Friday, February 23, 2007

Evolving into a Public Historian

I recently spoke to a public history class about my evolution (intelligent design?) as a public historian. Aside from the necessary autobiographical nature of the lecture I tried to let them know that public historians are not understood.

For example, when in a social setting and someone asks what you do and you say you are a public historian they look at you like the RCA dog looks at the gramophone, hearing his master's voice. Then they ask, "where do you teach?" and when you tell them you don't teach they begin to become irritated. They don't know what a public historian is. So, you have to say something about historical markers or the National Register program and then they begin to smile a bit and feel more comfortable.

I know some professors teach public history, and, indeed there are PhD programs in public history nowadays, but the professors aren't public historians, but a hybrid, one part academic, the other part public. Is there any hope for practicing public historians?

No comments: