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. Would you like to be part of making that happen?
Where we started
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. She’s making that happen, and it’s going to be sold out weeks in advance.
Also this 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.
People have recently inquired about creating History Camps in Philadelphia, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta, and central Virginia, though none has been finalized. If you’re interested in being the person who leads a History Camp in these or other cities or regions, let me know.
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.
The About page includes a presentation that discusses those, verbatim comments, links to news coverage, and more.
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, now in its second year, and in Pioneer Valley and Denver (both new in 2016), 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?
Lots. We all want to see these succeed and help one another to make sure that’s the case.
If you’re interested in discussing a History Camp in your city, I’d love to hear from you.