Category Archives: Controversy
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.
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.
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.
Developing History Leaders @SHA gets underway at the end of this week. The Class of 2015 will gather in Indianapolis to begin three weeks of learning and dialogue about the many ways we bring history to communities across the country. A distinguishing characteristic of this year’s class is its geographic spread, with greater representation from the West than is usually the case. This class includes students from Texas, California, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, and the Yukon Territory in Canada.
While in Santa Fe last week visiting our son, Anita and I had the pleasure of having breakfast with Denny and Trudy O’Toole. For those who don’t know, Denny was the coordinator of SHA prior to my taking the position in 2010. The O’Toole scholarship is named in his honor. Denny was a leader in our field for decades, and inspired and influenced many who now lead and work in history organizations. It has been an honor for me to follow in his footsteps.
Denny was eager to hear about the 2015 class. We talked about what has changed, and what has not, since he passed the baton. Some faculty continue to serve – Conny Graft on evaluation, Barbara Franco and Laura Roberts on organizational change, Kent Whitworth on team building – and we continue to engage with many of the same local organizations – the Indiana Medical History Museum, the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum, and Conner Prairie, where we will again participate in “Follow the North Star.” John Herbst and the amazing staff at the Indiana Historical Society continue to host the seminar and provide invaluable support.
Of course, much has changed. Every year there are a few new topics in response to student suggestions and emerging new practices. This year, building on changes made over the past two or three years, we will place emphasis on historical interpretation of contested history. David Young from Cliveden of the National Trust will frame the issues by addressing the role of public history in communities today; Cinnamon Catlin-Legutko from the Abby Museum will present her approach to decolonization in working with the native peoples of Maine; and Sarah Pharaon from the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience will engage the students in methods of dialogue when addressing difficult topics.
We will also continue to tackle the basic challenges of leadership of history organizations: building financially sustainable organizations, stewarding collections, engaging communities, and leading change. Also, a number of the faculty have been involved in the History Relevance Campaign, so we’ll have frequent discussions about the value of history in contemporary life.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what this year’s class thinks and has to say about public history and the work we do to bring history to people in our communities. See you in Indy!