Cultural Cooperatives

Cultural Cooperatives

The Chrysler Village History Project emerged as a perfect storm of passionate public historians and enthusiastic residents from the working-class neighborhood of Chrysler Village in the southwest corner of Chicago. The group donated their time and resources to leverage the newly-revealed history of the area for the benefit of the contemporary community. In August 2016, the three-year project culminated with the launching of a robust online oral history archive and a community festival featuring the unveiling of commemorative signage and a mural designed and painted by local elementary students. The project was a public historian’s dream, with an important exception: we could not sustain our professional involvement with the community long-term without compensation.

Now I’m asking: What would a Chrysler Village History Project look like that not only delivers tangible benefits to the community but also paid for public historian’s labor? What might a public history cooperative look like where community members can contribute capital or labor and have a clear stake in determining the direction of the organization? Are there other models to look to? Is there a way to use public history as a tool to thwart capitalism and engender social, cultural, and economic justice?

Selected Work

Author, “Envisioning Shared Authority as an Alternative Economic Model for Cultural Organizations,” in Museums and Revenue (Rowman & Littlefield, Forthcoming 2019).

Facilitator, Economic Justice and the Ethics of Public History (Part II),” Annual Meeting of the National Council on Public History, Hartford, Connecticut, March 2019.

Author, “Envisioning New Economic Models of Public History,” Part I; Part II; Part III, Omnia Blog, May – July 2018.

Facilitator, “Negotiating Power Lines: Economic Justice and the Ethics of Public History,” Annual Meeting of the National Council on Public History, Las Vegas, Nevada, April 2018

Author, Beyond Passion Projects: Rethinking the Economic Models of Public History, July 2017