Anjuli Grantham

Return to Interviews

Interviewee: Anjuli Grantham
Interviewer: Jillian Hinderliter
Date: October 20, 2016
Accession #: PHP 009
Length of Recording: 53:33
Sound Recording
Summary

Anjuli Grantham graduated with a MA from the University of South Carolina Public History Program with a historic preservation concentration in 2011. She also earned the museum management certificate. Before coming to UofSC, Grantham was an English teacher and a professional fundraiser for nonprofit organizations. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Oregon in 2004 and a certificate in fundraising management from the University of Washington in 2006. Grantham worked as a graduate assistant with the South Carolina Department of Archives and History and as a planning services intern with the City of Columbia. After graduation, Grantham served as the curator of collections and exhibits at the Baranov Museum in Kodiak, Alaska until June 2016. Grantham then worked as a consulting historian and served as the project director of the Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative with the Alaska Historical Society. Interview includes discussion of Grantham’s appreciation of the broad public historical education at UofSC, the value of studying American history in the Southeast and how this differs from her American history education in the Northwest, and how connections she made with historians in Alaska for the thesis research lead directly to her career after graduating from UofSC. She also discussed her experience as part of a tight-knit community of Alaskan historians and her co-founding of the Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative.

 

Keywords

Alaska Historical Society | Baranov Museum | Canneries | Commercial Fisheries | Historic Preservation | Karluk Reservation | Kodiak, Alaska | Museum Management | South Carolina Department of Archives and History | University of Oregon | University of Washington

 

Transcript

Jillian Hinderliter: Okay, so. This is Jillian Hinderliter it is October 20, 2016. I am interviewing Anjuli Grantham for USC’s Public History Program Archive. We are conducting this interview over Skype. Oh, excuse me, over the phone between Columbia, South Carolina and Eugene, Oregon. Okay, so that’s all the little official business that I had to say at the beginning there. 

Anjuli Grantham: Mmhm. 

JH: Okay, so first and foremost, we’re asking everybody what motivated you to volunteer to be interviewed? 

AG: Well, Allison Marsh posted something on Facebook about it and tagged me and I said I was interested. So, mostly it was the personal request of Allison. Plus, I’m happy to continue to have a connection to USC’s Public History Program and have a chance to interact with current students. 

JH: Excellent. That’s wonderful and it’s interesting because so many people are kind of coming at it from different angles. Some are saying, “I saw it on Facebook,” or “I got the alumni listserv,” these different ways that people communicate with the program.

AG: Mmhm. 

JH: So, the first batch of questions are kind of about choosing USC and kind of public history as a career at large. So, why did you choose the program at USC? 

AG: Really two reasons. Number one was the assistantship. I was accepted to all the programs that I applied to and I received funding for some of them but not all of them. The University of South Carolina offered me an assistantship working at the South Carolina SHPO, and so funding was an important consideration.  But more than that, knowing that for a least a year – it ended up being two years – I would be working side by side practicing public historians at the State Historic Preservation Office. I knew that would be an exceptional leg up on my resume when I graduated. And so, the assistantship was really the main reason.

But also, I’m from Alaska but I had been living for years in Washington and Oregon. So, I’m really a northwestern girl and I also knew that this was a really good opportunity for me to experience another part of the US. And really, I did not consider any sort of reason why I would move to the South. 

JH: (Laughter) 

AG: It’s like, I don’t have any family there. No friends there. And so, I knew that this was going to be a good experience for me to understand what it means to be an American outside of the context of just the Northwest. 

JH: Wonderful. 

AG: So, life experience really. 

JH: Wonderful. That seems to be the kind of balance when you’re applying to grad schools, you know? It’s location and the program itself and what that can do for you. 

AG: Mmhm. 

JH: So why did you chose a public history program versus something like a museum ed program or an archival program? 

AG: I’m really a generalist and I knew that before I became a public historian. My interests are really varied and very wide and I lose interest quite quickly in careers, typically. By the time I went to USC, I had already had two careers. I was an English teacher and I was a professional fundraiser for nonprofit organizations. And so, for me, I knew it was the contents and the communications of the contents that’s important, not necessarily working in museums, working in historic preservation, working in archives. It’s the contents of history and the meaty, juicy stuff and communicating that with the public or being engaged in it. I mean, it’s about public communication but more than that it’s about me being engaged in history in a way that’s a civil service. That matters to me.

