Updated Spring 2015: History Camp was not selected by the NCPH conference organizing committee. However, the format is being adopted elsewhere, including for History Camp Iowa on November 14, 2016 in Des Moines. History Camp Iowa is being organized by a group of local volunteers, and the State Historical Museum will host the event. More information is in the new History Camp site.
History Camp is the unconference (or "barcamp") focused on history. The first one was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 8, 2014.
More than 130 people from throughout New England and the Northeast attended 23 presentations and two panel discussions on historical accounts, research tools and techniques, managing a historic site, becoming a published author, and employment options for history lovers.
Videos of three of the presentations and one of the panels are available online:
- "How the Patriots Almost Lost the Battle of Saratoga," Liz Covart (@LizCovart)
- "The Boston Bankruptcy That Led to the American Revolution," JL Bell (@Boston1775)
- "Free Advertising: Popular Magazines and World War II Bond Drives," Matt Wilding(@MatthewWilding)
- "Employment Options for History Lovers" panel
More information, including before and after articles, the session descriptions and schedule, the list of supporters and more is on the event wiki.
After History Camp, Anne Whisnant, Liz Covart (one of the earliest presenters to commit when we first started discussing the idea of History Camp), and I had a conversation on Twitter. Anne thought History Camp would be of interest to the NCPH and I told her I was skeptical, that I didn't think that History Camp fit the mold for an NCPH conference. Anne said that I had the wrong impression of the NCPH.
After watching the short video on the 2014 NCPH conference on Max van Balgooy's Engaging Places blog, I realized that I may have been wrong, so I looked at the options to submit a proposal for the 2015 conference in Nashville .
"History on the Edge"
The theme for the 2015 conference is "History on the Edge" and the call for papers explains it this way:
Edges are where exciting things happen. Some are stark boundaries, marking clear beginnings and ends, while others are blurred contact zones. Edges can be places of creativity where diverse people, ideas, and cultures meet and flourish. They can be sites of uncertainty, risk, and opportunity. Edgy topics and practices call our longstanding assumptions into question.
In Nashville, we invite public historians to consider the edges of what we do and who we are. What is on the horizon for public history? What happens on the porous boundaries of public history when we collaborate with other disciplines and new audiences? What can public historians contribute to addressing the cutting edge questions of our societies? Join us to discuss, debate, and question “history on the edge.”
If there was ever a theme appropriate for History Camp, it's this one.
One option would be to present a talk on the first History Camp and encourage others to try the format, but rather than talk about what did happen, I realized that, with many people from all over the country attending as well as the rich history of the region, it would make much more sense to actually put on a History Camp. It would be positive for conference attendees, the community and local attendees, and the NCPH.
The proposed workshop, "History Camp Nashville" (below), was submitted last week. (Thanks to Stephanie Rowe, Program Manager at the National Council on Public History.)
One of the surprises from History Camp Cambridge was that no local professors attended, though some graduate students did attend.
The benefits to academic historians
Liz Covart, who spoke at History Camp, wrote about this in an article on History New Network entitled, "Nick Kristof Ought to Be Paying Attention to History Camp,"
[A]cademic historians stand to benefit from participation in History Camp-like gatherings in at least three ways.
First, historians would benefit from networking with non-academic history practitioners. Conversations with museum professionals, tour guides, and re-enactors might yield interesting research leads, new insights on historical interpretation techniques, and opportunities to help further historical research and understanding. Some of these enthusiasts have studied even narrower niches than academics and may help point the way to obscure sources.
Second, the people who attend public history events read, buy, and talk about books. Historians who interact with this reading public stand to improve the accessibility of their narratives. Like academic conference-goers, public-history-event attendees ask questions and provide feedback. They tell presenters what they do not understand. This type of feedback provides insight on where historians might want to expand or contract their argument or narrative, which will help them improve the accessibility of their books and their book sales.
Finally, attending History Camp-like gatherings shows the history-loving public, as well as the public at large, that historians are relevant and that they care about society. Scholars should embrace these events as opportunities to help the public understand why their research matters. As historians create a more engaged and understanding public, college and university tenure and advancement committees will fall in line and reward them for their efforts.
WORKSHOP PROPOSAL FOR 2015 NATIONAL COUNCIL ON PUBLIC HISTORY CONFERENCE
History Camp is the unconference dedicated to history.
History Camp Nashville is open to anyone who registers. There is no fee. Anyone can speak. Post your sessions to the event wiki: www.HistoryCamp.org.
History Camp Nashville will be what we make it.
The first History Camp was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 8, 2014. More than 130 people passionate about history from all walks of life came from throughout New England and the Northeast to attend 23 panels and two presentations. Topics ranged from the Revolutionary War and the Erie Canal to research methods and tools to becoming a published author and finding a job in the field.
History Camp is the unconference dedicated to history. The first one was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts on March 8, 2014. More than 130 people attended 23 panels and two presentations.
A followup survey was completed by 115 people:
- 95% of respondents said that History Camp met, exceeded, or greatly exceeded their expectations.
- 98% would probably or definitely recommend History Camp to a friend or colleague interested in history who lived in the area.
- 94% would probably or definitely attend if it were held in the same area next year.
As a part of the NCPH annual conference, History Camp gives conference attendees an opportunity to engage with each other and "the public" around history.
It will also show that this format, widely used in more tech-related areas, is just as successful in dealing with history. (One of the sessions will be "DIY History Camp," which will walk attendees through how the first (and now second) History Camp were put together.)
And it will create the opportunity for very positive local media coverage both before and after the event.
As noted above, I would expect that topics will fall into the same general categories: Historical accounts, research methods and tools, and publishing and finding a job in the field.
The specific topics, of course, are determined by the presenters.
Complete details on the first History Camp, including before and after articles on HNN, links to videos, the handouts, and other details are on the event wiki: www.HistoryCamp.org.
— Submitted April 25, 2014 (The CFP and links to submit a proposal online)