Thursday, September 7, 2017

Rewards for Public Historians

Good article at CNN Opinion urging historians to go public.
This is great news for the discipline of history, for history teachers, for history professors, and for public historians who interpret the past for visitors at museums, historic sites and other such venues. But let's not celebrate yet. We have work to do.
Historians need to take their role as public intellectuals seriously. True, op-eds often require a timely response to events that are unfolding. Yet, some events, like historical anniversaries, can be anticipated. We need to pay attention to contemporary conversations that have historical parallels or require a global context.
The author, Karen Cox, is a public historian with tenure at an R1 university [Edit: I misread, she's at UNC Charlotte not Chapel Hill. See the comments]. She, like me (as of 6 months ago), could afford to risk going public. Her analysis of the need is right on ... and now we need to keep moving towards building systems of both defense and reward.
  • Defense: So people who are not R1 profs can take the risk of going public. 
  • Reward: So going public can be molded into our academic value systems of what counts for tenure, promotion, grants, and hiring.
Lots of work to do!