Students Participate in History Relevance Mini-Conference
November 18, 2019
By Emma Johansen
On Friday, November 8th, graduate students Jill Dunagan, Olivia Raymond, Emily Tingle, and undergraduates Hannah Bishop and Emma Johansen, participated in the National Council of Public History mini-convention at Conner Prairie in Indiana. Conner Prairie is a living history museum outside of Indianapolis that preserves the William Conner home and recreates 19th century life along the White River. UofL students networked with public historians across the nation to discuss historical relevance in museum, consultation, and archival work. Questions asked included: How can we be more relevant and inclusive to the public, and foster more interest in history? How can we shape our institutions to encourage visitors and participants outside the field to apply the knowledge we teach them after their visit ends?
To answer these questions, Richard Josey and Tim Grove presented on their project historyrelevance.com. This initiative, created by public historians across the nation, proposes six qualities of relevance through which institutions can increase interest and interactivity: being connected, responsive, memorable, applicable, current and timely, and rooted in historical quality. By letting these qualities guide their work, historical institutions can become places in the community that listen to stakeholders of history and foster discussion and culture. This project also reminds us that we, as public historians, should not project our idea of relevance onto our work – we should be open to the greater community’s idea of what is relevant. For example, one way to stay relevant is to attach your research to a current political issue or cause – a call to action to participants to apply the history they just learned.
After this discussion, a panel of Indiana public historians shared their projects, with presentations about the Indiana State Archives, Indiana Historical Bureau, and a 19th century AME church, which has been recreated in 3D virtual reality. Overall, this conference was very enlightening to the students who went, and the networks and lessons shared at Conner Prairie will serve us well in our future careers.