A Public History Newbie's Thoughts on Everything and Nothing

Public History. Comments. Questions. Sarcasm. Maybe Some Hippie Rants.


Notes on Getting a Job in Public History: Tips from the National Council on Public History in my Voice

*The tips are not organized by any means so have at it* As I was looking around this room and so many of my young peers are buried in their phones. I kept trying to catch people’s eyes but no one engages so I kept typing away on my computer, too. A modern circle of awkward. Eventually I just get up and walk over to another young museum worker and strike up a conversation. We came to network but are mostly glued to our phones.

This brings me to the point that when going on an interview, leave your phone in the car. It is too much of a distraction so it is best to merely leave it tucked away. This is the best way to avoid fiddling with it while waiting, when you should be mentally preparing.

As far as your ego is concerned: the Rank of the institution you attended does not always matter, nor does just having a degree in a certain focus. In many situations the university that you went to is not key to the hiring process. So, do not ride on that fact to get you in the door or hired.

Your program director, and your Capstone/ Thesis advisor (if not the same person) should be your best friend. Be sure to have an open door in a respectful way- meaning be respectful and build a professional academic relationship with them. You are their legacy learn what they have to offer and in turn serve as a respectful young professional. Your advisor and program director may know about job openings ahead of time and will certainly be able to guide you to resources and people to get you.

Keep track of your skills and accomplishments. You can do this by having a portfolio ready, or even as simple as jotting down your accomplishments on a Word Document as they happen. It is easy to forget to do this when we have such busy lives but take the five minutes to explain a problem you solved, or a by-law you edited, a meeting you organized, the talk you gave, or a rare object you took the lead in acquiring, ect…

Try to get published, in local papers-anywhere. Do unusual things to distinguish yourself. This includes if you build a website or blog; back up the information and print a PDF of the website if possible. Any time your name come up in newspapers or magazines, take a photocopy and keep that in your portfolio too.

Dress professionally. Do not try to be fashion forward at the interview, stay standard, classy, polished and have business cards. If you don’t have a “history realm job” to put on a business card, then make a card that features your school, contact info and maybe a LinkedIn site URL. Vista Print has cards that are fantastically cheap so there is really no excuse to not have a card available- it is a confidence booster, too.

Sign up for the NCPH or AHA. The reasons are self-explanatory. Network like it’s going out of style. You WILL meet new people to work with, especially at conferences so try to able to have a give and take. And listen when you meet new people. A lot of people, especially academics are trying to self-promote so fiercely that we are formulating an answer or bragging point while the other person is talking. Take a deep breath and listen. *

Remember the meaning of helping people.

It is very much who you know. Just ask! Small museums are great starting points since you will have to try new/skills. This will offer up transferable skills. Highlight what your responsibilities were.

Preparing for the Interview USAJOBS is a great job source for help in getting into the federal jobs. Some will pay off your student loans.

Move if you can, but also be realistic in where you apply so that you don’t get put out when you don’t get a position. In other words, don’t plan on being able to move to your dream job right away, and if you do not get it you have to you’re your head up high and “keep on getting on.”

Research them ahead of time and bring questions that show that you are interested. Reflect on interviews that you have done before and what you can do better than what you have done before.

Bring your hardcopy resume to look prepared and in case they have written on their copy it is nice to be able to hand them a fresh one if they desire it. Never forget that your resume is fair game so be ready for questions regarding any aspect of what you have shared.

Slow down when they ask you a tough question. It is just fine take you time to really answer their question instead of rambling. Memorizing is silly. It looks bad, be real instead.

Act quickly when it comes to state or government job postings. Sometimes they shut the page after the first 300 applications. Fill out everything on the job application and have it in by the deadline. Even if there is a line that asks for a fax number, which you probably don’t have, put “Not applicable” in the space. Be prepared for the interview, with personalized information.

Include that you have the skill traits they require. Soft skills such as communication, collaboration, being able to talk at public events are desired as well. Stories resonate well in cover letters. That can be included in your cover letter. Perhaps that is a new fad for crafting a cover letter that is digestible to hiring staff.

