New IHR Public History Seminar: opening lecture 13th September 2012

Along with Anna Maerker (King’s College London), John Tosh (Roehampton University), Judy Faraday (John Lewis Partnership) and Tim Boon (Science Museum), I’m convening a new seminar series on Public History at the Institute for Historical Research.

It’s conceived as a forum for an on-going dialogue on pressing issues in public history between academic historians and students, practitioners of public history and others interested in the roles, purposes and challenges of ‘history in public’.

The seminar will provide a platform to discuss the relationship between practical, political and methodological issues of public history, to develop innovative new approaches to historiography and public engagement, and to respond flexibly to the challenges of research policy.

Given my interests in history and public policy, I’m really pleased that Professor Rebecca Conard (Middle Tennessee University), past president of the U.S. National Council on Public History and author of Benjamin Shambaugh and the Intellectual Foundations of Public History, has agreed to to launch the new seminar series with a lecture on ‘Civic Engagement Then and Now: A View from the US’.  The lecture will be held on Thursday 13th September at 6.00pm in the Court Room at Senate House.  All are welcome.

The issue of relevancy is a long-standing concern among historians, often summoned when current events or trends threaten to destabilize civic order in some way.  Rebecca Conard will offer a historical perspective on history-based civic engagement in the U.S.—the use of history and historic places to frame public discussion about current issues.  Her remarks will span the Commonwealth Conferences organized by the State Historical Society of Iowa in the 1920s to encourage greater citizen involvement in policymaking, to the 2003 National Park Service Director’s Order No. 75A on Civic Engagement and Public Involvement, triggered in part by the air attacks of September 11, 2001, but also responding to a advisory board report urging the National Park Service to think of America’s national parks as places to tell “the American story . . . faithfully, completely, accurately” because “our nation’s history is our civic glue.”