Q & A with Stephen Vider

August 16, 2019

We welcome Professor Stephen Vider to Cornell History this Semester.

Below Professor Vider answers some questions about his new course: Introduction to Public History.

1. What is public history?

Public history is any form of historical work that seeks to engage a general audience, outside of a classroom. It is history that aims to make and remake a community by asking audiences to look for and remember the past, and often, remember it differently than they have before. That includes museums, monuments, historic preservation, walking tours, oral history projects, documentary film, and much more.

2. What do you hope students will gain from taking your course?

I hope students in the course will learn to think critically about the connections between history, politics, and belonging. How do the historical narratives that circulate in public life reflect broader power dynamics in our society? What do the stories that a community tells about itself reveal about who that community seeks to include or exclude? And how can we, as students and scholars, make space for stories that have been marginalized?

3. What are some of the projects that you have worked on and how do they inform your teaching?

In 2017, I curated the exhibition AIDS at Home: Art and Everyday Activism at the Museum of the City of New York, based on a chapter from my upcoming book. Collaboration with artists, activists, and other community members was critical to curating a show that resonated with the experiences of people most affected by HIV/AIDS, in the past and today. I see community engagement and allyship as a critical part of all the work I do and a central component of how I teach public history.