Thoughts on Public History from October

I began writing this blog post in October when the readings were assigned and just found it in my files waiting to be sent to my blog. Read away!

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Tom Henke and I on induction Day 2013 at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame! I sold him a polo and a Fergie Jenkins signed ball.

 

For my Public History class we were required to take a look at the following blog post for class discussion:  http://publichistorycommons.org/what-are-the-scucess-factors-for-public-historians-part-1/

I decided that I would blog some responses to the questions posed in the article since the article poses questions I have often wondered myself and think need to be explored.

Public History and education go hand in hand. I am a huge proponent of historians becoming close with the public as they can provide a greater understanding than a high school teacher with uninterested students could. Last summer I worked at the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as Museum Host and for Museum London as a Museum Docent. Both of these jobs required me to teach the visitors something. Being recognized by your boss is great, but I think that when you were able to teach or help someone understand something they weren’t clear on before, it is incredibly rewarding. For me, being a part of P.H. is allowing my inner teacher and innate need to help people really shine. Not only can you brighten someone’s day be telling them a funny story about how we acquired an item or provide historiography for a place they have driven by everyday of their lives, you help create lifelong learners that WANT to become engaged in history.

Receiving money isn’t always something that comes from success, a lot of the times if you have enough backing from friends and colleagues and know how to use social media, it is quite straightforward to get recognized. If you know how to network and get your ideas out there, you will be able to reach so many more prospective funders than those who choose to go the old fashioned route and only apply to posted funding opportunities.

Finding new ways to do things seems to be at the forefront of how humans grow. It is no different in the P.H. field. Public Historians, are attempting to present topics in different ways that will grab the attention of not only the historically minded but especially those that normally avoid the field altogether. It is our job to keep coming up with different ways to truly engage with everyone, not just a select few. So how we come up with an interactive exhibit that draws far more viewers than an article in the archives of an online database, is very important to the field now, but also how we will continue to create in the future.

To be fair, I am still a student and I therefore do not fully understand the constant battle for money and not giving topics, ideas, information away for free, but I can see why getting recognition in the private historical sphere as well as the public one is truly important.

In the case of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, I was able to be a part of the everyday workings of the museum as well as the Hall of Fame Induction. During the summer leading up to and after the Induction, for the most part there was a steady flow of people to the museum, some days higher than others. Induction day though was insane. There were over 1000 people there all over-the-moon about meeting past players, seeing old friends, and just experiencing the incredible atmosphere. That day showed me the immense draw that large historical events with an interactive portion can be for the public. Induction day is held to honour those that made a contribution to Canadian Baseball history and this day is important to players and spectators alike. Making money is not the point of a museum, the point is to engage the public in what you are presenting and maybe spark an interest in history for them in the future. Even though the Induction is only one day a year, that day provides enough excitement to last all summer, if not all year long. Patrons would come into the museum and share past stories of Induction ceremonies they had attended, I could tell just how amazing the event is every year and how important it is to the history of baseball.

There are many more items I could have touched on, but that will be for another day!

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