So, public history seemed like the best route because I knew that if I was to get that training then I could work in a variety of institutions. And that could serve me for the duration of my career, not just the one that I was attracted to in that moment, which was like historic preservations or museums or archives or something because now I feel like I have a broad enough education, which I can work in really the entire field of public history. 

JH: Mmhm, right. You mentioned some of your goals going in were geographic diversity but also it seems that this sort of content diversity is of interest to you. And what were some of your other goals going into graduate study other than those? 

AG: Hmm. (Laughter) What were my goals for graduate study? 

JH: (Laughter) 

AG: Well, a lot of it, I always knew I wanted to go to grad school but I didn’t want to make a decision prematurely about the field and so it would definitely check the box of a personal goal or receiving a graduate education. Also, I wanted to…I was really drawn to heritage tourism initially. I studied history, that was one of my majors as an undergraduate and the jobs that I was drawn to required a Master’s degree. So, it was really a career move for me to get the Master’s degree. So it was very much professionally motivated. But still personally motivated because of the fact that I thought it would be interesting to live in the South.

And I was also drawn to the Public History Program, now that I remember it, because of the certification programs that are associated with it. I ended up getting a certificate in museum studies, or, museum management. But I was also, initially I thought I might do the cultural resource management one. And then also the field school because I’m a world traveler and traveling is just an integral part of who I am and I thought it would be interesting to be able to go and do the England Field School, as well.

So, it fit my kind of wandering personality to be able to live elsewhere and to be able to continue to travel internationally through the program, too. So, these are kind of just life goals for me, generally speaking.

JH: (Laughter) 

AG: Yeah. 

JH: Well, I feel like the overlap in terms of life and graduate work. 

AG: Yes, for sure. 

JH: So, let’s talk a little bit about what it was like to be a student here at USC in the Public History Program. So, I have in my records here that you graduated in 2011. Is that correct? 

AG: Yes. 

JH: Okay, great. So, this is just very basic information here. What classes did you take? Do one or two of those classes stand out when you look back at your time at USC?

AG: Um, well, I took (unintelligible at 7:15). The kind of basic repertoire of classes. I took Intro to Material Culture that Allison offered. I took Into to Historic Preservation that Bob taught. Took Environmental History with Emily Brock, which for me has been really important. As a historian of Alaska now, very few things are more important than the history of the ways people interact with the environment. I’m a fisheries historian, so that was kind of bedrock information for me.

Also, Thomas Brown’s class. It was one of the historiography classes and that was one of my favorites. He just really was an exception professor and it was a really interesting syllabus. And then I did the England Field School. I took classes at McKissick.

Yeah, and the ones that stand out. Well, Environmental History just because it was really great bedrock information. Also, it was really useful to do a National Register of Historic Places nomination in Bob’s class. Yeah, I think those stand out right now. 

JH: Right, right. Excellent and… 

AG: Oh, and also the hazing. 

JH: (Laughter) 

AG: Pretty much the intro class that all first-year students have to take. I don’t remember what it’s called but Dr. Kinsey, I think his name was, taught it? (Laughter) 

JH: Yeah, History 720 with Dr. Kinzley. Right, right. 

AG: Yes, uh-huh. Yup. And it’s all the first-years together and all semester we’re nervous and uncomfortable and awkward. It was just painful. But it was shared misery so we all bonded through the process. (Laughter) 

JH: Right, solidarity. It’s important. 

AG: Exactly.

JH: So, you mentioned already that you came in and had an offer from the State Historic Preservation Office. That’s what you mentioned, right? 

AG: Yep, mmhm.

JH: So, is that where you completed your only assistantships or did you do anything else while you were here at USC?

AG: Oh yeah, well, I had two years/ten-hour assistantship at the SHPO working with the National Register program and working with a whole bunch of alumni from USC and oh my gosh, my colleges at SHPO were incredible. I mean, they were so welcoming, so knowledgeable. And so eager to share their knowledge and experiences with me. So, that for me was just a wonderful experience. I also graded papers the entire time I was there and I was always the luckiest person with my assignments. I had the easiest classes. I would have to take attendance and grade, like, two tests over the course of the semester. (Laughter) And I never had to teach any sections or anything. For me it was pretty ideal.

JH: Well, it seems like you certainly lucky out in that kind of balance between what you required to do on campus in terms of your assistantship. 

AG: Yes. 

JH: So you say that your colleagues at the SHPO office were incredibly helpful. How else did, I guess, your external assistantship, how did that influence your eventual career or any type of work that you did as a professional? 

