Conferences play an important role in the life of the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage. They are conceived to pinpoint new areas of inquiry and emerging practices in the public humanities or to generate thought and action around a specific social, historical or cultural issue. Drawing a dynamic mix of local, regional, national and even international speakers and attendees – including scholars, artists, activists, curators, writers, entrepreneurs and cultural professionals – the Center’s conferences provide a space for shared reflection, generating new approaches, new partnerships and new public projects.
What are the country’s leading universities doing to help rectify the problems caused by mass incarceration? Increasingly, they are establishing education programs in prisons, and/or “prison-to-college pipeline” programs to support positive re-entry to give current and formerly incarcerated men, women and youth the opportunity to earn BA-level credits or BA degrees while in prison, or to support them in doing so upon release. The Prison Education Movement: Does Brown Have a Role? – a conference to take place on September 16, 2016 in Petteruti Lounge, Room 201 of the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center at Brown – asks what it would take to establish a Brown Program for Prison Education, and how Brown can work with other Rhode Island institutions to strengthen existing higher education programs in the state’s prisons and to develop new ones. The conference brings together local and national leaders in the prison education movement to speak about their programs, the state of this growing field and Brown’s potential contribution to college-level educational opportunities for Rhode Island’s incarcerated population of more than 3,000 men and women.
Hacking Heritage was a participant-led “unconference” for scholars, students, designers, artists, professionals and anyone else with an interest in cultural heritage, preservation and public history. It provided an opportunity to discuss and debate issues related to cultural heritage; to design and prototype experimental heritage programs and interventions that reach new audiences; and to make new connections with the humanities scholars, preservation and community advocates, museum professionals, tactical urbanists and public artists who are at the forefront of rethinking cultural heritage and preservation programs for the 21st century.
Suddenly, it seems, tours are everywhere: the number of available digital place-based tours grows every day as historical societies, libraries, museums, independent artist-designers and entrepreneurs publish tours of historic or cultural sites, public art, “lost” landscapes, entire cities and more, some relying on a mix of geo-location and text, others on multi-media features like archival photographs, video and audio recordings to create a more immersive experience. Meanwhile, the old-fashioned docent- or citizen-led tour is not only still alive and well, but is undergoing its own renaissance, as social activists and educators design tours that stimulate civic and political engagement. What are the challenges and opportunities associated with designing and implementing place-based tours — and where is this field headed? The New Tour conference brought together the activists, historians, artists and entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of rethinking and redesigning tours for the 21st century to discuss these and other questions. Participants included Michael Epstein, Walking Cinema; Therese Kelly, Los Angeles Urban Rangers; Denise Pinto, Jane’s Walk; and Marc Ruppel, National Endowment for the Humanities.