaching/mentoring ·Written communication in various genres ·Mastery of historiography and historical context of selected subfields or topics ·Mastery of foreign language


· Ability to embrace research agenda set by others · Comfort level interacting with various audiences, including general public · Ability to work independently

· Personnel skills: delegate, supervise, comfort with hierarchy · Critical reasoning


· Awareness of how historical interpretations can be presented in many different

realms and genres · Diverse interdisciplinary interaction · Teamwork ·Project

conceptualization, planning, budgeting, and execution ·Entrepreneurship


· Curious · Adaptable · Outgoing · Disciplined work habits¾time management

Surely, skills such as research, teamwork, interdisciplinary approach can be taught and trained. But what about entrepreneurship, curiosity, or willingness to work for a variety of public and clients - can we learn those in public history programs, or should we look for these qualities in students before admitting them to the programs? It would be interesting to hear from practitioners, which of these skills and trades opened for them the door to their most successful public history projects.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Review - Preview

One of the permanent features that we would like to include in our blog is the introduction and a rough review of other public history and related blogs and websites: a quick and brief "who is producing what, why, and how?"

By doing that we hope to get to know other colleagues who deal with history – in what ever way, form, and shape – and to create awareness about and connections within the existing virtual community. Like a finding aid, our regular introductions, will serve as an orientation through the growing landscape of historical websites and blogs.

Of course, if you wish to introduce your own blog or website, we would be happy to post your introduction!

This week's blog:

Name: Public History Podcast


Who: This is the webpage page for the University of Central Florida Department of History Public History Podcasts

What: More than a blog, Public History Podcast – as the name reveals – is a collection of podcasts. Started in April 2009, the website presents new podcasts on a monthly basis. Most of the podcasts are interviews with professors, museum curators, and book authors, exploring various practices and dimension of public history.

Here a few samples from the Public History Podcast collection:

  • Interview with Professor Jim Norris, associate professor of history at North Dakota State University, about his history of sugar beet workers, the global history of sugar and the challenges he faced throughout his research.
  • Interview with Dietrich Sachs, a lead guide with the Underground Tours in Seattle, Washington.
  • Interview with Professor Jack E. Davis at the University of Florida about his recent book An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century.
  • Interview with Jack Rutland from the Stonewall Library and Archives in Ft. Lauderdale Florida.
  • Interview with Prof. Vladimir Solonari, associate professor at the University of Central Florida, who discusses the Russian Textbook controversy and what that means within the context of remembering the communist past in Eastern Europe.