What is History Camp?

History Camp is a casual conference for adults from all walks of life—students, teachers, professors, authors, bloggers, reenactors, interpreters, museum and historical society directors and board members, genealogists, and everyone else—regardless of profession or degree—who is interested in and wants to learn more about history.

This year, History Camp America will be a fully virtual History Camp that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home—from anywhere in the world.


Are teenagers and children welcome at History Camp America?

Yes. While most of the content, in terms of learning level, will be geared towards adults there will be tours of historic sites that will be enjoyed by all. Youth who are deeply interested in history will also find content that is enjoyable for them in the sessions.


What does casual mean?

You don’t have to submit papers months in advance. There is no specific theme. The topics that are presented are the ones of interest to the presenters. The sessions that are well-attended are the ones that are of interest to the attendees. It’s an incredibly democratic way to gather and share information. To get an idea of the high-caliber of speakers and the fascinating breadth of topics, browse some of the past History Camps, such as History Camp Boston 2019.


Rules of engagement

History Camp is one of the few places where people can come listen to history without being inundated with current politics. It is also a place where people can learn history without feeling pressure to buy something.

In order to maintain that integrity, we have two basic rules for all presenters, A) avoid current politics and B) refrain from sales pitches while presenting.

History Camp is a place where people who love history can gather, share ideas, learn new things, explore new facets of history, and have fun. We prohibit any form of discrimination or harassment and hold all of participants to behave in a civil and professional manner.


Partnering or Selling Items at History Camp

At our in-person and online events, we reserve areas where attendees can purchase merchandise and books: meet with consultants, performers, and authors; and learn about societies, libraries, museums, archives, and non-profit organizations. We also encourage partnerships who support History Camp and are listed on all event materials.

If you would like to explore the options for partnering or sponsoring History Camp, or would like more information about selling books or history merchandise, please contact Carrie Lund.

The name “History Camp” is an adaptation of “BarCamp,” which is the name many in the tech industry use for events with this “unconference” format. (Read more in this Wikipedia entry.) The list of some of the other events using this format is at barcamp.org. The idea of creating History Camp using an “unconference” format came from attending Boston BarCamp a few years ago and has been adapted as a casual conference. (More information on the first History Camp in Cambridge, MA, is below.)

History Camp is for adults, though some kids in grade school and high school have attended with their parents.

In late 2013, Lee Wright approached three authors and bloggers in the Boston area and proposed that they adapt the format that he’d seen work at Boston BarCamp—but to the topic of history. John L. BellDr. Sam Forman, and Liz Covart got things started by posting potential sessions to a wiki so that others could get an idea of what to expect.

Things came together fairly quickly, and on March 8, 2014 they held the first History Camp. History Camp 2014 presented 23 sessions and two panels, and welcomed one hundred twenty-nine people to an IBM facility in Cambridge, MA, that was donated for the event.

History Camp BostonHistory Camp ColoradoHistory Camp VirginiaHistory Camp Philadelphia and future History Camps are created and managed by The Pursuit of History, a non-profit organization started in 2019 to foster the development of more History Camps across the country. (History Camp Pioneer Valley and History Camp Iowa are managed by local volunteer committees.)

  • History as broadly defined, across geographies and over time. Ultimately, it’s the speakers and attendees that define the scope. Hopefully each History Camp will be broad in a way that attracts many people.
  • What about genealogy? Sure.
  • It is not, however, the place for a sales pitch. In other words, if you are an expert at preserving very old books, do not come and give a talk about how you provide a great service and why people should hire you to repair and preserve their old books. Rather, give a talk that has useful information, perhaps tips and techniques, so that, regardless of whether the person listening hires you or decides to undertake the work themselves, they walk away with new information that they value.
  • And it’s not the place for politics or rallying people to a cause, unless the politics are historical (roughly pre-1980) and your cause is fostering a greater interest in history.

