Beyond 150: Telling Our Stories Twitter Conference

beyond 150 logoI’m super excited to have been part of the planning for the “Beyond 150: Telling Our Stories” twitter conference that will be held August 24-25, 2017 on Twitter. Organized by Active History, Unwritten Histories, Canada’s History Society, and The Wilson Institute the conference aims to diversify the historical narrative and uplift marginalized historical perspectives. It is designed to encourage collaboration, public engagement, and spark discussion about Canada’s history in a way that is accessible to everyone.

For details on the conference, how you can participate, and the CFP check out today’s Active History announcement. Or follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #beyond150CA.

Historian’s Histories Interview

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I was recently interviewed as part of the Historian’s Histories series on the fantastic Unwritten Histories site.

I am extremly greatful for the work that Andrea Eidinger does through her site and delighted to have been asked to particiapte in her interview series.  I talk about my history roots, my love for public history, and how I use a public history approach to my archives work.

Where to Find Me At NCPH

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NCPH 2017 Program Cover

Next week I’ll be heading to Indianapolis for this year’s National Council on Public History conference. The agenda is filled with great sounding panels, roundtables, and workshops.  I’m really looking forward to connecting with other public history professionals and digging into some public history.

I haven’t selected which panels I’ll be attending during the conference but there are a number of events that I’m helping facilitate as part of my role on the membership committee. There are also a number of broader conference events that I definitely plan on participating in. If you’re interested in connecting during the conference I will be at the following events:

  • Membership Committee Twitter Chat (Wednesday April 19, 11:30am-12:30pm) *Virtual – join the conversation using the #ncph2017 hashtag.
  • First Time Attendee and Mentoring Connection Meetup (Wednesday April 19, 5:30-6:00pm)
  • Opening Reception (Wednesday April 19, 6:00-8:00pm)
  • New Member Welcome (Thursday April 20, 7:30-8:30am)
  • NCPH Business Meeting (Thursday April 20, 1:00-1:30pm)
  • Indy Behind the Scenes: Eiteljog Museum of American Indians and Western Art Walking Tour (Friday April 21, 8:45-10:00am)
  • Public Plenary: Making LGBTQ History American History (Friday April 21, 6:00-7:30pm)
  •  2nd Annual Great NCPH Canuck Gathering (Friday April 21st)
  • Awards Breakfast (Saturday April 22, 8:00-10:00am)

You will also likely find me at individual sessions focused on archives, Wikipedia, podcasting, and Indigenous history.

Professional Organizations and Finding Your Niche

soda.hotglue.meOne of my service gigs currently involves sitting on the membership committee of the National Council of Public History (NCPH).  If you’ve followed my blog for awhile you probably know that this is one of my favourite professional organizations and that their annual meeting is something I really look forward to.  I’ve served on the membership committee for a couple of years now and recently started acting as the co-chair of the committee.

As a committee we’ve been working on a handful of projects this year many of which revolve around making sure new members feel welcome to NCPH as an organization and to the annual meetings.  Professional conferences where you don’t know anyone can be intimidating – but they can also be amazingly rewarding experiences.  The first NCPH conference I attended was in 2012 in Milwaukee.  I went solo but knew other Western Public History alumni and students would be there.  Despite only knowing a few people at the conference it was a hugely welcoming experience where I felt like I belonged.  Granted, part of this had to do with my love of the NCPH meeting format and the flexibility of the sessions.  But it also had a lot to do with people just being helpful.

Conferencing, networking, and putting yourself out there can be exhausting – regardless of how many times you’ve done it.  As a new NCPH annual meeting attendee I found the mentorship program helpful in orienting myself with the conference. It also took me a little bit to find my group – archivists and museum professionals who define themselves as public historians.  But they existed and were welcoming.  I think that’s another reason I love NCPH there is a such a range of professionals who attend from community historians to academics that you’re bound to find your niche. NCPH also encourages technology usage during sessions – so if you’re on twitter that can be a great way to connect with other attendees.  I personally love the “Hey, I know you from twitter” moments.

