Draft Plan Available for Review

Thanks to the InDesign talents of Amy Platt, one of our graduate students, our draft plan is complete and ready for internal review. I sent the message below out to all of you students and the people who helped us with the project. I’ll keep you posted on the comments it receives.

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NPS Colleagues,

Greetings! As you may recall,  I’m the Chief Ranger & Historian at FOVA, and I also teach history at Portland State University. Earlier this year, my NPS Public History Field School students began creating a prospective four-year podcasting plan for the NPS’ Civil War 150th Commemoration, and many of you and your colleagues helped out. Thank you!!

I’m happy to say that a draft document has been compiled and is now available for you to share thoughts or feedback before it is finalized.
You can find the draft document in a temporary online home here, in .pdf format: http://go.usa.gov/Zbf

Please feel free to share any feedback on the content of this student project with me directly by July 8, 2011. We’ll make any final tweaks and then post the final document shortly thereafter. With so many Civil War resources available in the NPS, narrowing it down to 47 units was extremely challenging. You may or may not agree on the sites and tangibles the class has chosen — and the vetting process was exceedingly challenging —  but I welcome you to share any suggestions on the content (including the typos — yes, a few pesky ones made it past our editorial team).

Regardless of whether or not the plan comes to fruition, it represents a very strong example of how individual parks — some not traditionally associated to the Civil War — can be connected through a strong national framework.

Thank you for all of your support on this project; from the feedback I’ve received, it was a fun but demanding class that provided unparalleled access to units of the NPS! Also, a huge thanks to graduate student Amy Platt for producing the final draft in NPS format via InDesign.


P.S. In addition, a video compilation of their final presentations can be found on the class blog here: https://hst409509.wordpress.com/

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Video: Final Student Presentations

Here’s a video I put together of your final student presentations a few weeks ago. Again, these were nicely done!

Your classmate Amy Platt and I have been editing and formatting your final submissions into a formal report to NPS this quarter, and it should be ready to submit and post in the next two weeks. I think you’ll be very impressed to see all of your work pulled together in one document.

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Information for Final Presentations

On Friday, our final class session will be held at the historic Grant House at 1101 Officers Row, just north of our usual venue.

It seems particularly fitting that we use this space, since it served from 1850 through the Civil War era as the Army’s post and department/district commander’s quarters, and thus a nexus of military, political, social, and economic communication in the Pacific Northwest. Also, many of the young Army officers with occasion to frequent this building grew to later fame as generals on both sides during the Civil War, including Ulysses S. Grant,  George Pickett, Phil Sheridan, George McClellan, George B. Crittenden, Gabriel Rains, Phil Kearney, and several others. So, the nature of you presentations ties in well to our venue.

We’ll be upstairs in the Fowler Room, pictured at right (for those of you who like to know the lay of the land).

It is a small room, but very typical of board rooms where you, as current and future public historians, give and will give professional presentations. In fact, a quick web search will turn up a number of nonprofits, CEO networks, and corporate boards who utilize this same space.

You’ll be presenting from a small desktop podium on the far end of the table, and we’ll be recording digital audio and video for future posting. Again, we’ll need to keep the presentations to five minutes per theme.

The presentations will begin promptly at 10:00 a.m., but I’ll be there earlier to set up and work through any last-minute hitches, glitches, or hiccups. You don’t need to be on site at 9:00 a.m., but you’re welcome to — especially if you have media or would like a run-through. Please plan on being on site and ready to go by 9:45 a.m.

I have received some slides from Sean, so I’ll be projecting these. At the last class, the consensus was that folks will not be using digital media in the presentations, but the offer still stands if you’d like. If you DO, then I must receive your media by 4:00 p.m. today. This will allow me to streamline tomorrow’s presentations and avoid down time switching out thumb drives, etc. Thanks for understanding this firm deadline.

Although the room is small and we will be recording the presentations, I’m arranging a small but influential group of people to serve as our audience.

Have I missed anything? If you have any more questions, please let me know. I’m really looking forward to your presentations!

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Additional Guidance for Final Project and Presentation

Greetings! Since we’re in the home stretch, here is the promised additional guidance for our final project and presentation.

