Sport History and Public History are two fields that I think were made for each other. I’ve said this a few times. Sport history is also, in many ways, embedded within Campus History, i.e the history of college and universities, high schools, etc. After all, they say sports are the front porch of the university. And Campus History is another stakeholder in public history, with resounding consequences for public perceptions, politics, and much much more. Recently the National Council on Public History has had panels and working groups addressing both sport history and campus history at its annual meetings. This year I am facilitating a working group that seeks to bring public historians working on campus history and sport history together to talk about how we can better work together and tell multilayered stories to the public. I am intentionally casting a wide net, hoping to bring together a lot of approaches and variety of voices from different vocations.
While I am organizing and facilitating this group, it needs members. The call for discussants from NCPH went out today. Here’s the part about my group:
Sports on Campus: Sporting Traditions as Public History and Memory
Sporting traditions serve as a de facto form of public history for many colleges and become a central part of their and their alumni’s identity, operating as a what historian Brian Ingrassia describes as a form of “middle brow” culture that appeals to the broader public. Athletic teams are also crucial components of university marketing and recruitment strategies, offering a window into student life, inviting people to campus, and attracting news coverage. Furthermore, campus culture is often viewed as a contributing factor to the success and failures of athletes and teams. This use of sporting traditions divorces them from critical public history, obscuring the context and conditions of sport and campus histories.
Extending conversations from last year’s conference, this working group explores the relationship between campus history, sport history, and the identities of colleges and universities, their students, fans, and alumni. In addition to bridging the gaps between sport history and campus history, it hopes to develop strategies for better adding historical context and complicating the narratives told by marketing and sports information departments and sports media. The discussion will center on research and presentation practices, sites for sharing this history, and ways to use sport to track collective pasts and chart collective futures. Key questions that this working group wishes to address are:
– How have marketers and sport media portrayed campus history and sporting events? How can public historians help shape those narratives?
– How might sport history benefit from a deeper understanding of campus events? How might campus history benefit from a deeper understanding of the history of sport?
– How does sport affect our understanding or perception of educational institutions and their history?
– How might public historians respond to sport-related controversies on campus (such as fan behavior, sexual assault, NCAA scandals, mascots, etc.)? What are some effective strategies?
– Where are the best places for public historians to share these histories?
Building off of the 2017 conference theme, the intersection of sport history and campus history serves as a middle ground for multiple interest groups and a place to tell multilayered histories. The result of these conversations will be a best practices document that we hope to make public at History@Work and/or Sport in American History.
If you have never been to NCPH working groups are a bit different from workshops, roundtables, and traditional panels. They usually involve 9-10 people who submit brief “case studies” ahead of time. Group members then discuss the issues, our experiences, and think about how we can shape the field by create guidelines. For example, one outcome for my group is to create a best-practices document. At the actual conference, we will talk about our findings and discussions and open our discussion up to the public for further input.
f you’ve never been to NCPH, working groups are discussion based panels of 9-10 people. Being a discussant involves submitting a brief case-statement and interacting with other group members ahead of time, discussing the issues, our experiences, and thinking about how we can shape the field. For example, one outcome is to create a best-practices document. At the actual conference, we talks about our findings and discussion, and open our it up to the public for further input.
Here are the instructions for joining the group from NCPH:
To join a working group, please submit a one-paragraph email message describing the issues you wish to raise with your peers, together with a one-page resume, c.v., or biographical statement by October 15. We welcome submissions from individuals across a range of professions and career stages. Please see the specific working group descriptions below. Individuals who are selected will be listed as working group discussants in the conference Program and will participate in the working group session at the annual meeting.
This winter the group facilitators will ask participants to contribute a case statement of no more than 500-1,000 words for discussion. The case statement will describe a participant’s particular experience, define the issues it raises, and suggests strategies and/or goals for resolution. Case statements will be circulated among participants by email and posted in the Public History Commons or in PDF format on the NCPH website. Discussants are expected to read and comment briefly by email on one another’s case statements well before the conference date. Some working groups may also have additional shared background reading materials identified by their facilitators.
To apply, please send your paragraph and one-page resume/c.v./biographical statement by October 15 to firstname.lastname@example.org with the specific working group title in the subject line of your email.
If you have any questions about the goals or purpose of the group, feel free to comment here or contact me via email.