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 guest this month is Denise Meringolo, a scholar-practitioner in the field of public history. She teaches courses in community-based public history practice, material culture, and visual culture. Her book Museums, Monuments, and National Parks: Toward a New Genealogy of Public History (University of Massachusetts, 2012) won the 2013 National Council on Public History prize for the best book in the field. Dr. Meringolo partners with Baltimore Heritage, a local preservation advocacy organization, to develop content for the app Explore Baltimore Heritage, which allows users to take self-guided walking tours of Baltimore neighborhoods. Prior to joining the Department of History faculty at the University of Maryland, Dr. Meringolo worked in numerous public history institutions, including the National Museum of American History, the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington and the Accokeek Foundation at Piscataway Park. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council on Public History and chair of local arrangements for the organization’s 2016 Annual Meeting in Baltimore.
What work experiences (past or present) have been the most educational for you, and why?
I probably tell this story too often, but my tenure as the Curator of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington was pivotal for me. I am not a native Washingtonian. I am not Jewish. This was my first experience with community based public history practice, and I found myself wondering, "What exactly am I supposed to be doing here? Am I supposed to tell people what their past means? Am I supposed to "correct" their interpretations? What is the function and value of public history in this space?" I am still always trying to answer those questions.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
I am working with a large group of scholars on a research project designed to identify historical connections between social justice activism and public history practice. The origins of our field are rooted in efforts to dampen change and control national identity. We are tracking an alternative genealogy for the field.
What's a book you've always wanted to read but haven't gotten around to?
Barack Obama's Dreams of My Father has been sitting in my night stand for YEARS. I swear every summer that I'm going to read it, but then I turn to fluffier fiction.
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about you (hobby, skill, interesting story)?
I'm a bit of an open book, so I'm not sure this is much of a secret, but I was very involved in musical theater at my high school, Shore Regional in West Long Branch, NJ. I played "the teacher" in a production of Working and General Cartwright in a production of Guys and Dolls. I also tried my hand at comedy, playing Norma Hubley, in a production of Plaza Suite. I gave up my Broadway pipe dream a long time --I wasn't that good-- I sometimes think of "Dr. Meringolo" as just another character I am playing!
What is the worst job that you had while working through your degree and what would you tell your past self now?
After I finished my MA degree, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do next, so I signed on to a temp agency and I got a long term temporary gig at a huge business consulting firm. The program managers would email calls for proposals to me, have me retype them and send them around to others in the office. That job was exactly the kick in the pants that I needed. I was NOT cut out for that job. I simply could not hide my disdain: "Um. Why can't I just forward the CFP that you sent to me?" Never did get a good answer....
Check back next month for more Coffee & Questions. In case you missed Kristen Baldwin Deathridge's interview last month, click here.
Want to be interviewed? Contact us.
SRU is having its first ever online “Giving Day” today, March 27 in conjunction with Founders’ Day. We look to raise $8,881 in a 24-hour period, in honor of SRU’s record-breaking enrollment for the 2016-2017 academic year.
Donors can designate their gift to any area of campus, including the Center for Public Humanities or the Old Stone House!
Each and every donation will be put to work on campus immediately – ensuring the talented and ambitious students at SRU are able to experience the difference of a Rock Solid Education.
Click here to give today!
The Stone House Center for Public Humanities (CPH) at Slippery Rock University has received a $45,000 Grable Foundation Public Schools Grant to expand and enhance its ongoing Humanities Ladder initiative. The program offers college-level humanities education for high school students in economically-disadvantaged communities.
Created in 2014, expanding on programming at a small, historic site curated by the History Department at Slippery Rock University, the CPH is at the forefront of a growing movement among scholars and activists to create learning communities that extend beyond the boundary of the college classroom.
The CPH provides an opportunity for university and community members to engage as partners and demonstrate the vital contribution of the humanities to all areas of contemporary life. In this way, the CPH continues to break down barriers that hinder a wider dissemination of humanities programming and education for often isolated and sometimes marginalized populations.
While the CPH sponsors a variety of public programs – including community reading programs, historic foodways workshops, digital humanities projects, and more – the Humanities Ladder has become its flagship initiative.
The Humanities Ladder is an adaptation of the proven Clemente Course, which offers college-level humanities courses to low-income adult students with no access to such educational opportunities. By helping students to understand their own experiences through the rich legacy of the humanities, the course brings intellectual empowerment to people who have been limited by economic, social, or political forces. The CPH began an adaptation of the Clemente Course model in September 2015 in collaboration with Aliquippa School District in Beaver County, PA.
In December 2016, the CPH was awarded a $100,000 Humanities Access Challenge Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities for the Humanities Ladder Program.
The Trump administration may soon eliminate both the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) entirely as part of a plan to curb spending. The administration plans to cut $10 trillion, nearly all of our budget’s non-discretionary spending, over the next 10 years.
The NEA has been the life-blood and foundation of the arts community across our nation since 1965. They provide grants for dance, music, drama, literature, outreach education, and so much more. The NEH offers research funding to museums, libraries, and colleges. Together, these two organizations enrich the arts in America, giving creativity and freedom of speech a voice. Don’t allow these organizations to slip away quietly. Keep reading to learn how you can help.
What is the NEH?
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1965 to support “scholarly and cultural activity in order to achieve a better understanding of the past, a better analysis of the present, and a better view of the future” (National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965). It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.
What does it do?
The NEH awards grants that typically go to cultural institutions, such as museums, archives, libraries, colleges, universities, public television, radio stations, and to individual scholars. In fact, the Center for Public Humanities was recently awarded an NEH grant for our Humanities Ladder program.
These grants allow for projects to deeply reach into communities across the country by way of exhibitions that help preserve valuable heritage collections, historic installations, discussion programs at local libraries, or simply by allowing us to indulge in the humanities from the comfort of our own homes through documentaries, radio programs, websites, and apps.
What is in jeopardy?
President Trump has proposed the elimination of National Endowment for the Humanities and National Endowment for the Arts funding in order to eliminate some of the country’s debt. Further drastic cuts could threaten programs that provide important support for humanities teaching, scholarship, preservation, and public programs in communities across America. For example, the NEH provides support for some 56,000 lectures, discussions, exhibitions and other programs annually. The NEH and NEA only require a combined .006% of the federal budget.
Why should you care?
The NEH serves to strengthen our democracy by promoting excellence in the humanities, while conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. Through the strengthening of teaching and learning provided to us through the NEH, we are better able to learn about and tell the stories of our communities and our nation. The NEH facilitates research, provides opportunities for lifelong learning, preserves and provides access to cultural and educational resources, and strengthens the institutional base of the humanities
How can you help?
Take action! Let your voice be heard by calling and writing to your local Members of Congress and letting them know that you value the NEH and NEA.
Click here to send a message to your Members of Congress and the President.
You can also sign the petition.
How have the humanities impacted you? Share your experiences below.
If you're an SRU student, take this opportunity to share why the humanities are important to you via our Shout Out for the Humanities contest!
Our vision is to create a community of learners enriched, engaged and enlightened through the humanities.