Oct. 2, 2006

Compelling History

One of the pivotal skills that a public historian should possess is the ability to present history in a compelling and interesting way to an audience. Although blogging is a means by which to reflect on learning how to be a public historian, it seems that the blog also provides an excellent opportunity to practice be compelling and interesting.

Re-read the above paragraph. Does it fulfil the objective that it sets out? Is it an interesting or compelling passage to read? Maybe for instructors, classmates, family, or close friends, but that is only because all of those people have to read this blog. What would make this entry fascinating to the casual blog reader? Blogging brilliance is elusive, but as I got caught up on what my peers had been blogging about, I caught a few notable instances of inspiration.

Bryan has been struggling with two ideas that I have interpreted into these two questions: “Does Public History have a place in the Canadian context?” and “How do I create a significant place for myself within the sphere of Public History while remaining outside of the academy?” Bryan’s blogging caught my attention because the questions were very relevant to me. Relevance – this is a teachable moment.

Kris started off a post that considered what it meant to be involved in public history by relating how she answered the oft-heard question, “So what are you going to do with that degree?”

"Although I started the summer by telling people that I wanted to do "Museum work" (specific enough to stop the questions, vague enough to leave the possibilities open), I later adopted a comedic routine for my questioners. I told them I was going to open a history store, sell history and be wildly rich."
Inspired. I had a mental image of a store selling History-in-a-Box and Scoops of Historiography, with Kris throwing hundred-dollar bills into the air in the middle of the store. A wildly-rich historian? Does such a creature exist? Humour – another teachable moment.

On Alan MacEachern’s blog, my eyes were drawn to a link entitled “Old is the New New.” Rob McDougall, an assistant professor at the University of Western Ontario, has manages a far-reaching blog that not only touches on research interests but also highlights some of the quirkier sites related to history that can be found on the web. The entire site has been put together in a thoughtful, professional-looking manner while at the same time crying out, “Let’s not take ourselves too seriously here folks.” An inviting, professional, and fun feel – a third teachable moment.

As a public historian and a blogger, I have a lot of areas for improvement as I work towards presenting compelling and interesting history. By being relevant to my audience, employing humour, conveying professionalism, and creating an inviting forum in which to share history, I should be able to be a successful public historian.

Of course, these goals do not follow SMART guidelines (Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Time-wise), which means these are ideas that need more thought. For the sake of my reader though, I leave goal-setting to another post and simply ask that you hold me to these vague and lofty goals for now.