I AM History
2017 AASLH Annual Meeting
September 6-9, 2017, Austin, Texas
I get from the soil and spirit of Texas the feeling that I, as an individual, can accomplish whatever I want to, and that there are no limits, that you can just keep going, just keep soaring. I like that spirit. Barbara Jordan, Texan, First African-American Congresswoman
Austin is a city continually redefining itself. It is the state capital, the heart of live music, and a center for technology and innovation. With the famous slogan, “Keep Austin Weird,” it is no surprise that Austin embraces, even advertises, the individualistic spirit that symbolizes Texas. This spirit represents the histories, cultures, communities and ways of thinking that created one of the most diverse states in the country. I AM History embraces and celebrates the continuing journey of Austin and Texas toward diversity and inclusion. It also connects history to the present day and reminds us that history is relevant and is happening every day, everywhere.
As professionals in this field, we are the anchors, we are the visionaries, we are the bold spirits who challenge ourselves to tell the extraordinary stories of all people in all places. I AM History asks us to consider how we turn obstacles of the past into opportunities of the present. Our genuine commitment to this results in positive movement forward and prompts our communities to value museums and history. I AM History asks how we ensure that our organizations will remain relevant as our communities and their needs grow more diverse. And, it asks how each object we house, each staff member we mentor and each community we engage makes us more inclusive in the process. I AM History has transformative power; power to leverage our greatest strengths – the stories, objects and values of people.
Within this framework, we ask, who does history belong to and how does it connect each individual to a larger story? As institutions that bear cultural trust, we have the responsibility and the platform to usher in new perspectives and critical examinations of America’s ever-changing identity. The confluence of cultures and ideals in Texas continues to shape the state and each new generation as individuals work to expand and redefine their identities in an increasingly globalized community. Texas and Texans have redefined themselves while simultaneously maintaining the individualism and myth for which the state is known. I AM History calls to each of us to lay claim to this birthright within our own communities.
At the core of our profession lies an obligation to support individuals in their personal searches for meaning. By emphasizing more conflicted and complex realities, we reveal how life continuously entwines triumphs and sacrifices, fame and anonymity, contemplation and discovery. Let us reorient history to be more inclusive, more authentic, and more about exploring the boundaries, the intersections, and the ways in which we simultaneously navigate our understanding of our stories within the larger American narrative. Join us in Austin, in 2017, as we explore how I AM History prompts a dialogue about who we serve as a field and how we can ensure that all peoples’ extraordinary histories are being told.