I’m of the opinion that history departments need to be more open to the possibility that students may want to pursue career paths outside academia, so I’m pleased to see that this was one of the subjects of discussion at the AHA.
Professors need to avoid discouraging budding public historians, of course, but they should do more than that—they should be actively encouraging them. They should familiarize themselves with the career paths open to non-academic historians and equip themselves to guide interested students along those paths. To assume that all roads originating in higher historical education should end in a tenure-track teaching position is, I submit, irresponsible. Jobs for history majors are scarce enough without mentors closing possible doors before their students can consider walking through them.
If academic historians are looking for ways to bridge the chasm between the ivory tower and the public, they should remember that their classrooms are full of potential public historians.
USA Today looks at the ways Civil War museums are changing with the times:
For some museums, that means more displays on African-Americans or exhibits on the roles women played as combatants and spies. For others, it means adding digital maps and electronic displays to attract tech-savvy youth for whom the war holds no memories. Or it may simply mean adopting a wider, more holistic approach to the war — without taking sides.
Inclusivity, technology, and objectivity have been on the rise in history museums of all kinds, not just those devoted to the Civil War. What’s interesting is that Civil War museums in the South have a particular hurdle to overcome.
Still, the feeling that southern museums dedicated to the war are racist is a lingering problem, said President and CEO of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va., Waite Rawls.
“It’s still one of the greatest challenges Confederate museums face, and we are all working on it,” he said. “Unfortunately the Confederate flag was used as a symbol of white supremacy in the civil rights era. We got hit with a double whammy of the 1860s and the 1960s.”