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Introduction to Public Humanities

Fall 2015
Steven Lubar
Class: Wednesday 3:00-5:30, Nightingale-Brown House
Office Hours: Monday 2-4 or by appointment

Course Description
This graduate seminar considers some of the big questions in the public humanities, providing a background
that will help students understand the choices made in preserving, interpreting, and presenting art, history and
culture. We address these issues by reading theory and discussing case studies to see how theory plays out in
practice, and by considering contemporary projects in the light of both theory and historical examples.
The course is organized into four parts. Part 1 addresses the idea of the public. Who are the publics in public
humanities? What is the relationship that we, as professionals, should have with them? How might we best work
with them? Part 2 considers the subject of much of our work: the other; what is our relationship with the
objects of our interpretations? Part 3 focuses one kind of other: the past. How does society decide whats
worth remembering? What role do we, as public humanities professionals, play in shaping, sharing, and
interpreting public memories? And finally, we end the course by considering ourselves, the experts. What is
the nature of public humanities work? How does the work we do shape us?
How the course works: theres a book, or several articles, to read each week. You should also keep up with
contemporary writing on the web and in popular and professional media. In each class, well discuss the reading,
and consider contemporary issues that raise some of the same questions.
The point of this course is not to critique the literature, but to learn from it. Our goal is to understand the issues
in working with culture, and with the public. As you read, and in class discussions, try to come up with a set of
rules, concerns, techniques, and considerations for public humanities work. How might what we read be applied
to exhibits, collections, performance, in preserving the build environment, and interpreting the world around
us? How do these authors, and the public and professionals they write about, think about culture, the public, the
past, and the institutions in which they work?

Course Prerequisites
This course is designed for graduate students interested in work in public humanities institutions.

Required and Optional Texts and Materials

All of the readings for the course are available online through Canvas and the Brown University Library, or
available for purchase at the bookstore and on reserve at the Library and the Public Humanities Center. Canvas
includes a range of additional readings. Note that there are many related books and article on reserve in the
library, on Canvas, and in the JNBC library, and Ill add more as the course progresses. Additional readings
(including books and articles considered for the class but not in the syllabus) are available at my Zotero page,

Course policies
Attendance: Please try to attend every class, but if there are other engagements at class time that will also be
useful to your education and professional development, its up to you to make the call on which is more likely to
be valuable. Please let me know if youre not able to make the class.
Participation: The class only works if you participate. Please read the readings, read further in areas of interest,
write on the blog and on Twitter, and come to class prepared to discuss what youve read and thought about.
Participation is evaluated by the quality of your comments: Im interested not so much in critique, or your
opinions of the readings, as in what useful approaches and techniques you can gain from them. Be constructive:
refer to the readings, present new information from your experience and from outside readings, and suggest
new ideas. Participation should be a dialog, building on my remarks, and other students contributions, as part of
a conversation. You should speak up when you have something to say; in general, that should be more than once
in each class. Continue the conversation beyond class, through Twitter or other social media
Late work and make up: I would rather see an excellent paper than a less-good one turned in on time. Exceptions
are when we are working with an outside organization or on group projects: in those cases, meeting deadlines is
essential. As long as you turn in all of your work by the end of the course youll get credit for it. Im happy to read
preliminary drafts of any assignment, or a second, improved, version. And email or come talk to me if youd like
to discuss your assignments as youre working on them, or after youve turned them in.
Field trips: Plan to attend the trip to New York City November 20.

Student responsibilities

Read assigned work. Note: Read strategically, to get what you need out of the book. On how to read for
graduate seminars see, for example, Miriam Sweeneys or Larry Cebulas blog posts.

Read, throughout the semester, newspapers, journals and websites that address issues related to the
class, for example, the New York Times, Art in America,, Museum News, The Public
Historian, CRM,,,,, or Browse the books in the Center for Public Humanities library. You
should also follow and browse my blog and the Center for Public Humanities blog occasionally. Follow
appropriate Twitter feeds. Keeping up with the literature, online and in print, is a professional

Read the class blog each week before class.

Discussion (20 percent of grade)

Participate in class discussion. Good discussion requires everyone to contribute. Come to class
prepared with interesting things to say. Listen to what other students say. Build on whats been said

Participate in out-of-class discussion, online. Post links and comments on Twitter, using the hashtag

