Community History participants work closely with their communities to learn about and share untold stories from those communities. Participants receive instruction on public history practices, develop projects in a collaborative environment, and receive funding from NJCH to launch projects in their communities.
WHAT IS PUBLIC HISTORY?
The National Council on Public History defines public history as “the many and diverse ways in which history is put to work in the world.” Balancing rigorous historical research with reflections and contributions from community members, public history seeks to make history a collaborative process and diversify the voices that are present in our historical narratives.
The Community History program will allow organizations to learn the ins and outs of public history while developing their own projects with their local communities.
Community History participants will work closely with their communities to learn about, engage with, and share untold and underrepresented stories from those communities. Some examples of questions you might be considering:
- How can learning about our community’s history help us to understand our present circumstances and look to the future?
- How can our organization engage with community histories and share these histories with our community members?
- How can we preserve, interpret, and amplify our local histories?
- How can we broaden traditional narratives about our local histories to reflect our whole community’s experiences and values?
The Community History program consists of learning sessions attended by all participants, individual meetings with program staff, and community-based project work. During the program, participating organizations will build a new history project with support from the cohort and funding from NJCH.
Learning sessions will include instruction on public history practices, presentations by practitioners currently doing work in the field, and time to workshop each organization's project in a collaborative environment. Full cohort learning sessions will take place virtually.
Between sessions, each program participant will work closely with community members back home to develop a history project. Projects might take many different forms; thinking about what form the project takes will be an important part of the process for all participants. At the end of the program, all participants will share their projects in a public showcase.
Project work is supplemented by one-on-one meetings with the Community History program staff, who may also connect participants to mentors who have done similar work or may be able to provide particular insight into project development or community engagement.
Important: public history projects already in process are not appropriate for the Community History program, as a central part of the program is building a project from scratch. Organizations seeking funding for existing public history projects may want to apply for an NJCH grant.
Each organization accepted into the Community History program is required to identify 2 or 3 representatives that are able to participate in all program activities, including learning sessions, team meetings, project work, and homework. Those participants will also act as primary community contacts during project development.
Community History’s cohort-based environment works best when all organizations are active, collaborative, and consistent participants in the program. Participants can expect to invest a significant amount of time in this program each week. We hope that the skill-building work of these cohorts will translate into long-term benefits for organizations that wish to incorporate public history into their broader programming.
Each participating organization in the Community History program will receive an award of $4,000 to defray the cost of participation in the program and to support the development of their project.
Project plans and budgets are developed during the program and must be approved by NJCH prior to beginning work. Participants will receive more detailed information about eligible and ineligible expenditures during the program. It is reasonable—encouraged!—for participating organizations to use a significant portion of the funding for personnel costs.
There is no required match for this funding. However, participants will be asked to report on any match funding that was devoted to this project as part of the required final report that must be submitted at the end of the program.
Nonprofit organizations and unincorporated community groups are eligible to apply to be part of Community History.
Organizations or groups that are interested in incorporating history into their programming but have little experience and no professional historians on staff to do so are ideal applicants. History-missioned organizations that are primarily volunteer-run, with little or no professional staff, are also welcome to apply.
- For-profit organizations or businesses.
- Organizations who participated in a past Community History cohort.
Applicants must commit to participating in all program activities, including identifying 2 or 3 people to attend all learning sessions and meetings. The representatives from each organization may include paid staff, volunteers, and/or community members, and funding provided through the program may be used to defray the cost of participation. Applicants must be willing to work collaboratively with community members to develop a public history project during the Community History Program.
The most competitive applicants will demonstrate strong personal or organizational ties to the community whose history they hope to explore and a commitment to raising untold stories or underrepresented points of view, leading to a fuller and more nuanced understanding of the past. They will have identified potential stories or themes but will not yet have a specific project in mind.
Community History is a process-driven program that combines instruction in public history with development of a community-engaged history project. Those who wish to learn more about how public history works and have either not begun or are very early in the process of developing a project would be a good fit for this program.
