Rutgers–Camden to Provide Institutional Support for “The Public Historian”

Beginning this fall, Rutgers–Camden will provide institutional support, in the form of editorial and operational assistance, for The Public Historian, the flagship journal in the field of public history. Sponsored by the National Council on Public History and the University of California–Santa Barbara, the journal offers the latest scholarship and applications from the field, ranging from original research and case studies, to broad substantive and theoretical issues.

Mary Rizzo, the former associate director and acting executive director of the New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH), has been named Public Historian in Residence – a newly created post – at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities, based at Rutgers–Camden. Effective Sept. 1, Rizzo will serve primarily as co-editor of The Public Historian, which is published by the University of California Press.

“It's a great honor to be named co-editor of The Public Historian, which has been the leading journal of the public history movement for more than 30 years,” says Rizzo, a resident of Philadelphia. “I look forward to helping MARCH become more deeply tied to the historic organizations in the region, particularly southern New Jersey, where it can work in partnership to create innovative projects.”

According to Rizzo, one of her primary goals as co-editor is to bring the voices of public history practitioners into the print journal. While the journal is generally read by academic public historians, who offer invaluable insights into public history, Rizzo will help facilitate more dialogue between academic scholars and public history practitioners. She explains that most history organizations in the United States are small, with minimal connection to the resources available to larger museums or historic sites. “Having worked at several small historic sites, I'd like to help those practitioners to feel that The Public Historian is speaking to them by enabling them to help shape the future of the journal,” she says. “It's important to the journal’s continued vitality that it reaches these new audiences.”

Rizzo also plans to connect the journal with the online History@Work, a public history commons published by the National Council on Public History. She notes that the multi-authored blog is quickly becoming a hub for conversation about public history in all its various forms and activities.

In addition to her role as co-editor, Rizzo will be working with MARCH members on a variety of public history projects, including The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia and the Fredric M. Miller Memorial Lecture.

For the past five years, Rizzo has served in leadership roles for NJCH, a statewide nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. During that time, she led a number of public history projects, including a series of public forums called “Environment, Equity & American History,” which examined contemporary environmental problems in New Jersey through a historical lens. She also helped create an innovative role-playing curriculum called “Reacting to the Past,” focusing on the 1913 Paterson Silk Strike for New Jersey public school teachers as part of the 350th anniversary of the signing of New Jersey’s charter in 2014. She also formerly held public history and educator positions in New Jersey at Tuckerton Seaport, Rockingham State Historic Site, and the Office of Legislative Services in Trenton.

Rizzo believes that her prior experience, as well as her familiarity with the region, will enable her to “hit the ground running” upon joining MARCH in September. “Working at the New Jersey Council for the Humanities for several years allowed me to be part of an amazing network: the state humanities councils,” she says. “I've also gotten to work closely with history and humanities organizations throughout the state. With this background, I'll be able to get started quickly forming new partnerships and projects. I also have a good sense of what kinds of historical work is being done in the state. I want to make sure that MARCH and Rutgers–Camden are part of these exciting projects.”

Rizzo earned a Ph.D. in American studies from the University of Minnesota in 2005, and a bachelor’s degree in history, graduating summa cum laude, from The College of New Jersey in 1997. Her book manuscript, Class Acts: Young Men and the Rise of Lifestyle, 1945-2000, is currently under review.

Formed in 2001 with a challenge grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, MARCH’s mission is to support humanities research, programming, training, and communications throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

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