Amanda Tewes, Ph.D. candidate, UMass History
For the robust group of public historians in the UMass History Department, the annual meeting of the National Council of Public History (NCPH) (http://ncph.org/cms/) serves as holiday of sorts—a great way to meet new people, see new places, and hear about the state of the field. Conference goers also have the opportunity to attend speed-networking sessions, mingle at the Graduate Student and New Professional Mixer, and take in local history.
This year in Nashville many of our students and faculty also represented UMass Public History well by shaping conference content and participating in working groups, presenting on panels, and moderating discussions. Emily Pipes even won an NCPH travel grant to attend the conference and participate in the working group “Who Speaks for Us?: Government Historians and NCPH.”
One of the most popular panels at the conference—at 8:30 a.m. no less!—was “Selfies, Tweets, and Likes: Social Media and its Role in Historical Memory,” featuring UMass’s own Erica Fagen as a presenter and Jon Olsen as commentator. What this panel got right was not just its exciting content, but also the way it inspired other public historians in the audience to think about using digital sources in their own work, pushing the boundaries of what is “history.” As panelist Jennifer Evans (Carleton University) explained, looking to forums like Instagram and Flickr as sources for historical research brings “new actors into the conversation” about “who is making that history and who is analyzing that history.” Not surprisingly, such an engaging topic had audience members jumping out of their seats to ask questions.
NCPH is also a great place to connect (or reconnect) with UMass alumni across the United States and abroad. The Department sponsors a dinner with current and former public history students to reminisce and discuss careers in the field while experiencing the local nightlife.
Most importantly, NCPH is a great opportunity for graduate students, new and seasoned professionals, as well as faculty to meet and discuss the future of public history. Participating in these discussions not only reinvigorates conference goers, but also helps shape the field.
I hope you can join us next year!