April 30, 2014

Interning at The History List

The History List is the largest list of history-related events across the country, and as we've said, "we're just getting started."

I'm looking for someone to help advance these efforts over the coming months who is . . .

  • High-motivated
  • Meticulous
  • Curious
  • Eager to learn
  • Willing to take smart risks
  • Fluent with social media
  • An excellent writer
  • Passionate about helping connect people to the history all around them
  • Smart
  • Clever
  • Hard working
  • Creative and analytical

Sounds like most every internship or first-job-out-of-college position description, doesn't it?

So why The History List?  For better or for worse, it's not the money—no one is drawing any salary.  Instead, The History List brings together a unique set of opportunities:

  • Working in a micro startup with an entrepreneur with many years of experience across many different industries and markets
  • Creating a SaaS platform
  • Building a community of history organizations and individuals interested in history
  • Leverages social media
  • You'll see your impact from Day 1

Innovations from The History List

The History List has been an innovator in several areas, including creating the first events platform designed for history organizations and travelers interested in history throughout the U.S.

  • Easy for organizations of all sizes to use, including small, all-volunteer organizations.
  • Affordable.  There is no cost to list your history organization or event.
  • Includes the ability to list events, organizations, and venues, perfect for organizations that own multiple properties.
  • Provides organizations and their events and venues with a permanent page that they can update at any time. For annual events, this means that they don't have to re-enter information about the event.  Instead, they can simply enter the dates for the next year and anything else that's changed.
  • Nearly unlimited room for text, video, and photos.  
  • Easy to copy and paste text from an existing site or from another document, such as a press release.
  • Includes every event repeating pattern imaginable.
  • Incorporates all of an organization's social media accounts; supports event hashtags.
  • Create a list of upcoming events that you can embed in your own site.  Enter your events once on The History List and they appear automatically and immediately on your site.
  • Create a combined list of events from multiple organizations based on the name of the organization or a tag. The combined event list is updated automatically and immediately when any additions or changes are made on The History List. 

In addition, The History List publishes . . .

And we organized History Camp, the first unconference or barcamp dedicated to history.

Logistics and expressing your interest

In terms of location, you could be in the Boston or Metrowest areas, or across the country working and collaborating via Skype.

You don't have to be a history major, but you do have to have a demonstrated passion for and interest in historic sites and history organizations (e.g., historical societies or history museums).  We're definitely not looking for any of the people listed in the broadside below.  (It's from around 1855 and is today in the New Bedford Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Massachusetts.)

Interested?  Let me know the skills you'd apply and the ones you'd  like to learn and develop, and please send examples of your work, with links to social media, papers, presentations, videos, or other work.

Lee Wright, Founder of The History List


Poster at the New Bedford Whaling Museum

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April 28, 2014

History Camp Nashville proposed for NCPH 2015 Annual Conference

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.Erik Bauer presenting "Institutional Memory: Using Oral History to Capture an Organization's History and Culture" at History Camp in Cambridge

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:

More information, including before and after articles, the session descriptions and schedule, the list of supporters and more is on the event wiki.

"Becoming a published history author" panel discussion at History Camp Cambridge

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:The National Council on Public History

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.

Read the entire article on History News Network.




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.

(The 81 page survey report contains all of the verbatims.)

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)

The History List publishes the largest list of history, preservation, and heritage conferences in the U.S., with CFP and early registration deadlines as well as the ability to set e-mail reminders.



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April 23, 2014

Getting an internship working in a museum or archives

With summer coming up, an archivist in New England lays out what he looks for when he hires an intern.  Great tips, including the one thing that will take your resume to "the top of the pile."

