6th World Conference of the International Federation for Public History

6th World Conference of the International Federation for Public History

Andreas Etges, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München; Paul Nolte / Sönke Kunkel, Freie Universität Berlin; Irmgard Zündorf, Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam; Frank Drauschke, Facts & Files, Berlin
Fand statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
16.08.2022 - 20.08.2022
Andreas Etges, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München; Paul Nolte / Sönke Kunkel, Freie Universität Berlin; Irmgard Zündorf, Leibniz-Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam; Frank Drauschke, Facts & Files, Berlin

With 64 panels and 300 participants from 31 countries, IFPH 2022 at Freie Universität Berlin reflected the growing global community of public historians and represented the intellectual richness and diversity of global public history. Fields of interest ranged from public history practice and civic engagement around the world through issues of memory, media, and performance, to professional questions involving ethical standards, teaching curricula, or future career opportunities. Workshops, working group meetings, a poster session, a public roundtable discussion on “Babylon Berlin,” and a visitor program on Saturday rounded off what many participants, under the “#ifph2022”, described as an exciting, productive, and inspiring conference.

IFPH 2022 opened with a reception at the Asisi Berlin Wall Panorama on Tuesday night and entered into academic sessions the following day with a set of panels that addressed themes like war memories, colonial legacies, re-enactments, oral history, heritage and tourism, or the relationships between public historians and the public. Several panel discussions focused explicitly on Eastern Europe and its current struggles with issues of historical legacy and competing ways of remembrance – not a surprise, given the region’s traumatic history in the 20th century and its cultural clashes in the beginning 21st century. A panel on “Public Histories of Socialism” explored museums and graphic narratives as sites of engaging with socialist pasts. Contributions in a panel on truth claims and conflicting authorities dealt with memory and documentation of the Holocaust, but put those issues in a wider perspective of archaeological sites in Poland and of current attempts to frame an “alternative” heroic past of the country in ancient times and the middle ages. Other panels on day one addressed the challenges of social media and digital technology. In a panel on “Public History on Social Media” TOM DIVON (Israel) explored how TikTok is changing the production of Holocaust memory among a generation raised on smartphones, while JASON STEINHAUER (USA) asked how social and digital media algorithms are disrupting traditional modes of engaging with history. Presentations in a panel on “How to Theorize and Practice Public History at Universities” moved these discussions further by exploring useful concepts and approaches for public historians. CHRISTINE GUNDERMANN (Germany) suggested that key terms like cultural heritage, authenticity, emotion, or historical experience may help public historians to clarify what they are looking for analytically. THORSTEN LOGGE (Germany) put forward the concept of “history types”, modelled after the idea of “text types”, and argued that public historians should be trained to be able to deal with the different medialities that shape public history.

Like former IFPH conferences, the 6th World Congress had a strong commitment to promoting non-Western perspectives in public history. Focusing on South Africa, a panel on “Facing the Past with Informed Creativity in South Africa” already gave a flavor of the vibrant energy that AZILE CIBI and LIKHAYA JACK (South Africa), supported by PHEMELO HELLEMANN (South Africa), would show in their performance on the last day of the conference. Both presented projects that very creatively used film, oral history, and dance. RICHARD CONYNGHAM (South Africa) discussed his collaboration with seven artists for the beautiful “All Rise: Resistance and Rebellion in South Africa, 1910–1948” that impressively combines illustrations, archival research and primary sources. Another panel reflected critically on the advantages and challenges of collaboration with “publics,” e.g. in a Tembisa and Eastern Transvaal oral history project that had been initiated by former activists of the African National Congress. The latter had approached the scholars to tell “their” story, which repeatedly clashed with the way the public historians wanted to tell the story. Further panels drew attention to the uses of public history in human rights struggles in Ecuador and Colombia, addressed the importance of the Telenovela in shaping historical narratives, or examined social memories of the 1965 mass killings in Indonesia.

