ESSAYS & THOUGHTS
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WHAT IS PUBLIC HISTORY?
Public history is often defined as “applied history.” Generally speaking, it is where history interacts with the public in some way, perhaps through a museum exhibit, an art gallery tour, community heritage celebration, high school history class, or Civil War reenactment. It is often said that public history is always active; it is something that “happens,” engaging the public in real-time. In other words, people do public history. These are public historians, and they tirelessly curate, interpret, promote, present, document, reenact and celebrate our important local history.
WHO ARE PUBLIC HISTORIANS?
Unlike traditional history scholars, public historians are on the front lines of preserving and sharing history for current and future generations. Public historians engage and interact with the public through history activities, events, speaking engagements, teaching, writing articles, creating videos, producing history podcasts, etc. Public historians include:
museum and historical society leaders and administrators
curators, archivists, consultants, genealogists, preservationists
artists, technicians, craftsmen
docents, guides, interpreters
museum volunteers and staff
history reenactors and performers
teachers, authors, speakers
oral historians, documentary filmmakers, photojournalists, podcast producers
WHY DOES PUBLIC HISTORY MATTER?
Where would be without public historians who tirelessly curate, interpret, promote, present, document, reenact and celebrate our important local history? The answer is obvious.
PUBLIC HISTORY RESOURCES
National Council on Public History
NCPH inspires public engagement with the past and serves the needs of practitioners in putting history to work in the world by building community among historians, expanding professional skills and tools, fostering critical reflection on historical practice, and publicly advocating for history and historians.
Oral History Association
Since 1966, the Oral History Association has served as the principal membership organization for people committed to the value of oral history. OHA engages with policy makers, educators, and others to help foster best practices and encourage support for oral history and oral historians. With an international membership, OHA serves a broad and diverse audience including teachers, students, community historians, archivists, librarians, and filmmakers. See also DoHistory, by Martha Ballard.
Veterans Oral History Association (Facebook Group)
The VOHA Facebook group is a supportive and encouraging online community of those who capture, preserve, and share veterans stories.
Local History Podcasters (Facebook Group)
The Local History Podcasters group is open to historical societies, museums, and heritage organizations that use podcasting as part of their mission to celebrate and promote local history.
Local History Podcast Initiative
The Local History Podcast Initiative is an innovative public-interest media project creating podcast partnerships with local history organizations, programs, and individuals throughout Western Pennsylvania and beyond.