It is not really a secret that I am a huge fan of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. During my first grad level public history course at Temple University, I spent time researching the American Academy of Music in their reading room to assist me in writing a paper about a dolman jacket a woman wore to a concert there in the late nineteenth century. It was one of my first primary source research experiences off campus, and in the dim light of a rainy November evening, I carefully maneuvered old programs from the Academy for advertising related to silk jackets with a sense of wonder. When I started my History Truck project, I asked for HSP’s support, and their staff members gladly oriented my research on Kensington fires as well as offered me free research passes to complete the work. Friends and colleagues of mine have interned there and had lovely experiences. This summer, I was happy to get to know HSP from a similar perspective to these friends, as an intern. It is not always easy navigating the cultural landscape, but HSP has always been a place I enjoyed to research, whether it was research on music in 1884, breweries in 1962, fires in 1851, or the very workings of grant funding for historical societies in the 21st century.
This internship has not been shaped like some of my classmates; instead of spending most of my time on site doing work, I was afforded the freedom to do a lot of research about grantwriting for historical societies from home and at other libraries. Still, I did spend a chunk of hours working in random places at HSP under the direction of Jon-Chris Hatalski, and I have to share that it was simply one of the most pleasant projects of summer 2014. As I did my research and work, I was met with positivism, support, and understanding every step of the way. I have learned a great amount about the dynamics behind historical grant funding from both a local and larger North American perspective, and I had my first taste in writing a corporate grant proposal. I sampled old grant applications and looked at current foundation proposal requests to understand how funding actually happens. Beyond the practical use of this experience and learning, it also is a totally relevant sampling of historical work that needs to be done on arts and culture right now. In the midst of –what I have called before– a crisis in the arts and humanities or even a culture war, understanding the funding landscape with a historical perspective is critical. As cultural workers, we cannot deny the men and women behind the curtain writing grants or reviewing them. We have to know these stories– the funding stories– so that we can successfully sustain a market of cultural production.
So, for all of these things, I am grateful. It has been a long, active summer. See ya in September.