Public History & Public Humanities: A tale of two MAs

January 15th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

The following post is an essay written by Lara Kelland (AM’02) and her doctoral colleague Anne Parsons. Lara and Anne are frequent contributors to the National Council on Pubic History’s “History @Work” blog. Public history is a professional field that engages the tools of academic history towards the creation of public projects such as museums, historic houses, digital projects, documentaries, and the like.

” ‘MUSEI WORMIANI HISTORIA’, THE FRONTISPIECE FROM THE MUSEUM WORMIANUM DEPICTING OLE WORM’S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES.”

In our last History@Work post, we charted the recent burst of academic public history jobs in the past few years. This year’s job market has continued the trend, with thirty jobs seeking either major or minor public history specialties posted on the Academic Wiki. It is yet to be seen whether this increase in job postings reflects a sustainable boom or a short-lived bubble. Regardless, this growth of public history jobs signals a visible interest in the field in dozens of history departments across the country, raising significant questions regarding the overproduction of undergraduate and graduate students in public history.

One of the major concerns of expanding public history training is that many museums and historic institutions are currently facing major budget cuts, and so we are training new public historians for a field which is under siege. As the NCPH and the wider profession continue to discuss longstanding issues of graduate training in public history, we want to suggest a broadening of public history training. Public history already trains students in research and writing, preservation, and project management among other things. By incorporating more of a public humanities approach, we could train students even more broadly for a wider array of fields. At this moment of growth, public historians have an opportunity to think about new directions, including broadening the definitions of what public history is and what it encompasses.

Some universities have begun to re-imagine graduate training more expansively in the public humanities, which are broadly defined as projects that engage the public in the humanist fields of “history, philosophy, popular culture and the arts.” Public humanities programs such as those at the BrownNYU and University of Chicago infuse students with the belief that they can bring the specialized ideas of academic debate into the public sphere and inspire new visions about a more flexible curriculum and broad training. The growth of these programs demonstrates the expansive possibility of training the next generation of public historians not as possessors of a bound set of skills, but rather as flexible professionals who can work in a variety of cultural and non-profit settings. The majority of public history job listings call for experience in museum studies, historic preservation, and archival training. But the research, writing and public engagement skills of public historian would also work well in teaching, journalism, the arts and non-profit organizations.

As young public history professionals we come to this discussion mindful of our own experiences at the master’s level, one of us in public history and the other in public humanities. Anne received her MA in public history at New York University, a program that resides largely in the history department. The program provided her with a strong skill set for museum work and public history scholarship. In contrast, Lara trained at the University of Chicago in its Master of Arts Program in Humanities, designing an interdisciplinary degree that brought together different skill sets to her museum studies inquiry. The public humanities degree at University of Chicago, for instance, allowed students to design their own degree in various disciplines, enabling students to train themselves in ways that would be useful for their intended profession. A similar sentiment was expressed at the meeting of this past year’s NCPH Working Group on Imagining New Careers in Public History, where discussion about training MAs with business skills flourished. We might greatly benefit from looking to public humanities programs as a model for teaching students transferrable skills and broad cultural approaches. In one example, the University of Chicago’s MAPH program consistently places students in publishing, journalism, and teaching jobs, as well as other cultural sector jobs in visual and dramatic arts and public humanities organizations. According to one administrator of the program, graduates of broad humanities training are well-positioned to connect ideas generated within the academy to public spaces, events, and projects.

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Teaching the Body – Naomi Slipp (MAPH ’09) on her upcoming exhibit

November 15th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Naomi Slipp (MAPH ’09) is a current PhD candidate in the Department of History of Art & Architecture at Boston University. As a facet of her studies, she has been planning an exhibition on American art and artistic anatomy, the topic of her dissertation research, since the spring of 2010. Directly inspired by her MAPH thesis written on the bronze anatomical casts of Thomas Eakins at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the two-month long exhibition Teaching the Body: Artistic Anatomy in the American Academy from Copley, Rimmer, and Eakins to Contemporary Artists, opens January 31, 2013 at the Boston University Art Gallery and includes over eighty works of art (many never exhibited before), extensive public programming, and an illustrated catalogue with scholarly essays.

She says of the project: “I feel inspired by artistic anatomy because these works of art visualize the uncharted and wondrous terrain of the human body, not some distant volcano or historical event, but the miraculous, complex mechanisms operating within ourselves. The study of anatomy also, historically, has brought together doctors and artists who sought to explore this corporeal space together.”

