Wanted: 21st-Century History Job

help wantedWhat kind of job are you looking for? Every so often I receive an e-mail, tweet, or in-person question about whether I am seeking a history job and if so, what type of job I would like.

I sincerely appreciate your concern for my well being and your support of my work.

Usually, I am unable to provide a straight answer because the type history job I would like to have does not exist, yet.

In this post, you will discover the type of work I would like to pursue for a history organization or academic department and the type of historical work that I think is necessary as we move further into the 21st century.


Job Description Must Haves

My ideal job would allow me to pursue the mix of academic and public history work I am presently doing.


Historical Research and Writing

I LOVE conducting archival research. I believe that the best way to understand the past is to use the historical record.

Like many historians, I am driven by questions and the hunt for information. Each trip into the archive is a quest to reveal something new or overlooked about the past.

I also love to write. I enjoy the challenge of sifting through the evidence, contextualizing it, and shaping what I have found into a coherent article, book chapter, or blog post. It’s through writing that I find my most exciting ideas. Writing also provides a great opportunity to convey the past to the present.


MastermindCollaborative Work Environment

The historical profession in the United States requires a closer collaboration between academic and public historians.

Academic historians do not work alone. Public Historians share the academic desire to present high-quality, well-researched history.

Each group possesses skill sets and expertise that when combined has the power to transform what we know about the past and the ways we convey it to the world.

Together both groups of historians can cultivate wide public awareness about the past and convey history in a way that makes it as relevant to the present as we know it to be.

Our cooperative efforts to show the relevancy of the past to the present will ease all historians' ability to access federal, state, and private funding and will increase history class enrollment.


Experiment with New Methods of Conveying History

Historians need to adapt faster and better to the changes in our forward-looking and tech-savvy society.

I love books; I hope to write several throughout my career, but the place of the book in our society has changed. People still read books and magazine articles, but far more consume information via blog posts, podcasts, internet videos, and social media updates.

There are so many new and exciting ways to consume information, which means that there are so many new and exciting ways to convey history. We need to adjust the way we communicate history to conform to our new reality.

I love blogging and digital exhibits, but presently, I am bullish on podcasting.

Podcasts allow historians to tap into two important human desires: Hear stories and accomplish something during normally unproductive periods.

Vector internet marketing conceptHumans love to hear stories. Scientists have proven that we use stories to train our brains; they teach us how to think, perceive the world, and provide lessons about how we can solve problems.

Historians know how to tell stories and podcasts provide a way for us to convey the successes, failures, and issues of the past in an innate and very human way: orally.

Podcasts also provide listeners with a feeling of productive accomplishment. They can listen to podcasts and learn about history at times when they normally can’t be doing something else, like when they need to walk the dog, commute to work, or go for a run.

Additionally, the intimacy of podcasting allows listeners to form a connection with the storyteller. Listeners develop a virtual bond (dare I say friendship) that feels very real with the podcasters they listen to and this relationship leads them to feel vested in the podcaster, their work, and their message.

What could be better for professionals who seek to improve society by creating awareness about the lessons of the past?

Few other methods of conveyance offer the same opportunity to make history as relatable to the present as podcasts.

With that said, we live in a fast-changing world and I would like to work for an organization or department that recognizes that fact and is willing to experiment with other new technologies that promise the ability to cultivate wide public awareness about the past.


Public and Professional Interaction

I would like my future employer to support and provide time to meet with both non-specialist history lovers and professional colleagues.

Historians study the human-made past. Therefore, it is important that whatever organization or department I work for supports opportunities to interact with the public either through programs, tours, or other events.

networkingEach year I give about six tours of Boston that focus on the American Revolution. These tours allow me to connect with people who love history. They also provide me with a better understanding about what non-specialist history lovers know and don’t know about the past. This knowledge makes me a better historian.

I also find great intellectual and social enjoyment in professional conferences. I enjoy learning about what my colleagues are researching and what challenges they face in conveying history.

Additionally, I would welcome the opportunity to attend conferences and collaborate with others who experiment with new media and work in marketing.

Like it or not, all historians need to be able to market the importance of history, it is part of cultivating a wide audience and making history relevant for non-specialists.


Job Description Wish List

Digital Database Access

If I am going to discuss what my dream job would be, I might as well mention the fact that great database and library access would be a plus.

library-cloudI have cobbled together access to important historical databases and ILL privileges through the Boston Public Library and Boston Athenaeum, but there are other databases I would love access to.


Ability to Work Remotely, at Least Occasionally

We live in the 21st century and I would like to work like a 21st-century professional. I would love the opportunity to work in an office with colleagues nearby, but I also enjoy the freelance lifestyle.

It is nice to know that when Tim comes home and says “Would you like to go to Germany in two weeks,” I can go with him. Typically I work half days on these trips and use the other half of the day to visit historic sites an take in a different culture. These trips always provide me with a new perspective and make me a better person and historian.



In summary, my ideal job would involve historical research and writing, a work environment that encourages greater collaboration between academic and public historians, opportunities to experiment with conveying history through new media, and opportunities to interact with colleagues and non-specialists at conferences and events.

I have yet to see this type of hybrid academic/public history job offered.

However, when history organizations and academic departments finally post these types of hybrid jobs the historical profession will make a great and much needed leap into the 21st century.

I am glad to belong to a progressive and adaptable profession, but I often wish we had the ability to adapt more quickly.


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