What were your experiences as a new conference attendee or new member of a professional organization?  Did specific events make you feel welcome at a conference? I would love to hear other people’s perspectives on first time conference attendance and building relationships within a professional organization.

Service, Professional Development and Privilege

coffee-break-1177540_960_720I’ve been thinking a lot about service expectations, professional development opportunities and privilege.  A lot has been written on the connection of conference attendance and privilege, conferences are expensive to attend and in the academic world that you often essentially pay to present your research.  If you’re lucky enough to have a job that includes a professional development fund your travel and attendance might be covered but for many individuals these expenses come out of pocket.  I’m very lucky (and privileged) to work in a place that has consistently supported my participation in conferences. I also have the time and financial stability to be able to attend professional development events and serve on professional committees without putting myself at financial risk.

I still think conferences can be valuable and have the potential to offer opportunities for connections with colleagues and skill building.  I really look forward to the NCPH annual conference for this very reason and I have been on the organizing committee of a handful of conferences. However there definitely needs to be a more open dialogue about the financial challenges associated with attendance that is faced by students, early career professionals, and those in positions of precarious employment. In the academic world there is a huge sense of urgency that you need to build your CV by presenting at conferences but the very people who most need to build their CV through conference presentations are the ones who can least afford it.  This sense of urgency is perhaps not a potent in the Canadian archives and library field but it is definitely still there – especially if you want to open career possibilities.

It’s important for conference organizers to think about what financial barriers their registration fees, hotel choices, and funding options place on attendance.  Room sharing, attending smaller regional conferences, and other creative cost saving approaches can help on an individual level.  As someone who lives in a region that rarely holds conferences related to my profession I understand the very real expenses associated with traveling for professional development.  But this is a discussion we need to be having on a larger scale and is something we need to consider when running events.  Creating opportunities for digital professional development, informal networking meetups, or running shorter less expensive single day events is one way to help with this.  Similarly, joining planning committees and organizational committees where you can bring concerns and alternative suggestions can help.

Conferences are expensive to run, I get that. But there also needs to be a way that we can acknowledge the implicit privilege of conference attendance and work to create more inclusive spaces.  This is particularly important for public historians and heritage professionals who work with communities and want to cultivate more community involvement.  If we want to build meaningful collaboration and diversify our profession we need to create spaces for that to happen.

CHA Public History Prize

At this year’s Canadian Historical Association (CHA) annual meeting Active History was announced as winner of the 2016 Public History Prize.

The Public History Prize is sponsored by the  Public History Group of the Canadian Historical Association. The award recognizes work that “achieves high standards of original research, scholarship, and presentation; brings an innovative public history contribution to its audience; and serves as a model for future work, advancing the field of public history in Canada. Nominations are encouraged on the nature and evolution of public history; the workings of memory, commemoration, and their application in public life; archival practice and policy; museum studies; and the presence of historical events and themes in society.”
I’ve been very fortunate to be part of Active History since 2010 and couldn’t be happier about this announcement.  Many thanks to all of our supporters and the hard work of those involved with this project.

Digital Outreach and Wikipedia in the GLAM Sector

My most recent post “Digital Outreach and Wikipedia in the GLAM Sector” can be seen over on Activehistory.ca.  This post looks at why Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAM) might engage in Wikipedia editing and different possibilities for GLAM organizations interested in editing Wikipedia as a form of outreach.

Contested History and Multiple Chronologies

While  driving  being a passenger on the drive to London I finally finished reading through the August issue of The Public Historian.  A couple of the articles in this issue sparked some reflection on my historical practice, including Charles W. Romney‘s “New City Guides and Anachronic Public History” article.

Romney examined historical cities guides including the Cleveland Historical app, the Infinite City atlas, the book Map of Perceptions, and the Wildsam field guides. This examination looked at the ways in which each city guide uses multiple chronologies to tell the history of a place.  Romney makes a number of interesting points about contested chronologies that are applicable to many public history projects. His analysis is applicable to many historical narratives outside of city guides.