  • Resume—"The resume is important, but if someone has some experience in museums and archives along with something outside the fGetting a summer internshipield I'll give it a look."
  • Cover letters—"I read those with a fine-toothed comb looking for reasons not to take someone on.  For me, a cover letter with spelling or grammatical errors is a sign that the person is not detail-oriented.  I work in an archive that requires a lot  of attention to detail, and if someone can't do that in a cover letter, then they won't be able to write a finding aid or exhibit label.  I've learned that from experience."
  • Well-rounded—"I tend to look for well-rounded interns.  They need to be able to work with patrons, do exhibits, handle archival material and be willing to learn. . . . I'm the only person in my department, so I do everything, and that has helped me land many of my public history jobs over the years. Though I'm an archivist, I have experience that would allow me to work at just about any institution."
  • Cursive—"I really prefer someone who can read and write cursive. With texting and computers, it is hard tofind interns who can read cursive. I have hundreds of letters and journals that are written in cursive that I can read because I can write in cursive, but many interns can't.  If someone can read and write in cursive, then they get to the top of the pile."
  • Working independently—"The projects I assign or have an intern work on require them to be a self-starter who can work independently of what I'm doing."

More resources for job seekers:








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April 6, 2014

Massachusetts History Day 2014 Finals

The finals of the 2014 Massachusetts History Day were held today at Stoneham High School in Stoneham, Massachusetts.  

Massachusetts History Day: t-shirt sold to raise funds for program

This year's theme was "Rights and Responsibilities in History." Junior high and high school students competed individually and in teams in these categories: Exhibit, papers, performance, documentary, and website.  (Examples of national winners in prior years in each of these categories are listed on the National History Day site.)

Roughly 350 students from 50 schools were competing, supported by more than 80 teachers.  Pictures from several of the exhibits and the first several awards at the ceremony are below.

Thanks to Kerin Shea, Northeast District Coordinator for Massachusetts History Day and the person responsible for the Massachusetts History Day social media outreach on Twitter, for the invitation.  Kerin and all the rest of the people who put on Massachusetts History Day are volunteers.  (In some states, History Day is handled by one or more paid staff.)

The exhibits

The exhibits were the only category of the finals I saw.  They were well done, with considerable time and effort put into researching the topic and creating the exhibit.  

A few observations: 

  • There were two on Miranda, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, and women's rights.
  • Only one focused on Boston (urban renewal and the West End).
  • A few focused on international topics, including education for women, with a focus on Malala Yousafzai, the rights of Armenians, and the famine in Ireland.
  • No on chose the Revolutionary period or the formation of our country.  One chose the medieval period in Europe and roughly the same time period in Japan.
  • A few dealt with the civil rights struggle.
  • A few were surprising given this year's theme.  These included animal testing, Muhammad Ali, in vitro fertilization, and pirate radio.
  • One presented a historic incident that I'd never heard of: Prigg v. Pennsylvania.

Note that the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and many other topics were covered in entries in other categories.

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer



Mass History Day State Contest Program 2014


Local efforts to engage high school students

The local historical society on whose board I serve has struggled to engage high schools students despite overhauling our annual scholarship.  We raised the award to $1,000, changed the initial requirement from a finished project to submitting a proposal, and broadened the implementation to include various web and social media tools.  (The 2014 scholarship is described in detail here.)  I don't know whether or not students  in our local high school are encouraged to participate in the state-level National History Day contest, but judging from the exhibits I saw and the auditorium full of students and parents, it's clear that some schools across the state are using History Day to great effect.

Other national programs 

National History Day is one of three national programs encouraging high school students interested in history.

  • National Histor — ClubFrom starting with one chapter just over ten years ago, the NHC has grown to involve 17,000 students in chapters in 44 states.  As described on the organization's site, "The NHC inspires students and teachers to start History Club chapters at high schools, middle schools, and within other student and community programs.  Members of local History Club chapters participate in local and national programs, and create their own projects and activities.  The NHC also provides chapters with resources and services that will help them increase the activity and impact of their history club."
  • National History Bee, the US History Bee, and the National History Bowl —  Started within the last few years, these competitions for individuals ("Bee") and teams ("Bowl"), take place around the country and culminate with a national competition in the spring.

If there are other national programs aimed at fostering interest in history among junior high and high school students, please let us know.

