About

About The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook

This dynamic reference source supports inclusive and equity-focused historical work in public settings by:

  • Sharing a knowledge base that invites more people to engage in history projects.
  • Providing concrete examples of how to make history work more relevant.
  • Centering equity, inclusivity, diversity, and public service.
  • Offering accessible windows into the many ways public historians work.

The Inclusive Historian’s Handbook is co-sponsored by the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) and the National Council on Public History (NCPH). It aligns with AASLH’s and NCPH’s goals of building diversity and inclusion across the historical community.

The Handbook provides easily accessible information for historians working in multiple contexts. Authored by field experts, the entries combine practical advice with critical reflections and telling examples. Because it is a multi-authored project, it does not speak with a single, authoritative voice. Rather, authors offer their perspectives and share ideas and recommendations drawn from experiences in the field.

The Handbook is for individuals and groups engaged in historical work in a wide range of settings—not just paid professionals or academic scholars. It is intended to provide community groups, educators, museum professionals (paid and unpaid), students, scholars, activists, historical societies, preservationists, archivists, and others with easy-to-find information that is directly applicable to inclusive history practice. We hope that the content is accessible to all people who are doing historical work, including those who may not identify as historians.

Why “Inclusive Historians”?

The overarching goal—of opening up historical practice to the widest possible audience—makes the Handbook an essential text for empowering people to make history as well as study it.

We recognize that although many public historians and history organizations state their desire to be more inclusive, diverse, equitable, and service-oriented, we have often failed to change our practices in ways that would fundamentally open up the field and fully recognize and acknowledge the multiplicity of voices that are already engaged in doing history. Frequently, well-intentioned individuals and organizations do not have the tools or knowledge to bring new practitioners and audiences into their institutions and to ensure the full inclusion of all people in history-based projects. It is our hope that this resource contributes to ongoing efforts to meet this pressing need.

The Handbook’s editors and advisory committee have not attempted to craft a single definition of “inclusion” or “inclusivity” for the whole resource; rather, we have allowed authors to define these ideas in multiple ways. We recognize that “inclusion” is a problematic concept for some readers, especially for readers in communities of color who have experienced a great deal of exclusion in U.S. society and elsewhere, particularly from historically white institutions. We hope the Handbook will catalyze many productive conversations about inclusion. Many of the authors address issues of power, privilege, and inequality, both past and present, and demonstrate how historians can confront these issues in their work. The entries provide a wide range of methods and recommendations for public historians to consider, reflect upon, and incorporate into their work.

How to Use the Handbook 

We have tried to keep the Handbook’s structure and design as straightforward as possible. The easiest way to get started is to browse the alphabetical list of entries.

Most of the entries have a single word or phrase as a title, such as “Accessibility” or “Civic Engagement.” Each entry provides an introduction to the topic, critical interpretations, helpful examples, and suggested resources. In addition, readers will find “View from the Field” entries, which provide personal reflections on individuals’ experiences as practicing historians, emphasizing issues of equity, inclusion, and service.

Each entry has several tags, which lead readers to related content within the Handbook. The tags are deliberately broad and are intended to serve as guideposts rather than strict categories. They may help readers find content that is most relevant to their work.

The entries also contain links to external content, some of which has been produced by our sponsoring institutions (AASLH and NCPH), but much of which comes from other organizations. At the end of each entry, readers will find a short list of references for further exploration. We hope you will use the Handbook as an entry point to discover helpful resources across the internet and in print.

Here are some ideas for how readers might use the Handbook in their practice:

  • Share it with community partners and use the readings to shape collaborations.
  • Discuss it with administrators, collaborators, colleagues, or boards of trustees who may not fully grasp the importance of equity, inclusion, and service in historical work or who may be unsure about how to approach these issues.
  • Assign selections to students or interns. Discuss ways they can implement the ideas and recommendations in their careers.
  • Engage in personal reflection on one’s own work. Note areas for improvement or ideas to bring to current or future projects.
  • Select specific essays for a team to read together as they embark on a new project.
  • Include it as part of professional development/continuing education initiatives with staff and volunteers.
  • Mine it for additional resources. Follow the links and read the suggested books and articles.
  • Contribute by writing an essay that fills gaps in content.

Propose an Entry

If you wish to write an entry, share your ideas with the editors and advisory committee by emailing us at inclusivehistorian@aaslh.org. Include a possible title or topic (generally one word or phrase), one-paragraph summary, and brief bio. While we cannot guarantee that we will accept all proposals, we will discuss them collaboratively and provide feedback.

In addition to inviting proposals, we welcome general feedback and suggestions to improve the Handbook.

As a digital resource, the Handbook is a living document. Throughout 2019 and 2020, we will be regularly adding content until there are approximately 100 entries in total. By the end of 2020, the “first edition” will be complete. Future “editions,” however, will follow as content is updated and the field continues to grow and change. The editors and advisory committee have intentionally built flexibility into the project’s design. Although the basic structure will remain in place, we have the opportunity to augment the number of entries and easily revise the content. The advantage of a digital resource is that the Handbook can be both iterative and responsive. As the field changes and more practitioners are identified, the Handbook will be transformed.

Acknowledgments

The editors and advisory committee began developing the Handbook in 2016. Throughout a three-year process of development, our team has strived to model open, collaborative, and inclusive practices. We have convened multiple in-person meetings and sessions at the AASLH and NCPH annual conferences, and we have corresponded with advisors, potential authors, and other interested parties. Because of the collaborative nature of the project, we have accumulated many debts. First, we would like to thank all of the authors, many of whom agreed to contribute when the project was still inchoate and helped us sort out crucial details as we went along. We would also like to thank the various participants and discussants in sessions and meetings at the AASLH and NCPH annual conferences in Detroit, Austin, Kansas City, and Hartford. Your ideas and feedback have been invaluable in shaping and refining our vision for the project. Special thanks to the Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta for their support of this project throughout its development process. A big thank you as well to NCPH and AASLH staff, especially Darah Fogarty, and to our web designer, John Mahon, and graphic designer, Jim Booth. AASLH President John Dichtl and NCPH Executive Director Stephanie Rowe have been incredibly supportive of the project from the beginning and have been actively engaged in the process of the Handbook’s creation. Your remarkable leadership of the public history community has made this possible.

Editors and Advisory Committee

Co-Editors:

Modupe Labode (National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution)
William S. Walker (Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta)
Robert Weible (Independent Scholar)

Advisory Committee:

  • Sheila Brennan (Independent; formerly, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media)
  • Aleia Brown (University of Maryland, #MuseumsRespondtoFerguson)
  • Bill Bryans (Oklahoma State University)
  • Priya Chhaya (National Trust for Historic Preservation)
  • Allison Marsh (University of South Carolina)
  • Denise Meringolo (University of Maryland Baltimore County)
  • Ashley Rogers (Whitney Plantation)
  • Julia Rose (Homewood Museum, Johns Hopkins University)
  • Kimberly Springle (Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives)
  • Gretchen Sullivan Sorin (Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta)
  • Jessie Swigger (Western Carolina University)
  • Chris Taylor (State of Minnesota)
  • Amy Wilson (Editor, AASLH Encyclopedia of Local History)