AHA Member Spotlight: Amy Hart
Amy Hart is a state historian at California State Parks. She lives in Arroyo Grande, California, and has been a member since 2022.
Alma mater: PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2019
Fields of interest: US, women and gender, 19th century, antebellum period, social reform, public
What do you like the most about where you live and work?
I love that my work at California State Parks enables me to teach the general public about history through museum exhibitions, publications, and tours. Visitors come to state parks to experience the outdoors and learn more about a local place, and I am excited to get to shape that experience by presenting the stories of underrepresented groups or lesser-known figures that the public might not otherwise hear about. I am able to be creative and reflect on the best way to get a historical lesson or message across to a member of the public who has not registered to attend a class, but is simply curious and willing to learn.
Have your interests evolved since graduation? If so, how?
During graduate school I was singularly focused on a career in academia. I enjoyed research and served as a lecturer while I completed my PhD, but when a public history position became available, I decided to transition into that career path. It was surprising to me that after six years of graduate school in history, I needed to learn a brand new skillset to be a public historian. Suddenly, I needed to not only write for other academics, but to consider all of the age groups that might encounter my museum exhibitions, as well as the various personal and social factors that might impact the way an exhibit is experienced. I needed to learn architectural history to evaluate historic properties for their significance to local, state, and national history. These skills were not taught in graduate school, but I now find them incredibly important for training new historians. My ultimate goal is to contribute to the development of more public history-focused courses and programs within the university setting.
What do you value most about the history discipline?
I value the way history can snap us out of the fear mongering and scare tactics we often find in the political realm, and give us the long view of societies, nations, and peoples. When I hear that this political period is the most tumultuous in US history, or that the public has never been so divided, I can turn to the historical record to provide examples of past crises and periods of turmoil that were overcome, or that changed a society for the better. The study of history is the study of the long-view, and a respite from the paralyzing immediacy of the present.
AHA members are involved in all fields of history, with wide-ranging specializations, interests, and areas of employment. To recognize our talented and eclectic membership, Perspectives Daily features a regular AHA Member Spotlight series.
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