Because of this, she is also very excited about the opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration around the exhibition topic. She says: “I want to create a dialogue between these two commonly polarized fields (art and science). To that end, we are initiating collaborative programming with Massachusetts General Hospital, the College of Fine Arts, the BU Medical College & the Center for Science & Medical Journalism at Boston University, and the Massachusetts College of Art & Design. I hope to unite this diverse audience, bringing together people who are interested in art and those who are interested in medicine for a rich, shared conversation about what it means to occupy, treat, & picture our own bodies.”

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MAPH Alum Helps Chicago Welcome Home the Troops

November 2nd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Cristopher De Phillips and Laurie Ipsen in front of City Hall in Chicago

Cristopher De Phillips (MAPH 2009) arrived at UChicago as a MAPH student in 2008. Even now, he remembers cold and cloudy days in January. “I’d say to myself–’This thesis is never going to get done.’”

As Founder and Director of Chicago Welcomes Home the Heroes, De Phillips now finds himself in familiar circumstances–looking ahead to the execution of a difficult project whose scope seems to continuously widen–though the task that he’s set in front of himself can seem even more challenging. Along with co-founder Laurie Ipsen, De Phillips is spearheading the effort to plan and execute America’s largest welcome-home parade for veterans of America’s post-9/11 wars (THIS DECEMBER 15IN DOWNTOWN CHICAGO). The organization will also host a screening of the documentary film Hell and Back at the Reva and David Logan Center on SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10 (6PM), with a panel discussion to follow.

MAPH students and alumni are welcome to attend all of the events.

All of this amounts to a huge set of logistical challenges that has demanded collaboration with civic, government, non-profit, and corporate interests (Chicago Welcomes Home the Heroes secured their first major sponsor in United Health Care on the day that I met with De Phillips and Ipsen here in Hyde Park).

De Phillips jokes that he has confidence that the work will get done in part because of his experience writing that MAPH thesis project–a project that likely seems less daunting when observed in the rear-view mirror.

He became interested in the idea of a Chicago parade after seeing Rachel Maddow’s coverage of Saint Louis’s event–which attracted roughly 100,000 people. It may seem like an unlikely calling for a MAPH alum–especially one without any firsthand experience of military life (neither De Phillips nor Ipsen has been in the armed forces). But this logistically complicated and emotional process has become the focus of De Phillips’s professional life during the past year. » Read the rest of this entry «

Open Letter to MAPH 2012-2013 – Service and Humanistic Inquiry

October 23rd, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Greetings, MAPHers!

Author Nathaniel Dell (MAPH ’12)

I hope this post finds all of you well. I appreciate that some of you may have time to read this, as much as I appreciate that many more of you may not have such time because you are so immersed in your zealous study of those recondite things we call the humanities. Whatever your passion that has drawn you to MAPH, whether literature, philosophy, music or art history—even classics—I trust that you respect the arduous labor of clarifying your thought as a labor of great importance. Between us, this feeling is mutual. However, in my personal experience with the humanities, the relevance of tarrying with the Platonic dialogues is something I have frequent need of renegotiating for myself. What ought I to do with my now clarified, or, more often, sublimely muddled thought? In MAPH, I was guided and fortified by the notion that my philosophizing should advance some common good. Credit that notion to all of the Socratic fan-fiction I’ve read from Plato; blame the generality of that notion to me. At any rate, Maren has graciously invited me to share how my experience in MAPH challenged me to think of how humanistic inquiry has informed my AmeriCorps service. I would also like to share how MAPH challenged me to re-think the spaces in which humanistic inquiry can flourish.

At the outset of my MAPH year last September, I was confident, though not certain, that I would find myself in a year or two attending some Ph.D. program in philosophy. At the same time, I thought it peculiar that I would have spent the past five years contemplating the common good along with my dead Greek friends, Plato, Socrates, and Marx (pretty much an Aristotelian) but doing little direct service towards forming the community I had been imagining. That said, towards the middle of my MAPH year, I became more confident that I would find myself working in some social service organization, which is just what happened. Through AmeriCorps’ Catholic Volunteer Network, I now work as a caseworker for the Guardian Angel Settlement Association at Hosea House in St. Louis, Missouri. GASA’s social services site, Hosea House, provides emergency assistance for persons and families in crisis who may need food, clothing, utilities or rental assistance. Hosea House also partners with other agencies to offer seasonal, public health, senior and back to school programs.

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Project on Civic Reflection – The Reflection

October 18th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Tim Fosbury, MAPH ’12

Tim Fosbury, MAPH ’12, reflections on the MAPH year and his internship at the Project on Civic Reflection.

