Monday, 3 September 2012

Fostering and Connecting Public History worldwide: The International Federation for Public History (IFPH) - La Fédération Internationale pour l’Histoire Publique (FIHP)

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Before the IFPH meeting, NCPH annual conference in Milwaukee, April 2012
A Task Force for internationalizing public history discipline and activities worldwide was set up in 2009 by Anna Adamek, a Public Historian working for the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, in view of the US NCPH (National Coalition for Public History) annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, in 2010. This international group met for the first time during an NCPH round-table -International Council on Public History? Bringing Global Public History Closer- and created the basis for a new international association that would have discussed transnational issues in Public History practices and education.
The working group included participants from different history institutions worldwide[1] and formed, thanks to the support of the NCPH, the first nucleus of participants that would have lead to the creation of an international association for public history between 2010 and 2011 to exchange ideas on what to teach in PH programs worldwide, discuss possible student exchange and international internships programs, facilitate publications on transnational issues in public history, and, in general, put the International Federation for Public History (IFPH)  - Fédération Internationale pour l’Histoire Publique (FIHP) -the bilingual name of the new Federation- imprimaturs on seminars, workshops, conferences, symposia, and other events worldwide such as the international conference that will be held in Amsterdam at the end of 2014.
First Portland,[2] then Pensacola after over a year of preparatory work, set the basis for the birth  of a provisional International Federation for Public History in August 2010 with a provisional Steering Committee coordinated by Anna Adamek.[3] Bylaws in French and in English were drafted[4] after the NCPH Pensacola annual meeting in 2011 and a nominating committee was elected in West Florida, to facilitate the presentation of candidatures and the election of an IFPH-FIHP steering committee. This election took place in January 2012. The elected Steering Committee of the IFPH-FIHP met twice already in 2012.

Looking for European ways to Public History

NCPH Annual meeting in Pensacola, FL, April 2011
A year after Portland, during the Pensacola NCPH annual meeting in 2011, I had the chance to organize a session called European Approaches to Public History: Identifying Common Needs and Practices.[5] An attempt was made to look at the origin of Public History practices -“without the name” - also in continental European countries.[6] The session in Pensacola showed that, unlike in  the Anglo-Saxon world where the discipline was now established,[7] a variety of Public History discourses and activities emerged in continental Europe where the English term and concept were barely used nor translated. “Public History: a Ghost Discipline ?” was the title of my essay which focused on the contemporary cultural and political debates in continental Europe and Ireland and showed that they were heavily influenced by history and memory issues. The essay pointed out that professional historians actively participated in public debates in the media and that history was celebrated in public places. At the same time, a dense network of cultural heritage institutions and media also helped to question the role of history and memory within the public sphere. So the Public History field in Europe is linked to collective identities at different levels: from local memories to the construction of regional, national and pan-European “Heimaten” and “Realms of Memory”. Historical places, monuments, landscapes, have their own local, regional and national meanings. Their surrounding communities are looking for who is able to interpret them. Thus, Europeans –but this is true also in other continents- are inventing multi-dimensional identities and traditions that are based upon Public History activities.
Today, some Public History and Applied History Teaching Programs and activities are available in continental European universities but it was clear that very few times “applied historians” or “public historians” were performing public history in a conscious way or following the best practices of an official academic discipline or a history sub-field called “Public History”.
The IFPH role is to understand and to analyze how the past is integrated in the Public Sphere worldwide and which institutions, media and actors are involved in PH practices. In this sense, the creation of an international association such as the IFPH, could play a new role in connecting people, creating networks and supporting PH activities in different continents.

2012 Luxembourg and Milwaukee IFPH-FIHP Meetings

IFPH-FIHP Steering Committee meeting, Luxembourg, March 2012
The founding IFPH meeting was held in Luxembourg city, in the Neumünster Abbey, the 21-22 of March of 2012. Thanks to the Virtual Center for the Knowledge of Europe, the CVCE (Centre Virtuel de la Connaissance de l’Europe) it has been possible to organize such a meeting in Europe and a first public presentation of the Federation on the 21st of March together with an IFPH restricted SC meeting on the 22nd.[8] The IFPH Luxembourg meeting was organized together with digital history activities during the CVCE 2nd Digital Humanities Symposium[9]. As a member of the expert committee of the CVCE myself -and also as a member of the program committee of the CVCE Symposium- I successfully proposed to the organizers to include a session on "Digital Public History" to the DH symposium program to allow for a public presence of the IFPH during the scientific activities of the Symposium.
The discussion of the Steering Committee in Luxembourg focused on the IFPH Goals and Activities, its Membership and Finances: four essential chapters of its activities.
During the Luxembourg meeting, it was proposed to change the timing for the rotation of the at large delegates, postponing all elections from 2011 to 2012. This proposal was accepted during the Second IFPH meeting in Milwaukee.[10] So the first IFPH SC partial election will take place in December 2013. Andreas Etges and Anna Adamek agreed that Anna Adamek who started the early process of internationalization within the NCPH, will become the first at large delegate to leave the SC at the end of 2013.


