Public History

Broadening Horizons: Graduate Students Dive into Curation at a Community Museum

By Misha Appeltova, Zach Nacev, and Gregory Valdespino

We stopped in front of a painting portraying a group of villagers by a river. “What do you see?” asked Elsie Hector Hernandez, owner and director of the Haitian American Museum of Chicago (HAMOC). One of us answered that there were villagers doing laundry, washing themselves, collecting water for households, getting their animals to drink. There were no roads, no cars, no concrete buildings. Traditional Haitian culture centered around a river? Lack of infrastructure due to the poverty of a state caused by international and domestic politics?

What Should We Do with Confederate Monuments?

The current controversy over Confederate monuments is about how we remember the past and interpret its meaning. These issues are the stock in trade of historians, and many have written op-eds and done interviews with reporters for national and local news outlets. Others have given talks to civic groups, testified to government agencies, and spoken at public forums. The American Historical Association has issued a widely endorsed statement on Confederate monuments. Last week, the National History Center brought the issue to Capitol Hill as a congressional briefing

October 30, 2017

A Flag, a Dinner Bell, and a Hand-Dug Well: Using Artifacts to Make Meaningful Connections to the Past

By Michelle M. Martin

When I began my directorship of the Little House on the Prairie Museum south of Independence, Kansas, the promise and challenges the museum faced swirled in my mind. For any small historic house museum, problems tend to outweigh the possibilities. Founded in 1977, the Little House on the Prairie Museum preserves the Kansas homesite where Charles Ingalls and his family lived from 1869–71. The museum features a replica of the one-room cabin the family lived in while in Kansas along with a 19th-century one-room schoolhouse and post office moved to the site to ensure their preservation.

Monumental Effort: Historians and the Creation of the National Monument to Reconstruction

One of President Obama’s last act while in office was to designate a national monument to Reconstruction in Beaufort, South Carolina. The AHA supported this important expansion of the National Park Service system with a letter to the US Secretary of the Interior on November 16, 2016. AHA Today spoke to historians Greg Downs and Kate Masur, whose advocacy was crucial to this effort, about the significance of the designation, the backstory of the monument’s creation, and next steps.

Mapping Indigenous LA: Uncovering Native Geographies through Digital Storytelling

Indigenous history is everywhere, and yet too often overlooked or ignored. In Los Angeles, a coalition of academics, archaeologists, activists, and members of local indigenous communities, is working to create a digital storymapping project that “aims to uncover and highlight the multiple layers of indigenous Los Angeles.” Mapping Indigenous LA is exemplary in its privileging of indigenous knowledge and protocol, as well as in its attention to documenting the presence of Southern California’s original inhabitants as well as diasporic indigenous communities. AHA Today spoke to professor Mishuana Goeman, co-principal investigator of the project, for more on this effort.

Who’s Afraid of Being a Generalist? On Being a Historian outside the Academy

By Rachel Feinmark

After two years of endless academic job applications, Skype interviews, and harrowing job talks, I was exhausted from reinventing myself on a daily basis. For all the effort, I was starting to suspect that I might not even want any of the jobs I was working so hard to get. When I finally gave myself permission to apply for the public history positions I’d secretly been coveting, I felt a sense of relief. But as I revised my teaching statement for a museum studies role, I came to realize that I was less interested in refining my class on the history of display than I was in creating the display myself.