Archive for April, 2015

History on the Edge

The 2015 annual meeting of the National Council on Public History (NCPH) begins today in Nashville, Tennessee, with the theme “History on the Edge.” (The term “public history” refers to historical work done in the service of the public. You can learn more here.)

Group at an NCPH conference

Socializing with colleagues at NCPH 2013. I am second from the right.

The NCPH conference is always one of the highlights of spring for me. It tends to be relatively cozy for a conference– less than 1,000 people–and consistently provides me a host of great ideas to incorporate into my own work. This year’s event promises to be even more exciting for me, since I was part of the 2015 NCPH program committee, the group that selects which session proposals to accept and secures the keynote speakers. The theme of “History on the Edge” led to a great submission pool of innovative and thought-provoking session topics, and I can’t wait to see these excellent proposals come to fruition at the conference.

I will also be speaking at the conference this year. On Saturday, April 18, 2015, at 10:30 am, I’ll be participating in a roundtable called “‘Pulling Back the Curtain’: Displaying the History-Making Process in Museums and Sites.” This event builds on an address NCPH president Robert Weyeneth gave at the 2014 NCPH annual meeting, where he called on public historians to bridge the gap between professional and public perceptions of history by “pulling back the curtain” and sharing with museum visitors the process by which historians investigate the past.

Former president of NCPH, Robert Weyeneth.

Former president of NCPH, Robert Weyeneth.

Weyeneth’s talk drew a lot of attention, and sparked a series of response articles on the Public History Commons, one of which–“Lifting Our Skirts: Revealing the Sexual Past to Visitors”–I wrote. Saturday’s roundtable seeks to further explore this idea of revealing the interpretive process. I will join Gregory Smoak, Kenneth Turino, and Allison Weiss in describing some of our own professional experiences in this area, then Robert Weyeneth will lead us in a conversation with audience members about the ways this interpretive approach might impact our field.

If you will be attending the conference in Nashville, I hope you’ll stop by our session and lend your voice to the conversation. If you are unable to attend the conference, you can follow it on Twitter under the hashtag #NCPH2015.

Upcoming Workshop: Job Seeking Beyond the Professoriate

It’s a wonderful time to be a history graduate student thinking about careers outside of the academy! Our discipline’s major professional organization, the American Historical Association, has launched a Career Diversity Project, aimed at gathering concrete data about where people with History PhDs work and what the employers who hire them are looking for. The AHA’s advocacy is sparking a larger discussion within the profession about moving graduate education beyond simply vocational training for the professoriate. In addition, an exciting number of entrepreneurial historians have started businesses, blogs, and websites providing a wealth of information for job-seekers with PhDs.

By Kit from Pittsburgh, USA (Grads Absorb the News) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kit from Pittsburgh, USA (Grads Absorb the News) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

This conversation is not new, of course. Since at least the 1970s, a sizable percentage of graduates from history PhD programs have worked in a variety of careers. And many people (such as myself) entered graduate school never planning to pursue an academic career. What’s changed is that career diversity is gaining wider acceptance within the field as a whole. Job seekers can now much more easily find information about a broad range of careers for historians, and academic graduate programs are increasingly supportive of students who choose a less-traveled career path.

On Friday, April 3, I will be at Indiana University, leading a workshop for graduate students on “Job Seeking Beyond the Professoriate.” This event is sponsored by the Indiana University Department of History and all Indiana University graduate students in the humanities are welcome to attend.

I’ll be tailoring much of the workshop to the specific needs and questions of the attendees. In addition, we’ll cover the following general topics:

  • the range of jobs humanities PhDs are qualified for
  • the types of skills non-academic employers are looking for
  • tips for repackaging academic skills for a wider job market
  • the basics of résumé writing (as opposed to C.V. building)

The workshop is the first of a series of efforts related to career preparation beyond the professoriate that I’ll be undertaking in collaboration with Indiana University. Check my website often to learn more.

“Job Seeking Beyond the Professoriate” will take place Friday, April 3, 2015, 1:00pm to 2:30 pm, in Ballantine Hall 209, Indiana University, Bloomington Campus.


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