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AMST2650: Introduction to Public Humanities Fall 2017

Steven Lubar
Class: Wednesday 3:00-5:30, Nightingale-Brown House
Office Hours: Thursday 1:30-3:00 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 and talking about history and theory, and considering case studies
to see how theory plays out in practice. Well also consider contemporary issues and projects, applying theory
and comparing them with 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, and performance, in preserving the built 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, the work they do 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 Canvas and the Brown University Library, or available for
purchase at the bookstore. Most are in the Public Humanities Center library. Note that there are many related
books and article on reserve in the library, on Canvas, and in the Centers 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,
Student responsibilities

Please try to attend every class, but if there are other engagements at class time that will be more useful to your
professional development, its up to you to make the call on which is more valuable. Please let me know if youre
not able to make the class, and talk with me or with other students to catch up on class discussions.

Plan to attend the trip to New York City November 21. If theres interest, Ill plan local trips as well.


Read assigned work. 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 the class blog each week before

Browse, throughout the semester, journals and websites that address issues related to the class. Check out the
librarys Public Humanities Resources page. Look at journals, including Art in America, Museums, History News,
and The Public Historian. Peruse useful blogs, including:,,,,,,
and Take a look at 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. Subscribe to mailing lists of
interest. Follow appropriate Twitter feeds. (Some useful lists: public humanities alums, arts-museums-libraries,
CSREA, museum and heritage studies, museum geeks, digital humanities.) Keeping up with the literature, online
and in print, is a professional responsibility.


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 (#amst2650).


Heres what I think makes a good 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.

Im happy to read preliminary drafts of any assignment, or a second, improved, version. Email or come talk to
me if youd like to discuss your assignments as youre working on them, or after youve turned them in. Late
work and make up: I would rather see an excellent paper than a less-good one turned in on time; as long as you
turn in all of your work by the end of the course youll get credit for it.

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.
Plagiarism 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. Talk with me about your ideas.

Submit your papers 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).

How grading works

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
before. Speak up!

Take responsibility for one chapter or article each week (sign up for this in advance). Be prepared o to
summarize it in class, or answer questions about it.

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. A good time to do this: at the 10th anniversary celebration, October 27-28. You can
present your interview in whatever way you like: a short essay, a photo essay, or an audio, video, or
multimedia presentation. Some may be posted on the Centers website. Due November 28. Submit via

Blog writing assignments (15 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. Connect to others blog post, the readings, and
class discussion. Be thought-provoking. Suggest things we should think about before class, and talk

about in class. Use images when possible. Be sure to give your blog entry categories and tags.

Lead a class discussion on a practical topic related to one weeks reading (15 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. Is there
someone that we should invite to the class, either in person or virtually? In class, well consider the
ways that public humanities professionals might deal with the challenges of the topic.

Four short writing assignments (30 percent of grade total)

Write a short paper, about 500-1000 words, about each of the four parts of the course. These papers,
due at the last class of each part, should address the readings and class discussions. They should be
more than a summary, though. Consider issues like: How did the readings agree or disagree? What was
most interesting or useful to you? How might this theory be applied in your work? Due 9/26,
10/24,11/14, and 12/19.

A useful resource for this kind of writing: They Say, I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing.

One longer writing assignment (10 percent of grade)

Write a paper, 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. Due 12/22.

Expectations of time required

Over 13 weeks, students will spend 2 hours per week in class (32 hours total). Reading and
preparing for the seminar meetings, including blog posts, is expected to take up approximately 8 hours
per week (104 hours). Writing and other assignments is estimated to total approximately 50 hours
over the course of the term.

The Dean of the College asks that this information be on all syllabi:
Students seeking accommodations due to a disability or medical condition, should contact Student and
Employee Accessibility Services. Students in need of short term academic advice or support can contact one
of the deans in the Dean of the College office. Students seeking psychological support services should contact
Counseling and Psychological Services. Please be familiar with the Academic Conduct Code.

Class Schedule

Week 1 (September 6) Introductions
Introductions, explanations, etc. About the course. What is public humanities?
Curating an exhibition: What is Public Humanities? A History Rewriting the
Wikipedia page on Public Humanities. Rethinking the @publichumans twitter,
instagram and tumblr feeds. Introducing the interview a public human project.

Part 1: The Public

Week 2 (September 13) The Public Sphere
Questions: How have cultural theorists defined the word public? What are your
assumptions about public and the way this term is defined/used? How do
different institutions (government, museums, grassroots, libraries, academia)
define "public"?

Jennifer Barrett, Museums and the Public Sphere (2011)

Jrgen Habermas, The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article (1964), New German
Critique, no. 3 (1974).

Mary Mullen, Public Humanities (Victorian) Culture Problem, Cultural Studies,


Week 3 (September 20) Connecting with the Public

Questions: What is public humanities? What is the common ground? What are the
limitations? Is how to make the humanities public a different question than how to
make science public? How to make culture public? How to make art public? How can
looking at different disciplines expand our idea of public humanities? How do
international perspectives on these questions differ from U.S. perspectives?

