Reconceptualising history

“Forget academic history. Go out there, get alongside an organisation, listen to them, and co-construct a public history with them.”
If I were to synthesise the mantra of this unit of study to a lay person, this is how I’d go about it. In fact, when I shared it with people in my life, I’d usually start with “Screw academic history”. Perhaps this is a crude articulation of a more complex and thoughtful unit of study on engaging with ‘History Beyond the Classroom’. However, I think it aptly depicts the jarring provocation and passion that drove a group of 30-odd history students to shift their frames of reference and stretch their conceptualisation of history.
Through working with Parliament on King this semester, I have learnt that public history is a dynamic process that fluctuates and evolves, as the historian and the organisation seek to authentically collaborate and co-construct a shared history for the public. Through engaging with oral history at Parliament on King, I have learnt that the historian needs to throw away the notion of agenda-driven productivity, and take time to build relationships, listen, ask questions and be present. This project is significant as it complicates a linear and static depiction of history or way of remembering, which can so often dominate historical accounts, as it provides an alternative emphasis on experience, stories and narrative. The hope is that this podcast will provide a small scale, experiential representation of Parliament’s public history, rather than merely a linear depiction of Parliament’s historical timeline.
Parliament on King, myself as the student researcher and oral historian, and the wider community are likely to benefit from this project. Lorina Barker acknowledges that in trying to learn about other people’s ‘connections and disconnections to place’, the historian begins ‘their own journey of rediscovery and reconnection’. This reveals the mutual benefit of oral history and equalises the power dynamics that exist in the collection of oral histories, as both parties are recognised as learning, sharing and discovering. This is my hope for this project.
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