Two phrases stick out in my mind from my MAPH year. First is David Wray’s assertion, during one of our first core lectures no less, that we could expect MAPH to be a sort of “P90X for the soul.” Those words stuck right away and proved correct in many ways, most of them good. Second was something I heard from various mentors, advisors, and professors. This was the idea that “as humanities scholars, it is easy to forget that we are actually a part of humanity.” That is, we spend so much time reading, critiquing, and analyzing humanity, that we often inadvertently forget to participate in it.  This separation was something I tried to avoid, but during the drudges of thesis and seminar paper time – those days when I started having imaginary conversations with Cormac McCarthy and the Judge from Blood Meridian began taunting me in my dreams -I began paying more and more attention to those second set of words. So, I then started to look for outlets where I could take my academic training beyond the classroom.

I was lucky when the Project on Civic Reflection was offered as one of the internships this past summer. Based on their website and the internship description, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d be doing with the organization, but there was something that drew me to it. All I knew going in was that PCR facilitated discussions, and trained facilitators to lead their own discussions, with community and civic organizations around the country. But I soon learned that these were not typical discussions that revolved around the illusion of solving large problems in an hour or creating action plans full of empty verbiage. Rather, they were spaces of reflection on why we do the work we do, or what we expect to accomplish in civic work, with no pressure to resolve anything, but only to consider closely these larger themes. And during my internship I was lucky enough to participate in discussions that ranged from education to idealism in non-profit work to racism and segregation in Chicago. What impressed me in each discussion was how the PCR model was able to bring people together from various backgrounds and foster serious and considered dialogue.

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MAPH’s Colloquium Magazine Launch Party–YOU’RE INVITED!

October 11th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Please RSVP here.

 Please RSVP here.

Humanities Day 2012

October 9th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Mark your calendars! Saturday, October 20th is the 34th annual Humanities Day at the University of Chicago. If you aren’t familiar with Humanities Day, it is an epic day of lectures from some of the heavyweights in the university’s Humanities Division. If you happen to be in town, please consider attending! Friends and family are welcome!

MAPH-affiliated faculty are making a great showing this year. The following talks may be of particular interest to past, present and future MAPHers:

There is also a MAPH reception directly after David’s lecture in the Logan Center, which is a beautiful, brand new building on the south side of campus. The reception will be next door to David’s lecture, in Room 801.

So if you’re looking for a great way to reconnect with your MAPH experience, please join us next Saturday, October 20th, for Humanities Day. Hurry up and register so we can save you a seat!

The Odyssey Project: Anna Burch and Marybeth Southard (MAPH ’12) reflect on their internships

August 10th, 2012 § 2 comments § permalink

Anna Burch and Marybeth Southard MAPH '12

I first heard about the Odyssey Project during a “What am I going to do with my life?” conversation with Hilary Strang, who teaches Critical Thinking and Writing to Odyssey students. To be honest, I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, other than what I knew from the description on the Illinois Humanities Council website: “The Odyssey Project provides a college-level introduction to the humanities through text-based seminars led by professors at top-tier colleges and universities to help adults with low incomes more actively shape their own lives and the lives of their families and communities.” This sounded compelling, but my true motivation at the time was gaining some solid tutoring experience for future job applications. I began tutoring with the OP in January, which meant I hung out at Robust Coffee Lounge on 63rd and Woodlawn for an hour or two on Saturdays. To get familiarized with the students and the course content, I began sitting in on weekly U.S. history classes. During the first day, students voiced their personal perceptions of America, and I was hooked. These students were eager to participate, brutally honest, and ready to learn. Attending the classes and meeting students during the Saturday writing workshops was a learning experience for myself; not only was I reading new texts that I had always meant to read but never got around to, but I was meeting students, hearing their individual stories, and learning how the Odyssey Project was directly impacting their lives.

Although I was familiar with the OP through my tutoring experience, this internship has given me the opportunity to really dive into the inner workings of the organization and learn about the variety of often-unseen responsibilities that go into non-profit administration. I was unsure what to expect going in, so I was surprised by how much independence and responsibility I have as an intern. I feel like I am actually able to do significant work within the organization, such as developing new events and workshops to provide continuing resources to enrich and sustain the community of OP alumni. I was given the opportunity to design and lead a creative writing workshop on my own, which was the most amazing (and nerve-wracking) experience. Searching for relevant readings, developing in-class writing exercises, and leading weekly workshops of about fifteen students without direct guidance was scary at first, but I now feel much more confident in my ability to design curriculum and teach adults. But even more than that, leading the workshop was a way for me to get to know the students that this organization serves; learning their stories and hearing how the Odyssey Project has affected their lives has shown me that I am working for an organization that I can really believe in. It may sound hokey, but this mentality is quite a change from my past jobs at hair salons and property management companies—this is a job where I am actually excited to come into work to see what else can be done to help make the Project even better.

