What are the Public Humanities?
Drawing from art, culture, and history, the public humanities share research and creative work in order to engage, inspire, and educate public audiences. In particular, public humanities initiatives can be effective ways to build awareness and stimulate dialogue around issues of controversy and conflict. Public humanities methods vary: they may include exhibitions and installations, multimedia and digital presentations, public programs, oral history projects, and interpretive tours.
At Williams, students can undertake public humanities work as a class or independent study project, a fieldwork course, an internship, or an extracurricular activity. The project might be something accomplished independently, as part of a group of students or in a class, or in partnership with – or in the service of – an organization off-campus. Explore this website for examples of recent projects completed by Williams students.
In 2016, students in HIST371, Oral History: Theory, Methods and Practice, produced North Adams Memories. Using interviews conducted in the class, the project tells some of the history of North Adams through the experiences and memories of people who lived and worked there. Please read and listen to their stories or download a PDF version of the site.
In the summer of 2016, Johanna Wassermann '18, worked with North Adams and the Hoosic River Revival to produce an educational curriculum. Her interactive river walk (PDF) introduces elementary school students to the history and ecology of the Hoosic River.
In 2015, Sam Park '17, interned for the North Adams-based Hoosic River Revival. His summer internship culminated in this video that explains the visionary work of Hoosic River Revival and some of the environmental challenges facing the city.
Public Humanities Fellows work together under the guidance of the program's director to document and research student activism at Williams. In 2016-2017, three Fellows collected materials about Williams' activist history and shared it through this "Untold Williams" website.
The Public Humanities Fellows program continues each year and offers a new group of students the chance to collaborate throughout the academic year. Students receive a $2000 stipend, distributed through student payroll over two semesters.
What do Williams students know and think about North Adams? What should they know? And how does that understanding compare to the ways that North Adams residents know the place? In 2017, students in HIST371, Oral History: Theory, Methods and Practice, created audio essays to help other students learn about the city. They presented their project at the end of the spring semester.
To learn more about doing Public Humanities at Williams, contact Director of Special Academic Programs Clinton Williams.