Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Looking Back: Public History and Expanding Viewpoints

For more than a week I have been trying to collect my thoughts on the past eight months of the public history program. I initially wanted to summarize what I've learned, discuss the evolution of my views on public history, and the narrowing of my interests. However, when I sat down to actually do this, I realized that my interests have not narrowed, but actually expanded over the past eight months.

I am still interested in digital history and the use of technology to enhance education. I am also still intrigued by local heritage and the use of public institutions to express history to a broader public. In the past eight months I have also become interested in the divide between academic and public history, the unique research challenges which often face a public historian, and the relationship of tourism, public relations, and history. So where do all these interests leave me? At this point I'm not sure. I enjoy research, I enjoy museums, I enjoy playing with technology, and new digital applications. This summer I am doing a combination of things to expand on my interests, I am working as a research intern with The History Group and I am going to be spending some time a the Museum of Nature. Will this help me actually narrow my interests? Maybe...but having a broad range of interests isn't a horrible thing in my mind.

Overall, I think one of the most valuable lessons I learned this year is that public history is constantly expanding. Public history is no longer means just museums and archives. Public history encompasses business history, film, television, historical content on the web, landscapes, the building of parks, monuments, heritage tourism, and many more thing. Public history requires a lot of thinking outside of traditional structures, and approaching history from varying perspectives. The fact that public history can be valuable to so many different groups of people makes me hopeful that the public history field in Canada will one day grow to be as vibrant as public history is in other countries currently.

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