Until now, to become a member of the IFPH it was sufficient to express one's interest in the field and in the federation sending an email to the Chair of the IFPH. In Luxembourg, it was decided to ask for a first annual IFPH Membership fee to all members. The membership will be renewed in January each year. The second annual IFPH fee will be collected before the end of January 2014. To allow for a better an easy diffusion of the federation membership, the SC members decided that the 2012-2013 fee was as follow: 10 USD for students, 30 USD for professionals, 100 USD for founding members. The value was thought in dollars because the IFPH Treasurer, Michael Devine offered to open a bank account for the IFPH under the law of the State of Missouri in the USA. At the moment, this solution is no longer viable and the idea has been abandoned. An IFPH budget will only be created officially when an IFPH bank account will be settled. Because of the urgency of the matter and to avoid to deal with more complicated and expensive issues, the IFPH decided to rely on the NCPH long experience and organization for collecting its own money. So the IFPH will use the NCPH channels for collecting its first membership fee for 2012-2013 in Autumn 2012 and all members will be informed as soon as this possibility will be set up.[11] This situation should change before 2014, when the new organization will have chosen the best country and legal system to register the federation as a non-profit international organization.
Italian Society for the Study of Photography
Another membership issue discussed in Luxembourg was if the IFPH should include only individual members or accept also associations and institutional members  The Steering Committee thought it was important to accept and to promote Institutional Membership within the IFPH. It was noted that the organization's by-laws provides for such a category. So, for example, the SISF, the Italian Society for the Study of Photography,[12] an interdisciplinary association interested in photography as a public cultural media, was the first international association  to become an official member of the IFPH already in April 2012. 

Ottawa, Amsterdam, Jinan: International Conferences

But if the Federation has not yet established a proper budget, its SC worked to foster Public History issues and the IFPH-FIHP presence worldwide through international conferences and conference organization.
Ottawa Annual Meeting, April 2013
The April 2013 NCPH Ottawa annual meeting will give a chance to present IFPH oriented Public History panels and round tables provided they will be selected. During the IFPH public meeting in Milwaukee in April, Jean-Pierre Morin (IFPH Vice-Chair), public historian working for the Treaty Relations Directorate, Indian and Northern Affairs in the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada,[13] introduced the NCPH Ottawa conference and the role that the IFPH could have played in this occasion. Morin was following the NCPH’s wish to internationalize the contents of its annual meeting and activities and, for rhe third time ever, the NCPH moved to Canada and organised its annual meeting outside the USA together with the IFPH-FIHP. So, IFPH members and the IFPH SC will promote international initiatives for Ottawa. In Milwaukee, Morin stressed also the importance of  comparing PH programs worldwide and memory studies programs. To support the internationalization of the NCPH Ottawa annual meeting, local organizers will try to fund some travel and residence costs for participants coming from other continents.  The IFPH-FIHP will also call for a first worldwide general membership assembly of the Federation in Ottawa.
Master in Public History, University of Amsterdam
Also during the Luxembourg meeting, a 2014 European conference of the IFPH was planned. The broader argument of the conference would have repeated the topic of the IFPH panel during the Luxembourg 2nd Digital Humanities Symposium: Digital Public History. In June 2012, the IFPH made an agreement with the University of Amsterdam Public History program and the NIOD, the Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide studies, to organize this conference in Amsterdam during the second half of 2014. The whole IFPH 2014 PH Conference Team will meet in Amsterdam before the end of 2012.[14]
 The IFPH obtained the recognition of the Public History field thanks to the activities of Arnita Jones, for many years executive director of the American Historical Association and today secretary of the IFPH, when the federation was recognized as a new Internal Commission of the International Committee of the Historical Sciences, the ICHS-CISH, after the Amsterdam meeting of the ICHS in August 2010.[15]
IFPH-FIHP, Internal Commission of the CISH-ICHS
So the IFPH -bilingual like the International Committee- answered to the call for papers for the next ICHS meeting -ICHS meetings are held every five years- in 2015 in Jinan, China. The deadline was in January 2012.[16] Unfortunately, none of the five proposals presented were selected by the sub-committee in charge of the program for the 22nd  Congress of the ICHS.[17] The International committee received 209 proposals -including the IFPH proposals- all sent to the members of the sub-committee of the ICHS who addressed their comments and suggestions to their Secretary-General, Robert Frank.[18] Amended proposals were discussed at a sub-committee meeting[19] in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, on 11 and 12 May 2012. The sub-committee selected proposals -no Public History panels-, are now submitted to a General Assembly of the ICHS –it happens at least each three years- to be held in Budapest (6-8 September 2012). Proposed themes were classified as follow: 3 or 4 major themes, 30 specialised themes, 19 joint sessions, 21 round tables and 1 special session. But there is still hope that one of the selected roundtable -What is Public History? -an IFPH partnership with the British National Committee of the ICHS- will be maintained for the Jinan conference after the Budapest meeting of the ICHS. The presence of the IFPH SC secretary, Arnita Jones, (the Chair and the Secretary of the IFPH are both allowed to attend the meeting representing the IFPH but have only one vote) during the Budapest meeting will help the federation to support the organization of such a roundtable together with the British Committee and, in general, the presence of PH in Jinan.[20]


