The primary topic of discussion at our breakfast meeting was diversity. David Glassberg, from the
There are a few projects seeking to address this very problem. At the
Several colleagues observed that active recruitment and nurturing of relationships must extend beyond students to include new community partnerships. Public History programs should actively seek out opportunities to work as equal partners with African American museums and community institutions. Whenever possible, we should invite public history practitioners from these sites to teach regular courses as well.
At our facilitated discussion of best practices, a roomful of public history educators discussed draft documents by the Curriculum and Training Committee which recommend requirements for graduate training. For the most part, there seemed to be little disagreement over the basic framework of public history graduate education: grounding in historical methodology and historiography, hands-on experience in the form of internships, an introductory course in public history, and some culminating project to demonstrate student proficiency. At the same time, there was fruitful conversation about the variety in public history programs’ specializations, structure and curriculum.
In the course of this conversation, it became clear that we must also include a discussion of adjunct labor in our best practices recommendations. The use of adjunct labor is a sticking point in the historical profession and in academia more broadly. At the same time, it is crucial for students of public history to study with practitioners who bring both intellectual insight and first-hand, practical experience to the classroom. Further, because public history encompasses many potential areas of expertise, it is not possible for any single public history educator to be able to cover all of the possible fields.
Because the issue of adjunct labor also touches the issue of diversity, the Curriculum and Training Committee might be able to provide some recommendations about how to form mutually valuable partnerships with under-served and underrepresented historical professionals and institutions. While this is certainly not the only answer to the problem of homogeneity in the field, it might open up opportunities for ensuring that our field becomes more inclusive and therefore better equipped to serve the needs of 21st century citizenship.