intro 2.0

Hi Monica!

A few thoughts for you as you develop the syllabus for Introduction to Public Humanities:

  • Readings that must stay (or, readings I found to be incredibly important):
    • Silencing the Past (or some portion of it, to encourage a real dialogue about what we hide and what we own up to in the recording of history)
    • Ask A Slave series (to push us to think about how we share information, what ways work, & what ways don’t)
    • The Painted King (I think this is a valuable place to think about how we enter and work in unfamiliar spaces, and I think a framework of race & class needs to be applied to this for it to be a rewarding conversation)
  • Things I would have liked to see more of:
    • In-depth discussions and readings about the impact, importance, and difficulties of confronting race, class, gender, socioeconomic status, and other forms of politics in the Public Humanities.
  • One last thought: I suppose the aim of this course was to define Public Humanities and I have been able to do that on a personal scale. However, I would have loved to do that in an interactive discussion, over time, and in writing. Perhaps that means drafting a definition together in class and returning to it now and again, changing it and relating it to whatever we are covering in class. I think that could have helped center our discussions in a really healthy way.

Happy teaching!


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Recommendations for 2019

Some reflections on and recommendations for Intro to Public Humanities:

  • I have really enjoyed the variety in both the tone and content of our readings. I would recommend maintaining an even mix of both theoretical and applied readings, perhaps with an eye to independent and collectively run projects (ie. projects created without institutional backing)
  • I loved the hands-on experience of participating in a “real world” project. I would suggesting scaffolding readings throughout the semester so that the themes or methods employed in the readings match up with the work we are conducting outside of the academy
  • I have really appreciated being encouraged to write on public-facing platforms, and I would definitely recommend maintaining this commitment to producing public-facing writing in future iterations of the course. I also want to echo Chandra’s suggestion of including a section focusing on mapping and your own work with Mapping Violence and Refusing to Forget.

Looking forward to seeing what this new version of the course looks like!

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Suggestions for Intro 2019

Dear Professor Martinez,

I enjoyed my time in the Introduction to Public Humanities class, here are some of the things I appreciated:
—Having to do an interview with an alumni from the program was super interesting and helpful. During my interview I was able to talk with an alumna about her experiences in New York’s Department of Cultural Affairs.
—I appreciated being able to submit assignments using non-academic language, often I posted my assignments on my blog and received quite a bit of feedback from them.

I also have a couple of suggestions:
—Bringing in more literature/perspectives on public humanities work from other countries.
—I would have liked more readings from non-museum focused institutions or cultural workers.
—Talking a bit about the struggles/issues of doing public humanities work with for-profit institutions.
—I also hope that you bring in your own work into the class, and find some way for the students to discuss/practice mapping.

Good luck on the course next year!

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Recommendations for Introduction to Public Humanities, from a student perspective

At the completion of the Intro to Public Humanities course, I’m confident in my understanding of the scope and breadth of the subject, willing to say if something is public humanities or not, and find myself applying the lens of the public humanities to things I discover and observe.

I found the arc and pace of the course as taught by Professor Steven Lubar to be challenging but not overbearing, starting with a challenge to edit the Wikipedia entry for the public humanities (perhaps as students we were a little over our heads in this moment — maybe a useful reminder that we were expected to be able to do this and should seize this opportunity!) and taking us through a robust round of readings clustered around ideas defining the public sphere, working with the public, and “being public,” which touched on accessibility, representation and activism in the public humanities.

The readings for each class were comprehensive and it was a challenge to review them all well enough to feel comfortable discussing them, which may just be a function of getting back into academia, and I found the readings provided on reading for graduate school. References included books, articles, essays, video and audio, which was a great way to encourage us to develop traditional academic skills while indulging our more practice-based and public-friendly tendencies for information gathering.

Supplementary trips were also extremely useful, even if circumstances prevented me from attending all of them.

The requirement that we each lead a class discussion helped encourage participation as well, and gave extra depth to the understanding of that topic to the presenters.

Routine workshop-format and breakout discussions were also welcome. I would be curious to see that explored further, embracing facilitated dialogues and group learning. Locally, DownCity Design,, is a terrific organization which uses these regularly in their workshops and it seems to be a highly effective technique for creating learning experiences.

