Public Historians and Family Collections: Issues of Engagement, Interpretation, and Preservation

No Thumbnail Available
Condrey, Morgan Elizabeth
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
In their various roles within communities, public historians increasingly encounter inquiries from families about “what do we do with this stuff?” Families have collected and preserved objects, papers, and images of significant events, with most being only of significance to them. But there are always collections that may have a greater audience. Helping families navigate the different pathways collections may take for their future preservation and interpretation is a fundamental role for public historians. Many families are wary of sharing their personal collections with institutions that may strike them as distant. Applying key principles of public history theory and practice, the public historian can help families find various methods of both sharing and preserving their records. In this thesis I will discuss the role of the public historian in both preserving and interpreting family collections with the intention that it remains with the owner. Using the Horace Stegall World War Two Collection as a case study for the practice and process, this thesis will offer an example/guide for public historians to help build relationships with families and bridge the divide. In addition to this guide, I will offer my interpretation and narrative of the collection requested of me by the collection’s owner. Within this thesis I will offer a unique perspective as both a relative to the owner of the collection and a public historian.
Family archives, Family collections, Family history, Historic preservation, Public history, History