It is Okay to ask, when they will have a decision. If they did not give you the job, maybe you can ask them for some feedback on how your interview went. In a way you are also interviewing them. If the people do not seem financially stable (ask around discreetly), or have staff that you do not think you will compatible with then you can say no.

Be sure to do a handwritten note. This distinguishes you, makes you different. Do it! My story regarding a note is that I made sure to buy a “thank you note” right after my first big volunteer interview. I had it all set to mail out but then I got the position and began that same week so I sheepishly handed the note to the older supervisor who would be guiding me. She was overjoyed about it and kept that simple card on her desk the entire time that I was there. Seriously, always send a physical card, whether you think you will get the job or not because it may just be the deciding factor for the hiring staff.


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That Cigar Is Just a Big Cigarette, Right?

Neat article on the basic differences of cigars and cigarettes.


Ever since I began enjoying cigars, I’ve had people in my life that worried about me and my health. Having seen the effects first hand of what years of cigarette smoking can do to someone, I’ve had to defend my lifestyle and the products that make it great.

I’ve always preached that my cigars are as natural as they come, with nothing added but love, time and craftsmanship. Having seen the entire process from beginning to end in Honduras, I had the opportunity to see first hand just how pure the process is.

But people still have their doubts.

I decided to do a little research to help put this comparison to bed. I was actually surprised at what I found. Now in full disclosure, I’d be ignorant to sit here and say that there are not health risks associated with cigars. Just like putting anything foreign into one’s body, there are risks and…

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Geographic Fun

Geographic Information System, or GIS

What GIS projects are, is the new wave of presentation of scholarship. Do they contribute to scholarship? I say no, but instead serve an alternate purpose. For those of us in the History field who are not natural writers, options for digital presentation are more alluring. Besides being a source for information other interested parties, they are an engaging platform on which to display your research and digital prowess.

To get to know a GIS project behind the scenes, try this. And hey, who doesn’t love an introduction video?

On the Mapping the Republic of Letters page they describe themselves as a site that “seeks to answer these and other questions through the development of sophisticated, interactive visualization tools. It also aims to create a repository for metadata on early-modern scholarship, and guidelines for future data capture.”

When I poked out the site, I found that the Voltaire page was fun. If as a scholar, you are interested in tracking letters, social communications, even the history of emotions or thought then this is a great place to begin a journey into the research.

If you are not looking to begin original research, but instead want a historian-vetted source to supplement knowledge then other GIS projects might be better suited to that. For instance, they can be used as excellent sources for teachers. Teachers may struggle to keep modern children engaged in classrooms that now have tablets and Smartboards, especially in the subject of History- often famous for being a snooze-fest. Surely not to anyone reading this blog of course…

Well, with the Virtual Jamestown page, it is easy to imagine a classroom being engaged by the 3D villages and other features. Check it out for yourself! If I were a teacher I would certainly be looking to GIS projects to drive home the text book history in a way that the student can visualize.

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A Learning Opportunity into Progress

Yesterday was a learning curve, a positive one. As an employee of a small museum at that has sat by the wayside for many, many a year, (“there is a museum about tobacco in my town? What!? I never heard of it” ) I am learning about museums, nonprofits, inter-institute relations and negotiations by hands on experience.

In fact, many issues that are popping up are extraordinary for this particular museum because they have never been addressed before. In fact, I am stirring the metaphorical pot of ethics, relationships with the partnering Town Municipality, ect… and then cleaning up the splashes with the Board of Directors. We are becoming a new type of team as we set goals and work together through ugly conversations.

Constant conversation, a positive attitude (but don’t be fake either) and knowing what the heck you are talking about ahead of time matters.

So, the conversation on the table yesterday was about clarifying pay raises and assessments for staff (me, the current Curator/Director) through the Town.  While the matter has been talked about, this was an opportunity to make everything clear, and have documentation of the arrangement. The museum staff that the Board has hired, is then officially hired by the Town and is Town employee. The clarification needed, is that since the position’s salary is a donation to the Town provided by the Board of Directors, who is really eligible to assess staff goals and progress.?

The details of the conversation are certainly not for me to share but, I will share why this conversation is important. It has taught me how to communicate on behalf of the museum that I work for and the Board of Directors who comprise the Historical Society, to better serve as a liaison between the Town and them.