AG: Well, I think I’d say very much so. I think the fact that I worked at the SHPO is still prominent on my resume. And while these days I do more museums sort of work, I’m still engaged in historic preservation for sure and I’ve worked as a contractor on a couple of large National Register projects. And so having that insider knowledge of working with the SHPO, understanding the National Register, how to create the application, all of that, I think has proven to be very valuable. 

JH: Wonderful, and do you think that when you were working there ten hours a week and also having your courses, do you think that you pulled in information from your assistantship into the classroom with you? 

AG: Hmm, no. 

JH: No?

AG: Probably not. (Laughter) Not really, it was…maybe. I mean, there was definitely overlap. The fact that I was working with these professionals and then I could refer my classmates who were doing projects which were related to some of the SHPO projects, I could correlate those two and connect people and all that. But I can’t really think of many instances where there was a real feedback loop besides being a sort of liaison for connecting students and people at the SHPO. 

JH: Well, I certainly think that that was probably helpful to your classmates to at least have a contact in the preservation office there. 

AG: Mmhm, yeah. 

JH: So, who were some of your most influential professors on campus? You certainly seem to had influential colleagues, but were the professors also important in your education? 

AG: Yeah. Well, I’d say my professors, my committee for my thesis – Emily Brock and Ann Johnson – they were both very supportive. Tom Brown, his class was just so good. And he also was…I refined my thesis and created the seminar paper or whatever then turned into my thesis in his class and that was really useful mentoring there. Also, Allison was always… Allison Marsh was always really supportive and in her hands-off way. Because her teaching method is that she pretty much she wants you to figure it out yourself. Which can be effective, but also very challenging because, not being involved in the field of public history, when you don’t know something, you don’t know you don’t know it. (Laughter) 

JH: Mmhm, correct. (Laughter) 

AG: Sometimes it’s like there was things that I clearly didn’t know but with a hands-off educational style, it’s just like, “Hm, well, I’m just going to be naïve to that apparently.” But she was always very supportive. I had a somewhat rocky relationship with my advisor Bob Weyeneth, so I find he was supportive and at other times he was not. 

JH: Hm, right, right. I think this would be a great kind of segue to talk about your thesis then considering some of the professors you mentioned seemed to be very much involved with that. So your thesis focused on fishing and fishing technologies, kind of, it’s the Karluk Reservation? I don’t know if I’m pronouncing it correctly. 

AG: Mmhm. Yes, Karluk. 

JH: Karluk. So, you mention it was a paper that you kind of evolved what it was about and expanded it after one of Tom Brown’s classes. But how did you come to that topic and that research to begin with? 

AG: Well, I come from a commercial fishery family in Kodiak, Alaska and the history of the North Pacific has always fascinated me. The history of Kodiak, my home island. And I wanted to write a thesis that was related to the Northwest, Alaska or the Northwest, because I intended to move back to the Northwest after graduate school and just because of my personal connection to the fishing industry I was just really drawn to that as a topic.

I was doing an internship at Fort Vancouver, the National Parks Service site in Vancouver, Washington, after my first year and it was a convenient time for me to be able to do research. So I went up to the Center for Northwest Studies at Bellingham to access archival collections there. Then I went to a conference in Alaska at the beginning of my second year and found other, I went to (unintelligible at 16:14) NARA and University of Alaska, Fairbanks and just found a lot of collections that came together to tell the story of the Karluk Reservation and fishing out there. So, it was personal interest and family connections that inspired that research. 

JH: Mmhm, right. And… 

AG: And it worked, even though a bit improbable to think that I was in South Carolina and writing a thesis about the history of Alaska. 

JH: Right, and it just seems that so many people just by nature of being in South Carolina do end up with a more local South Carolinian, Southeast regional thesis. So, what was that like for you to be someone that’s like, “Well, I’m doing my thesis on Alaska, parks of Alaska”? 

AG: Well, totally typical of me, for sure. 

JH: (Laughter) 

AG: But it worked because it was an environmental history and a history of technology, so Ann Johnson and Emily Brock were both professors of such things so I was about to have their methodological eye and all of that. So, it worked because I was able to have the support of the committee. Also, I don’t know, one of the things that I love about being a historian in Alaska is that there are so many topics that have never been looked at. Major topics that no one has ever considered because there’s so few people working in the field of history up here. 

JH: Mmhm. 