IFPH-FIHP website
Communication is a very important issue when dealing with international organizations such as the IFPH. Jean-Pierre Morin (IFPH Vice-Chair), is responsible for the Federation’s communication policy. The IFPH-FIHP web site has been created by Morin, before the meeting in Milwaukee at The contact e-mail is This website will promote a better communication with the membersand a corporate informative platform for a worldwide public interested to IFPH activities. A Website committee will have to be selected to maintain it. A the moment all members of the SC have been authorized to access and update the web site. The website contains information about the IFPH as such and will become a platform to say also about IFPH sub-committees,  IFPH by-laws, give a calendar of PH activities worldwide, a bibliography on international Public History issues and the minutes of IFPH meetings and conferences. A Twitter @IFPH account has also been created and the use of the hashtag #IFPH is recommended. The Federation asks to use widely the H-Public listserv and the NCPH blog, History@Work to inform about IFPH-FIHP activities. A global IFPH Membership Mailing List has been created as a courtesy of the Indiana University – Purdue University in Indianapolis (IUPUI)[21] through the NCPH Executive Director John Dichtl []. Important information about the IFPH-FIHP is also reported within the NCPH web site itself. A Facebook page will also be created.


Those present during the SC in Milwaukee discussed the permanence of the existing committees of the IFPH. The Nominating Committee and the Program Committee’s functions have come to an end. But a series of ad hoc working group should be nominated when needed. For instance, in Luxembourg it has been noted that only two continents were represented within the SC. So an international outreach committee will be defined to foster the participation of non-represented continents in the IFPH SC. Such an IFPH sub-Committee will be made up of volunteers to link with the Steering Committee and develop the presence of the IFPH in other continents. IFPH members are welcome and will have to foster IFPH contacts in Asia, the Pacific, South and Central America and Africa connecting this committee to the SC activities.[22]
In Luxembourg, it was proposed also to create a Survey Committee to request to the IFPH membership what they think the IFPH should do and how to promote PH worldwide. No other committees were proposed but the web committee.


