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Posts Tagged ‘public history’

We have started a new website called activehistory.ca to help connect historians with the public, policy makers and the media.  This is a part of an effort to facilitate and disseminate the ideas developed at the  Active History conference. Please visit and send us your feedback by email (jimclifford (at) activehistory.ca) or in person at the Canadian Historical Association meeting in Ottawa.  We are looking for historians to join our network and to submit short paper for the website.

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We have organised a round table for this the CHA in Ottawa this Spring.  The round table is scheduled on Wednesday, May 27 at 8:30am.  The presenters include Kieth Jamieson, a Cultural Consultant, Adjunct Professor and Curator from the Mohawk of the Six Nations of the Grand River, Robin Elliott, Excutive Director of Murmur Toronto, Geoffrey Reaume, Associate Professor, York University, Jim Clifford, PhD Candidate, York University and Thomas Peace, PhD Candidate, York University.

Tom and I hope the round table will both discuss the idea of active history developed at our conference in September and begin a conversation about where we can take active history in the future.  Please attend the round table if you are in Ottawa for the CHA.


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I recently stumbled across a sheet of paper I picket up at a conference in London during the summer of 2007.  The paper advertised the History and Policy website: http://www.historyandpolicy.org

I think this group in the UK has a lot of parallels with the ideas presented at the Active History conference in September 2008.  Moreover, they have developed a web resource to facilitate active or applied history that we need to consider developing in Canada.

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Margaret Conrad’s 2007 CHA Presidential address seems like a good place to begin a discussion on what is Active History. Feel free to leave your comments.

“In a context in which history is increasingly commodity and spectacle, it becomes necessary for academic historians to generate a dialogue with the public about the uses and abuses of the past. This is not always a pleasant conversation, but it is one of the obligations of scholars in a democratic society who have the privilege of dealing in the coin of knowledge and ideas. As former CHA president Jean-Claude Robert argued persuasively in 2003, it is incumbent upon us as university professors also to be public intellectuals.(ft.37) We have been too long focused on honing our professionalism and too little involved in the wider world where many people have a curiosity about the past and a passion for historical research equivalent to our own. What is unworthy, for example, about being a genealogist, an amateur historian, or what academics sneeringly call an “antiquarian”? Surely, we all work in the same corner of the knowledge vineyard and have a lot to learn from each other. American historian Carl Becker made this point in his much-cited article, “Everyman His Own Historian,” published in 1932,(ft.38) in which he reversed the charge of relevance. Academic historians, he argued, needed to adapt their knowledge to the necessities of the present rather than “cultivate a species of dry professional arrogance growing out of the thin soil of antiquarian research.” Touché.” (Margaret Conrad, Public History and its Discontents or History in the Age of Wikipedia, 11-12)

For the full-text see: http://cha-shc.ca/english/info/Conrad_CHA_Address.pdf

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