National Council on Public History 2019 Annual Meeting and Conference at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, CT. on March 27-30, 2019
Early Bird Registration is now available here
A Preliminary Program is available here
A greeting from the National Council on Public History’s President, Marla Miller:
Welcome to Hartford! It is not always the case that the NCPH president gets to host an annual meeting in her home region, so I’m especially thrilled to welcome you to Hartford, the Connecticut River Valley, and New England.
I have been smitten with the city of Hartford since I first laid eyes on it over thirty years ago, when as an undergraduate attending the Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Program I passed under the Gothic Revival castellations of the Wadsworth Atheneum—the nation’s first public art museum—founded in 1842. I’ve since come to appreciate the city’s literary history, as home to the poet Wallace Stevens, to novelists Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain, and so many others, and not long ago made a deep dive into the city’s African American past to understand the lives and labors of 19th century dressmakers Mehitable Jacobs Primus and Addie Brown—women who well knew the work of mending and repair, remaking and restoring.
The work of public historians so often involves restoration and conservation, revitalization and reparation as we attend to tears, breaks, and ruptures, deterioration and damage, both tangible and intangible. Our theme, “Repair Work,” invites us to consider the various ways in which public historians labor to mend, to rebuild and reclaim, and to heal.
Ours is an appropriate theme as we confront challenges of deindustrialization, decline, and violence, while also pursuing paths toward recovery and rebirth. Hartford offers a productive setting for such contemplations.
The Connecticut River itself is a story of repair and recovery. Once plagued by industrial and agricultural run-off, four decades of focused advocacy and effective conservation partnerships restored the waterway’s health; by 1998 the Connecticut River was named an American Heritage River and in 2013, the Connecticut River and its watershed was designated the nation’s first National Blueway. Across the city, Hartford is reclaiming its abundance of onetime industrial sites for housing, for the arts, and for modern work spaces. Perhaps nothing says it better than the vivid royal blue onion dome that sits atop Samuel Colt’s Patent Firearms Manufacturing Company (and the utopian village he created around it): once the height of industrial design, Coltsville in time faced a long period of decline and eventual abandonment, until decades of advocacy brought forth its restoration (partial) and now renewal(forthcoming) as a National Historical Park. From the award-winning preservation of Charles Bullfinch’s Old State House (1792) to the renovation of the Modernist Hotel Sonesta (1964), Hartford’s embrace of, and investment in, its historic fabric is advancing efforts to revitalize the city—work that provides an energizing backdrop to these important conversations.
To help us think through our own relationships to repair work, our hardworking and thoughtful Program Committee has gathered together sessions teeming with opportunities to share strategies, concerns, failures, and successes. The conference also offers means by which to acquire and sharpen the tools of our practice. The meeting will include Preservation Leadership Training in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation alongside workshops on podcasting, grant-writing, oral histories, history relevance, consulting, and immersive gameplay. Meanwhile, our stellar Local Arrangements Committee has arranged outings to advance conversations around development and redevelopment, the preservation of Indigenous, African American, and Anglo American pasts, and the role historic sites can play in addressing contentious contemporary issues.
We particularly hope that this gathering can help us all confront epidemic gun violence and contemplate ways that public historians can help the nation address this crisis. From the plenary to sessions to tours—including a digital hackathon workshop on the documentation of mass gun violence and a tour to the emerging Coltsville National Historical Park—we will look hard together at this pressing issue.
Our annual meeting is itself an occasion for repair and renewal; we gather to restore our vision, to reset our priorities, to refresh longstanding ties, and to create new ones. In the 18th century (the historical era I know best), the verb “repair” also meant to return, or to make one’s way—and so I invite you to repair with me to Hartford, and to NCPH!