On March 23, 2012, public history and museum studies graduate students, along with emerging professionals in these fields, participated in the second annual Public History Community Forum. Held at the Woodlands Historic Mansion, Cemetery and Landscape in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, PubComm12 featured a number of behind-the-scenes tours, a panel of professional public historians, and lively discussion.
Jim Mundy, Board President for the Woodlands Cemetery Company and Director of the Library and Historical Collections at The Union League, provided a brief history of the site, including its transformation from an expansive private estate and innovative garden to its current status as a National Historic Landmark and active cemetery. PubComm12 attendees broke off into four tours led by staff members; a house tour, a cemetery tour, a landscape tour, and a special “director’s tour” with Executive Director of The Woodlands, Jessica Baumert.
After the group reconvened, the panel discussion “Paths to Success” began. Seven professionals from the Mid-Atlantic region offered advice based on their experiences as students and emerging professionals; Jessica Baumert, Executive Director of the Woodlands; John Pettit, Assistant Archivist at the Urban Archives at Temple University; Ross Brakman, Field Study Coordinator for the American Institute for History Education; Sarah Hagarty, Coordinator of Educational Resources and Initiatives at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial Foundation; Robert Lukens, President of the Chester County Historical Society; Sarah Rutman, Assistant Registrar and Conservator at the New Jersey State Museum; and Charles Hardy, III, History Professor at West Chester University, Oral and Public History Documentarian, Historical Consultant, and Supervising Historian for ExplorePAHistory.com. An eighth panelist, Lyndsey Brown-Frigm, Executive Director of the Jacobsburg Historical Society was unable to attend.
The panel was followed by a question and answer period, during which the approximately forty attendees asked the panelists and each other about coursework, internships, and career goals. As the discussion continued, the importance of networks and willing sacrifice emerged, as did the sense that it pays to keep our eyes open, as opportunities may present themselves outside institutions or the academy.
Ideas for next year’s Public History Community Forum are already coming in. Suggestions include hands-on workshops for resume or grant writing, “speed mentoring,” and a ThatCamp inspired “wild card” session that attendees vote on the day of the event.
Part of PubComm’s goals is fostering a public history community and providing opportunities for graduate students and emerging professionals in the region. As such, PubComm12 was organized by a committee comprised of graduate students and recent graduates from La Salle University, Temple University, and Rutgers-Camden.
PubComm12 was made possible by the support of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities at Rutgers-Camden, and the guidance of Dr. Charlene Mires and Dr. Robert Kodosky.
Photo Credits: Adam Clements and Molly Dixon