AG: Versus in the South, in which most topics have been examined many times over. (Laughter) So, it was for me an opportunity to write about something that mattered to the place where I came from and be one of the first people to talk about it. 

JH: Right, that’s awesome. I’m so excited to see that people have that opportunity and it’s not so much, “Oh, you’re at USC, South Carolina is the only reasonable project you can complete,” so. 

AG: Yeah, yeah. And it worked really well and part of that was because I was able to do this additional research and I could do that research because I got support from the Program to go to this conference in Alaska, to do this additional research it corresponded with this conference. So, it was partially due to departmental support that I was able to do the research that was required for it.  

JH: Excellent, wonderful. 

AG: Yeah.

JH: So, while you were here in the Public History Program, did you ever share classrooms or interact with the PhD students in the history program? 

AG: Oh yeah, of course, especially because we were all hazed together in that initial class. (Laughter) 

JH: 720 helped with that. 

AG: (unintelligible at 19:15) yeah, exactly. We were all and then of course, spending all of our time in the graduate student computer, graduate student lounge-computer room thing. Yeah, for sure. 

JH: Wonderful, and did you find that within the larger department structure that the Public History Program was recognized and your comments, thoughts, concerns were considered by the more, I guess you would say, “traditional” historians in a way? 

AG: Yeah, I mean, I think at least they recognized that the caliber of the public history students was equal to that of the PhD students for sure, considering we were just there for the two years and made important contributions in all of the classes and our projects. We had a really good collegial relationship.

I do remember not feeling as if we were equally in the department. Just the fact that it seemed that, especially financial support was constantly threatened for public history students. And, in general, there was a sense that, I don’t know, everything would go toward coddling…I don’t know if that’s the right word. 

(Laughter) 

But really grooming PhD students instead of the public history master’s students, it seemed. So sometimes I think there were some hard feelings there, but overall I think the department did give good support. And the individual professors for sure, regardless if they were public history professors or normal, whatever, academic historians. They definitely treated us equally. 

JH: That’s good and it seems (coughs), excuse me. It seems that at the very least, the kind of relationship you had with other students was positive. Kind of in spite of pressures for funding. 

AG: For sure. 

JH: Right. 

AG: For sure, mmhm. 

JH: So, you’ve mentioned you’ve had kind of this very, almost adventurous streak in you and you’re driven to travel quite a bit and all of these things. So, how did your career develop after leaving USC? 

AG: Well, it was really quite easy. (Laughter) I think. 

JH: Good! I like to hear that. (Laughter)

AG: I know, I know. It’s because I insisted on doing topic, studying Alaska in South Carolina, and continuously reaching out to people in Alaska about my research and all of that. That I went up to Alaska to present at a conference, that I was a travel award recipient from the Alaska Historical Society. My second year, the beginning of my second year, I flew to Alaska for this conference and was then was really plugged in to the Alaska Historical Society. And by going up there, doing research at these different institutions while I was in Alaska for this conference and meeting all these historian colleagues, I then became a part of a really tight-knit and supportive network of Alaska historians.

I was corresponding with the director of the Baranov Museum in Kodiak over the course of my thesis, sharing information that I’d come across and resources, just because I’m collegial like that. It’s not like I was trying to get a job or anything. I was going to do an internship with the Baranov Museum for my historic preservation concentration, but then Bob Weyeneth decided that it wasn’t historic preservation-y enough, so I couldn’t do it. But it was fine because when I called the director to tell her that I couldn’t do the internship, she told me that it was a disappointment because she was hoping that I’d come as an intern and stay as the new curator. 

JH: Wow. 

AG: And so, she pretty much at that point offered me the job and so I didn’t even have to apply. And just because I had been corresponding with her, sharing my ideas with her, she’s seen my research because she watched my presentation at the conference and all of that, so about two months before I graduated I already had that job offer and another one from another museum in Alaska. So, it just really worked out to focus and to follow what my content passion was for and to share that with people who care about it. It meant that I immediately had a job.

(Laughter) 

And so then I moved to Alaska after not living there for a long time, about sixteen years or something, which was a difficult decision because Kodiak is an island in the North Pacific and I have been living in cities all over the world before that. And my home town, which is like “Oh my goodness, what am I doing?” 

JH: (Laughter) 

AG: But it was a big decision and I spent five years working as the curator of exhibits at the Baranov Museum. I continued to do consulting throughout that. Working pretty much as a contract curator for a small museum in Kodiak and working on historic preservation projects with different agencies and I became very involved with the Alaska Historical Society. As soon as I got to Alaska, I was on the board of directors. I served as president, vice-president, secretary, program chair and I started a state-wide initiative through the Alaska Historical Society called the Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative.