Organizations that do not need public history instruction, are unable to attend program activities like learning sessions and meetings, or who are unwilling to follow the program’s process for developing projects should not apply for the Community History program. NJCH grants can support community history work outside of this program.
The fall 2022 Community History cohort will run from October 2022 through April 2023. Organizations who are interested in applying to be part of the cohort should review the schedule below to ensure that they are able to participate in all program activities, then follow the Apply link at the bottom of this page to submit an application. Program activities will include both in-person and virtual sessions, provided it is safe and comfortable for the cohort to meet in person.
Applications for the fall cohort will be reviewed on a rolling basis. The final deadline for submission is September 13, 2022. We strongly advise applicants to submit as early as possible.
The program will kick off with a 1.5-day intensive workshop to take place in-person in central New Jersey that will provide foundational information about community-engaged public history. The intensive workshop will take place on Sunday, October 2, from 3:00 pm–7:30 pm and Monday, October 3, from 9:00 am–7:00 pm. All organizations accepted into the Community History program are required to send their 2 or 3 selected participants to attend this intensive workshop (meals provided). Additional participants from selected cohort organizations may be added if space allows.
Following the intensive, the remainder of the program will be divided into two sections, with cohort learning sessions taking place each month except December:
- Project development – October-December 2022: Participants develop project ideas based on community input and learning from the intensive. Cohort meetings provide opportunities to workshop project ideas and offer feedback. Project ideas are approved by the home communities and final project plans and budgets are submitted to NJCH for approval. Participants should be prepared to consult with their home communities during the interval between the intensive workshop and the first learning session so that they are ready to begin project brainstorming and development collaboratively.
- Project Work – January-April 2023: Participants workshop projects in the cohort and learn from guest speakers doing public history work. Additional one-on-one meetings with program staff or mentors will be scheduling depending on the needs of each participant. Project work must conclude by the end of March. A showcase of work completed by each participant organization will take place in April.
Full cohort learning sessions will take place virtually. Learning sessions will take place on Wednesday afternoons from 1:30-3:30 pm during the weeks indicated in the detailed schedule below.
Program staff strongly recommend that participants reserve two hours per week for Community History work, even in weeks where there is not an official learning session or other meeting. This will ensure that participants have allocated enough time to get program work done.
The exact syllabus for the intensive and learning sessions will be finalized based on particular needs and interests of participating organizations, but will include the following topics:
- Public history concepts and program models.
- Community outreach strategies.
- Developing project plans and budgets.
- Goal setting and evaluation.
- Marketing and publicity.
Fall 2022 Cohort Program Detailed Schedule
- Applications accepted: through September 13 (rolling)
- Notification of acceptance: by September 19
- Community History Intensive Workshop: October 2-3
- Preliminary project ideas submitted: by October 17
- Learning session (full cohort): October 19
- Learning session (full cohort): November 16
- Final project plans and budgets submitted: by November 23
- Project plans approved and funding distributed: by December 9
- Holiday break: December 23-January 2
- Learning session (full cohort): January 25
- Learning session (full cohort): February 22
- Learning session (full cohort): March 22
- Project work completed and award funds spent: by March 31
- Learning session and showcase rehearsal (full cohort): week of April 19
- Showcase: week of April 24
- Final reports due: by April 28
Kristin is a public historian and scholar of early American social history at Rutgers University. She coordinates the Public History Program at Rutgers, including the Certificate in Public History and Public History Internship, and is also an Associate Graduate Faculty Member in the Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies Program. O’Brassill-Kulfan holds a PhD in History from the University of Leicester and an MA in Modern History from Queens University Belfast. She consults regularly on public history projects, curating exhibits, managing archival collections, and creating inclusive public programming.
