I am Violet Sun, MA graduate in Cultural Management from the Chinese University of Hong Kong—though I myself am actually from Beijing, mainland China. Over the course of this summer, I have gotten to know the lovely city of Providence, working as an intern at Rhode Island Council for the Humanities and staying at the Carriage House apartment in the 200+ year old Nightingale Brown House, right next door to the historic John Brown House.
If we want the humanities to be more than academic—if we want them to make a difference in the world—we need to change the way we work. We need to rethink some of the traditional assumptions of the humanities. I suggest here seven rules of thumb for doing public humanities.
The Center for Public Humanities at Brown University announces a Faculty and Community Fellowship Program. Brown faculty and community leaders in the arts and humanities will serve one year terms at the Center. Faculty members interested in innovative methods for presenting their research to the public; those conducting research in collaboration with community organizations; and/or faculty seeking to incorporate public engagement in their courses will find support through the fellowship program. Culture workers from the non-profit community can use their fellowship to purs
The public humanities program emphasizes the relationship of theory and practice. Rather than writing a thesis, students undertake two practicums where we connect knowledge learned in the classroom to practice in a professional setting, and reflect critically on these experiences with our academic peers. Practicums allow us to enhance our skills as well as to connect to the field.
At the end of the July, Deputy Director, Anne Valk will be leaving Brown and the Center for Public Humanities for Williams College, where she will be leading public humanities initiatives through a multi-disciplinary appointment. Annie has shaped the Brown Center in the most profound ways. Outgoing director, Steve Lubar hired Annie seven years ago and he vividly remembers a quality Annie mentioned during her interview: “I am a collaborator. I believe in collaboration.”
Since 2012, a group of undergraduate and graduate students from Brown have joined teams from 14 other universities as well as hundreds who served, lived, and were held at GTMO in a process of unearthing and exploring its hidden histories.
The result is the Guantánamo Public Memory Project, an internationally traveling exhibit of surprising stories, images, and documents from before 9-11 and after, as well as dialogues on why GTMO's past matters today. We are thrilled to be hosting the exhibit in Providence from September 2 – 30, 2014.
Background “Oral History and Community Memory,” co-taught by Anne Valk and Holly Ewald, teaches both theory and practice. Students research the history of an area, interviewing people who spent time there. And then they use the archive of interviews to teach others, creating interactive exhibits and tours that reveal Providence’s history and spaces through the stories of those who lived here.
"The area is not there for me to remember . . . It's almost like losing one of your peers."
June Simmons-McRae spoke in reverent tones of her childhood neighborhood of West Elmwood during a recent oral history interview. Once a vibrant neighborhood, West Elmwood was demolished in the early 1960s as part of Providence’s urban renewal movement. The Huntington Industrial Park was built in its place. Today, the neighborhood only lives on in the memories of former residents and the bonds that many friends still share.
Mapping Arts Project: Providence maps the city by locating the black artists who worked in the city. It combines digital technology, university archives, and community partnerships to make historical knowledge accessible and interesting.
Keila Davis: Presenting at the Mapping Arts Event on April 16.
The Westport (Massachusetts) Historical Society asked for our help with their newly acquired 1710 Cadman-White-Handy House. How might they use it as “a cultural hub around which the community can reconnect to its heritage”?
Students in the “Shrine, House, or Home: Rethinking the House Museum Paradigm” course took on the challenge. Molly Kerker, a student in the Public Humanities MA program, was a member of that class. I asked her about this experience.
What was the most challenging aspect of coming up with a plan to interpret the Handy House?