Fish processing sites are all over Alaska and the history of the food industry is very important to the history and identity of Alaska. But it’s been completely neglected and overlook and only two of the hundreds of canneries in Alaska are listed on the National Register, so me and a couple colleagues started a state-wide campaign to document, preserve, and educate about the history of the seafood industry in Alaska. I spent a couple of years doing the initial fundraising and campaigning for that and now I’m the project director of the initiative. And I resigned from my job at the Baranov Museum in June and now I’m a full-time public historian/writer/producer/contractor and so living the freelance life. 

JH: Wonderful. 

AG: So (Laughter). 

JH: That all sounds absolutely spectacular. 

AG: Mmhm. 

JH: I’m so pleased when I hear that people can get those types of positions through the connections they had an opportunity to build over time. 

AG: Yes, uh-huh. 

JH: And that’s wonderful. 

AG: Yeah, it worked out wonderfully. 

JH: (Laughter) How has the response been on your project? Kind of looking at these canneries, and looking at the food industry, the fishing industry in Alaska. What’s the response been from communities, from historians? Just kind of out of my own personal curiosity. 

AG: Well, it’s been very good but it’s definitely challenging because Alaska…There’s major federal influence in Alaska. I mean, a good portion of the land in Alaska is federally owned. And almost all historic preservation work happens in Alaska because it’s something that is on federal land. It’s a 106 process.

But the thing is, when we’re talking about the seafood industry, that’s all privately owned assets. And so, some of the only privately owned coastal land in Alaska was initially plotted as a cannery site and the fishing boats and all of that are private assets. So, without having been forced by the federal government to do any sort of documentation or preservation, it just hasn’t happened. So I think people are really interested in it because the coastal asset. I mean, the history of the seafood industry and the current…Fishing is a huge industry in Alaska today and so many people have person stories, that there’s a broad public interest in it.

The response by agencies has been quite good but they’re still slow to move around. The response in the seafood industry itself has been good but they’re also very hesitant because of the misinformation about the National Register, especially, thinking that if something’s listed that they’ll never be able to touch it again and all of that. But we have succeeded and getting some major archival collections donated to Alaska archives from some of the seafood processing plants and associations. And so it’s really a big public history project in which it’s preservation, but it’s also archives. We have some museum exhibits which are in the works right now. There’s been a lot of great public education about it because I’m a radio producer and I do history radio segments about fishing history in Alaska, which are broadcast around the state. On the radio or combination. 

JH: Oh, that’s awesome. 

AG: Yeah, so and then because Alaska is so small and collegial as far as everyone knows each other, the other day…it was actually a couple weeks ago now. I was in Juneau and we did a whole hour-long public radio, excuse me, public television segment on cannery history which was then broadcast across the state. So, there’s been a lot of opportunities for public education and the media has super responsive. So that’s good! And we, I did a bunch of fundraising for years in order to be able to fund the project and we were able to give out small grants to individuals and organizations across Alaska to do small cannery history projects. Kind of presenting seed money to do more documentation projects.

So, it’s been a big effort and since I think now, as a result of this, I’m looking at the next year – the initiative is kind of ending in a couple months because we only have funding for a year of strong activities. But I think of all the seeds that we’ve planted and they’re really starting to grow and there’s these collections that are going to archives. I have a couple of colleagues who are doing planning for major exhibits on the industry. And I’m starting to work on a book. I’m collaborating with some people and we’re going to be publishing a book about the history of canneries in Southeast Alaska this year.

So things are happening!

JH: I’m so pleased to hear it, I really am. I like when these grassroots projects and these kind of local and regional projects have people who are so dedicated to telling those histories and not just sort of repeating the same narratives that we get all the time. 

AG: Yes, uh-huh, yes. 

JH: Wonderful. 

AG: It’s going well. 

JH: (Laughter) 

AG: It’s definitely a battle, though, to get people to understand why it matters. Especially when working with industry, because of course, these people have dedicated their lives to this industry. But something like seafood industry everyone is so future-focused. And not even future-focused but focused on tomorrow, you know? 

JH: Mmhm. 

