Dr. Bob Beatty and Professor Gregory Stevens at the Public Lecture
On Thursday, September 26, 2019, the College of Communication and the Arts M.A. in Museum Professions program, in association with the Institute of Museum Ethics and the Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, hosted "The Challenges and Opportunities of Making Public History," a public lecture organized by Professor Gregory Stevens. Dr. Bob Beatty, a historian, author, and museum professional, presented ideas from his research and book, An American Association for State and Local History Guide to Making Public History, and welcomed M.A. in Museum Professions students as well as local museum professionals to join in a discussion on the relevance and importance of public history.
Before Dr. Beatty's discussion, Devon Mancini, a current student and Graduate Assistant in the Museum Professions program with a track in Exhibition Development, was invited to give a short presentation to frame Dr. Beatty's lecture. Using a monument of Felix Dzerzhinsky that previously stood in front of the Lubyanka Prison in Moscow, Russia, and a Confederate monument currently standing in Dekalb County, Georgia, Mancini explained the importance of public history in giving context to current events. In Mancini's words, "History is not the study of the past, it is the study of the present, where past events are examined for answers and explanations. History provides the context necessary to understand present day."
Dr. Beatty's presentation titled, "Introduced to the Right Poem" illustrated for the audience some challenges facing the public history field. Attendees learned the importance of making powerful and impactful programs featuring information that is not only fascinating to the viewer, but relevant and valuable as well. He discussed the responsibility of public institutions to actively pursue diversity and inclusion within their institution's staff and visitor population in order to become a positive influence on their community. Dr. Beatty used examples of institutions across America that have become dynamic spaces for the community to gather and discuss relevant social issues or were facing challenges in presenting local history and needed to make a change.
Using language from the History Relevance Campaign, Dr. Beatty stated that "History is essential to ourselves, to our community, and to the future. Through history, people discover stories of individuals and groups that shaped the world they inhabit. It creates systems of values that guide their approach to life and relationships with others. When we bring history into discussions about contemporary issues, we better understand the origins and multiple perspectives of challenges that face our communities, nation, and the world. It is our job to introduce our community to the right poem." Dr. Beatty then offered the story of Natasha Tretheway. Tretheway's mother and stepmother each introduced poetry to her early in her life but she was unable to find joy or passion through it. It was not until she was "introduced to the right poem" that she found that connection, which eventually led to her becoming the 19th US Poet Laureate. Like Tretheway's experience with poetry, Dr. Beatty stated that some educational methods have led many people in the United States to lose their opportunity to find joy and passion in history. After explaining this metaphor, he concluded, asking the audience, "What was the right poem for you? How can you help your audience find the right poem?"
Dr. Beatty asserted that it is the job of the museum to provide educational programs that inspire the community to find new passion and interest. In order to do this though, museums and museum professionals must communicate openly with their community and consider visitor's needs. Only through this belief will institutions reach sustainable success and help their guests find the right poem.
Following the lecture, Professor Stevens mediated a discussion between Dr. Beatty and the audience, allowing guests to pose their questions and hear Dr. Beatty's thoughts. Students in the Museum Professions program had the opportunity to relate course learnings to the presentation and to ask Dr. Beatty for his insight on museum related topics. Some topics included financial sustainability, diversity and inclusion, and museum ethics.
The M.A. in Museum Professions is designed for individuals interested in pursuing careers in museums or related cultural institutions. Students in the program select one of four professional tracks, including Education, Registration, Management and Exhibition Development.
The College currently offers three graduate-level programs, including Museum Professions, Communication, and Public Relations. In addition, four dual-degree options, including three accelerated B.A./M.A. programs and a dual M.A. degree with the School of Diplomacy and International Relations are offered.