Join Christy S. Coleman, Erica Lehrer, and Annie Polland (in person and on Zoom) for this panel discussion.
The past does not change; the way it is told does. While scholars typically write books, public historians and museums translate this scholarship for the broader public. Museums, then, play an important role not only in shaping public conversations and understanding of history but also in fashioning cultural change. With history contested, both in the United States and in other countries, this panel of distinguished public historians, visionaries, and leaders of public history will discuss what museums and public history mean in the current moment, addressing questions about shared past but divided present both in the United States and in Europe. Museums and public history can not just challenge the predominant perspective but also introduce new voices and bridge conflicting and clashing versions of history.
About the Speakers
Christy S. Coleman has served as the CEO of some of the nation’s most prominent museums. An innovator and thought leader with more than 30 years of museum and public history experience, Coleman held leadership roles at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, and the American Civil War Museum. She now serves as the executive director of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. She’s a tireless advocate for the power of museums, narrative correction, diversity, and inclusiveness. Coleman is the recipient of numerous awards for her decades of impact, including three honorary doctorates (the College of William and Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the University of the South). In 2018, Time Magazine named her one of the 31 People Changing the South, and in 2019, Worth Magazine named her one of 29 Women Changing the World. She’s been a featured guest on many news and television outlets, including History Channel’s Grant and Lincoln: Divided We Stand miniseries, Black Patriots: Civil War Heroes, Neutral Ground, and When the Monuments Came Down.
Erica Lehrer is a sociocultural anthropologist and curator. She is presently a professor in the departments of history and sociology and anthropology at Concordia University in Montreal and founding director of the university’s Curating and Public Scholarship Lab. From 2007 to 2017, she held the Canada Research Chair in Museum and Heritage Studies, and she currently directs the international team project Thinking Through the Museum: A Partnership Approach to Curating Difficult Knowledge in Public (2021–2028), funded by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
Annie Polland is the president of the Tenement Museum in New York City. Polland is a historian and a leader of public history in New York. In her published work, she has focused on the history of New York, in particular its Jewish population. Before becoming the president of the Tenement Museum, Polland was the executive director of the American Jewish Historical Society and, prior to that, the executive vice president for programs and education of the Tenement Museum. She has been engaged in public history for decades, deploying storytelling to amplify the experiences of immigrants and migrants.
This event is open to alumni, faculty/staff, parents, students, and the public.