Public History: National Organizations and Websites

These organizations and websites are national in scope and audiences, and provide a wealth of information and resources for historians. There are many resources here for graduate students as well as experienced professionals and scholars, and great opportunities for exploration and participation at all levels.

American Alliance of Museums
The American Alliance of Museums is the largest cultural organization that supports museums, individuals, and companies. AAM aids the professionalization of the museum field by developing standards and offering career development opportunities such as webinars, an annual conference, and maintaining a job board. Webinars touch on topics ranging from Collection Stewardship to Mission and Institutional Planning and numerous others. Their annual conference offers an opportunity for museum professionals of all career paths meet to discuss the state of the field and network with other museum professionals from across the country. AAM’s other main focus is advocacy. It serves as an alliance for all types of museums, gardens, zoos, aquariums, etc., and lobbies legislatures for additional funding for its members and for the field in general.

American Association for State and Local History
The American Association for State and Local History provides a community for institutions and individuals dedicated to state and local history, and offers numerous services to the field such as various blogs regarding specific aspects of local history, management programs for member institutions, a free job board, and workshops designed to train professionals working within local history organizations. AASLH’s annual conference provides a venue for local history practitioners to meet, converse about the state of the field, and present their own research. AASLH offers workshops online and in person that range from topics about archival basics, grant writing, project management for museums, and numerous other topics.

American Historical Association
The American Historical Association is the largest professional organization in the United States devoted to the promotion of history and historical thinking. The AHA brings together historians from all specializations and professions and provides opportunities for networking and rewards for scholarship as well as offering various grants and fellowships. Their online resources, such as blogs, classroom content for teachers and students, guides for digital research, and numerous other options, offer a wealth of information on a wide variety of topics and can be used by historians of all levels. Recently, AHA has also started dedicating more resources to public history by providing numerous sessions relating to public history at the annual conference and studying the availability of careers outside of academia for historians. Public historians are guiding this shift, and the field of public history is gaining more traction within AHA.

H-Net is an international interdisciplinary organization of scholars and teachers dedicated to developing the enormous educational potential of the Internet and the World Wide Web. Numerous listserves (email based discussion groups) have grown from and attached themselves to H-Net over the years. While the listserves are one of its most useful features, H-Net has recently launched the H-Net Commons, a new website based resource for all of the networks that have used the listserves. More of a forum than listserve, H-Net Commons appears to have great functionality and it continues to offer the same potential for collaboration and communication as the listserves did. The Commons also provide a space for uploading documents, which will help facilitate collaboration within the various groups.

National Council on Public History
The National Council on Public History is the major national organization for public historians. As the national professional organization dedicated to public history, it establishes professional standards and best practices, provides numerous professional development opportunities through their annual conference and workshops, rewards excellence in public history, and provides a network for public historians. NCHP’s annual conference offers sessions brings members of the field together to collaborate and discuss their work, as well as offers a venue for students of public history to engage directly with professionals in the field. NCPH publishes The Public Historian, the academic journal for the profession. The Public History Commons, their new website, hosts the History@Work blog, announces professional opportunities, as well as provides best-practice documents and other useful guides for the field. History@Work showcases current public history projects from across the country, serves as a venue to discuss current issues facing the field, and offers students the opportunity to write about their current or past projects in the field.

National Park Service
The National Park Service is the US government department responsible for the stewardship of the national parks, including national historical parks and sites, within the United States. NPS is the bureau of the Department of the Interior which maintains, protects, and interprets the 401 parks within the National Park system. Historic interpretation is a vital aspect of NPS, and there are numerous parks within the Boston area to visit and explore that are T accessible, including the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, Boston National Historical Park, John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Longfellow House Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, and Adams National Historical Park.

Organization of American Historians
The Organization of American Historians is the largest professional society dedicated to the teaching and study of American history. Their mission, “to promote excellence in the scholarship, teaching, and presentation of American history, and to encourage wide discussion of historical questions and the equitable treatment of all practitioners of history,” speaks to the importance of public history within the context of American history. OAH publishes The Journal of American History and produces the companion podcast for the journal dealing with some of the best current historical research in the United States. Their annual conference brings together historians from across the nation, has numerous sessions related to public history, and provides space for historical exhibitions. Their website provides various resources for historians, such as news of professional development opportunities, awards, and various teaching tools that are meant to bridge the gap between historical scholarship and the average classroom. These tools can be of use to public historians who are employed as museum educators, or for those who work directly in the classroom.

Teaching With Historic Places
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, is designed to help K–12 history teachers access resources and materials to improve U.S. history education in the classroom. The website offers reviews of lesson plans and websites, examples of historical thinking and the critical reasoning skills that are inherent in that, and essays on important historical questions that are not often fully explored in traditional textbooks. Academic historians provide examples of analysis of historical sources, which offers teachers a way to show students how to think historically. For public historians who work directly with students, either in museum galleries or in classrooms visits, it is important to understand teachers’ pedagogical methods so that public historians will be more effective communicators with students.

Regional Organizations and Websites
These organizations and websites operate within the New England region. Many of these organizations host conferences, provide grants, and offer scholarships for the study and presentation of history.

New England HIstorical Association
New England Historical Association is the regional affiliate of the American Historical Association. NEHA exists to facilitate and promote historical scholarship and collaboration in history in New England. They host biannual conferences which are ideal opportunities to receive feedback on research, as the conference will always be located within New England, so there are fewer travel constraints. Because it is a smaller regional association, there is ample opportunity to propose entire panels for the conferences, and the potential for collaboration with other students within the region. Public historians have organized panels for their research, and NEHA gladly accepts papers dealing with public history research. There is also a prize for the best graduate paper presented at the conference.

New England Museum Association
The New England Museum Association is an organization for museums of all types within New England. Historic societies, science museums, art galleries, children’s museums, and numerous other types of institutions are welcome to become a part of the NEMA community. Public historians are well represented within the organization through many historic sites and museums, as well as universities are members. NEMA organizes an annual conference, publishes a quarterly journal about the museum field in New England, provides best practices for museums on various topics, and operates a job board.While some of these resources are for members only, there is also much freely available. The job board, white papers on museum salaries, the future of museums, and strategies for managing a museum, as well as the NEMA Online Network Google Group, which connects hundreds of museum professionals via email, are all freely accessible on the website.

State Organizations and Websites
These organizations and websites operate within Massachusetts. Because of their state-based missions they can be very useful for those wishing to engage with local history subjects. Their smaller nature also generally makes them more approachable, and their programs are very accessible.

Massachusetts Cultural Council
The Massachusetts Cultural Council is the state agency that “promotes excellence, access, education, and diversity in the arts, humanities, and interpretive sciences” within Massachusetts. MCC pursues this mission by offering grants to cultural institutions, creating networks for cultural partnerships, and provides services for nonprofit cultural organizations. Projects funded by MCC engage local communities with the arts and humanities. MCC’s support of public history activities includes the establishment of Cultural Districts in towns throughout the state, which offers incentives for historic preservation, and the use of research on cultural tourism available on their website. MCC also hosts the HireCulture job board, which maintains job postings in cultural fields throughout the state.

Mass Humanities
Mass Humanities is an independent organization that receives funding from the Mass Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities in order to support programs that utilize the humanities to enhance life within Massachusetts. Mass Humanities engages public historians through its support of the annual Massachusetts History Conference, a statewide history conference designed to support public and local history with panels and workshops designed for small museums and those who work with other such historical organizations. It also operates the Public Humanist blog, which focuses on the humanities and how they influence and contribute to public policy, and Mass Moments, a website that utilizes the “on this day in history” convention based solely within Massachusetts.

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