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Public History

Sessions by special interest

State of the Field Sessions
Public History 
Professional Development
Community College
Gilded Age & Progressive Era
Foreign Relations
Digital Humanities
Western History
Native American
Urban History


Introduction to Oral History and the Environment
Sponsored by the Committee on Public History and the Oral History Association
Saturday, April 18 - 8:30 am – 12:30 pm
Cost: $10  - Limit 40 people
Jeff Corrigan, State Historical Society of Missouri

This introductory workshop offers an informative overview of oral history methodology from initial idea through finished product, with an emphasis on environmental oral histories. Although focused on the environment, these skills are transferable to any oral history project. Discussions will cover three subcategories of oral history—pre-interview, interview, and post-interview—and will include legal and ethical considerations, audio and video recording technologies, interview outline writing, setting up for and conducting successful interviews, transcription, and digital preservation. The workshop will be helpful to a variety of history practitioners in academic and public settings.

Doing History in the National Park Service: NPS 101
Sponsored by the OAH Committee on National Park Service Collaboration, Historic Preservation Program, Southeast Missouri State University Department of History
Saturday, April 18 - 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Cost: $10 - Limit 40 people
Chair: Mark William Harvey, North Dakota State University
• Laura A. Miller, President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace National Historic Site
• Pamela Sanfilippo, National Park Service
• Donald L. Stevens Jr., Midwest Region, National Park Service
• Bob Moore, Jefferson National Expansion
• Tim Good, Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site

This workshop, organized by the OAH Committee on National Park Service collaboration, focuses on history programming in the National Park Service. The committee seeks to implement a
recommendation in the OAH report, Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service that the organization "ensure that every OAH annual meeting has an 'NPS 101' workshop to introduce future researchers to NPS opportunities and structures." The workshop is divided into two parts. In the first half, to help introduce OAH annual meeting attendees unfamiliar with NPS history programs, panelists representing several NPS sites in the Midwest will discuss their work and the opportunities and challenges it presents. The panelists will provide an overview of history programming in the National Park Service sites that they represent, and touch on such topics as research and education, the preservation mission of the NPS, civic engagement efforts within the NPS, and opportunities for historians to engage park staff and visitors.


Thursday April 16 - 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm 

Silver Leaf, Crushed Walnut, and Parsley: A Rose Parade Float as Public History
Katherine Sharp Landdeck, Texas Woman's University
On January 1, 2014, the Wingtip-to-Wingtip Association sponsored a float in the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California. The float, "Our Eyes Are on the Stars" won the National Trophy Award for best depiction of American life past, present, or future. The float honored the Women Air Force Service Pilots of World War II and their legacy. As eight of the ninety-something-year-old women sat on the float, fourteen younger women representing those who earned their military aviation wings in the 1970s, a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird pilot, and modern combat pilots walked alongside them. Tournament of Roses judges, notoriously serious about their business, cried with emotion as they judged the float. It was a powerful, moving experience in a hangar that smelled of roses. And it was an example of public history at work. I am vice president of WTWA, and was the sponsor of the float. I was skeptical but stayed with it so that I could be certain the story of these women whom I have studied for over twenty years was told correctly and with as little sensation as possible in a float. The process of building the float and creating the message convinced
me that this could be a living historical exhibit, and that is what the float builder and I set out to do. I believe we achieved it. Each part of the float represented a part of the WTWA story, and the women
who walked alongside it represented a specific part of their legacy. It was a carefully crafted, beautiful example of public history.

