This blog has on more than one occasion explored various aspects of what we might understand as public history. Just recently, for instance, we posted on Selma, on the role of war memorialisation in the making and maintain of both local and national identity and both ‘black history month’ and ‘native American heritage month’. Then there is also our close relationship with our local branch of the Historical Association. We have had some great talks this season (at our Park campus) and an equally exciting programme lined up for the 15/16 season which starts in September. All this public engagement is absolutely vital to keeping what we do within the University of Gloucestershire both fresh and relevant and, hopefully, matches closely to wider public concerns and interest. I was particularly impressed, for instance, by a recent article in The Guardian by Emma Graham-Harrison on a new exhibition at Auschwitz which raised really important questions as to whether horror and atrocity should ever be a tourist destination/attraction.
Public history needs to raise and discuss important questions such as these. It needs to bring the public into the university and discuss weighty subjects. This June we will be doing precisely that, although our topic is perhaps not quite as contentious as the Holocaust (but see our post on events of the 21st of last month)! On the weekend of June 6/7, and in conjunction with both the Edward Thomas Fellowship and Friends of Dymock Poets, we will be holding an event focussing on the coming together of a number of celebrated poets in this small Gloucestershire village shortly before the outbreak of the Great War and the landscape that inspired them. Papers given at the conference will also make use of the material held in the University’s own archives. This takes place on the Saturday, when there will also be an opportunity to see the premier of an innovative piece of drama presented by Dreamshed Theatre Company, Eleven Places Theatre Company, and emerging playwrights on the MA in Creative and Critical Writing at the University. The play will be accompanied by specially-commissioned music. Whilst on the Sunday the conference moves to the village of Dymock and number of guided walks. These will explore the landscapes which inspired the authors, and the places where their families interacted with each other and the local community. All of this will be underpinned by an exhibition of original art.
Public history events such as this one must inform, provoke and stimulate but above all be attractive to a wide audience. We do hope that this is the case and invite people to join us over the weekend. Further information can be found here.