American Attitudes Toward History

Field Trip

This is exciting news.  Three major history organizations have together received $479,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for a project titled “Framing History with the American Public.”  The project will study American attitudes towards history.  Here is a taste of the announcement at the AASLH website:

AASLH learned this week that we have received a major grant of $479,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for an exciting new project to research American attitudes towards history. The project, called “Framing History with the American Public,” will be completed in collaboration with the Washington, D.C.-based FrameWorks Institute, the National Council on Public History (NCPH), and the Organization of American Historians (OAH). Over the next three years, we will carry out a comprehensive, nationwide study of how the public views, interprets, and uses a wide variety of history activities and will develop new tools to strengthen the field’s communications efforts.

“This project could fundamentally transform the way the history field communicates with the public,” said AASLH President & CEO John Dichtl. “As we approach the nation’s 250th anniversary, ‘Framing History’ will empower history organizations to convey their impact in ways that have been proven to shift public understanding.” Inspired by the work of the History Relevance initiative, this project will equip the history community with a new, more effective communications framework.

The history community in the United States contains more than twenty thousand public history organizations, more than one thousand academic departments, and countless history advocates around the country. “Framing History” will not only provide unprecedented detail about how Americans view these organizations and their work, it will build, test, and share tools that all organizations and practitioners can use to positively affect public understanding of the value of history. Whether it’s a historical society communicating with new audiences, an academic department talking with potential majors, or a museum making their case to funders or legislators, this project will provide history practitioners with tools to frame their messages as effectively as possible.

Read the rest here.

A Museum Veteran Writes About Historical Thinking at Historical Sites

cover-higher-resMy friend Tim Grove spent the first part of his career working for the Smithsonian.  He recently left his post at the Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. and started a history consulting business.  This will also give him more time to write.

You may also remember Tim from Episode 5 of The Way of Improvement Leads Home Podcast.

Check out Tim’s article on the importance of historical thinking at History News, the magazine of the American Association for State and Local History.  Here is a taste:

Clearly, a part of the past can include baggage. Historian John Fea writes that the past can shame us. “The story of human history is filled with accounts of slavery, violence, scientific backwardness, injustice, genocide, racism, and other dark episodes that might make us embarrassed to be part of the human race. If our fellow human beings can engage in such sad, wrong, or disgraceful acts, then what is stopping us from doing the same?” As part of our job, public historians need to help the public navigate the complex reactions that come with telling and processing truth. Fea writes of a certain humility that comes with studying the past. History done well helps people to be empathetic with people from the past, an attempt to step into their shoes and try to look at the world as they did. According to historian John Lewis Gaddis, “Getting into other people’s minds requires that your own mind be open to their impressions—their hopes and fears, their beliefs and dreams, their sense of right and wrong, their perceptions of the world and where they fit within it.”

As we attempt to understand another person’s world, we gain empathy for them. Empathy, of course, is not the same as sympathy. Sympathy is feeling compassion or sadness for someone’s hardship. Empathy is an understanding of a person’s motivations for a decision or action—not necessarily an agreement with their motivations. It is striving to understand their point of view.

Thanks for the plug, Tim! Read the entire article here.

American Association for State and Local History Opens “Harvey Cultural Relief Fund”

Museum

Here it is what you need to know to help:

As Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath continue to unfold on the Gulf Coast of Texas, AASLH staff, Council, and members are preparing to travel to the Lone Star State for #AASLH17 in Austin on September 6-9. The location of the 2017 Annual Meeting allows us the perfect opportunity to give back to our host state and its cultural institutions in a time of great need.

By the time the Annual Meeting kicks off in Texas next week, we still may not know the full extent of the damage to museums and history organizations in the path of the storm. We do, however, have the ability to leave resources behind after we depart to aid our colleagues as they rebuild.

We invite you to contribute to the AASLH Hurricane Harvey Cultural Relief Fund. You can donate online, by mail, or in-person at the AASLH Annual Meeting. All funds collected between August 29 and September 15 will be given to one of our Texas partners to be distributed to cultural organizations hit hard by the storm.

Click one of the links below to donate today or bring your donation with you to the Annual Meeting and you can leave it at the AASLH Registration Desk.

Give Online   Give by Mail

Thank you for helping our Texas colleagues in their time of need.

