Day 4 Part 1: #NCPH2015 

This year’s Record Store Day serendipitously lined up with the 2015 National Conference on Public History.  Yesterday, I attended three sessions: Selfies, Likes and Tweets, Speed Networking and an afternoon tour of the Ryman Auditorium which I will discuss in Day 4 Part 2.

Selfies, Likes and Tweets

I was pleasantly surprised with the first panel I attended as three out of five speakers were working on a book about The Holocaust and the way younger generations are preserving memory through social media platforms- Instagram and Tumblr in particular.  I was incredibly interested and couldn’t really decide how I felt about it.  What is most perplexing for historians they explained, was the idea that we can use such a contemporary medium to discuss and preserve history and events happening in the past.  How can having a Tumblr blog dedicated to the memory of The Holocaust be a form of archive?  What type of source template can we create to use these sources?  Other challenges included the rapid growth of information and misinformation and the chance that with one deltion of an account, the information can be gone forever.  I had never even thought to search for these Tumblrs but now I think I’d like to take a deeper look.

On Instgram, the major study was on selfies at concentration and death camps and the way people exercise their authority in telling the history of the Holocaust.  First, I was horiffied by this.  Some of the photos she showed us featured smiling teens (almost exclusively young) and various hashtags used to link the photographs to algorhythms in Google.  In one case, a young man posed in front of an oven at Auschwitz with a backwards hat with lots of hashtags including one that was German for “tasteless”.  The fact that he knew he was being tasteless really struck me.  In my opinion, it’s completely disrespectful. I’m not against using social media to tell history or express authority but I think more awareness and caution is needed. 

No matter how i feel, it’s a very interesting discussion. I can’t wait to read the book when it comes out.

Speed Networking

The Speed Networking session at NCPH consisted of rotating graduate students or young professionals (me) going between several professionals well-established in the field.  This was a totally worthwhile working group to sign up for. I met loads of interesting professionals including one woman who worked at the Smithsonian and another who worked for a company that used world-wide networking to partner heritage sites. It was really neat and I learned some great lessons including:

1. Make yourself indispensable.

Jim, who works for the US National Archives in a high executive position said his best piece of advice for young professionals was to make yourself indespensible.  Learn as many new skills as you can to make yourself stand apart from the masses of people who have the same education as you do.  I guess it worked for him!

2. Get your foot in the door and maintain your connections.

Joel Ralph from Canada’s History said that he worked his way up at Canada’s History by working part time for them for a while.   He worked at maintaing his connections there and eventually when a job opening for full time came in he was considered and hired.  Although, as he noted, that isn’t a financially feasible path for everyone, it’s a great lesson.  Plus, you can always remain close with your contacts with a little work.

3. Apply where you want to be.

Michelle from the Smithsonian gave my partner and I a very good, seemingly obvious piece of advice.  It seems so simple but she said “apply where you want to work”.  Working for the Smithsonian seems prestigious (and it is) to the point where many won’t ever apply for fear of not getting a call back.  What do you have to lose?  She got in as an intern.  When I heard that, I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t done it! Why haven’t I applied to intern for The History of New Rock or Jeff Woods?  Why wasn’t my resume in at The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame?  It wouldn’t hurt me. So readers hold me to it!

At the very end of Speed Networking, I met with Jason Steinhauer who worked for the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in New York.  He advised me to join the Oral History Association and to start interviewing musicians. What a cool idea! Look for more on that too.

Overall, #NCPH2015 was a completely worthwhile experience for me, even though I only attended the first day.  I met loads of cool and interesting people and was able to network a fair bit as well.  I look foward to attending the conference over the coming years for a bit longer!

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