Talking History: The Field of History Communication

What is History Communication?

History Communication deals with ways of communicating historical information. It has been likened to the discipline known as Science Communication, and shares many of the same goals, albethey history focused instead of science focused.[1] This field is important for helping public and private sectors understand what historians do and have done.

The spearheading of History Communication began in 2014 when Jason Steinhauer proposed the idea for the National Council on Public History’s (NCPH) annual meeting. A year later, in 2015, the idea was gaining traction and the field was announced by the NCPH to be a sub-discipline of Public History. The discipline is still growing today.[3]

What will History Communicators do?

According to Jason Steinhauer, History Communicators will:[1]

1 – “advocate for policy decisions informed by historical research”

2 – “participate in public debates”

3 – “author opinion pieces”

4 – “engage in conversation with policymakers and the public”

5 – “work diligently to communicate history in a populist tone that has mass appeal across print, video, and audio”

6 – “stand up for history against simplification, misinformation, or attack”

7 – “explain basic historical concepts that” professional historians take for granted

As for the last point, I’m curious what the basic historical concepts are.

History Communication Classes

In 2016, Jason Steinhauer briefly outlined what a History Communication course might include. He mentions that a new course was due in 2017 but I haven’t seen this anywhere yet.[2]

Here’s the brief outline of coursework:

1 – “Take an academic journal article and turn it into a blog post, infographic, series of social media posts, or YouTube video series”

2 – “Learn to pitch journalists on a new historical work or a new history project”

3 – “Put together a fundraising proposal for a history-related project to a foundation that does not specialize in history”

4 – “Learn to brief a federal, state, or local policymaker”

5 – “Learn how to apply marketing techniques to communications about history”

6 – “Extend existing public history museum practices (such as writing label texts and designing tours and educational programming) into the digital realm and other non-traditional venues”

7 – “Become more conversant with the tools and ideas of the digital humanities, including coding, web design, and computer science”

8 – “Learn to craft a compelling historical narrative using audio and visual storytelling”

9 – “Learn to speak on camera and to the media, and to be a “history pundit””

10 – “Integrate theater and improvisational skills into history”

11 – Ruminate on how to be an ethical historian in today’s communications landscape

Final Notes

As always, read the references below to gain greater insight into what this article is based on. Many of the links in the first three references were broken when I accessed them. Please do let me know of any other articles or videos about History Communication that would be good to add to the reference list here.

Moving forward, I think it would be beneficial to create a History Communication bibliography. This would list fundamental and relevant articles and books on the topic. It would also help provide some sense about what literature exists in this field.

Overall I think the idea is great and I hope it keeps gaining more and more traction. I think I’d enjoy taking a HC course.

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References:

1 – Steinhauer, Jason. “Introducing History Communicators” (29 Jan. 2015). https://ncph.org/history-at-work/introducing-history-communicators/. Accessed 4 Feb. 2022.

2 – Steinhauer, Jason. “Building an interdisciplinary discipline” (27 Apr. 2016). https://ncph.org/history-at-work/building-an-interdisciplinary-discipline/. Accessed 4 Feb. 2022.

3 – History Communication Institute. “Evolution of a Concept”. https://historycommunication.com/timeline/. Accessed 4 Feb. 2022.

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