Duties and Functions
The work of the Local Government Historian falls into four broad categories. Where the historian places emphasis will largely be a matter of personal interest and inclination as well as reflect the priorities and interests of the historian's appointing authority.
Research and Writing
The first, and primary, the responsibility of the Local Government Historian is an interpretation of the past. This will involve research and writing on aspects of the history of one's jurisdiction and may include scholarly monographs and articles as well as writing for a more general public audience in magazines and newspapers. Professor Judith M. Wellman noted:
The best local historians have upheld high standards of gathering and evaluating evidence, making thoughtful and appropriate generalizations, writing well-organized and readable narratives, and sharing their work with others through the most appropriate mediums.
Teaching and Public Presentations
The second category of responsibilities also involves the interpretation of the history of his or her community through teaching and public presentations. The Local Government Historian may teach courses in local and regional history, serve as a resource to teachers especially in the fourth and seventh grade local history curriculum, serve as a content consultant to historical agency exhibit planners, speak and lecture to community groups, participate in radio talk shows, and otherwise disseminate knowledge of the history of their locality. In addition, the Local Government Historian may work directly with students and other individuals interested in the community's past.
The third category of activity for Local Government Historians is that of historic preservation. This embraces not only preservation of the built environment but also of the manuscripts and records that document a community's past, and the objects and artifacts that constitute a community's material culture.
The Local Government Historian is both an advocate for historic preservation and a resource to his or her appointing authority on questions relating to history and preservation. The Local Government Historian may be asked to prepare cultural resource surveys of areas scheduled for development, to identify historic structures and districts and to prepare nominations to the State and National Register of Historic Places, to develop and manage historic marker programs, and to answer questions regarding the historic significance of places and properties within his or her jurisdiction.
In addition, the Local Government Historian promotes and encourages the preservation of historic manuscripts and other records as well as artifacts by recommending appropriate repositories of historical materials, such as local government archives, local public libraries, or historical agency collections.
The Organization, Advocacy, and Tourism Promotion
The final area of activity for Local Government Historians is that of organizer and advocate. Local Government Historians are often asked by their appointing authorities to support the local Tourism Promotion Agency or TPA. Heritage Tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry and depends for success on an accurate and attractive presentation of history. Successful efforts can have an important positive effect on the local and regional economies.
Local Government Historians are also asked to organize and direct the commemoration of historical anniversaries and to participate in other civic or patriotic observations. To this, the Local Government Historian must bring energy and knowledge of the past as well as a sense of good taste. Moreover, the Local Government Historian may be asked to act as a fundraiser or grant writer to provide resources for historical programs or to use their knowledge of local government to lobby for or introduce legislative initiatives to promote community history.
|Marvin Livingston||Town Historian|