#amst2650. Note interesting bits in the class reading. Call our attention to events, exhibits, programs,
and writings that you think will be of interest. On twitter, follow @lubar, @publichumans, and others
in the class.
Interview with a graduate of the Public Humanities program (10 percent of grade)
Interview an alumnus/alumna of the public humanities program about life after the M.A. The
interview should focus on the work that individual now does and how it relates to the larger field of
public humanities. You can present your interview in whatever way you like: a short essay, a photo
essay, or an audio, video, or multimedia presentation suitable for posting on the Centers website. Draft
due October 8, final product due October 22. Submit via Canvas.
Blog writing assignments (20 percent of grade)
By Tuesday before each class, post to the blog ( a short (50-
200 word) essay related to the reading for that week. (Do at least ten of these.) For example, you might
post some theoretical or historiographical background, a critique of the argument, a summary of some
aspect of the reading, or a related case study. Well use these to help guide our class discussion. NOTE:
the blog is open to the public.
Heres what makes a good blog post. The first sentence, or perhaps the first paragraph, should make it
clear what youre writing about and your point of view. Consider your audience: the main audience for
this writing is the rest of the class, so you can assume a good bit of knowledge and background. Make
an argument. Use words like I think or I suggest. Use images when possible. Be sure to give you blog
entry categories and tags.
Lead a class discussion on a practical topic related to one weeks reading (20 percent of grade)
The issues we address in this course have real-world, political, practical implications, and well spend
an hour or so of each class addressing them. Sign up to take responsibility for one weeks practical
conversation. Pick a topic from the news or from the world of public humanities institutions, meet with
me to discuss it, and share with the class some readings on the topic the Monday before class. In class,
well consider the ways that public humanities professionals might deal with the challenges of the
Two longer writing assignments (15 percent of grade each)
Write two papers, each about 1000-2000 words, on any topic of interest to you and appropriate to the
class. For example: you might write a case study of a public humanities project or institution, either
historical or contemporary, based on research in the library or interviews; a comparative study of
several projects or institutions; a theoretical exploration; or something else. Your paper might suggest
considerations and guidelines for institutions doing this kind of work.
Heres what I think makes a good short paper: Tell a story. Make an argument. Connect to class
readings and discussions. Use a range of examples. First-person is fine. A memorandum is fine. You can
write for me, or for a different audience, for example, the director of the organization youre writing
about, or the general public; let me know.

Your writing should be your original work, based on class work, your reading, experience, and
conversations. Footnote anything you use from books, articles, interviews, or the web. Note ideas that
came from other people. Failure to do so can result in failing the class.
Im open to other formats of presentation: video, audio, websites, exhibits, whatever.... Consider
writing your paper in an open, on-line format, for example Medium.
Submit your paper via Canvas. In addition to my review, your paper will be peer-reviewed (Canvas will
randomly assign another student to read and comment on it). Paper 1 is due October 23. Paper 2 is due
December 15.

Class Schedule
Week 1 (September 9) Introductions
Introductions, explanations, etc. What is public humanities? Curating an exhibition:
What is Public Humanities? A History Rewriting the Wikipedia page on Public
Humanities. Introducing the interview a public human project.

Part 1: The Public

Week 2 (September 16) The Public Sphere
Jennifer Barrett, Museums and the Public Sphere (2011)
Week 3 (September 23) Connecting with the Public

Hilde Heine, Public Art: Thinking Museums Differently (2006)
Week 4 (September 30) Sharing authority
Pew Center for Art and Culture, Push Me, Pull You: Questions of Co-authorship
Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, Laura Koloski, Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority
in a User-Generated World (2011), introduction and pp. 68-123 and 206-
Claire Bishop, The social turn: collaboration and its discontents, Art Forum,
February 2006, pp. 179-185

Part 2: The Other

Week 5 (October 7) Contact Zones
James Clifford Museums as Contact Zones in Routes: Travel and Translation in the
Late Twentieth Century, 1997.
Steven Conn, Whose Objects? Whose Culture? The Contexts of Repatriations, in
Conn, Do Museums Still Need Objects?, pp. 58-85.
Kwame Anthony Appiah, Whose Culture is it? in the New York Review of Books, Vol.
53, No. 2, Feb. 9, 2006.
Introduction, in Richard Kurin, Reflections of a Culture Broker (1997)
Introduction to Cultural Appropriation: A Framework for Analysis, introduction to
Borrowed Power: Essays on Cultural Appropriation
Week 6 (October 14) - Collecting and displaying the exotic
Sally Price, Paris Primitive: Jacques Chirac's Museum on the Quai Branly (2007)
Paula Heredia and Coco Fusco, The couple in the cage video (through Canvas)
Week 7 (October 21) Working with community
Glenn Wharton, The Painted King: Art, Activism, and Authenticity in Hawaii

The Past
Week 8 (October 28) Past and present
Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History
Week 9 (November 4) Communities, past and present
Stephanie E. Yuhl, A Golden Haze of Memory: The Making of Historic Charleston
Blain Robert and Ethan J. Kytle, Looking The Things in the Face: Slavery, Race, and
the Commemorative Landscape in Charleston, South Carolina, 1865-2010, Journal
of Southern History 78, no. 3 (August 2012): 63984.
Week 10 (November 11) - Remembering the past
Sanford Levison, Written in stone: public monuments in changing societies (1998)
David Glassberg, "Public History and the study of memory." The Public Historian . 19,
no. Spring 1996 (Mar 1996)
Responses to Glassberg article: The Public Historian, Vol. 19, No. 2, Spring, 1997
Week 11 (November 18) Remembering 9/11
Erika Doss, Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (2010)
---------->November 20: Field trip to New York
Adam Gopnik, Stones and Bones: Visiting the 9/11 memorial and museum, New
Yorker, July 7, 2014
Rick Beard, Exhibit Review: The National September 11 Memorial & Museum, The
Public Historian Vol. 37 No. 1, February 2015
---------->November 25: Holiday - No Class

Week 12 (December 2) Working the Past
Amy M. Tyson, The Wages of History: Emotional Labor on Public Historys Front
Lines (2013)
Ask a Slave and Interpreting Race on Public Historys Front Line, interview with
Azie Mira Dungey, The Public Historian 36:1, February 2014
Week 13 (December 9) Last week: Your role in public humanities
Filene, Benjamin, Passionate Histories: Outsider History-Makers and What They
Teach Us, The Public Historian, 34 (2012), 1133