Community History participants work closely with their communities to learn about, engage with, and share untold and underrepresented stories from those communities. Participants receive instruction on public history best practices, develop projects in a cohort environment that encourages collaboration, 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. It can help neighbors engage more deeply with each other to investigate how the past influences the present, resulting in a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.
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.
Participants will receive instruction on public history best practices, develop projects in a cohort environment that encourages collaboration, and receive funding from NJCH to launch projects in their communities. This educational program is for organizations that have a great interest in exploring their community’s history but do not have professional historians on staff to guide their process.
Community History participants will work closely with their communities to learn about, engage with, and share untold and underrepresented stories from those communities. The ideal Community History participant will see value in incorporating history into their organization’s work. 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 eight virtual learning sessions attended by all participants, individual meetings with program staff, and community-based project work. During the program, participating organizations will build and implement their own Community History project with support from the cohort and funding from NJCH.
Learning sessions will include instruction on public history practices, presentations by practitioners, and time to work on public history projects in a collaborative environment. In addition, each participating organization will be matched with a mentor experienced in this kind of community-based public history work.
Between sessions, each program participant will work closely with community members back home to develop and build 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
Organizations accepted into the Community History program are required to identify 2-3 representatives that are able to participate in all learning session and program activities. Those participants will also act as primary community contacts. Each organization will receive an award of $4,000 to defray the cost of participation and support the development and implementation of their project.
Please note: Community History’s cohort-based environment works best when all organizations are active, collaborative, and consistent participants in our process. Participants can expect to invest a significant amount of time in this program, particularly during learning sessions and project development. Organizational representatives are expected to attend all learning sessions and other meetings with program staff and mentors, participate in all program activities, lead the community-based project work, and complete all assigned homework related to the program. 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. Those who do not wish to attend all program components or are unable to do so should instead consider applying for a grant.
The first Community History cohort of 2022 will run from March-December.
Learning sessions for the March cohort will take place on Wednesday afternoons from 1-3 pm. The anticipated schedule for this cohort:
- Session 1: March 23
- Session 2: March 30
- Session 3: April 6
- Session 4: April 20
- Session 5: April 27
- Session 6: May 18
- Session 7: May 25
- Project work and individual monthly meetings: June-August
- Session 8: September (exact date TBD)
Showcase: October 26, 2022
Evaluation and project close out: by end of December
Program staff strongly recommend that participants reserve Wednesday afternoons for the duration of the program to ensure they have allocated enough time to get program work done, even in weeks when there is not an official learning session or other meeting.
The exact syllabus will be finalized based on particular needs of participating organizations, but will include the following topics:
Sessions 1-3: public history concepts, program models, goal setting, outreach.
Sessions 4-5: project plans and budgets.
Sessions 6-7: project work, evaluation, marketing.
Session 8: future planning and showcase prep.
Additional Community History learning opportunities will be announced in the spring.
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.
Applicants must commit to participating in all program activities, including identifying 2-3 people to attend all learning sessions and meetings. Applicants must be willing to work collaboratively with community members to develop and implement a public history project. 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.
- For-profit organizations or businesses.
- Organizations who participated in Community History in 2021.
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 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 and implementing projects should not apply for the Community History program. NJCH grants can support community history work outside of this program.
If you have any questions about your eligibility for this program or program components, please don’t hesitate to contact Gigi Naglak, Director of Programs.
Applications for the March cohort closed on February 23. Please check back on this page for the next application deadline, which will be announced this spring.
Greater Cape May Historical Society, Cape May
Mahwah Museum, Mahwah
New Jersey Orators, Inc., Bridgewater
TRUE Mentors, Inc., Hoboken
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 is NJCH’s Director of Programs, where she oversees all of 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 Performance Studies from King’s College London and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
NJCH launched the 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. This is likely to be the first of several short films exploring the history of Egg Harbor Township and its people created in partnership with a media program at the high school.
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.
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.