Taboo and Controversy in Public History: Toward a Useful Pedagogy
Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Public History
Presenter: Nancy Berlage, Texas State University
Controversy, or the potential for controversy, is at the core of public history practice. Public disputes over planned or completed historical projects arise from bureaucratic agendas, public protest,
local politics, donor issues, interest group pressures, and other sources. Controversy can have both positive and negative results. A few historians suggest that controversy should be responsibly
yet intentionally used as a tool for encouraging public dialogue that might not otherwise occur. Yet deep sociopolitical divisions in America, widening over the past twenty years, have made that
a risky proposition. Experience has shown that public history and related products that challenge traditional metanarratives are easily demonized, as are those addressing sensitive, difficult
topics, such as slavery and colonization. Revising sacred national narratives and re-envisioning sacred figures often serve as "triggers" for controversy. For example, public history projects
that suggest America's history is anything but one of progress and rightness (warts and all) are difficult to carry off successfully without a great deal of finesse. Recent large public history projects
have shown that historians and lay audiences can successfully interact on difficult topics; yet field evidence shows this is often not the case for small institutions. Slavery, for example, remains so
marginalized in historic home tours, it might be considered a taboo topic. Sadly, many of the topics that Michael Wallace regretfully described as taboo a decade ago in Mickey Mouse History remain so.
Public historians should continue to plan projects that challenge or add nuance to traditional metanarratives despite the potential for disruption. By studying public history controversy, practitioners
can learn to anticipate some of the "triggers" of temper and develop intellectual, managerial, and professional techniques for dealing with controversy. Such study can also reveal tactics for
engaging with taboo topics. New professionals are often ill-equipped to deal with controversies, small or large. Graduate public history courses that focus on controversy—of which there are few—can help future practitioners develop deeper awareness of and strategies for dealing with controversy and taboo topics. Thus, this poster session will describe pedagogical strategies that I used to teach a graduate course called "Controversy in Public History." It will showcase a few digital products and video clips resulting from assignments that placed students in charged situations. It will also highlight our course's findings about how one might study and prepare for controversy, such as bringing together a set of core readings not only from public history but also dark tourism, race, memory, and identity studies. I hope to provoke reflexive thinking and collaborative discussions about teaching controversy and taboo.

What's Black and White and Re(a)d All Over? Opposing Arguments on Territorial Expansion and Differing Portrayals of Mexicans in the New York Sun's and New York Herald's Coverage of
the Mexican War
Presenter: Mark Bernhardt, Jackson State University
This exhibit will display illustrations of Mexicans and Mexico published during the Mexican War in two New York newspapers to provide an analysis of how racial stereotypes were used to support
different sides in the debate over how much land the United States should take from Mexico as spoils of war. Moses Yale Beach, publisher of the New York Sun, expressed the opinion as a moderate northern Democrat that the United States should take only the territory of northern Mexico. He wanted to see the United States extend its territorial control to California but did not favor incorporating a large Mexican population into the United States or acquiring a significant amount of new territory that would be open to slavery. James Gordon Bennett, publisher of the rival New York Herald and a fellow Democrat, though one who supported the southern faction of the party, favored taking all of Mexico and creating new slave states from the conquered territory.
One way that their differing opinions influenced their war coverage is through their portrayal of Mexicans in illustrations they published in their papers. Both used racial stereotypes that highlighted either the Native American, African, or European ancestry of the Mexican people, choosing which stereotypes to emphasize in illustrations to help support their positions on land acquisition. They both depicted Mexicans as an inferior race. Bennett made the case that Mexico was an easy target from which the United States could, and should, acquire land. Beach insinuated through his illustrations that the United States would be better off limiting its territorial ambitions to bring as few Mexicans within its borders as possible. Because publishing illustrations was very expensive, few newspapers in the United States at this time did so. As the proprietors of two of the widest circulating papers in the largest market in the nation, Beach and Bennett had the financial resources to publish more illustrations than other papers. They thus provide rare, valuable source material that reveals one way that illustrations were used by the press in the political debates surrounding the Mexican War.

Friday, April 17

9:00 am - 10:30 am 

The Civil War Era and the American West: Unifying Concepts for Scholars, Students, and Museum Goers
Andrew Graybill, Southern Methodist University
• Adam Arenson, Manhattan College
• Diane Mutti Burke, University of Missouri–Kansas City
• Daniel Lynch, University of California, Los Angeles
• Virginia Scharff, University of New Mexico and Autry National Center

Panelists discuss the process and findings of three new, simultaneous efforts to disorient Civil War history by addressing the significance of the West and wider conflicts over freedom, property, and
citizenship: an edited volume emphasizing new research and frameworks; "Empire and Liberty," an exhibit at the Autry National Center on display concurrently with the OAH Annual Meeting; and
a companion volume focused on expanding this history, through artifacts, for students, scholars, and the public.

1:50 pm - 3:20 pm 

Resisting Slavery & Apartheid through Freedom Suits, Archives, Architecture, & Public Interpretation
Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Public History
Sally Hadden, Western Michigan University
Ann Honious, Jefferson Expansion Memorial, National Park Service
- Shifting Ground: St. Louis Freedom Suits in the Era of Dred Scott
Kelly Kennington, Auburn University
- Entering the Front Canopied Door: Maggie Walker and Black Women Resisting American Apartheid
Heather Huyck, National Collaboration Women's History Sites
- Arguing Slavery and Its Interpretation at White Haven 
Pamela Sanfilippo, National Park Service
- Remember Little Rock: Public Memory and Female School Desegregation Activism
Erin Devlin, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire

