American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

From the Director’s Desktop

Published March 24, 2011
Staff and guests at ASHP’s 20th anniversary celebration viewing WBA? CD-ROM.
Staff and guests at ASHP's 20th anniversary celebration viewing WBA? CD-ROM.

This coming summer marks the twentieth anniversary of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning’s founding, making us eligible to be called venerable, if not (at least among usually short-lived non-profit organizations) ancient.

This anniversary prompts a certain amount of reflection and a good deal of amazement. Since 1981, we have done many, many different projects in many different media for many different audiences and participants–while remaining, I believe, true to our original mission: to create innovative and rigorous public history programming, to contribute to the improvement of teaching, and to highlight the critical role of work and “ordinary” people in history.

President Horowitz (left) and ASHP Board of Directors Chair Carol Groneman (right)
President Horowitz (left) and ASHP Board of Directors Chair Carol Groneman (right) were among the speakers at the 20th anniversary celebration.

These goals have been accomplished under both trying and exhilarating circumstances, and the last year has been no exception. As we bade farewell to longtime colleagues who have moved on to other projects, we have also been joined by new (and returning) staff members whose enthusiasm, knowledge and skills reinvigorate ASHP’s work and spur new approaches. And as we’ve grown in number, we’ve also acquired additional space at the City University Graduate Center’s new building on 34th Street. Similarly, as we completed a number of ambitious projects–including the second edition of the Who Built America? textbook, a new WBA? CD-ROM (covering World War One through World War Two), and a CD-ROM and Web site on the French Revolution–we inaugurated new programs and activities that offer new ways to investigate and interpret the past. Among those new endeavors is The Lost Museum: Exploring Antebellum American Life and Culture, our digital 3-D re-creation and archive of P. T. Barnum’s American Museum, which even in its prototype stage has attracted an enthusiastic public and classroom audience. (In keeping with the late-breaking news purpose of this publication, we’re pleased to report that The Lost Museum has just received a production grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.) We are also developing the next phase of our influential national teaching-with-technology seminar program, Learning to Look: Visual Resources and the U.S. Past in the New Media Classroom, which will tackle ways to critically address the massive pictorial record of the past now offered on the World Wide Web.

So, I guess you could say that, at twenty years of age, ASHP is older and wiser.

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