Gigi oversees the Council’s public humanities program offerings. Prior to coming to NJCH in 2016, Gigi spent more than a decade in museum education, leading education and public engagement initiatives for the Science History Institute and American Philosophical Society most recently. She is also a theatre producer and performer. Gigi has a BA in history and theatre from Drew University and an MA in Text & Performance Studies from King’s College London.
Carol is an archival researcher and scholar of Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies. She holds an MA in Art History Rutgers University and has consulted on collaborative displays of local cultural heritage materials and related history. She currently manages the documentation and research of historical museum collections.
Other public history specialists and practitioners will be brought in throughout the course to talk about their experience creating community-based projects and to offer guidance to program participants.
If you have any questions about your eligibility for this program or about program components, please don’t hesitate to contact Gigi Naglak, Director of Programs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609-695-4409.
NJCH launched Community History in 2021. Nine participating organizations in the first cohort created a wide range of public history projects:
Clinton Hill Community Action (Newark) collected historical photographs and information about them, from family snapshots to professional images. The photography collection will be added to on an ongoing basis and curated into digital collections as well as an annual calendar about the history of Newark’s Clinton Hill.
Community Partnership for Egg Harbor Township Schools, Inc. (Egg Harbor Township) partnered with current Egg Harbor Township High School students and alums, local historical societies, and local residents to create a short documentary about the history of the school, featuring historical documents and photographs as well as interviews with residents.
East Trenton Collaborative (Trenton) began capturing first-hand accounts from residents about life in the neighborhood to support revitalization efforts in the area and tell a more personal and meaningful story of the people and businesses of living memory that make up East Trenton.
Enslaved African Memorial Committee (Teaneck) began work on the documentary “Revelation: The Hidden Story of the Enslaved African Presence in Bergen County 1700-1920,” which unveils important places and known enslaved people in and around Bergen County during the colonial era, and continued research and public outreach efforts around that history.
Old Mill Hill Society (Trenton) explored the role and depictions of African Americans during the Revolutionary era, including the irony and cruelty of popular historic figures such as George Washington fighting for “freedom” while enslaving human beings for profit. They hosted two community conversations on the topic to spark ongoing community dialogue about race throughout our history and today to promote social justice reforms and end policies perpetuating systemic racism
Piscataway Public Library (Piscataway) created a book (print and electronic) of stories submitted by residents sharing their first-hand accounts of living through events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the storming of the Capitol, the ban on Muslims entering the U.S., social justice demonstrations, or other significant happenings.
Raices Cultural Center (New Brunswick) published two digital exhibits under their “Stories of the Ancestors, Stories of Healing” project theme that enables community participants from a diversity of cultural backgrounds to examine family and cultural history from their own personal perspectives and experiences. These projects enabled Raíces to launch a new history-focused program branch that will expand their core mission to preserve cultural roots through history.
Salvation and Social Justice (Woodbury and Trenton) began research for the AME Church in New Jersey Justice Technology Trail and Documentary, investigating how to best tell the stories of the liberation advocacy of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in New Jersey by creating a trail of interactive digital history markers within A.M.E. churches throughout the state.
1719 William Trent House Museum (Trenton) launched the Great Migration Oral History Project, convening focus groups, identifying potential interviewees, and beginning the interview process. This project builds on work the Trent House has already done to illuminate the history of African Americans at the historic house by connecting that early history to contemporary times.
The first Community History Showcase took place on Wednesday, October 27, 2021. Click here to view a recording of the showcase.
The second Community History cohort launched in March 2022 and consists of five organizations from around the state:
Greater Cape May Historical Society, Cape May
Mahwah Museum, Mahwah
New Jersey Orators, Inc., Bridgewater
TRUE Mentors, Inc., Hoboken
This cohort is in the process of developing their projects at this time and will share those projects through a virtual showcase on October 26, 2022. Save the date!
At NJCH, we believe that everyone should have access to humanities programming. Based on your organization and desired topics/formats, we offer programs—often subsidized by our federal and corporate funding—so that you can bring high quality humanities programs to your audiences.