Final Presentations

The final presentations will take place on Friday, March 11 at 10:00 a.m. Based on the difficulty I’ve encountered facilitating a live video feed, I’m planning to digitally record these for a vidcast or vodcast (depending on your choice of terms) and then post them online. I’m also planning a live studio audience (but no sitcom laugh track).

Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Please keep these presentations to no more than five minutes. If you’ve not encountered it yet, you’ll soon find that part of the challenge of public history is editing work DOWN to meet specific requirements — be they a limited word count, file size, target length, etc. Several of the midterm presentations went significantly beyond the five-minute mark (without factoring-in time for questions), so please focus your presentation with this goal in mind.
  2. You are welcome to bring and utilize media such as projected images via PowerPoint, but please be sure that they contribute to and not detract from your presentation. If you are interested in doing so, please coordinate directly with me, and have your media ready to go on a USB drive via a file in .ppt format.
  3. Please be sure to organize your presentation, dress in appropriate professional (business-casual) attire, speak clearly and directly, and adhere to standard practice for professional presentations. Since you had the opportunity to work out any kinks or butterflies during the midterm presentations, I think you’re all ready to take the next step!
  4. Your presentation should highlight your Final Project: the podcast proposals for the three parks associated with your theme (see below).

Final Project: Podcast Proposal (3 per theme)

Each individual podcast proposal will consist of:

  1. A list of specific tangibles, intangibles, and universal concept(s) from your chosen park. Especially with the tangibles, please make these are as compelling and narrowly focused as possible – rather than, say, listing the park itself as a tangible, chose a particular item such as an artifact, photograph, collection item, monument, landscape item, or something similar. It is critical that you work with park staff and employ their expertise in selecting these. The more dialed-in your tangibles are, the better you can employ them to support that they support your theme statement.
  2. A list of specific primary source materials to be used to support and enhance your episode, including letters, quotes, artifacts, and at least 3 images (200 dpi) to be used in the report;
  3. A minimum of three secondary source materials that may provide context or further reading. Please err toward more recent publications.
  4. A list of correct names and titles of the NPS staff contacts with whom you’ve worked and with whom someone enacting this plan could use as points of contact.
  5. A compelling one-sentence interpretive theme statement for each prospective podcast that meets the NPS standards we have discussed, viewed, read about, and applied in our in-class work. This statement must link at least one tangible to at least one universal concept from your list. Hint: This is the most important element of your proposal!
  6. An abstract of approximately 500 words that a) describes and summarizes your proposed episode and b) places it in context. For the latter contextual portion, please be sure to articulate – using specific references –how your proposal will:
    1. support the NPS goals and fits the thematic framework established in guiding documents;
    2. tie to current research and scholarship (including NPS in-house projects);
    3. fill in any gaps in current and past interpretation;
    4. help foster public understanding, connection, and stewardship.

Reflective Essay (one per assigned theme)

For each theme assigned (not each park or podcast proposal), please provide a short, reflective summary essay of approximately 800 to 1000 words wherein you describe your experience this quarter working with the NPS thematic approach to historic site interpretation (in general) and the Civil War sesquicentennial (more specifically), with a focus on your experience connecting your theme to different park units. Has your understanding of the Civil War changed since the course began? How about your understanding of the National Park Service and its role? The field of public history? How might interaction with the parks’ public historians have shaped or changed your initial thinking on how best to connect? Did you encounter any surprises or revelations? Any stumbling blocks? What readings or resources did you find particularly applicable? Any feedback for me in crafting future courses like this?

Optional Assignment: Draft Podcast Narrative

In response to several queries, students wanting to draft a podcast narrative are welcome to do so; however, it is not a course requirement. Students should only undertake this after consultation with me; I’ll need to make sure that you have all of the required class assignments squared away and in good standing before moving in this direction. Any draft narratives may be added as an appendix to the report.

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Midterm Presentations Now Online

To follow-up on my e-mail earlier this week, I’ve posted all of your midterm presentations online in .mp3 format.

You can access them by clicking here.