Generally, I found the class to warm up for discussion once a clear dynamic was developed and some group norms became clear. Perhaps some low-stakes team building exercises could pull students out of their shells earlier on.


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Professor Martinez,

A few thoughts about Intro:

  • I enjoyed our readings about non-museum public humanities work and would have welcomed more. I’m particularly interested in the National Park Service’s historic interpretation work, which could fit in nicely with other people’s desire for more focus on education.
  • I appreciated Professor Lubar’s openness to non-traditional formats for writing assignments. I enjoyed doing my second assignment as a series of Wikipedia entries.
  • I have mixed feelings about this blog. I like that it is a public platform for all of us to discuss our ideas and the class. But I sometimes did not have meaningful things to write here on a weekly basis.


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Suggestions for 2019 Intro

Learned a lot from Intro this semester, and looking forward to more interesting classes/projects for the next semester. Here are some feedbacks and suggestions for 2019 Intro.

  • I’d love to know more about public humanities work is in different settings, and theories and case studies that involves those theories. It’ll be great we could break down some case studies in class, see what theories are applied and how to cater to the specific topic.
  • How does the work of public humanities fit in museums (private/public/semi-public), memorial sites, in education, and so on? Furthermore, how public humanities work differently according to the past and present political climate or policy from one location to another? I guess things might work differently in for example, Russia, and here in the US. And despite the differences, what are the holistic structure and core elements of a good public humanities project?
  • How has the field evolved due to the development of digital technology? In addition, how has the idea of “authorship” changed throughout the process? In class, we talked about StoryCrops, which drawn criticism from some people for they are not “official and formal” enough. I’m thinking about many other platforms on, for example, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook, or podcast, where some institutions or individuals take on projects involving history, art history, studio art, public history. It’d be great if we could have discussions on these unconventional ways of working around public humanities.
  • I’d love to see materials from/about other countries and would also love to see case studies from smaller/rural cities in the US covered.
  • As an international student, I’m constantly struggling to get the basic idea of some materials covered in class, whether it’s a historical event or simply the background and history of a place. It would be helpful if some useful materials are attached to the course reading list. Though we can do our own research, but it’ll be extremely helpful if we can get information that are normally less noticeable from an insider’s point of view.
  • Like what Ryan said, keep the alumni interview! I just finished mine with an alumna working as a museum educator in Cyprus! This experience is helpful, and actually before applying to Brown I watched several interviews JNBC posted online and the practicum presentations. It also gives us a more concrete idea of what some common professions we might take on after graduation. Or we could carve out our own path! This is also a great opportunity to do some networking, too.
  • The in-time Skype sessions with professionals in the field during class were engaging. Similar to the alumni interview, these interactions let us have insight of working in the field.
  • It’ll be helpful if we could have more information regarding our final project. I’m biased because as an international student I knew little about the detailed history surrounding Providence, and would love to have more background information provided.
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I really enjoyed theorizing “the public” and found doing so a useful way to build a critical self-consciousness of the field that we could use when actually turning to our practical work with the public. I think the most important thing an intro class can do is to interrogate the strengths and the limitations of a field; with that in mind, I appreciated how there were readings that presented positive and critical views on the public humanities that we could debate.

Granted, I thought Ally made a good point in our last class that theory has to go hand in hand with practice, so I would encourage keeping on the syllabus a final group project that would encourage us to put a pulse on the various publics in Providence.

Besides that, I really enjoyed reading The Painted King and Subject to Display and thought they were good, thoughtful texts to think through critical concepts. I might also pair Subject to Display with Kevin Quashie’s fantastic article “The Trouble with Publicness” to think about how publicness plays into the identity of specific groups or communities.

Like many of my peers, I think an overview of various kinds of public humanities organizations and projects types would have been extremely helpful. As someone coming to the public humanities from another discipline, I would appreciate a sort of insider’s tour that lays bare the landscape.

My final comment is that I really liked responding to peer paper assignments. It’s a great way to see how others are engaging with class ideas and to learn from students’ expertise and experience.

Hope this helps!

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The suggestions for intro class 2019

During this semester, l learned a lot from this class, and our class shared a lot of different opinions from different cultural backgrounds.

