A Blend of History and Archives
posted February 3, 2013 3:18 PM by Jessi Bennett
As a dual degree student in Archives and History, I have one foot in the LIS (Library and Information Science) world and one in the CAS (College of Arts and Sciences) at Simmons. At times it can be a little frustrating since I’m dealing with two different departments but a lot of the time there is more overlap then I would have imagined.
Currently, I am taking a Public History course. I have never taken one before and I love it. I almost wonder why I never thought of Public History as a career choice before. I have a Bachelor’s in both English and History and saw Archives as the wonderful combination of the two, but as I continue through this dual degree program, Public History seems the perfect combination of Library Science and History to me.
We are currently reading Museums, Monuments and National Parks by Denise D. Meringolo about the evolution of Public History in America. One of the key points of the book, pointed out from the very beginning in the prologue, is that the Park Service of the 1930s was looking for “a new kind of technician.” It was hard to find the perfect person to work in the Park Service said Verne Chatelain, the head historian, because “some were good in the books, but they couldn’t deal with the public.” They were lacking those public interaction skills that one acquires working in a library or archives!
In a way, an archivist is a type of public historian, guiding patrons in their historical education by helping them find the resources they need.
Another thing that is great about the dual degree and this class in particular, is that it allows me to be on the receiving end of the archives. On Wednesday, I am going into the state archives to do research regarding legal trials in colonial Plymouth for a class project. Each student in the class has to complete a public history project that actually has a public history component i.e. it can’t be theoretical. I am working with the 1748 Courthouse and Museum in Plymouth and when I’m finished with the research I actually have to give a public lecture there on my findings. Terrifying and exciting!
Which reminds me, I have to go write a conference paper for the 2nd Annual Simmons Graduate Symposium…Life is busy, busy but oh so fun!