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Update on Friday’s Presentations

In case any of you missed my e-mail message earlier:

As promised, here are my thoughts regarding Friday’s class. As you can see in the syllabus, I’m expecting you to “report-out midway through the class and provide the class with a status report summarizing [your] plan and soliciting feedback from [your] peers.”

Please plan your presentation to be no more than 5 minutes (excluding questions or discussion) and begin by introducing yourself, your theme, and the parks you’re working with. Please also anticipate an audience outside of the classroom, too — and structure your presentations accordingly. I’ll be digitally recording each talk, adapting all of them into a podcast format, and then uploading them to the web and class blog. Your audience will be me, your peers, your park liaisons, and many of the 1500+ folks who access the class blog.

In addition to a quick intro and general update, share with the class your experience connecting your parks to your theme. Please contribute ideas, insights, questions, and knowledge gained from our readings, resources and discussions that help to clarify and advance an understanding of the class project and how your work fits in. Has interaction with the park’s public historians changed your initial thinking on how best to connect? How so? Have you encountered any surprises or revelations thus far? Any stumbling blocks? What readings or resources have you found particularly applicable? I know that there are several of you who have not yet connected with parks, and that’s okay. This should not keep you from fully participating in the assignment. It should go without saying that, as with any presentation, you should be honest but professional in the way you might share criticism.

Also — as a hint — this is an opportunity to road-test your ideas for the final presentation, where you’ll be expected to, in part, “be able to clearly and concisely describe [your] project, being sure to emphasize 1) how it meets NPS goals and fits the thematic framework established in guiding documents, and fills in the gaps of current and past interpretation, and 2) how it will help foster visitor understanding, connection, and stewardship.”

Lastly, the mechanics of your presentation will also factor into your grade, so please keep to the 5-minute time constraint, speak clearly and in an organized fashion, and have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Questions and discussion should be kept to the end, and will not factor into the presentation time allotment.

NOTE: PowerPoint slides, images, props, or other media are neither required nor recommended  for this assignment unless absolutely necessary. I’m more interested in what you have to say than how you illustrate it.

If you have any questions, please let me know.

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Update on Responses & Example of Support for Our Work

As of this morning, we’ve heard back from 20 of the 45 park units selected and contacted. Not a bad response rate so far!

Also, the energy, interest, and enthusiasm in these responses is heartening.

Here’s one case in point: Superintendent Rolf Diamant at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. At first glance, this park — and the state of Vermont in general — probably wouldn’t immediately jump to mind in reference to the Civil War era, but it now should. And our project can help!

What Superintendent Diamant and his staff have created is a series of compelling programs and media that use the people, places, and issues of Civil War-era Woodstock, Vermont to interpret the wartime home front. If not the only park in the NPS that is doing so, it is certainly leading the pack.

Superintendent Diamant sent several helpful documents, including the walking tour brochure Causes and Consequences: The Civil War Home Front in Woodstock, Vermont, a brochure from the Vermont Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission entitled  Homefront & Battlefront: Vermont, the Nation, & Civil War, and the DVD Woodstock’s Civil War: A Speakchorus (pictured at left). He also connected us to the The Civil War Book of Days, a project of the Vermont Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and the Vermont Humanities Council.

This information will be (and probably already is) of great use to Mary and her theme The Civilian Experience, as it provides the Big Picture, the local connection, and a window into the tangibles available in the park. Hopefully, it will also make connecting with park staff easier and efficient. A big thanks to Superintendent Diamant for his support of our project.

As another example (and as you’ve probably also seen) NPS staff members and others have begun commenting directly on your theme pages. For examples, check out the post of Ahna Jones, Historian at the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, over at the Industry & Economics theme page, and that of J.M. Rudy, a contributor to the blog Interpreting the Civil War: Connecting the Civil War to the American Public, over at The Ordeal of the Border States theme page.

As others of you are finding, too, many of the parks we’ve selected are quick to provide support, advice, and specific staff contacts. I’ll be following up with those parks that haven’t yet responded, but so far those parks that have responded have set the bar pretty high!

Do others of you have initial experiences or contacts you’d like to share? If so, please do so in the comments section below.

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