The Golden Age of Public History is Coming

Robert Weible is optimistic about the future of New York’s historical community.  Writing at the New York History blog, Weible wants us to forget about the “good old days of the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s” when “the best option for historians was to pursue a Ph.D., land a job at a prestigious research university, and produce quasi-scientific research for small groups of peers.”

The field of public history is changing as well.  Weible argues that the days of the”curator as king” is over.  Today, history museum content is being shaped by a host of different voices.  The curator remains important, but so does the public, museum donors, and teachers.

Here is a taste:

This message is not being lost in New York. There may still be historians, curators, and others who seek their Utopia in the past—but there are also professionals here who want to create their golden age in the future. And happily for this latter group, the state’s Office of Cultural Education (OCE) recently gained Board of Regents approval to move ahead with a plan that should keep State Museum, Library, and Archives professionals—and the New Yorkers with whom they work—looking to the future. Research will continue, certainly, and at a high level—but it will be more open and support direct service to public audiences rather than to small groups of like-minded peers. Collections, which have grown substantially in recent years, will continue to get sufficient maintenance but will also have their educational utility reviewed in light of changing public needs. The bottom line will be that OCE professionals will share authority with the public and provide people with more and better educational services, information, exhibits, and programs than ever before. Simply stated, collaborations and cooperation are now in.