Meet a Member is a biweekly blog series spotlighting our members. AASLH has 5,500 fascinating members working hard for the field of history, and we want to show them off. Each month we feature one individual and one organization.
Hope J. Shannon: Member of AASLH Since July 2015
M.A. in History from Simmons College
B.A. in History and Archaeology from Boston University
Fields of interest:
United States history, public history, memory and commemoration, humanities advocacy, urban history.
What is your role in the field of history?
I am currently a PhD student in the joint doctoral program in United States History and Public History at Loyola University Chicago. Before coming to Loyola, I was the Executive Director at the South End Historical Society in Boston, MA.
How long have you been active in the field of history?
I started at my first full-time, history-related job in 2009. Before that, I participated in archaeological excavations in Pompeii, Italy, Boston, MA, and St. George’s, Bermuda between 2005 and 2008.
How did you become involved in the field of history?
Growing up, I thought I wanted to be an archaeologist. During my B.A. program, I participated in a few excavations, completed an internship at the Boston City Archaeology Lab and, after graduating, spent a summer on an excavation in Bermuda. Archaeologists who work at sites with corresponding historical documentation use written records to place the site in historical context and to better understand the people who lived there. Their analyses use material finds and the context in which those finds were located to reconstruct how people lived in the past. By the time I finished working on the Bermuda dig, I realized that I was more interested in analyzing and learning from written records than material ones (though material culture is certainly important in history as well) so I decided to pursue a career in history instead. I began working at the South End Historical Society in Boston and completed my M.A. in history at Simmons College. My experiences at the historical society and my M.A. coursework helped me to realize the importance of the various public aspects of history work so I decided to go on to a dual PhD program in United States History and Public History at Loyola University Chicago.
Why does history matter to you?
Studying what happened in the past is essential to understanding present-day political, social, cultural, and economic landscapes. Issues in our present have deep historical roots and understanding what happened in the past can help us make better and more just decisions moving forward.
How has your AASLH membership been of value to you and your practice of history?
When I was the Executive Director of the South End Historical Society, I took advantage of many of the resources available on AASLH’s website, as well as some of the webinars. As a PhD student, much of my interest in AASLH relates to its involvement in history and humanities advocacy. I’ve been following the work done by the History Relevance Campaign (HRC), which many AASLH members are involved in, and I attended the HRC’s sessions at the recent AASLH annual meeting. At next year’s NCPH conference, I’ll be a discussant for a history and humanities advocacy working group that includes many AASLH members.
What is the most interesting or challenging change you’ve seen in the field (or that you see coming)?
Though many historians understand the importance of the public aspects of history work, some still see public history as a world apart from academic history. This is the challenge. If we want public support for the work that we do, all historians need to work with and learn from the public—not just with and from each other—to better understand why and how history work is valuable. Public interest in the presentation of the past at museums, historic sites, and on the Internet and in other media is incredibly high. And though public ideas about history’s value change over time, the public is very much interested in understanding and talking about the past. If more historians join this conversation, we’ll be better equipped to represent our field, communicate our ideas about history’s value, and use historical knowledge to shape a more just future.
These answers were edited for length and clarity. Want to be featured? Email Hannah Hethmon to learn more. Click here to read about more featured members. Click here to learn more about AASLH Student Memberships.