Public History

At Angelo State University, I am a co-principal investigator for the George Ricks Memorial World War II Oral History Archive, which seeks to collect oral histories and digitize documents of West Texas World War II veterans. This project is run conjointly with the Greatest Generation Oral History Archive, which seeks to do the same for non-veterans.  Recently, it was announced that the College of Arts and Humanities will be conducting a third oral history project with Vietnam War veterans.

I am a podcast host for New Books in East Asian Studies. Follow me on Twitter (@LDickmeyer) to learn about new episodes.

Here are the episodes I’ve completed so far:

In 2016, as a UC Irvine Humanities Out There Public Fellow, I worked with Orange County Parks, Heritage Division to prepare a programming series focusing on the individual and familial connections to Orange County’s changing landscape as a result of its rapid postwar urbanization and suburbanization.  This project was supported by an NEH Common Heritage Grant. Read more about it below in a blog post I originally wrote as a reflection on my experience.

Moving buildings from old El Toro to Heritage Hill Historic Park, 1978 (photo courtesy of Orange County Archives)

In 2009, when I finished my MA thesis on the contemporary environmental history of wildlife management at Banff National Park, I had imagined that my work on parks was more or less in the past. And for about six years it was.  I spent two years in Taiwan teaching English and learning Chinese and shifted to a new interest: nineteenth-century U.S.-China relations. This topic has occupied me for 4.5 years at UCI. When the announcement for the Humanities Out There Public Fellows Program and the description of OC Parks, Heritage Division found its way to my email inbox, I saw an opportunity that combined my skills and interests, old and new.

For Winter and Spring Quarter 2016, I have had the pleasure to work with OC Parks, Heritage Division, as a UCI Humanities Out There Public Fellow. OC Parks encompasses regional, wilderness and historical facilities, as well as coastal areas throughout the County of Orange. Within OC Parks, the Historical Operations Group manages and interprets 7 historical parks located throughout the County, each exploring a different avenue of the region’s diverse history. These historic parks include, the Old Orange County Courthouse, Heritage Hill Historical Park, Arden: Helena Modjeska Historic House & Gardens, Irvine Ranch Historic Park, George Key Ranch Historic Park, Ramon Peralta Adobe Historic Site, and the Historic Yorba Cemetery.

I have been collaborating with Justin Sikora, PhD and Emily McEwen, PhD, both Historic Resource Specialists with OC Parks, as well as Humanities Out There Public Fellow, Anna Kryczka, PhD candidate in Visual Studies.  Together we have been preparing a programming series focusing on the individual and familial connections to Orange County’s changing landscape as a result of its rapid urbanization and suburbanization. We are planning this series in conjunction with an NEH Common Heritage Grant that OC Parks was recently awarded. Utilizing the funds from this grant, OC Parks will be hosting four community history digitization days over the next year with the goal of not only providing free digitizing services to the public but also as a means to help us grow OC Parks’ historical collections and tell more diverse stories throughout the historical park system.

Our goal was to take this program idea and make it a reality. Anna and I worked closely together on the logistics. From drafting pitches for the events to researching recording equipment to contacting local historical organizations–we have been involved in many steps of the planning process.

My work with OC Parks, Heritage Division has allowed me to use and further develop my historical training.  I attended a workshop at California State University, Fullerton, in order to receive training to identify best practices for oral history projects.  Based on the workshop and my own experience conducting interviews for my MA research, I crafted oral history questions and related documents that volunteer interviewers will need on the day.  I also put together a list of possible speakers for the history digitization days using academic connections at UCI. These speakers will address themes chosen for each event: leisure, transportation, land use and development, and labor.

Through my work with OC Parks, I have expanded my knowledge of Orange County’s history and historical resources. Many of the skills I have developed as a graduate student researcher, writer, and teacher transferred seamlessly into this new context, and I believe that these experiences will appeal to future employers whether in academia or elsewhere.