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.