Monthly Archives: October 2016

History Relevance answers “So what?” & “For whom”

The beginning of each SHA class is one of the highlights of my year. I look forward to my trip to Indianapolis each year for any number of reasons: reconnect with colleagues in central Indiana, experience a bit of cooler weather, but especially to be around *my* people.


Tim Grove and the Class of 2016.

By that I mean, a group of history professionals who care so deeply about the profession and their own learning that they take a 3-week break from their lives to attend SHA. These are the kind of people I want to know and be around.

SHA begins with each class member introducing themselves for 8 minutes. This is one of my favorite activities. It’s great to see how people choose to tell about their own paths to history, personal and professional. It’s awesome to see the connections between each other and how much we have in common with each other.

As I remarked to one of the members of the class, “We all share a lot in common with the people in our personal lives, but we typically don’t share with them a deep, abiding love for making the the world a better place through history.” This is what I mean when I say these are “my” people, they are your people too.

Yesterday (Sunday) we also heard a keynote from John Fleming, one of the field’s longtime leaders in the area of Diversity and Inclusion. John is also current Council Vice Chair of AASLH, my own organization and one of the five SHA partner organizations. John’s talk, “How Implicit Bias Hinders Diversity,” gave us much to think about in this critical aspect of our work. Ultimately, John’s message was one of “Intentionality”–how are you/your organization being intentional in its Diversity and Inclusion strategies/tactics?

Today, David Young of Cliveden and Tim Grove of the Smithsonian’s National Air & Space Museum teamed up to talk about The Relevance of Public History. Their discussions, included David’s work at Cliveden (read about some of that here) and Tim’s role with the History Relevance Campaign (has your organization endorsed the Value of History Statement yet?)

It is amazing watching the group come together as they discuss two of the fundamental questions of our work–“So what?” and “For whom?”–and how the group answers them in their own work.

SHA and the conversations within remind me of the importance of history; our work; and you, me, our colleagues and peers. It is truly one of the highlights of my year.

Bob Beatty

p.s.: Please share with me how you are answering the questions “So what?” and “For whom?” I’m interested in your thoughts on these questions.

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