Here are my suggestions for intro class in 2019: 

1. More diversity of this class: I want to hear more examples around the whole world: Europe, East Asia and so on. I hope that the intro class will focus on not only the American issues but also more international topics. 

2. More introductions of other organizations: for-profit organizations, such as auction houses, galleries. Also, some examples of performance art. Nowadays, the gap between visual art and performance art is narrowing, and it is necessary to learn something about that(maybe one or two weeks’ discussion for that).

3. More news to share. Public humanities is a field which connects with the public. I hope every week(or every two weeks), the class could discuss the latest news happened in the museum field or art circle. 

4. I loved the reading materials, New York field trip, and alumni interview. I hope that the class could keep them! It is so useful for us to build a network during our graduate time. What’s more, we would learn something from not only the books or theories but also the reality. We would learn what the potential future of the public humanities, what resources for us. 

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Suggestions for 2019 Intro Class

The Intro Class has served to offer a solid foundation in the studying of public humanities. We get to learn about various aspects in the broad field. And here are some pieces of suggestions I have for the class next year.

  1. It might be helpful to adjust the sequences of the first few classes. In the first couple of weeks, we are talking about history and memorials. For international students who are not so familiar with American history, it may be something not easy to relate to. It might be helpful to push it back a little bit. From my personal experience, after gradually exposing to these contents, I feel more comfortable reading the historical-related materials in the later classes.
  2. We can add in more case studies. Using case studies to help with our understanding of the theory is always helpful. It is interesting to learn about the cases from our reading or from the experience of other classmates. I consider it one of the strengths in our class that we have included students from different backgrounds and nationalities. I would like to see some cases from outside of the U.S.
  3. There are some conventions of this class that I found to be really meaningful. The interview-an-alumni assignment is rewarding and worthwhile. We can not only get to see how theory plays out in their practice, but also build up our network through this process. For newcomers of this field and students who are confused about their future career, this is like an opportunity to experience a practicum indirectly. And our field trips to local and NY museums are also fascinating. We don’t usually have the chance to talk to directors and curators and to hear about their behind-the-scenes stories. I really hope these conventions can keep going on.
  4. As Sophie has mentioned in her blog posts, I hope the class can focus a little more on the educational programming. I understand that the specifics and more practical lessons will be given in the Methods class, which I am also looking forward to, but at least the Intro class can touch upon it. It could be useful in our practicum searching.

Good luck to the 19Fall Intro class!

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Intro to Public Humanities 2019

1. Keep the interview with an alumni assignment in the syllabus. This program has a robust, active alumni network that serves as an incredible resource for prospective, current, and former public humans- this assignment helps students become part of that network! Practically speaking, it’s always nice to know that post-graduate school, public humans get employed. It’s especially exciting to see what careers alumni have gone on to outside of museums. Personally, one of the reasons I selected this program was because of the richness of potential jobs that would await me after my MA.

2. Keep the project component! I know that by design, we should think of the Intro course as the theoretical approach to Public Humanities and the Methods course as the “doing” of Public Humanities. However, having a project component is a good reminder that good Public Humanities work happens in the project part. Hands-on projects are a reminder of all the nitty-gritty nuances that accompany project work, and it’s refreshing to work under real-world parameters instead of theoretical ones.

3. So much of this course asks us to be critical of Public Humanities, theorists, projects, and programs. Learning to engage critically with the material is essential. Figuring out where things went wrong and how to improve them will serve us well in our future careers. With that said, however, it would also be helpful to learn how to be generous and appreciate the work that people do. Building off of my previous suggestion, it’s important to remember that Public Humanities work is done by people with good intentions working under real-world limitations. When collaborating with other organizers or institutions in the future, only knowing how to be critical will just set us up for failure. We are taught to meet our public “where they are at” – it’s a lesson constantly drilled into our heads. We need to make sure that we meet projects and organizations and artists where they are at too.

4. A large portion of this class is dedicated to defining “public” and trying to understand who it represents and how it functions. I wish more time in class was spent trying to understand who isn’t “public” and what barriers whether they be voluntary or perceived or enforced, prevent people from participating in the public sphere. We spend a lot of time in this program thinking about engaging what we might call “non-traditional audiences”. When doing that type of work, it’s important to understand why people feel othered.

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