Master Local Historians

Tennesse State Archives

This looks like a great program.

Humanities Tennessee has awarded the American Association of State and Local History a grant to pilot Master Local Historians (MLS).

Here is the press release and description of the program:

AASLH is proud to announce that we have been awarded a grant from Humanities Tennessee to pilot our newest program, Master Local Historians.

The Master Local Historians project is a training program that highlights the relevance of historical inquiry for the general public and provides people with an opportunity to hone their historical research, writing, and interpretation skills. Participants will learn the basic tools and methods of the craft of history to better understand, and even explain, the world around them. By the end of the course, they will have a greater appreciation for the work of public history and be better able to assist history organizations in a variety of ways.

This project is funded by a grant from Humanities Tennessee, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and in-kind matching support from AASLH.

History—both knowledge of the past and the practice of researching and making sense of what happened in the past—is crucially important to the wellbeing of individuals, communities, and the future of our nation. On a state-by-state, community-by-community basis, people are figuring out what history means in the context of today. AASLH continually evaluates the opportunities history organizations have to employ history’s essential role in nurturing personal identity, teaching critical skills, helping to provide vital places to live and work, stimulating economic development, fostering engaged citizens, inspiring leadership, and providing a legacy. The Master Local Historians program is one such opportunity.

In the beginning stages of this project, AASLH has pulled together a team of national and Tennessee humanities scholars and advisors to review existing materials from similar programs and map a framework for a Master Local Historian program. This includes a curriculum that focuses on the basics of the historical profession, with three of those basics being piloted by partner organizations in West, Middle, and East Tennessee, including the Morton Museum of Collierville History, the Tennessee State Library and Archives, and the East Tennessee History Center. After the completion of a successful piloting period, AASLH plans to seek funding to launch the Master Local Historians program nationally.

The institutions will host the workshops in winter 2017/2018. AASLH will evaluate the individual sessions and the success of the program as a whole and in 2018 begin to create the full Master Local Historian curriculum based on the Tennessee pilots. The program highlights the continued relevance of history, a major theme of AASLH strategic plan since 2016.

AASLH is proud to have the following people serve as Humanities Scholars on this project, including Dr. Lorraine McConaghy (Public Historian), Myers Brown (Tennessee State Library and Archives), Dr. Carroll Van West (Tennessee State Historian), Adam Alfrey (East Tennessee History Center), Dr. Larry Cebula (Public Historian), Dr. Teresa Church (Public Historian), Dr. Jay Price (Public Historian), Brooke Mundy (Collierville Museum of History), Steve Murray (Alabama Department of Archives and History), Stuart Sanders (Kentucky Historical Society), Dr. C. Brendan Martin (MTSU) and Local Historians: Betsy Millard (Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum), Carol Kammen (Tompkins County (NY) Historian), and Beverly Tyler (Three Villages Historical Society).

For more information about Master Local Historians, and other Continuing Education opportunities, contact Amber Mitchell at Mitchell@aaslh.org.

American Religious History and American Democracy

Old abandoned white wooden chapel on prairie at sunset with cloudy sky.

Recently the good folks at the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) asked me to write a short piece on why we should study American religious history.  It is posted today at the AASLH website.

Here is a taste:

In 1822, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to his friend, the noted physician Benjamin Waterhouse, lamenting the irrationality of much of American religious life. “I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests,” the retired President of the United States wrote, “the genuine doctrine of only one God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian.” 

Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment. As a believer in progress he could not imagine that traditional Christian beliefs—the Trinity, the deity and resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the inspiration of the Bible—would last very long under reason’s relentless assault. 

He could not have been more wrong.

Read the rest here.

Why Your Historical Organization Should Apply for a AASLH Leadership Award

The American Association for State and Local History has an extensive awards program.  Sign up for this free webinar to learn more about it.  Here is the announcement:

Have you always wondered what the AASLH awards program is? Do you feel that your organization is too small to win a national award? AASLH knows that organizations across the country do amazing work in the field of state and local history and want to recognize your efforts. Join this free informational webinar to learn about the program and why you should apply, no matter what your budget size. Also get tips for how to put together an award-winning nomination. January 9, 2014; 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern; Registration opens November 1. Preregistration Required 

Learn more here.