This course introduces learners to applied public history: understanding and interpreting the past today, and engaging diverse communities in the practice of making and sharing histories. The course draws on project case studies, expert insights and diverse perspectives to model exciting approaches to researching and sharing the history of places and people. Learners will develop a toolkit to apply in their own practice, by participating in discussion, quizzes, creative activities and mini masterclasses.
What kinds of stories can we discover through research into the history of places and people? How do we engage diverse communities with those stories today? What kinds of imaginative approaches can we use to interpret the past? And what tools and opportunities can we create to include new groups and individuals in local research initiatives? Led by the Centre for the History of People, Place and Community at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London – the UK’s national centre for history – this course investigates these questions and helps learners develop transferable approaches to their own local history and heritage interpretation.
In this first week, we’ll meet the course presenters, and explore place and history with help from Historic England, Layers of London and others. How do we get a sense of the history and heritage of a place, and how can we involve our communities in understanding the historic environment? We’ll look at the professional practice of describing historic places and buildings, as well as what maps can reveal about place and history – with special access to historic maps in the Institute of Historical Research archive, and reflections on 'deep mapping' in the crowdsourced Layers of London project. There's also a chance for you to introduce yourself: the first step in forming our virtual community and sharing our varied experiences and expertise.
This week, we'll explore some fantastic case-study projects, to discover fascinating stories from history, and approaches to recovering and sharing the past. With the help of Youth Club Archive, we'll reflect on different approaches to collecting and telling stories, with varied audiences in mind. Through the Victoria County History 'Red Boxes' project, we'll look at how stories can be told through objects. And we'll look at how a project gathering the oral histories of Syrian refugees brings together different participants and communities.
Public History and Creative Practice
Where does applied public history meet creative practice? This week, we'll learn from a range of projects to explore what art, and artistic collaborations, can bring to interpretation of the past, to examine historical re-enactment and costumed interpretation, and to look at how a creative approach to mapping might draw a place and its history in imaginative, thought-provoking and engaging ways. There's also an opportunity to try your own creative skills by joining in a creative masterclass! Whether you're naturally an artistic type or not, this week is an opportunity to consider creative approaches for your own applied public history work and projects, and to reflect on what these methods facilitate.
History and the Present
Anniversaries, statues, blue plaques and monuments - history is all around us in the present, in our places and in our public debates. This week, we'll examine how history is commemorated today, with attention to lines of exclusion and absences. We'll look at strategies for mobilising history to make positive interventions in present-day society, with perspectives from the #RememberHer project on female memorials in London, the Haringey Peace Forum (working on World War 1 conscientious objectors), and History Workshop Online, with their activist approach to 'history of the present'.
How do you transform an 'audience' into active researchers? What can engaged, participatory research and co-production add to our understanding of the past and its significance in the present? This week we'll talk to Layers of London, the Victoria County History in Leicestershire, and the Runnymede Trust's 'Our Migration Story' project team, to explore new approaches to uncovering history, from community archive work to crowdsourcing.
Communication and Evaluation
Applied Public History is all about communication. This week, we'll return to the core thread of communication which has run across the course, consolidating our skills with attention to some new case studies, and returning to others. We'll also step back and think about evaluation and how to identify opportunities for future development - including a chance for you to reflect on your own participation in this course. We'll hear from projects including 'Being Human' - a National Festival of the Humanities, Layers of London, #RememberHer, and more.