History Relevance promotes a shared language and other tools and strategies to mobilize history organizations in the United States around the relevance and value of history. We support history organizations that encourage the public to use historical thinking skills to actively engage with and address contemporary issues and to value history for its relevance to modern life.
The History Relevance steering committee provides strategic direction for the coalition and is made up of public historians and museum professionals from around the country, including:
- Patricia Brooks, Public Historian, Washington DC
- Norman Burns, Conner Prairie
- John Dichtl, American Association for State & Local History
- Kathy Finley, Organization of American Historians
- Kim Fortney, National History Day
- Jan Gallimore, Idaho State Historical Society
- Tim Grove, National Air and Space Museum Smithsonian Institution
- Conny Graft, Graft Consulting
- Lynne Ireland, Nebraska State Historical Society
- Richard Josey, Collective Journeys, LLC
- Kyle McCoy, Mercer Museum & Fonthill Castle
- Stephanie Rowe, National Council on Public History
- Max van Balgooy, Engaging Places LLC
- Kent Whitworth, Kentucky Historical Society
- Allison Wickens, The Fred W. Smith Library for the Study of George Washington Mount Vernon
Evolution of History Relevance
History Relevance is an evolving effort. It began informally in late 2012 with a series of conversations about why history - both knowledge about the past and the practice of researching and interpreting the past - was marginalized in our country. Children are not expected to learn it in schools, community leaders rarely look to it to inform today's decisions, and national leaders select and distort facts to support their positions. Sure, some people visit historic sites and history museums; and many more watch history-based movies. For them, engagement in history seems to be an occasional pleasant pastime, not something especially relevant to their lives. In contrast, those who are active in the practice of history - whether as professionals or amateurs - believe that history is central to their lives, and that it ought to play a greater role in the lives of our communities and nation.
In early 2013 we started to broaden the conversation by holding impromptu sessions at various meetings, asking others their thoughts.We had gatherings at the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) advocacy day in February; the National Council on Public History (NCPH) conference in Ottawa in March; the AAM meeting in Baltimore in May; National History Day in June; the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) meeting in Birmingham in September; the American Historical Association (AHA) meeting in DC in January, 2014; the NCPH meeting in March, 2014; the AASLH meeting in September, 2014; the State Historical Administrators meeting in December; and AAM advocacy day in DC, February 2015-2017.
We have developed the "Value of History" statement, a document we hope will provide a common language to help history organizations describe the value and relevance of their work. To further assist in that regard, we've compiled a toolkit, and will soon begin hosting online webinars, highlighting institutions who have used the statement to shape their work. We continue to give presentations and lead conversations at conferences and other professional venues and are happy to consider requests.