History Beyond the Classroom – Week 2 Highlights

This week we kicked off discussion by watching Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Performance of “Alexander Hamilton” at the White House in 2009 (click the link above for it). Since then, the musical Alexander Hamilton has been hugely popular in New York and now become a Broadway hit. See:
The clip was an appropriate starting point for a discussion about “What is History?,” “What is History for?”, “Who Does History?”, and “What is the role and responsibility of the historian in public history?.”
Our readings ranged from EH Carr’s classic essay “What is History” to M. Scott Momaday’s Way to Rainy Mountain, the former seemingly caught between the positivists of the 19th century and the postmodernists of the 20th, and the latter making an argument for history as a “turning and re-turning of myth, history, and memoir.” Momaday’s definition was arguably given some extra weight by an excerpt from Raphael Samuel’s 1994 book, Theatres of Memory, called “Unofficial Knowledge” in which Samuel pointed out the myriad ways we learn, and do, history (and in the process outlining an agenda for a new generation of cultural historians). We finished off with a discussion of an excerpt from Roy Rosensweig and David Thelen’s landmark study The Presence of the Past, with students pointing out that even since 1998, when they published this work, we seem to know a lot more about how non-historians think about the past and do history in their everyday lives.
We finished our seminar with a short discussion of just how to get started on a community-engaged project, emphasising that the engagement should come first, and let the historical questions arise from it. Several students shared their ideas about the kind of local/community organisation they might like to work with, and there were some terrific ideas. Very promising…
While we only managed to scratch the surface of the questions raised this week, they will of course be at the heart of this unit throughout the semester.

HSTY 3902 – History Beyond the Classroom Under Way

More history through this way resized.jpg
(Photo by Michael McDonnell, Broken Hill Railway Museum)
After several years in the planning, HSTY 3902: History Beyond the Classroom is finally under way this semester. I’m looking forward to teaching this, and to learning a great deal from each other. The main aim of this unit is as follows:
In this unit you will produce an independently framed and original researched project drawn from an engagement with communities and organisations outside the University. Students will explore history in action in a variety of contexts and think about different ways of creating and disseminating
history other than the traditional research essay that might appeal to a public audience. Lectures and field trips will help students frame relevant community-based questions, adopt appropriate methodologies, and explore new ways of presenting arguments or narratives. In tutorials we will workshop every stage of your project.
Part of the aim of this unit is to introduce students to history as a lived and lifelong practice and to appreciate history as a vital individual, community, and organizational practice. Together, we will explore a variety of histories in action via time spent working with or alongside community organizations outside the University and discuss the challenges and opportunities of history beyond the classroom. In keeping with this idea, we will also explore different formats for presenting our histories that might reach a wider and more public audience. In doing so, we will also discuss the vital questions around the issue of whether reaching for a wider audience means changing or diminishing academic standards. Can history beyond the classroom co-exist with and inform and enrich history practiced in the classroom?

Tutor’s Review HSTY3901

The ‘History in the Making’ unit has produced some fantastic research projects.

By James Findlay
The ‘History in the Making’ unit has produced some fantastic research projects. The breadth of topics as well as the quality of the finished writing has been a real joy to watch develop over the semester. I have enjoyed immensely the variety of weekly in-class lectures, panels and guest speakers, all of which provided invaluable insights into the craft of history writing. On top of this, a major highlight has been watching the student research clusters workshop each other’s projects. The level of investment the cohort have demonstrated to each other’s work has been unique to my experience in teaching, and it was wonderful to see students actively helping to shape each other’s ideas in a variety of intelligent and creative ways.

‘Historians in the Making’

One of the most rewarding parts of teaching ‘History in the Making’ has been the process of seeing ‘Historians in the Making’.

By Kirsten McKenzie, UoS Coordinator ‘History in the Making’
One of the most rewarding parts of teaching ‘History in the Making’ has been the process of seeing ‘Historians in the Making’. Across the semester I have enjoyed seeing the way in which the students involved in this class have emerged as independent scholars, both in their specific skills and more generally in their attitude towards their work. The collegiality that students have shown in their research clusters – commenting in constructive ways on their colleagues work, being prepared to take those adjustments on board – have offered a model of enthusiastic professionalism to us all.

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