Public History Displays at NHIOP

November 21, 2017

By Chip Underhill

Memorabilia from deep in the archives of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics (NHIOP) is on display at the Institute, illustrating the work of students in HI363: Public History. The students' work is currently on view in three locations at the NHIOP: The Presidential Library, the West Wing, and the NHIOP entrance to the West Wing.

Professor Beth Salerno, teacher of Public History and chair of the History department, explains that her students were required to tell a story, using the NHIOP archival collections, to create a museum exhibit that fulfills the mission of the Institute to educate, engage and empower citizens to participate in the civic and political life of their local, national and global communities. She describes the Public History class as an exploration of the importance and relevance of history outside the classroom, specifically in archives, museums, commemoration, and public spaces.

The 12 students in the class worked for three weeks in collaborative pairs, says Salerno, who adds that they also were required to ensure that the topic of their display cases coincided with the topics of others, to create a cohesive exhibit. In class, students learned about museum ethics, conservation issues, best practices in label writing, and audience engagement but “the display assignment was their chance to show what they had learned.”

Two students, Dena Miller '20 and Greg Valcourt '19, say they enjoyed discovering the Institute’s rich collection of memorabilia and examples of political campaigns. The class also included students Cody Aubin '18, Kathryn Gabert '19, Sarah Hummel '19, Lisette Labbé '18, Emily Lowe '19, Brendan Mahoney '18, Rebecca O’Keeffe '18, Tim Stap '19, Greg Tubman '19, and Caitlin Williamson '19.

The projects were supported by Ann Camman, deputy director of the NHIOP, who revealed the richness of the Institute’s archives and approved their topics. Professor Salerno notes that the goal was to make a long-term contribution to the interpretive program at the Institute; in the process of putting together the exhibits, students discovered gaps in the NHIOP collection and were able to make suggestions for acquisitions and new areas of interest.

The displays were one of three assignments for Public History. A paper on an object in Professor’s Salerno’s collection, and a final project on a subject, including Saint Anselm College or New Hampshire history, were also required.