“I’ve been to dozens of official academic conferences with big names where all submissions are thoroughly vetted by panels of experts and none of those conferences were as fun and informative as History Camp. It really was the best set of speakers I’ve seen at a conference: relaxed and informed and direct.”

History Camp Attendee Feedback

Following is select data and feedback from in-depth surveys we conducted following History Camp Cambridge 2014, and History Camp Boston 2015).


Here’s what attendees to History Camp Boston 2015 said when we asked them to describe themselves:

  • Genealogist, history buff, homeschooler
  • History entrepreneur studying for my Masters in American history
  • Practicing museum designer working on historic subject matter
  • Working in a job very much based in the present, and not looking back in time
  • Exhibit designer for small spaces such as libraries
  • Non-historian, general interest
  • Professional musician
  • Public librarian, freelance writer (mostly for kids)
  • Working as volunteer with several history groups

History Camp 2015 Attendees

  • “I love history and I wanted to interact with the history community.”
  • “I love history and I was a presenter!”
  • “I love history and am studying it in grad school.”
  • “I love history and love to be with people who share the same passion.”
  • “I thought it would be interesting. I enjoyed the sessions I attended.”
  • “I wanted to be part of a community of history-loving, narrative-sharing, dedicated folks.”
  • “I wanted to share the information and experience I have gained over the last few years and to receive feedback on that information.”
  • “I am interested in local and regional history and was certainly not disappointed by the many offerings at the event.”
  • “It sounded really interesting, and as someone who works in the history field, I felt some of the sessions could be really helpful in my day-to-day work.”
  • “I felt it was a great outlet for history enthusiasts as well as well-seasoned academics to gather in one place to learn from one another.”
  • “I love hanging with people who love history. I enjoy hearing about interesting research, and especially love a good story.”
  • “I am a history fan, on the Board of an historical society and am interested in learning about many different aspects.”
  • “I wanted to support this event and I found the topics interesting.”
  • “It seemed like a great place to meet history enthusiasts—and I was right!”
  • “It seemed like a very exciting time.”
  • “Several of my former students were involved, and it sounded like a good group to get to know.”.
  • “It sounded interesting.”
  • “The topics are great; the presenters are knowledgeable; I meet new contacts.”
  • “To introduce people to my museum and network with other history enthusiasts.”
  • “You’re preaching to the converted here—besides, it was accessible.”
  • “I am a historian and curator. I wanted to go to these information sessions/lectures. This event was a way to connect with other lovers of history.”
  • “I was intrigued by the informality and the variety of scheduled presentations.”
  • “I really enjoyed the first one and it was fun to meet other people who are into history, but not necessarily my profession of history, which allows for new ideas.”
  • “Being part of a small nonprofit means that board members do not have the opportunity to talk with other groups about what works. We need to be part of the larger world.”
  • “It sounded like a neat opportunity to learn about a variety of history topics that I might not get to otherwise.”
  • “I loved the branding, I liked the philosophy underpinning the unconference, and the topics were stimulating and appealing. Not least because they combined issues about how to do/present history as well as historical topics.”
  • “1. I was a presenter. 2. Many of the sessions seemed fascinating re new insights about history and how to “present” history so its interesting and meaningful. For instance, Newport’s approach to living history as a way to get people feeling history and its impact.”
  • Diverse range of speakers and topics
  • A shared atmosphere of enthusiasm and curiosity for the subject.
  • As a non-historian, I enjoy being exposed to professionals and their work.
  • Being able to gather educators and historians in one place.
  • Finding more resources and connections
  • Finding out that there was such a thing!
  • Fun approach to interesting topics, opportunity to meet others in the field
  • Getting exposure for the museum and topics not taught while networking
  • Information and networking.
  • Interesting presentations
  • Learning about a lot of random history things!
  • Learning about topics that I haven’t had the time to look into or research.
  • Learning from interesting speakers.
  • Learning history