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January 29, 2014

John Bell on the upcoming History Camp, March 8 in Cambridge

Updated: March 9, 2014: John wrote a short post about yesterday's History Camp, where he was a speaker and a panelist.  

Updated: April 2, 2014: A video of one of John's talks at History Camp, "The Boston Bankruptcy That Led to the American Revolution," is now online.

John Bell, of Boston 1775 fame, was one of the inspirations for History Camp, which takes place on March 8 in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

John is a well known scholar and writer.  In addition to being the author of the Boston 1775 blog and an in-depth (669-page) historic resource study of the Longfellow House-George Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site for the National Park Service, John is a contributor to the highly-regarded Revolutionary War-era site All Things Liberty, the Journal of the American Revolution, as well as other books, and is a frequent presenter, panelist, and interviewer (shown here in December with author Nathaniel Philbrick discussing Philbrick's new book, Bunker Hill).

Author John Bell with author Nathaniel Philbrick at the Cambridge Forum discussing "Bunker Hill"

As John mentioned in his blog post published Saturday and reproduced below, I raised the idea for History Camp on our walk to the subway following a rousingl "RevWar Schmoozer," an informal gathering of RevWar history buffs over beer at an establishment near Faneuil Hall organized by Todd Andrlik, founder and editor of All Things Liberty and other publications (including this one and this one), John was interested in learning more, so I sent him links to information about the unconference format.  

Authors Sam Forman and Liz Covart were interested in participating, and local entrepreneurs Laura Wallendal and Adam Hasler said they were interested in helping organize it.  Adriene Katz of the Shelburne Museum, Colleen Janz of the Susan B. Anthony Birthplace Museum, were very encouraging.  (As I recall, Colleen's reaction went something like this when I approached her at the NEMA conference in Newport: "John Bell's going to be there?!  If he's going to be there, I'm going!")  

John, Sam, Liz, and Colleen are all going to present; Laura, Adam, and Adriene may; but Todd, who lives near Chicago, is already scheduled to travel to several other history events throughout the year and is unlikely to be able to attend.  

Registration opened last weekend.  The size of the facility, generously donated by IBM and the folks at IBM's Cambridge Innovation Lab, will limit the number who can attend, so if you'd like to join us on March 8, register now.  And please consider speaking.  As John notes below, as an unconference, History Camp will very much be what we make it.  More information, including the current list of presentations, is at the History Camp wiki.

Come to History Camp, Saturday, 8 March
Posted by J.L. Bell on 25 Jan 2014 at Boston 1775

On Saturday, 8 March, Lee Wright of The History List is organizing a “History Camp” at the I.B.M. Innovation Center in Cambridge. This event is designed to be an “unconference,” or self-organizing, non-hierarchical conference, for anyone in greater Boston interested in history.

The program will depend on who signs up to speak in the next few weeks. The presentations are supposed to be short and lively. The only requirement is that they not be just a sales pitch for a book, tour, class, or other product. I imagine those presentations falling into two categories:
neat stories and findings about the past and practical tips about researching, writing, and teaching history.

I proposed two topics to Lee, one in each of those categories: “The Boston Bankruptcy That Led to the American Revolution” and “Google Books Changed My Life, and You Can, Too!” In addition, Lee drafted me for a tentative panel on “Becoming a Published Author” because I was once an acquiring editor for a book publisher.

Lee had the idea for History Camp after last fall’s RevWar Schmoozer. That informal social event brought together people from our city’s historic sites, reenacting organizations, libraries, museums, tour companies, colleges, and other institutions. It would be great to an even broader turnout at this event, which isn’t confined to the Revolutionary period. Given its setting, this History Camp might be an especially good place to talk about using new technology to improve the study or presentation of history.

As a self-organizing conference, History Camp will take shape over the next few weeks based on the interests of the folks who volunteer their time or ideas. So check out the website, think about the stories you might have to tell or would like to hear, and start signing up!

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