History Camp has been a hit. It began as a once-a-year unconference for adults for all things history, and now includes unique history-related events throughout the year.
We’d love to have History Camps held in more places. Read on to learn how you can be part of making that happen.
The history of History Camp
The goal of History Camp is to increase interest in and engagement with history.
The first History Camp was in Cambridge in 2014. The next year we held History Camp Boston in the spring and began monthly history events in the area. Some folks in Des Moines spoke up and organized History Camp Iowa, which took place at the Historical Museum of Iowa in the fall of 2015. It was the first History Camp outside of New England, and it was a big success, with the most attendees and sessions yet, along with great local media support and the involvement of the State Historical Society of Iowa. (See links to radio and TV segments at the bottom of the About page.)
We’ve had people drive hours to participate in History Camp, and some have even flown, including the person heading up History Camp Colorado. She heard about History Camp Boston on Twitter and came out in the spring of 2016. She liked what she saw and decided that Colorado needed its own History Camp. In 2016 she launched History Camp Colorado and it sold out weeks in advance.
Also that spring, a group from Western Massachusetts decided that there should be a History Camp in their region. They made it happen, and History Camp Pioneer Valley was sold out weeks in advance.
If you want to find a History Camp near you, check out our home page.
If you’re interested in making History Camp happen in your city, state, or region, please read the Guiding Principles below and the Requirements. If you think it’s something you want to take on, let me know. All of the organizers have found it very rewarding, and I’m sure you will, too.
History Camp democratizes participation and engagement and is based on these guiding principles:
- Organized by volunteers, with the goal of simply breaking even.
- It’s a day-long event, always on a Saturday, and everyone participates.
- Anyone can attend, regardless of ability to pay, provided they register in advance.
- Anyone can speak, provided there’s a time slot.
- People can speak on any topic related to history and use any format (presentation, panel, round table, as well as others). Avoid current political affairs. Do not sell.
- For those who can’t attend, participants share on social media and presentations are posted on the History Camp site.
- Open with everyone going around the room and introducing themselves (briefly).
- Close with feedback from all who attended.
History Camps follow all of these. The About page includes a presentation that discusses those and includes verbatim comments, links to news coverage, and more.
- The willingness to lead, either by yourself or with others helping you throughout the process. At some of our History Camps, there is a committee with a head who pulls everything together. With others, there is one person who is responsible and they enlist volunteers for the event itself. It’s not clear whether one model is better than the other; it really depends on the individuals involved.
- A venue, and this is the most difficult part of History Camp. Once you nail down a venue, then the rest falls into place, albeit with work and organization.
- Available for a full day on a Saturday, with the ability to get in the night before to set up.
- Main room or hall or atrium for up to 100 people for registration, opening, lunch, and wrap up.
- At least three breakout rooms and ideally four, each holding 25 people or more
- Easy to get to which, depending on the location, may mean close to public transportation or someplace with ample parking.
- Affordable catering or, better yet, allows you to bring in your own food.
- Has A/V in the rooms, ideally. If not, you’ll need to find people who have projectors and then you can project onto a wall, screen, or white board
Answers to the questions we get most frequently
Do I need to have a degree in history or work in a related field?
No. Some organizers have degrees in history, but others don’t, and so far only one works in a history-related field.
Do I need to get a committee together?
No. The History Camps in Des Moines, Pioneer Valley, and Denver, were started by individuals who contacted me about holding them in their communities. In the case of Des Moines, the individual put together a small committee, in Pioneer Valley, there was a network of small history organizations in place, and in the case of Denver, it’s been one person making it all happen.
You really don’t screen the presentations?
Correct. This is one of the most important principles, and it separates History Camp from all other events in the field. You don’t have to belong to a certain organization, have a particular degree, or submit a session proposal that’s reviewed and approved by a committee.
But what about quality?
The quality has been very high. Just browse the lists of sessions from past History Camps and the verbatim comments in the evaluations.
What we’ve seen is that people take pride in their presentation. They see the quality of past presentations and those of others who will be presenting at their History Camp and want to do the best job they can.
In addition, there are multiple sessions going on in every time slot, and in the opening remarks we explain that if someone is in a session that’s not meeting their expectations, they should quietly get up and leave.
Isn’t it chaotic, with all kinds of sessions on all different topics?
The variety is one of the things that attracts people. Browse the responses from past History Camps and you see this time and again.
In many ways, the thing that’s most compelling for people who love history is that they know that they’ll have a rare opportunity to spend a day discussing history with others who share their passion. The variety of topics draws individuals who together create a dynamic and engaging History Camp.
What’s the hardest part?
Finding a venue. Once you have your venue, it all comes together. So far, History Camps have been held in corporate meeting centers, community colleges, universities, social service agencies, and state history museums. They have all worked. Most colleges and universities have exactly the facilities needed for History Camp.
What kind of support to do you provide?
We all want to see these succeed and help one another to make sure that’s the case.
- Web pages
- E-mail set up
- Templates, including for the session program and session grid
- Publicity via our social channels and at the other History Camps
- Ongoing help and support over the phone, via, e-mail, and through our History Camp Handbook, which includes contributions from all of the folks who are responsible for the History Camp in their city, state, or region
If you’re interested in discussing a History Camp in your city, I’d love to hear from you.