  • Learning new things; networking with other history enthusiasts
  • Learning new things! And realizing just how little I know!
  • Listening to authors talk about books I might not otherwise read.
  • Meeting all my new history buddies!
  • Meeting like-minded individuals with same passion for history.
  • Meeting like-minded people.
  • Meeting other history enthusiasts!
  • Meeting the other attendees.
  • Networking and learning
  • Networking and meeting other History Buffs
  • Networking opportunities and an all-around fun day.
  • Quality presentations
  • So many interesting and different topics, one after the other, all under one roof.
  • Talking to some participants. Enjoyed the passion some speakers had for their subjects
  • The interesting sessions and the friendliness of the people
  • The people, the topics
  • Being able to meet other people with shared interests
  • Being among other history fans
  • Great topics, mix of people, thought-provoking ideas
  • Mental stimulation
  • Meeting people with like interests, who also “talk history”
  • Variety of sessions.
  • Meeting other like-mined people are into history and hearing about new idea and historical stories that I had not heard before.
  • To make a positive impact, learn, network and feel empowered to shape future trends because I was treated as an equal to everyone else.
  • To share something I love with other people and learn new things. I feel more connected to my city and environment.
  • The variety of topics to choose from at each session.
  • Spending the day with a group of like-minded individuals with a lot to say and a lively discussion.
  • “There was such a variety of people and backgrounds that it made things very interesting.”
  • “I did not realize when I signed up that there would be that many sessions to choose from all day. Solid presenters, great venue, good support.”
  • “I was worried that as a layperson that I would feel incredibly out of place. Indeed, when the morning introductions were done, I was worried that I had made a huge mistake. But as the day went on, I didn’t feel that any of the talks I chose were beyond my understanding or interest. It was a really fun time.”
  • “The topics were great and varied enough that I wouldn’t have gotten the breadth of knowledge at any other single event.”
  • “It was a lot more fun than I expected! The group was a lot more diverse (in terms of professional backgrounds, stages in their career, etc.) than I expected.”
  • “I was impressed with the number of talks that were offered and the professionalism of the speakers. Also, the event was extremely well organized, the space was perfect, and the lunch was very nice.”
  • “It was exciting to, each hour, be able to, on a whim, pick a fascinating topic to explore in depth. It was very social too.”
  • “It was fun to meet people from such a wide variety of background and interest.”
  • “The people were great and genuinely interested in what everyone was doing and what they had to say.”
  • “I was interested and impressed with the topics of discussion.”
  • “There were so many different subjects and genres of history, all of them interesting, that it was difficult to choose which lectures to attend. I wish I could have been in 2 or 3 places at once.”

“There was such a variety of people and backgrounds that it made things very interesting.”

“I did not realize when I signed up that there would be that many sessions to choose from all day. Solid presenters, great venue, good support.”

“I was worried that as a layperson that I would feel incredibly out of place. Indeed, when the morning introductions were done, I was worried that I had made a huge mistake. But as the day went on, I didn’t feel that any of the talks I chose were beyond my understanding or interest. It was a really fun time.”

The topics were great and varied enough that I wouldn’t have gotten the breadth of knowledge at any other single event.”

“It was a lot more fun than I expected! The group was a lot more diverse (in terms of professional backgrounds, stages in their career, etc.) than I expected.”

“I was impressed with the number of talks that were offered and the professionalism of the speakers. Also, the event was extremely well organized, the space was perfect, and the lunch was very nice.”

“It was exciting to, each hour, be able to, on a whim, pick a fascinating topic to explore in depth. It was very social too.”

“It was fun to meet people from such a wide variety of background and interest.”

“The people were great and genuinely interested in what everyone was doing and what they had to say.”

“I was interested and impressed with the topics of discussion.”

“There were so many different subjects and genres of history, all of them interesting, that it was difficult to choose which lectures to attend. I wish I could have been in 2 or 3 places at once.”