Doing Local History Differently

Creating New Understandings and Possibilities 

 

Re-defining the Roles of Public Historians

Critically Reading and Writing Local History

Placing Social History at the Center

Re-connecting Communities with Their Own Histories

 

On episode 20 of the Beaver County History Podcast, we discuss the possibilities of doing local history with a critical purpose.   

Through our Public History Matters blog, we’ve explored critically challenging, if not iconoclastic, perspectives on “doing local history.” In our view, doing local history should be so much more than a nostalgia-inducing exercise in trivial pursuit or a disjointed catalog of old artifacts and yesteryear ephemera.

We are in full agreement with the principled overarching view that local historians should find and articulate socially responsible purpose in their work, making the connection between and among social, political, and economic worlds past and present. Being critical is essential.

In “How a place learns to do differently: Local History as Change-maker,” public historian Hope Shannon writes, “We–local historians and anyone else doing local history work– need to use local history to build bridges between diverse communities. Having a sense of one’s own past and place in history is a uniquely human experience that we all share. We should use local history to create spaces where people can come together and ‘reflect on a complex past.’

“Similarly, local spaces are often the front-lines for social, economic, cultural, and political issues of both personal and broader significance. Local history organizations and local historians have a responsibility to their communities to build opportunities for people to engage in historically-informed discussions of present-day problems.”


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