Saturday, April 18

9:00 am - 10:30 am

Assessing Disability Rights: Perspectives on Activism, Schism, Public History, and International Law
Sponsored by OAH Committee on Disability and Disability History
Susan Burch, Middlebury College
Lindsey Patterson, Elmhurst College
• Katherine Ott, Smithsonian Institution
• Michael Stein, Harvard School of Law
• Octavian Robinson, College of the Holy Cross
In 1972 members of Disabled In Action, a radical disability rights organization, declared, "the handicapped constitute the most neglected civil rights movement in the country." Even after decades
of political activism and civil rights legislation disability rights remain at the margins of the study of twentieth-century social movements. In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Americans
with Disabilities Act, this roundtable examines the disability rights movement from multiple perspectives—material culture, politics, the roots of early disability rights activism, international human
rights, and schisms within the disability community—situating disability rights in the grand narrative of pursuits for full civic membership in post–World War II America.

Profit, Partnership, and the Historical Profession
Chair: Alexandra Lord, National Park Service
• Edward Frantz, University of Indianapolis
• Sarah Marcus, HistoryIT
• Kristen Gwinn-Becker, HistoryIT
Is it possible to produce quality historical scholarship and do so as part of a business? Can universities partner with a for-profit business and still do "legitimate" history? This informative and lively
discussion will probe key questions involving profit, partnership, and the unspoken taboos surrounding the resulting scholarship. The discussion will have particular relevance to graduate students, young scholars, non-academic historians, and scholars at teaching-centric universities.

Evolution in Museums, Evolution of Museums
Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Public History
Chair: Victoria Cain, Northeastern University
Commentator: Sally Kohlstedt, University of Minnesota
- Evolution, Organicism, and the Nature of Capitalism
Lukas Rieppel, Brown University
- "The Coming Poultry Show:" Poultry and Guinea Pigs on Exhibit, 1900–1920
Jenna Tonn, Harvard University
- "Absolutely beyond Criticism": New Directions in Interwar Museum Display
Victoria Cain, Northeastern University

The Challenge of Engaging Local Communities in Place-Based History: The Case of St. Louis
Sponsored by the OAH Committee on Public History
Chair: Jeffrey Manuel, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Commentator: Andrew Hurley, University of Missouri–St. Louis
• Bill Iseminger, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
• Gwendolyn Moore, Missouri History Museum
• Lois Conley, The Griot Museum of Black History
• Almetta Jordan, Scott Joplin House State Historic Site

10:50 am - 12:20 pm 

Queer Archives in the "Show Me" State
Endorsed by the OAH Committee on the Status of LGBTQ Historians and Histories
Holly Baggett, Missouri State University
• Anne Baker, Missouri State University
• Stuart Hinds, University of Missouri–Kansas City
• Sharon Smith, Missouri History Museum Library
• Steven Brawley, Independent Scholar
This session will be a discussion of historians, archivists, and independent scholars/activists on the challenges of creating and sustaining LGBT Archives in conservative geographies. This session will examine both the political realities of such archives as well as trends in regional/rural LGBT historiography versus national/urban studies.

Classroom Taboo: Teaching the [Un]American Way of War Using the Smithsonian's "The Price of Freedom" Exhibit
Endorsed by the OAH Committee on Public History
Chair: Meredith Lair, George Mason University
• Kristin Hass, University of Michigan
• David Kieran, Skidmore College

1:50 pm - 3:20 pm 

Authorized for Release: Federal Historians and Taboo Topics
Sponsored by the Society for History in the Federal Government
Jessie Kratz, National Archives
Zack Wilske, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
• Sara Berndt, U.S. State Department
• Eric Boyle, National Museum of Health and Medicine
When producing agency histories, federal historians often encounter historical episodes or topics that reveal past mistakes, illuminate old policies that are viewed negatively, or evoke current
political debates. While some agency leaders might wish that these topics remained obscure, responsible federal historians are compelled to address them. In this roundtable, federal historians
explore the challenges of presenting controversial, politically sensitive, or "taboo" historical topics.

Sunday, April 19

9:00 am - 10:30 am

Working across Spaces of History Pedagogy: Classroom, Exhibit, Community
Sponsored by the OAH Committee on Teaching
Michael H. Frisch, Randforce Associates
• Malgorzata Rymsza-Pawlowska, Eastern Illinois University
• Christine Berkowitz, University of Toronto, Scarborough
• Erin Curtis, Skirball Cultural Center
• Robert Nelson, University of Richmond