Hilde Heine, Public Art: Thinking Museums Differently (2006)

Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics, Public Culture 14, no. 1 (2002): 49
90, or abridged version

3:00-4:15 Visit from Stacy Kastner, Writing Center.

Part 2: The Other

Week 4 (September 27) Contact Zones
Question: Looking into the frameworks and processes through which museums and
institutions handle cross-cultural interactions, cultural appropriation provides a
lens into a difficult emotional and legal responses. What is the responsibility of
institutions to the communities they study and display? How do institutions
understand and discuss cultural ownership, appreciation, and parody of culture?

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)

Lisa Gilbert, Loving, Knowing Ignorance: A Problem for the Educational Mission of
Museums, in Curator 59:2 (2016)

Week 5 (October 4) Representing Ourselves

Question: Working through the concepts of exoticization, other, and objectivity,
consider how empathy fits into the access and understanding of a culture. How do
we use empathy - cognitive and affective - to contextualize histories? How do we use
empathy to understand and contextualize others? How do we use empathy to
understand and contextualize ourselves?


Jennifer Gonzales, Subject to Display: Reframing Race in Contemporary Installation

Art (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2011).


Fusco, Coco, Paula Heredia, and Guillermo Gmez-Pea. The Couple in the Cage: A
Guatianaui Odyssey. Chicago, Ill.: Video Data Bank, 200.

Tanya Brugera, Tatlin's Whisper #5 (view on youtube)

Week 6 (October 11) Shared Authority/Engagement/Participation

What are the ethical obligations of an institution to the public(s) it serves? How can
we balance the need for institutional authority with dialogic forms of learning? In
what context is one more appropriate than the other and how much is everyone
supposed to get?


Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, Laura Koloski, Letting Go? Sharing Historical Authority in
a User-Generated World (2011)

Pew Center for Art and Culture, Push Me, Pull You: Questions of Co-authorship

The Hammer Museums Public Engagement site is a useful resource

Week 7 (October 18) Working with community

Glenn Wharton, The Painted King: Art, Activism, and Authenticity in Hawaii

Pablo Helguera, Education for Socially Engaged Art, Chapter 2 Community

Part 3: The Past
Week 8 (October 25) Past and present
Questions: What is history? Who makes history? How does power and difference
shape historical narrative?

Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History

Week 9 (November 1) Myths and Memorials

Questions: How are myths made? What role does denial/myth/nostalgia play in
historical memory? How do memorials capture, create, and freeze memories?

Dell Upton, What can and cant be said: Race, uplift and monument building in the
contemporary South (2015)

Mitch Landrieu, Speech on the Removal of Confederate Monuments in New

Orleans, New York Times, May 23, 2017

Notes on an Imagined Plaque to be Added to the Statue of General Nathan Bedford

Forrest, Upon Hearing that the Memphis City Counci has Voted to Move it,
Memory Palace podcast

Rebecca Carter, Valued Lives in Violent Places: Black Urban Placemaking at a Civil
Rights Memorial in New Orleans, City and Society (2014) 26: 239261.

Week 10 (November 8) Memorials today

Questions. How do we use history for political goals? How do representations of
the past support political agendas? What is the role of politics in commemorating
the past?

Erika Doss, Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America (2010)

---------->Saturday, November 11: Field trip to New York (Note: date may change)
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

Marita Sturken, The 9/11 Memorial Museum and the Remaking of Ground Zero,
American Quarterly, June 2015

James Young, The Stages of Memory at Ground Zero: The National 9/11 Memorial
Process, The Stages of Memory: Reflections on Memorial Art, Loss, and the
Spaces Between, pp. 19-77

Part 4: Experts
Week 11 (November 15) Working the Past
Amy M. Tyson, The Wages of History: Emotional Labor on Public Historys Front Lines

Ask a Slave and Interpreting Race on Public Historys Front Line, interview with
Azie Mira Dungey, The Public Historian 36:1, February 2014

----------> November 22: Holiday - No Class

Week 12 (November 29) Accessibility

Question: How to create inclusive, visitor-centered experiences that engage the public?
Knowing the public and knowing the value of public humanities work, what steps do
institutions need to take to reimagine and engage their communities?


Nina Simon, The Art of Relevance (2016)

Stephanie N. Stallings and Bronwyn Mauldin, Public Engagement in the Arts: A

Review of Recent Literature

Making Museums Work for Visitors in John H. Falk, Identity and the Museum
Visitor Experience (2009)

Week 13 (December 6) Public Humanities and Activism

Questions: Is public humanities just activism by a different name? How do politics,
personal and professional, shape the work of public humanists? Whats the contact
between aesthetic and political innovation? How can we be radical, how radical do we
want to be, and what kind of radical best serves our purposes?

Ruth Sergel, See You in the Streets: Art, Action, and Remembrance (2016)

Filene, Benjamin, Passionate Histories: Outsider History-Makers and What They

Teach Us, The Public Historian, 34 (2012), 1133

Mary Mullen, Public Humanities (Victorian) Culture Problem, Cultural Studies,