The 2023 cohort’s participants all come from non-history-based organizations, including Haddonfield Public Library, Indian American Club, Preserve Shady Rest Committee, Union Public Library, and Washington Township Public Library. After one-on-one meetings with program staff and two hybrid intensive workshops in March and April, this cohort is diving into community-based public history!
Our most recent April workshop was centered on story-gathering. CH participants heard presentations from two other NJ organizations that have done inspiring community history work: Monmouth County Historical Association, which collected stories from the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic in their “Remembering COVID-19″ project, and Vietnamese Boat People, which preserves and tells the stories of the Vietnamese Diaspora. Gaining detailed, behind-the-scenes insight into the process of doing community history projects like these, including their difficulties, is an essential part of the CH program that guides participants as they step into their new roles as public historians.
Along with the learning sessions, CH program participants develop projects of their own, and the 2023 cohort is just getting started on planning their projects, all of which will exemplify the myriad ways of doing community history. Haddonfield Public Library, for example, intends to create a “local history toolkit” that other Haddonfield organizations can use as they develop history projects of their own. Inspired by the accidental discovery of eighteenth-century documents in a vault in the basement of the library, they also hope to create better access to their existing historical collections and resources. Meanwhile, Indian American Club will record stories from a group of Indian American business professionals to gain insight into the immigrant experience in their area.
Stay tuned on this blog to hear more about these projects and those developed by the rest of the cohort in the coming months.