Formation of the Public History Committee

Public History Committee

By Dr Andrew Foster, published 4th January 2010

The Historical Association is pleased to announce the formation of a Committee for Public History which held its first meeting in May 2009.  Dr Andrew Foster, a member of Council, is the first chair of this committee and gave a brief account of its purpose at the AGM held in Leicester this year.

It has been formed to draw together people from within and without the HA interested in History and Archaeology, particularly those from the diverse worlds of the media, museums, galleries, libraries, archives and stately homes.  It also seeks to represent the interests of those teaching history in further and higher education, and to champion the cause of History in local and regional settings and in a variety of forms from personal to national and international.

Fifteen people attended the first meeting and details of the work of the committee will be circulated widely in the hope of involving yet more.  The aim is to reach out to groups associated with what we might term ‘the wider infrastructure of History', as well as those teachers in primary, secondary, further and higher education with whom the HA currently enjoys a high profile.

Notes of meetings will be published on the HA website which will also be used to promote the activities that members of the committee feel come under the auspices of ‘public history'.  An early initiative is to call for all interested parties to post definitions of what they think is conjured up by the very term ‘public history', feeling that this will aid raising public consciousness of History in all its guises.  We shall seek to develop ‘hot links' with other societies in the hope of providing more services to our members.

One important role of the committee may well be that of raising issues on which the HA might need to campaign.  In this spirit, the committee discussed matters such as the current plight of adult education in this country, concerns about cuts to library and archive services, and the need to monitor carefully the impact (good and bad) of the digital revolution on the nature of historical research.  The committee would value hearing from HA members on these and other topics of concern.  We are conscious of the need to collate hard evidence of what is happening on these fronts.

The committee wishes to pick up the baton of helping to promote the cause of local and regional history, an issue previously subsumed within the work of the old branches and membership committee.  We are conscious of the need to work closely with bodies like the British Association for Local History and the Council for British Archaeology in their efforts to stimulate and support activity.  The committee seeks to work closely with all interested parties, for it seeks to act as a forum for debate and exchange of information rather than supplanting valuable work already in existence.  At bottom, it is simply an effort on the part of the Historical Association to reach out to other constituencies interested in the study of History.

Dr Andrew Foster, Chair of the HA Committee for Public History 2009