Participating to international conferences and organizing conferences in partnership with other organizations is a task that the IFPH is today able to perform without having yet gathered enough money to create a “treasure” to support international PH activities. At the moment the IFPH-FIHP has no financial means enabling it to offer grants nor programs, etc., However, the work of its SC members, potential members and supporters has put up a network able to spread PH worldwide and share the practices of PH. Putting together interested people and organizations worldwide around specific goals is what the Federation is primarily trying to do today. So the IFPH presence in Ottawa in 2013, the Amsterdam conference in 2014 and the participation in the Chinese CISH meeting in 2015, are all occasions to promote activities and discussions about the disciplinary field and its differences worldwide.
A general discussion on Goals and Objectives of the IFPH ended the public meeting in Milwaukee. Goals and objectives of IFPH in the coming year will be concentrated to encourage, promote, and coordinate, at an international level, teaching and research in public history and to facilitate an international exchange of information between members. The suggestion made by Andres Etges, at large member of the IFPH SC and professor at the University of Berlin, to write a standard letter about the foundation of the IFPH-FIHP and its goals that would have to be sent to all national historical associations potentially interested in  joining the Federation, was unanimously approved. To promote PH, the IFPH could also develop in the future, some of the following tools: a worldwide bibliography of Public History, an online international syllabus as teaching tool, a guide of best practices for education/teaching PH worldwide derived from the one published in 2010 by the NCPH, the creation of a committee connecting internationally public history museums, the support –proposed by Jon Hunner during the Milwaukee meeting- of living history and time travel activities like the ones organized by Bridging Ages Association,[23] etc.. But the first objective should be the building of a list of all academic PH programs worldwide, updating the list available on the NCPH website divided between NCPH (US Programs) and IFPH (Worldwide Programs).
Following these lines and sponsored by the IFPH, Thomas Cauvin a Ph.D. researcher at the EUI in Florence, member of the 2011 Nominating Committee of the IFPH, proposed a roundtable comparing several PH European University programs for the NCPH 2013 annual meeting in Ottawa.
So let’s all meet during the NCPH annual meeting in Ontario, Canada, from the 17th to the 20th of April 2013. We will know more about the next steps of the internationalization of Public History during the IFPH convention in Ottawa. We need everybody’s input and collaboration to this young and challenging federation, the IFPH-FIHP and you may now join the International Federation subscribing directly here.

