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?
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.
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