This Sh*t in Real Life: Community Historian

Isn’t it crazy to think that if someone wants to find a job geared towards history, that he or she would need a Master’s degree at least? I mean, not EVERY job will require a master’s degree, but it’s mind-blowing, to me at least, to know that a career like that of a community historian would at least require an individual to obtain a degree past a bachelor’s degree program. And as I venture further into this knowledge, I think, man this sh*t gets more and more intense.

Here’s something to think about, I’m a senior studying international relations and theology, yet even someone like me could find a job in youth ministry or at nonprofit organization without obtaining my masters. While on the other hand, the field of public history says that a master’s degree is most likely required. I surprised to know that the education requirements are that rigorous, but then again this just goes to show that it takes a whole lot of work to study and practice public history.

As discussed in my last blog, I choose to portray the definition of public history as “the practice of communicating the past to this public” (Sayer, 2) from a book called Public History: A Practical Guide . In understanding how this plays a role in communicating the past to the public, I figured I share with y’all one way to give these words meaning and shed light on a few details that a community historian’s job requires.

Besides the basic requirements such as excellent leadership skills, college education, flexibility, and excellent communication skills, it is important to first know that a community historian should be up to date with politics and management; or at least have a basic understanding of politics and project management (Sayer, 146). These are some factors that Sayer highlights as a basic job description. The real magic, however, happens beyond and takes place on the field.

Community history is defined as “the engagement of a community, with their local history” (Sayer, 114) and a perfect example of this would be the people of San Antonio engaging with the history of the Missions. Being that the Missions are home the San Antonio’s culture, this ties in to how people should be seen in the engagement of local history.

From there, community historians take a responsibility in facilitating public history projects that are “run by or with a specific community of people” (Sayer, 114). There are then two approaches to carry out such projects, either from the top down approach or the history from below approach. The top down approach is led by professional historians who collaborate with the community and the ‘from below’ approach focuses on the community taking charge while sometimes being facilitated by professionals (Sayer, 122).

Moreover, a major component about community historians is that they do not even necessarily have to know all of the local history that surrounds an individual’s job. However, the American Historical Association, AHA for short, which is a society promoting the studies, teaching, and preservation of history, emphasizes that community historians should have, “a willingness to learn the history of the community and become actively involved in its preservation” (Zainaldin, Formwalt, Harris, and Koed).

A last point to this all is that the people related to community history are also oral historians who usually recount memories and stories of events from the past and relate them to the present, (Sayer, 127). This is one way that definitely connects back to the definition discussed earlier.

Nevertheless, one conclusion that can be inferred from this is that, while local interaction may be the desired focus as a community historian, it might not be the only focus. So leave with this in mind, community historians do focus on local histories and as a result, but this narrow focus might lead to limited hours and little pay. This is a realistic approach in the end. However, this still does not completely take away from the point that there are, at least, jobs that do exist in this field.

One neat website by the American Association for State and Local History, AASLH for short, is a nonprofit organization that actually has a page to look up jobs for state and local history related job opportunities in every state in the U.S. and even outside of the U.S. And the AHA even has a career center that gives users the opportunity to view and post positions for jobs!

Final words:  I’ll say, BOOM. You have just learned the basics about community historians. However, if this doesn’t give more perspective to understand how community historians have a role in public history and have jobs for the world, then I’ll just have to work a little harder to persuade the awesomeness entailed.

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