A reflection on a workshop – The Historian, Heritage and Public History

The first IAPH workshop of 2015, in conjunction with Queen’s University Belfast, took place on the 17th January. ‘The Historian, Heritage and Public History’ was held in the Ulster Museum and organised by Olwen Purdue, Roisín Higgins, Paul Huddie and Peter Gray.

To say it was a good day would be an understatement. I really enjoyed it and got a lot out of it. The mood was really positive and the sense of possibility was very invigorating – not bad, considering I was up at 5:30am to get the train from Dublin and it was an extremely cold Saturday morning.

Here are some of the things I took away from it:

• Peter Gray’s (QUB) talk on writing an impact narrative: name the user groups who will be impacted by your research in your funding application; talk to them in advance; get a letter of their support when applying for funding and get them involved in the planning; identify how your impact event will benefit users.

• Janice Holmes (OU) on how to do impact: if you’re outside the academy use your flexibility to your advantage and try to link up with someone working in a university; if it’s your first time keep the project small, and local (in terms of location rather than scope); play to your expertise; work with people you know; find a partner with resources; talk about it all the time and everywhere – especially on social media.

• Jamie Curran (Heritage Lottery Fund): the HLF funds community based projects that often need a historian. We directed him to the IAPH directory! See http://www.hlf.org.uk/our-projects for the kind of projects they fund. They also expect professional historians to charge a consultant’s fee of 350 pounds sterling per day.

• Paula McFetteridge (Artistic Director, Kabosh theatre company): The arts often need the skills of historians. We can be catalysts for projects. Get on some theatre mailing lists (for example http://irishtheatreinstitute.com/) – see what kind of projects are going on, where you might fit and get involved.

• Mark Adair (BBCNI), William Blair (Ulster Museum), Paddy Fitzgerald (QUB and Ulster-American Folk Park) and Michael Hewitt (Doubleband Films): The speakers, taking part in a round table discussion, stressed the need for historians to be able to compress their work and provide broad sweeps – whether it’s for a tv documentary or an exhibition – and that this can be done without dumbing the subject down. Think about your research or your monograph – how could it be translated into these different mediums? The over-riding message was that historians need to get creative.

• After all that it was time to go to the pub.

It was great to meet lots of IAPH members I hadn’t met before and it was a happy coach on the train back to Dublin. Thanks to the speakers and organisers for making it so worthwhile. And thanks to Sorcha O’Brien for her technical assistance and to Emily Mark-Fitzgerald for taking some photos. Til the next one …



From left to right: Olwen Purdue (QUB), Michael Hewitt (Doubleband Films), William Blair (Ulster Museum),Mark Adair (BBCNI) and Paddy Fitzgerald (QUB and Ulster-American Folk Park)