The first session I attended today at #ncph2012 / #oah2012 was focused on Museums and Makers. The panel included @cathystanton, @katefreedman, and @publichistorian. To give you a taste of the variety and level of fun this session included, some of the things mentioned included: steampunk elephant, fire breathing bicycles, and knitted dragons.
Overall, I came away with a number of thoughts about community engagement and material culture. Hands on learning can be seen in steampunk culture that recreates aspects of Victorian science fiction and Maker Faires are all about engagement with the act of making. Hands-on learning can be a powerful tool no matter what the setting. Integrating active learning into traditional historical sites invites the public to look at history in a new way.
The presentations and audience questions also touched on the tenuous balance of communities — hobbyists vs. professionals, fun vs. educational, and forward thinking vs. romanticizing the past. All of these relationships highlight the complexity of the past and the variety of avenues which one can take to address the past. History means many things to different people, we as public historians should encourage this broad examination of the past and continue to work to engage so called ‘sub-culture’ groups.