-Marybeth Southard

MAPH ’12, focus in American Literature

 

In the midst of final papers and thesis work, all of MAPH was encouraged (at the time, “harassed” seemed like the proper word) to think beyond the last harrowing weeks of school and apply to the summer internships offered through the program. Looking at the list, I was both confused and intrigued by the Odyssey Project. After I did a little research and talked to Hilary Strang, I thought it sounded like a great opportunity to combine my interests in humanities scholarship with a growing desire to get involved with the kind of socially progressive work done by non-profit organizations like the Illinois Humanities Council. After I took the Teaching in the Community College course offered by MAPH, I became more concerned with the social and economic barriers facing many adults who want to pursue higher education. The Odyssey Project tries to eliminate more of these barriers than any other educational institution that I am aware of—even covering bus fare and providing childcare during the classes.

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Jane Hanna (MAPH ’11) on the Cultural Policy Option and her work as Social Media Strategist for the Field Museum

June 26th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Every year a handful of students choose the Cultural Policy Option of the MAPH program.  Jane Hanna writes about her experience in MAPH, the Cultural Policy and her really cool job at the Field Museum.

How were you involved in the Cultural Policy Center?

MAPH '11 Alumna Jane Hanna

I worked as a Graduate Research Assistant in CPC while I completed the Master of Arts Program in the Humanities in 2010-11. As a MAPH student, I chose the Cultural Policy option, and much of my coursework was taken at the Harris School and Law School. I was looking for an academic program which would allow me to have an interdisciplinary focus, combining my interest in the arts and humanities with my career experience in marketing, and assist me in my aspirations towards a career in museum administration. I’m also a technologist and gamer and my research areas included mobile and social media and the ways in which these complicate traditional museum exhibition, education, and marketing strategies. At CPC, I helped with the preparations for the CultureLab Emerging Practice Seminar 2011, which was focused in part on engaging arts audiences through the use of technology.

Additionally, I was involved with the lunchtime workshop series as both an employee of CPC and an enthusiastic attendee. After graduating, I also participated in the marvelous Future of the City: The Arts Symposium by virtue of my association with CPC. Betty Farrell served as my supervisor as well as my thesis advisor and professor.

What do you do now?

I am the Social Media Strategist for The Field Museum of Natural History here in Chicago. In this capacity, I am responsible for maintaining a broad and ever-growing portfolio of social media pages for the Museum, including Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, Yelp, and many more. I work closely with the scientific staff to develop engaging content that educates and entertains our digital community of fans and supporters.

I also deliver up-to-the-minute news about exhibitions, educational programs, special events, and promotions to the public several times per day, seven days per week. I monitor and evaluate the performance of these pages using Google Analytics and other tracking tools, and continually look for short- and long-term ways through which the Museum can leverage these properties for various strategic purposes. I think I have one of the best jobs at the Field not only because I am uniquely positioned to collaborate with staff working in all of the Museum’s departments, but also because I spend a large portion of my time interacting with our enthusiastic public, answering their questions, inviting them to participate in dialogues and citizen scientist activities, and learning valuable insights from their feedback.

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My Kind of Town: A Discussion of Police Torture in Chicago

May 17th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

On Tuesday, May 22nd at 6:00 pm at the brand new Logan Center,  MAPH is co-sponsoring a panel discussion on Chicago police torture.

In moment when the relevance of the humanities is being challenged, it is a great opportunity to have a conversation about what the role of journalism or a play might be in a public dialogue about a serious social concern like torture. We hope this will be the start of future discussion-based events for current students and alumni to keep discussing at the role of the humanities in the academy and the world at large.

The event will feature John Conroy, the Chicago journalist who covered the Chicago police torture scandal, who has now written a play inspired by the cases he covered. His book on torture, Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People is often taught in courses at the university.  In addition to John, panelists will include CraigFutterman, founder of the Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project at the University of Chicago, Former Chicago Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek, People’s Law Office founding partner G. Flint Taylor and will be moderated by WBEZ’s Kelly Kleiman.

At the start of the evening actors will perform a scene from the play as a spark for discussion and there will be a period for questions and discussion from the audience. A reception will follow the event.

We hope those living in Chicago will make the time to join us for this conversation.