[1] The discussants were the following: Justin Champion, Royal Holloway, University of London; H.A.Akku Chowdhury, Liberation War Museum (Bangladesh); Kate Christen, Smithsonian National Zoo; Andreas Etges, The John F.Kennedy Institute for North American Studies; James Gardner, National Museum of American History; Erika Gee, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience; Michelle Hamilton, University of Western Ontario; Jon Hunner, New Mexico State University; Serge Noiret, The Library, European University Institute; Jean-Pierre Morin, Treaty Relations Directorate, Indian and Northern Affairs, Canada; Linda Norris, Riverhill; Jon Olsen, University of Massachusetts; Manon Parry, National Library of Medicine-National Institutes of Health; Sonaren Phy, Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Phnom Penh, Cambodia); Cecilia Rusnak, Penn State University; Lisa Singleton, UNESCO’s World Heritage Centre; Ioana Teodorescu, McGill University, Montreal and Algonquin College, Ottawa; Jonathan Whalley, Independent Public Historian. (See: Annual Meeting Of The American Society ForEnvironmental History And The National Council On Public History, 10-14 March2010 Hilton Portland & Executive Tower, Portland, Oregon, p.15.)
[2] NCPH 2010 Annual Meeting, Portland, 10-14 March 2010: Currents Of Change.
[3] See Anna Adamek: International Task Force, in “Public History News”, Vol.3, n.1, Dicembre 2010, p.8.
[4] See French and English IFPH Bylaws here.
[5] Panel n. 38, Friday 8th April 2011, NCPH 2011 Annual Meeting, Pensacola, 6-10 April 2011: Crossing Borders/Building Communities, Realand Imagine, p.25.
[6] The papers were later published as a special issue of the Italian journal Memoria e Ricerca, Serge Noiret (ed.): “Public History. Pratiche nazionali e identità globale.”, in Memoria e Ricerca, n. 37/2, 2011. Only my own paper was written directly in Italian but online English and French versions of the papers are available here.
[7] A panorama was offered for Britain, a very specific case of PH in Europe:Professional Practices of Public History inBritain”, in The Public Historian, 32/3, 2010. On the British origin of Public History cf. my paper, “Public History” e “storia pubblica” nella rete”, in Francesco Mineccia & Luigi Tomassini (eds.): Media e storia, special issue of Ricerche storiche, year 39, n.2-3, May-December 2009, pp.275-327.
[8] Attendees of the restricted IFPH Steering Committee meeting in Luxembourg were, Michael Devine, Andreas Etges, Arnita Jones, Jean-Pierre Morin and Serge Noiret. Thomas Cauvin (IFPH Nominating Committee Member) took some notes of our discussions. ( IFPH SC meeting pictures are available).
[9] The DHLU’s Symposium 2012, “Websites as Sources,” included five research clusters addressing the question, “How should humanities and social sciences approach, use, and diffuse publicly available online sources?” and was organized together with a THATCamp Luxembourg-Trier between the CVCE ( and the Center for Digital Humanities (Universität Trier). (See: “First Meeting of the IFPH March 20-23, 2012, International Federation for Public History”, in Public History News, Volume 32, Number 1, December 2011.
[10] The second IFPH-FIHP SC meeting after Luxembourg in March, took place during the OAH/NCPH Annual meeting of April 20, 2012, 12:00 to 2 p.m., Hilton Hotel, Walker Room, Milwaukee, WI, USA  Many other meetings were held contemporaneously so only few people attended this meeting: from the IFPH Steering Committee, Serge Noiret (, Chair, Jean-Pierre Morin (, Vice-Chair and Andreas Etges (, Delegate. Other attendees were, Jannelle Warren Findley (atjwf, Manon Parry (, Gerben Zaagsma (, Jon Hunner (, Evan Medley (, Sharon Babaian (, John Dichtl (, Constance B. Schulz ( and Julie Davis ( Liz Sevchenko who also was in Milwaukee but presenting a paper at the same moment, recommended to include the network of the Sites of Consciences in the membership.
[11] Still when writing these notes, to be listed as new member or to know more about the IFPH the contact is the one of the IFPH, SC Chair, but the official address of the Federation is: IFPH c/o National Council on Public History (NCPH), 327 Cavanaugh Hall – IUPUI, 425 University Blvd, Indianapolis, IN  46202.
[12]Societa Italiana per lo Studio della Fotografia“, web site at
[13] See Jean-Pierre Morin: “Treating History and Policy: the role of public history in the development of policy for treaties in Canada, in Memoria e Ricerca, n.37, 2011, pp.115-128. 
[14] The IFPH 2014 PH Conference Team is the following: Serge Noiret, IFPH-FIHP Chair, European University Institute; Paul Knevel, Co-ordinator of the Master and Manon Parry, professor in the MA in Public History at the History Department, University of Amsterdam; Julia Noordegraf, Programme Director at the MA in Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image, Department of Media Studies, at the University of Amsterdam; Kees Ribbens, senior researcher at the NIOD, Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies; Kees Zanvliet, Head of Research, Exhibitions and Education, at the Amsterdam Museum; Johan Schot, Foundation for the History of Technology, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven;  Fienn Daniau  researcher and Bruno De Wever, professor at the Institute for Public History, University of Gent, Belgium and Christine Gundermann, Irmgard Zündorf and Andreas Etges, John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Free University in Berlin.
[15] 21st International Congress of Historical Sciences, 22-28 August 2010, Amsterdam. Cf. Arnita Jones: “Creating the International Federation for Public History”, in Public History News, Vol.3, n.1, December 2010, p.1 and p.4. IFPH, together with the CISH website information about the IFPH-FIHP.
[16] The IFPH Program Committee was formed by Anna Adamek, Canada, Arnita Jones, USA, Manon Parry, USA and Jannelle Warren Findley, USA. See the “Call for Public History Proposals, International Committee of Historical Sciences Congress (CISH) in Jinan, China”, in Public History News, Volume 32, Number 1, December 2011.
[17] A Larger Reading of the Human Past (Anna Adamek); Regeneration through historical projects (Anna Adamek); Teaching Public History (Arnita Jones); The Power of Place in Public History: Memory, Identity, and Meaning (Linda Shopes); Historians in Government: Professional Opportunities/Political Challenges (Michael Devine) and Capital Cities and Public History: International Perspectives (Mark Kristmanson).
[18] The Bureau -or in English, Steering Committee- of the CISH.
[19] Members of this ICHS sub-committee were, Marjatta Hietala, Hilda Sabato, Robert Frank, Laurent Tissot, Karen Offen, Jie-Hyun Lim, Andrea Giardina and Wenzhao Tao.
[20] This information is unknown when writing these notes in August 2012.
[21] The 28th of June 2012, the IFPH-FIHP mailing list at Purdue University, Indiana, USA, accounted more than 100 members mainly from Northern America and Europe. Information about the list are available  here.
[22] I also established preliminary contacts with active members like Utpal Kanti Dhar which did participated  in past years to Anna Adamek’s Task Force for Internationalization but more volunteer will be needed.
[23] Ebbe Westergren, responsible for Bridging Age activities at the Kalmar County Museum in Sweden has been also contacted.

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