In July of 2019, I presented a poster of the project “Omaha in the Anthropocene” at the 3rd World Congress for Environmental History in Florianopolis, Brazil.
The conference was a fantastic opportunity to share my findings on the effectiveness of the project from a pedagogical perspective. Entitled, ‘Omaha in the Anthropocene: Teaching Global Environmental History as Local History’ the posters asked the following questions:
- What role can museums play in connecting global environmental change to local history?
- What are the challenges and opportunities of incorporating public history into EH courses?
- What can public history teaching projects teach us about global environmental history
Based on a combination of student and public feedback, I arrived at three conclusions.wcehposter
- Value/challenge for public history -The Anthropocene is an ideal theme to explore environmental history in public context. Approaching it as an historical question depoliticizes themes that might otherwise turn off viewers. This approach can obscure themes from scholarship deemed divisive, however.
- Value/challenge for pedagogy -Building a public history project is time intensive, costly, and requires coordination with students and other institutions. Its public, lasting format may engage students otherwise ambivalent about environmental history and unexposed to its methods or themes. The value as perceived by students may be different from instructors.
- Value/challenge for scholarship -Public history projects can reinforce the materiality of environmental history; foreground the lived experience of environmental agency; ground global narratives in local history; subvert declensionism; and problematize assumptions and contradictions of the Anthropocene discourse. Projects must balance demand for linear storytelling with the complexity of subject matter.
The poster was well-received and even appeared as a highlight of the conference in the newsletter of the Austrialian/New Zealand Network for Environmental History.