Each month, The Center for Public Humanities will interview a humanities scholar or community member and ask them everything from why they believe the humanities are important to what they're currently binge-watching. We hope that our new blog series, Coffee & Questions, will inspire you, introduce you to a variety of people and fields, as well as create new conversations.
Our fifth guest is Kristen Baldwin Deathridge. She is an assistant professor of history at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, where she works with both undergraduate and graduate public history programs. She earned her PhD in Public History from Middle Tennessee State University in 2012 and an MA in Archaeology from the University of Reading in 2005. She specializes in working with communities to help preserve their stories and places.
What inspires you in your current position/role?
Hopefully this doesn't seem cliched, but the students that I work with inspire me so much. Helping folks work through new (to them) concepts is always a pleasure, but I'm truly inspired by the energy, creativity and passion that some of my students bring to their work.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
Several at once, which means there's always something to do when one project hits a slow period. I'll share a few. I've been working with a local group, the Junaluska Heritage Association to raise money for a monument for unmarked African American graves in the town cemetery. Click here to check it out. Working with another local group, the Lincoln Heights Recreation Corporation (alumni of a Rosenwald school), we've recently earned a grant to hold a digitization day event. Alumni and friends of the school can come and have their memorabilia scanned or photographed; there will also be public programs to share the history of the place. I'm also continuing work on several traditional scholarly writing projects.
Why do you believe that the humanities are important to everyone, and not just people in academia?
Languages, literature, history, philosophy, art, anthropology - people use what we call "the humanities" to explore what it means to be human, whether they recognize it in those terms or not. People use elements of the humanities as they contemplate their place(s) in the world. Perhaps more importantly, folks use elements of the humanities to understand one another; we learn from the creative output of others and ask new questions.
What shows are you currently binge-watching?
I'm really behind on my binging! Right now I'm watching Jessica Jones on Netflix. It is intense and mesmerizing; I won't say more because I don't want to spoil it for anyone slower than me.
What is the worst job that you had while working through your degree and what would you tell your past self now?
I had pretty good luck with jobs, honestly, but the most stressful was working as a bank teller. I'd tell myself two things. One: stop taking on other peoples' stress; you have plenty of your own; just help one person at a time. (I did learn this eventually, but I wish I'd gotten there more quickly) Two: start that 401(k) they offered you right away!--you'll end up in this job longer than you think. Practical, I know, but I really wish that I'd started saving earlier, even if it was only a little bit.
Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your exciting projects and perspective on the humanities.
Check back next month for more Coffee & Questions. In case you missed Jacob Miller's interview, click HERE.
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Our vision is to create a community of learners enriched, engaged and enlightened through the humanities.