AG: It’s like, “How are we going to survive for tomorrow? What’s the next season?” Da-da-da-da-dah. So, making people pause to consider these other aspects is difficult, plus when we are talking about a managed resource – something that is managed through politics and biology. And so people only consider the economic, political, and biological implications of the industry and they never focus attention to the history, the culture, the humanities, the arts that intersect to the lifeways of the people that are involved in it. So it is kind of creating a movement in a way. 

JH: And do you feel that your education, your formal education at USC, had at any way given you or helped you develop some of the skill set that’s allowing you to kind of get this movement going and off the ground? 

AG: Yeah, for sure. The fact that I was trained as a historian is so important. I mean, I am exceptional at doing research and writing and a lot of that can be attributed to the training that I received at USC. And plus also the fact that I took museum classes, too preservation classes, and archival classes at USC because this is a really broad sort of program. It’s not just historic preservation or specifically just exhibits or something like that. So having that broad base public historical education makes it so that I have no problem interfacing with whoever – librarians, curators, preservationists, because I’m all of those. You know? 

JH: Right. 

AG: But for me, that broad-based, generalist education in public history is what has been the most valuable thing. 

JH: Wonderful, so what do you think is one of the most unexpected ways that your time at USC helped you in the professional world? 

AG: Hmm. Well, it’s hard to say. I mean, I think I really value that I was in this history department in the South and to be able to learn American history in the South with my colleagues, my classmates who were so invested in the history of the civil rights movement and the history of African-Americans and all that. Because, I mean, living in the Northwest that is not – even though it is part of American history –  that is not a part of the experience of the people here.  And so I think that having the kind of deeper understanding and, as a result, greater empathy for those topics is something that has been very valuable for me personally and that is not something I would have received had I gone to school elsewhere. Because really, even though I have a bachelor’s in history, I studied Latin American history so I didn’t have an American history class from the age of fifteen until I started grad school at twenty-eight or something.  

JH: (Laughter) 

AG: So my American history education pretty much came from USC. (Laughter) 

JH: Well, I think that if anywhere, you’re going to get quite an excellent background in African-American history and civil rights history here in South Carolina, so. 

AG: Yes, mmhm, yes. 

JH: So, kind of… 

AG: I think that, for me that was something…I mean, I was expecting some of that, but that was an unexpected deeper benefit for me. 

JH: Excellent, really wonderful. I mean, I feel the same way. I went to school in New England for the most part. I’m from Pennsylvania but for my higher education I went to Boston and, I’ve learned so much since being here, and I was an American history major. But it’s just much different learning about those subjects here. 

AG: Yes, uh-huh. Oh my Gosh, what a time the last couple of years in Columbia? It’s like the moment to be a historian in Columbia. 

JH: We can hardly contain ourselves. 

AG: Yeah.

(Laughter) 

JH: And that’s the thing. There’s so much going on and I think that the department really is trying to have no only conversations within academia but public program and reaching out to other colleges and universities in the area and collaborating in this very specific historical moment, which is absolutely fascinating. 

AG: Uh-huh. It is, yeah. 

JH: So a couple more broad questions about working within public history. What is your, kind of, favorite part or one of your favorite parts of working within public history a field? 

AG: Um, well, I mean, it’s really hard to say because this line of work, I’m so well suited for it, and just the fact that I can quench my curiosity in so many ways and create products of value that otherwise don’t exist. And help to create meaningful connections. But, in a way for me, it’s a very selfish enterprise because it’s like, I get to do research on things I’m interested in and I get to write about things I’m interested in and talk about things I’m interested in. I think for me, the best part about it is constantly educating myself. (Laughter) 

JH: And, we’ve mentioned a little bit about your, actually quite a bit about, your project in Alaska but, you know, what sort of projects would you like to see public historians pay more attention to? 

AG: Well, I think that, I really think that, it’s important…it’s not public facing, but I think that public historians, historians, people in the humanities in general really need to be active collaborators with those in the social sciences and the sciences. And, speaking on an agency level, I think there are so many battles that still exist and people are talking about the same things but using slightly different language and as a result, we’re not learning from one another. And so I think that I really want to see historians welcomed into and more closely aligned with the social sciences and with the sciences. 

JH: Mmhm, mmhm. And do you think that this kind of collaboration will create better projects for public audiences or do you think it will just make us much richer as a discipline, or both? 