This also matters directly for my pay, and the pay of future museum staff. This sticky conversation was guide the two parties out of a grey area into the same page. My hope is that the future will be much easier for my future replacement with the team-work done now.

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A Day in the Life of a Small Museum Employee

10am- Sweet Mother of Pearl… I need a coffee

11:30- Punch in and open up two buildings. Scan the archive building and decide if it is going to be an office-bound day or a gallery day.

Noon- Realize that there is no way that I can just do one or the other.

12:17 Check emails and respond. These take forever some days but it is rewarding to stay in touch with colleagues and get projects moving along.

1:00 The Park Groundskeeper comes to to discuss reseeding the grass around the museum, the plans regarding the bathroom remodel updates, museum cleaning schedules and gossip.

2:45- Eat some microwaved vegetarian nonsense meal. Why did I become vegetarian this again? Was is for the tofu pot-pies?

3:07 Beginning working on taping trim in the gallery and corners to keep the museum painting going. It should be 100% by the end of the month.

3:30 Attempt to clock out to beginning the ritualistic battle with traffic on the way to the sacred center of learning (campus), but get caught up in a conversation with the Nature Center secretary about better forms of time clocks.

4:30-7:10 Class to continue my history and museum education.

8:30- At home checking personal emails and see a reporter has been kind enough to send me an e-copy of an article he wrote about a smoke shop in Connecticut.

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WWI in Connecticut, Collaboration and Brothels

For a course in Digital History at Central Connecticut State University, we the students, get to be part of a project that the Connecticut State Library has created to honor the memory of World War I and record the history of it in Connecticut. They provide an online means to share historical material while working with local organizations and schools to engage multiple audiences.

I will be making a timeline of Connecticut soldier. In the interest of identity protection, I will not share the name of the soldier that I was initially centering my timeline around. The soldier’s family donated some of his effects to the Connecticut State Library, one of which was a day pass to a town that featured a brothel. That artifact is odd and engaging so I wanted to explore.

I imagined that I would do a three level, or three part timeline on the TikiToki page. The completed work will then be submitted to the CT State Library. The first “level” of the timeline would be a personal timeline of the soldier, including his visitation of the brothel and facts on brothels during WWI. The second level will be a generic timeline of the United States in WWI, while the third level will be fun events happening in Connecticut while WWI was happening so make the timeline more relatable to future researchers.

Weeks later, after speaking at length the leading-lady of the World War I project at the CT State Library, we decided that is was actually in the best interest of respect to the existing family, that I not focus on brothels (although hilarious and still historically relevant) in relation to that particular soldier. Therefore, my timeline will be modified to another soldier, one from my adopted town on the border of Massachusetts if I can find on, and then keep the same two secondary levels.

My sources will be the archives and collection of digital contributions of WWI stories, photos and memorabilia has already been massed by the CT State Library.


No Websites Were Harmed in the Making of This Blog

What follows is my very judgey comparative review of a few websites from the Omeka showcase.

The Digital Dos Passos webpage has a fun home page. It is engaging as well as vivid. However, it extends down so far most people will have to scroll to the bottom to see it the repetitive Menu options. As the user browses the few items in the Browse “collections” section it becomes apparent that the page’s data being displayed is simple. The descriptions are a good attempt but, hardly professional.

I suppose that I should not be looking at the quality of the descriptions since a visitor to this site, will have no idea where to start anyway; the colors take up more attention then the menu.  It looks like it would be a better fit for a band or funky hipster restaurant with the greens, red and blue scheme that just muddy up the waters.

The Gothic-Past has a better set-up than the Digital Dos Passos webpage. I can see how, with its bright colors and bold font types that it is appealing. It looks professional and has many options such as a side-bar on the right that provides a visual draw. A user can let their own interests be the guide since many features are laid out. It is nice to see that they offer a “How To” page on Gothic-Past for the user to become familiar with the dashboard whether they are a Registered User or not.

I like the sleek simplicity set-up of the Nuptun page and would likely model any Omeka work that I would do after that site. It has clean lines with a professional feel. It is well organized for an immersive learning and search experience. You can switch with ease around the Collections, Exhibits and Research Options.