Most public history initiatives adhere to a single timeline or chronological framework.  This can commonly be seen in written narratives, museum exhibits, living museums, and preservation projects.  A single chronology often works well to deliver simplified narratives and can serve as an organizing idea.

However multiple chronologies have a place in some public history projects and can be beneficial to project looking to highlight a range of perspectives.  As Romney notes

multiple chronologies can enhance public that stress relationships between different developments and that connect events from different time periods.  Multiple chronologies also improve public projects showing uneven spatial and temporal shifts.

Fragmenting time and presenting multiple narratives that are intertwined can allow for a diversity of experience and voices to presented in a project.  When reading this article I was struck by how this approach would be particularly useful when discussing contested spaces and to bring forward the voices of marginalized groups.

The obvious example in my work is residential school buildings that are now used by mainstream organizations.  These spaces have multiple narratives to tell and many are still evolving as living history spaces.

In some cases collective memory is contested.  Presenting a timeline of  a contested space might involve imposing an unaccepted chronology on a project.  There may be better ways to display history for this type of project than using a chronological order.  Multiple chronologies, unstable and changing chronologies, and contested timelines all have a place in public history.  It’s up to public history professionals to think critically about the best ways to interpret and present historical narratives.

Reading Archivists

As a means of professional development and enjoyment I regularly read archival and public history publications.  This often comes in the form of reading The American Archivist or The Public Historian but sometimes also includes other journals and the occasional book.

I like love reading and find that it often inspires me to consider by own work and evaluate new approaches to my public history and archival practice.  I think it’s important to discuss what you read and one of the things I missed most after finishing my MA was the ease of access to people who wanted to talk critically about academic readings.

I felt like I needed a book club for archivists or public historians.  With that in mind I was delighted to find the online reading group “Reading Archivists” which aims to bring archivists together to read and learn more about the archival profession in the United States.  Readings for the group are introduced and analyzed on a group blog and then a discussion leader also organizes a twitter chat focused on the readings.

Virtual reading groups are a great idea and help great a sense of community for those working in smaller organizations or alone.  Has anyone else had success with starting up a virtual or physical reading group?

 

Archives Meet Public History

Earlier this week the Students and New Archives Professional (SNAP) Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists hosted a joint twitter chat with the New Professional and Graduate Student Committee of the National Council on Public History.  The chat focused on the intersection of public history and archives and generated a lot of interesting ideas for collaboration.

The first portion of the chat focused on introducing participants, discussing what interested them in archives and public history, and what they learned about archives in their public history program (or vice versa). The vast majority of responses seemed to indicate that many archival programs didn’t talk about public history and that most public history programs might include a class or two focused on archives.  A number of participants also mentioned gaining exposure to other fields through internships and work study opportunities.

The second section of the chat invited participants to share how they have interacted with public historians or archivists as part of their work.  A number of people (@Sam_Winn, @PubHistPhD, and @jessmknapp) mentioned that reference, outreach, and engagement work often allows them to interact with people from a variety of fields.

This was followed by a discussion of why archives, public historians, and museums don’t work together more frequently on advocacy issues. Holly Croft suggested that this disconnect might be rooted in the fact that archives only recently began to advocate for themselves.  Croft’s comment garnered a lot of discussion and highlighted the issue of similar fields committing for the same funding sources and lack of engagement between professional groups. 

The chat closed with practical suggestions of how these two related fields can work together.  A number of participants suggested holding more tweet chats or similar discussions which invite people from different backgrounds to engage.  Using digital and local history projects as points of collaboration was also suggested, as was the idea of holding joint professional meetings.

As someone who holds an MA in Public History and works in an archive I found the chat very interesting.  While I’ve worked in an archives focused role for the past four years many of the outreach and engagement practices I’ve undertaken are rooted in public history and the idea of a living archive.  There is tremendous potential for collaboration between fields to bring history to the forefront.