AG: Yeah, I think both richer as a discipline and better products. But also, better policy. That’s the thing. I’m really involved in advocacy and now that I’m working on this, I’ve been working on a lot of projects that are related to the seafood industry in addition to the canneries initiative, and a big thing that I come across all the time is that people thing of these things the way their field developed and will respond, like economics and biology. And so their tool sets are limited in understanding the impacts of policy decisions because they only measure for those things. They don’t measure for human quality of life, for the history and culture of a community that uses these resources. So, in a way, it’s more about policy than public products. That’s what I’m really interested in. 

JH: Mmhm, right, and you see sort of the role of the public historian within a community as very much linked to advocacy, with policy, and these sorts of things.

AG: Yeah, mhmm. Definitely. 

JH: Wonderful. 

AG: And making people aware that there are these other things they’re not considering. 

JH: Mmhm, quite quite. So I have a couple of more questions, just more general questions about the program at USC and any ideas you might have about perhaps the future. So, if you could make a suggestion to the Public History Program at USC, what would you say? 

AG: Well, for me, I made this suggestion when I was there and I don’t know if it’s applicable for everyone, but just based on my career trajectory it’s very applicable, I really wish that I had – that it was required – to take a museum class, a historic preservation class, and an archives class. Because now, I mean, as a public historian, sometimes I create finding aids for small institutions for their collections and while I’ve learned how to do this, it would have been great to have taken a class specifically geared towards archival management but I didn’t have the space in my schedule to allow for it.

So, I think that as everyone in general gears towards making programs more specific, I really see the value in broad, general skills when it comes to this profession, especially since, goodness, it’s like budgets are only getting cut. Positions are being stacked and the broader our skillset and the many ways we can use public history will benefit everyone. 

JH: So, do you think that one of the best ways to go about that would be to require one of each of those classes for public history students because then at the end, they are at the very least introduced to those skills? 

AG: Yeah, yes. I think so. Or creating some class in which it was, maybe there’s a way of condensing it so there’s a way of doing archives and curation together or something. 

JH: Mmhm. 

AG: Because I know that two years really isn’t a long time, especially when it’s on a semester basis, so there’s a lot of classes that we have to take to graduate and all that so I don’t know how it would work with scheduling. But I know that, I feel like my career would be enhanced if I had the opportunity or had the time in my schedule as part of the program requirements to take an archives class as well. 

JH: Right, perhaps something like that introductory 720 class but for public historians where you kind of spend a third, you know, chunks of a third of the semester on each one of those things. Then at the end of the semester it’s kind of like “Here’s the sorts of things that you will come across in the future.”

AG: Yes, uh-huh. For sure. I think that would be very valuable. 

JH: I think so too. I think that’s really an excellent suggestion. 

AG: Because the training… sorry. 

JH: No, I was just saying I think that’s an excellent suggestion.

AG: Yeah, because the historiography classes even though when I started them I was like, “Uh, this is such a pain,” they were very valuable for learning what it was to be a historian. But I think in general, there are skills that are associated with the field of public history that are more than just research and writing and they’re practical skills. Understanding how to apply the Secretary of Interior’s standards. They’re knowing how to process and archival collection. They’re understanding about museum registration and how to catalog objects and, of course, one never knows the trajectory of your career and I think learning these skills early will really could benefit someone greatly over the course of their career. 

JH: And did you, and you kind of mentioned this, and did you have to learn on the fly or learn on the job these skills that you just didn’t have exposure to when you were in the program?

AG: Yeah, mmhm. 

JH: Right. 

AG: And thankfully at the Baranov Museum, I had several bosses for whom professional development was part of the job so, you know, if I could find funding I could go to…I did a weekend-long basic archival training class where I really got a crash-course on making finding aids. And then I was able to go and do a week-long oral history training actually, at the Chemical Heritage Foundation in Philadelphia before I did an oral history project. So, there’s a lot of opportunity, I think, in the field for professional development but it also requires having a supportive boss. 

JH: Right, excellent. Good. So do you have a vision for the future of the Public History Program or public history programs in general? We mentioned a little bit of this earlier but where do you see us headed in the future? 

AG: Well, definitely I think having a more public face, just in general for public historians. I think right now is a really good moment to be a historian. It’s interesting because well at the same time, people are always bemoaning the loss of the humanities and fewer people are getting their bachelor’s in history, but at the same time there’s a huge demand for quality, engaging, historical content online. And so, and right now because we’re struggling and finally dealing with our conflict-ridden racial past in the US, I just think that this is a great moment to be a historian and apply these public historical skills.

