Archivi in Toscana

Il patrimonio, le istituzioni, gli eventi


11 febbraio 2015

Public History and the Media

In recent decades, public enthusiasm for history and popular engagement with the past has grown dramatically. The popularity of history is manifested most visibly in the proliferation of television documentaries and historical dramas but it is also discernible in the rebirth of the historical novel, the organization of large-scale commemorations of historical anniversaries, the development of new historical museums and exhibitions, re-enactments and living history activities and the emergence of public history as a separate field of academic study. Digitization has also brought history and historical research to the broader public in hitherto unconceivable ways. Yet, for the most part, and with some notable exceptions, academic historians have remained extraneous to these developments, and their relationship to the public is different from that of public historians.
Is this difference between academic and public historians only about different professional ambitions, separate audiences and a different use of communication media? While it is not possible to become a public historian without an academic background, it is possible to be an academic historian without engaging in public history. Both are professional historians working with the past: their roles and their audiences are complementary although their practices are different in terms of methodology and forms of communication. Moreover, the development of public history raises questions about historical interpretation and the political use of the past that concern all historians, and should provoke a debate about ownership of the past in which both academic and public historians have much to contribute.

11 February, sala Europa, Villa Schifanoia
12 February, sala Lettura, Villa Salviati
13 February, Refectory, Badia Fiesolana

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