Presentations on Thursday and Friday extended many of these perspectives and discussions, but also demonstrated the persistent concern with issues that have long stood at the core of Public History: the memory of war and genocide, especially Nazi crimes and the Holocaust; the representation of history in films, comics, mangas, schoolbooks, musicals, art, or videogames; the rise and fall of monuments; the role of museums; and the question of political uses of the past. Addressing the latter, GEORGI VERBEECK (Netherlands), in a panel on “Dealing with Difficult Pasts,” examined the charged debates about memories of colonialism in Belgium, while GARY BAINES (South Africa) explored the political role of commemorative stamps in South Africa and DAVID YOUNG (USA) discussed approaches to dealing with histories of lynching and racial terror in Delaware. The ambivalence of patterns of a “Lost Cause” was demonstrated by a panel with contributions on Poland, the GDR, the American South and Rhodesia. The presentations demonstrated the near universal nature of such claims in cases where current moral and political judgment would rather not stand with the losing side of violent racism or illiberal society. Poster presentations, meanwhile, drew attention to upcoming work in PhD projects, ranging from research on town twinning projects between British and German cities to the study of the ways the anti-vaccination movement in Germany incorporates symbols of Germany’s Nazi past.

One theme connecting many presentations with each other was an interest in practices of collecting and archiving, whether online or offline. In a panel on “Collecting January 6th,” several curators from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington DC discussed their collection strategies regarding objects related to the attack on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, which included a “rapid-response team” trying to collect significant artifacts left near the Capitol building or in trash cans on The Mall. Photographer LOUIE PALU (USA) talked about his project “Documenting Political Year Zero” and showed images which he took during the insurrection on January 6th, until it got too dangerous for him. A panel on “Reclaiming the (Digital) Narrative” showcased the importance of archives for marginalized communities, showing how the institution of the archive may enable human rights activism (NINA SCHNEIDER, Germany) or give voice to the historical memories of marginalized communities (ALIX GREEN, United Kingdom). Closely connected, a number of presentations discussed the challenges of building digital infrastructures, with a panel on the “Participatory Archive” illustrating ways in which archives in Northern Ireland seek to foster engagement with local communities, both old and young.

Public history is a burgeoning field of academic study, the conference showed, but it also involves actual practices and projects to bring publics in touch with history. IFPH 2022 showcased many such hands-on projects, ranging from the Anne Frank House’s Virtual Reality App through local history smartphone apps to citizen science projects. JAN-CHRISTIAN WILKENING (Germany) discussed ways to include people with (cognitive) disabilities in public history. ROSE BEILER (USA), URSULA LEHMKUHL (Germany), CASEY WOLF (USA), JANA KECK (Germany), and TIM COMPEAU (Canada) introduced digital platforms that provide new insight on transatlantic migrations. Contributions to a panel on “Remixing Industrial Pasts in the Digital Age” discussed ways to engage with the industrial past of Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg, a theme also echoing through KAROLÍNA BUKOVSKÁ’s (Czech Republic) talk on the musealization of a former blast furnace in Ostrava/Czech Republic. Hands-on workshops and working groups on web archives, game design, oral history, history writing for “the public,” and transcription, added further examples of the ways and means by which publics can be actively involved in “doing history.”

IFPH 2022 concluded with a public roundtable discussion on “Babylon Berlin,” the internationally renowned TV series about 1920s and 1930s Berlin. Including journalist MARION BRASCH (Germany), director HENK HANDLOEGTEN (Germany), film scholar BETTINA KÖHLER (Germany), and historian HANNO HOCHMUTH (Germany), the roundtable raised questions about the importance of authenticity and music in historical filmmaking, but also discussed the practical challenges of researching, staging, and filming a history series of this magnitude. While popular myths and the history boom certainly feed into the success of “Babylon Berlin”, the roundtable saw its popularity mainly coming from the ways it addresses the cosmopolitan modernity of Berlin’s twenties and the tragedy of its failures. Critical analysis of the series, it was agreed, should not necessarily focus on fact-checking, but rather reflect about what it is that makes “Babylon Berlin” meaningful to global publics these days.

Overall, IFPH 2022 underscored several important trends in Public History: (1) the significance of the local in a global world, and global Public History community, especially with regard to (2) strengthening efforts in citizen science and community work, in which “history” in a traditional understanding of the concept is only one aspect in a wider array of memory, identity, and conflict resolution; (3) the need to integrate non-Western views, approaches, and perspectives into public history; (4) the legacy of colonialism, with an emphasis on the history of displaced objects in museums and other collections; (5) the challenges of authoritarianism, especially for institutions like museums, memorials, and archives; (6) the impact of digital media on the ways we think of and deal with history.