So I think, hopefully, public historians more as “public persona” in a way? Because that would be a great future. Also, I think when I left USC the program was starting to get involved in advocacy and I think that’s such a critical skill and continuing to have, to practice, to use that skill while still in grad school is really important because goodness, I spend some much of my time fundraising, number one, I’m constantly figuring out how to get the money together to do the programs I want to do but also defending my career. (Laughter) From imminent threats and cuts.

So I think that really, the public-facing and as a public advocate is an important role for public history programs. 

JH: Right, wonderful. Last but not least, do you have any parting thoughts? Or anything that we didn’t touch on in this interview that you would like to have on the public record? Kind of, preserved into the future about public history or the program itself, your teachers, or anything really. 

AG: No, I think really all education is what you make of it, of course. And I feel like I had a really great experience at USC. I made some great friends. I was trained to be a historian. I lived in a place otherwise I never would have lived before. I mean, it’s like, it was a totally new era in my life that resulted in moving to Columbia and embarking on this path and becoming a historian. And I’m definitely very happy that I made that decision. I have absolutely no regrets about it at all. And yeah, I think that’s probably it.

JH: (Laughter) Hey, that’s wonderful. That’s just the kind of thing that we’re interested in hearing because a lot of the alums we’re interviewing are five, ten, fifteen years out from their education here and we love to kind of hear individuals reflecting on their time here and where they’ve gone as professionals. Whether or not they stayed in public history and if these ripples of their time here have still stayed with them, so. 

AG: Mmhm. Yeah. For sure. 

JH: Well thank you, thank you so much for participating in the archive and like I mentioned earlier, I will send you the file of the release and everything. And, whenever you can get that to us, would be appreciated but we understand that you’re on the road and traveling and doing your historian thing.

AG: Oh, I’ll get it back soon. I know as someone who has managed oral history projects before that the release forms are such a hassle. I will get that to you as soon as I can.

(Laughter) 

JH: Well, we really appreciate it and I wish you the best on your travels and I hope that you continue to have a good trip out there in the Northwest and all that good stuff.

AG: Great. I’m curious, I’m curious what are the products of the interviews? Are you going to do transcription? Is it like a radio story? What are the products that are going to come from this? 

JH: Right, right. So, as part of the course, the interview audio is obviously required to be turned in and each one of us we have to do a transcription for every interview that we do. So, the transcript and the audio will go to the Caroliniana for their archive.

AG: Great, uh-huh.

JH: And the other products, kind of the take-aways from this, we’re hoping to do kind of informational, whether they’re booklets or a postcard to send out to interested students, alums, deans, these sorts of things so we’re still in the process of kind of refining what those final aspects will be. But we certainly want to work together on a finding aid for the collection but also something that we can kind of say, “Here’s what Public History at USC is, here’s how many decades we’ve been doing this,” and who our alums, gosh I think we have twenty-five-plus years of alums, have to say about their experience and their careers and public history as an endeavor.

AG: Uh-huh. Great. How many interviews are you going to be doing?

JH: You’re my third interview, so I have one more tomorrow.

AG: Goodness. Great.

JH: And I think that we’re required to do three perhaps, and then we can do four but if we do more all we have to do is do the audio and we don’t have to do more than four transcripts because that’s a lot of work.

AG: Oh my gosh, transcripts are such a time-intensive product. I would really recommend if you have the chance or the interest, you probably won’t need it after this course, but the week-long course of the Chemical Heritage Foundation does is really great. And the only reason I know about it is because I remember years ago Allison mentioning, “If you ever do anything related to science, see if the Chemical Heritage Foundation has some way to pay for it.”

(Laughter) 

And it was exceptional. They flew me out to Philly, put me up and everything, to do this week long training and it was specifically for doing interviews with people engaged in the sciences. But, yeah, that’s one thing to look for in the future is funding opportunities through them.

JH: Wonderful! I will pass that along to my fellow students.

AG: Uh-huh, it’s great.

JH: We’re always interested in that sort of thing, and my own research for my dissertation does use a lot of oral histories and this is good practice for me and I enjoy learning about, kind of, all the ways that public history presents itself over individuals’ careers.

AG: Yes. For sure.

JH: I think that’s wonderful.

AG: Well, you enjoy that transcription.

(Laughter) 

JH: Oh, I can’t wait.

AG: I’ll stop talking to make it shorter.

JH: Excellent, well thank you so much and I’m sure we’ll be in touch.

AG: Okay, well take care Jillian.

JH: Okay, you too. Alrighty, bye-bye.

AG: Bye-bye.

End of Interview

(53:33)