Another year, another NCPH conference down. This is by far my favourite conference. It brings together so many diverse perspectives, there is a welcoming sense of community, and the sessions are always dynamic and engaging. I had a fantastic time in Baltimore at NCPH 2016 and over the next week or so I will be recapping my experience at the conference and exploring Baltimore.
This was the first year I was able to participate in any of the pre-conference workshops. The “Daring to Speak Its Name: Interpreting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Pasts at Historic Sites” workshop facilitated by Susan Ferentinos, Frank Futral, and Megan Springate was a wonderful way to kick off the week in Baltimore.
The workshop included a broad discussion of challenges interpreting and integrating LGBTQ history into mainstream historical sites and common historical narratives. The session allowed for substantial discussion of participant ideas and projects. The workshop opened with Sue Ferentinos highlighting some of the different ways that LGBTQ history has been interpreted – monuments, memorials, special events/exhibits, and reshaping of existing programming.
We also spent considerable time talking about the challenges or ‘issues’ around interpreting LGBTQ history. Some of the issues that resonated most with me was the idea of archival silences or silences in the historical record. How do you tell a history that isn’t well documented? And without imposing present day identification and terms on the past? And who has the right to tell these stories? And how do you tell it without ‘whitewashing’ or generalizing the very diverse range of experiences of LGBTQ communities. As an archivist much of this conversation made me consider the need to more actively engage in documenting present day queer communities, so that future generations have more information and the ability to tell this history more fully.
The session also pointed participants to a number of resources including:
- Interpreting LGBT History At Museums and Historic Sites (Book by Susan Ferentinos, given to all participants)
- Queering the Museum
- John Q Collective Interview from the History@Work blog
- Queering the Collections (Initiative based in Amsterdam)
And the morning concluded with participants workshopping ideas around LGBTQ history interpretation at the Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site and specifically Val-Kill the home of Eleanor. Overall this was a great workshop with great ideas around engaging with LGBTQ past and the need to be more proactive in documenting this history. There was also a lot of enthusiasm for more LGBTQ history at future NCPH meetings in terms of working groups and presentations.
Following this workshop I concluded Day 1 of NCPH by helping the Resume Building Workshop and attending the Opening Reception. I had a mentee for the conference so the opening reception was a chance to meet her and orient her to the conference. I also had dinner with a number of the Canadian attendees at NCPH – and it’s always great to connect with those great public historians.