Conference overview: (panel sessions and workshops only)

Competing Truth Claims and Conflicting Authorities in Poland: Ancient and Contemporary History Between Academia and the Public

Public Histories of Socialism

Public Historians, Clients, and the Public

Memory, Territory, and Human Rights in Colombia and Ecuador

Working Group: Public Engagement in Web Archives

War, Minorities, and Memory

Working Group: Writing History for ‘The Public’

Public History on Social Media – Theory, Methodology, Practice(s)

History Politics: Current Comparative Insights into the Croatian, English, Italian, and Polish Situation

Heritage and Tourism

Coming to Terms with the Colonial Past: Remembering and Exhibiting Colonialism in Africa and Europe

Community Archives and Public History

Tensions of Historical Research and Dealing with the Past: Commissioned History and Knowledge Production with and for the Public

Workshop: Oral History, Memory, and Performance

Considering History in Theatre, Novels, Manga, and Film

How to Theorize and Practice Public History at Universities: New Developments between Theory, Practice, and Interdisciplinarity

Embodied History: The Potentials of Performing the Past in Re-Enactments

Facing the Past with Informed Creativity in South Africa: New Methods and New Audiences

Concepts and Practices of Public History: Experiences from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia

Telling All Stories: Inclusive Public History in the U.S. National Park Service

Remixing Industrial Pasts in the Digital Age

World War I, World War II, and Commemorations

Contested Heritage: The German War Cemetery Maleme on Crete (Greece) as a Place of Political Education

Working Group: The Future Generation of Public Historians: What Future and what for? Early Career Perspectives on Public History

Workshop: Making Historical Games: Game Design, Oral History, Community Engagement for Historical Empathy

Public History and the Political Uses of the Past

Telling the Stories of the Past: Changing Approaches and their Effects in the former Yugoslav Region

The Rescue of Jews during the Holocaust in European Memory

Reclaiming the (Digital) Narrative: Cross-Professional Archival Collaborations Preserving and Mobilising Marginalised Community Histories

Art, Music, and Film

Online and Offline: New Approaches in Digital Public History

Democracy on Display: Reflections on the New Exhibitions of Former Statesmen and Remaining Challenges

Oral History as Method for Facilitating Publicly Engaged History

Public History – Historical Culture – History Didactics: Attempt to clarify a difficult relationship

The Practice of Public History at Nazi Related Historic Sites

Dealing with Difficult Pasts

Workshop: #Challenges – Memorials, Tiktok, and Digital Education

Introduction Of The Citizen Science Platform Europeana Transcribathon.Eu And A Hands-On Transcription Competition Mini-Run

Questioning Museums: Perspectives from Anthropology, Museum Education, Public History, and Provenance Research

Encountering Gendered Histories: Researching Exclusionary Discourses in Popular Historical Culture

Researching Mobile Lives – Sources, Methods, Challenges, and Opportunities in Digital Public History

Immersive Multimodal Visual History: The Panorama

Public History and Citizen Science

Working Group: Revisiting Shared Authority in the Age of Digital Public History

The Impact of Collaborative Public History Projects around the World

The Participatory Archive: Using Digital Technology & Creativity to Engage People with Public History in Northern Ireland

History Transfer through Telenovelas and Series in Latin America

Forging Narratives: History in Videogames and the History of Videogames

Monuments, Memory, and Public Space

The Use of Interactive Audiovisual Storytelling and New Media for Historical Research

Historical Gaming in and out of Context: Combining the Analysis and Practice of Historical Game Development

Memories of the Lost Cause: Communities of Defeat in Germany, Poland, Rhodesia, and the United States

Public History in Contemporary South Africa: Institutional and Quotidian Practices in Co-Producing Histories with Communities


Workshop: Theory and Practice of Oral History

Collecting January 6: Artifacts of a Difficult History

Emotions and Affect in Public History

Legal Governance of Historical Research? Recent Lessons from Ukraine, Poland, and Belarus

Transmedia Historytelling and Historical Mapping

New Pathways for Exhibitions

Please see the full conference program here: https://www.ifph2020.berlin/program/index.html

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