Monday, January 7, 2013

The Entrepreneurial Historian

One of the sessions I missed at this year's American Historical Association conference in New Orleans was entitled "The Entrepreneurial Historian." It included a panel of historians who are doing "for-profit history."  I had it on my list of sessions to attend and tweet, but my flight got in late and I missed it.

Over at AHA Today, Jennifer Reut has written a nice overview of the session.  I am going to call this post to the attention of my students at Messiah College since it seems like the members of this panel are doing some really exciting things with their history training.

Here is a taste of Reut's post:

When Alexandra (Lexi) Lord started the Ultimate History Project, she was looking for a non-academic outlet for historical writing to meet what she saw as a large unmet desire in the general public for history content. From the outset, Lord envisioned the Ultimate History Project as both a serious journal and a for-profit venture, and she stressed the need to understand your audience or customer and find a way to make the enterprise pay for itself—two strategies that the panelists agreed were under-valued in academia. An inventive marketer, Lord attended steampunk conferences, did advertising tie-ins with romantic fiction, and generally advised paying attention to fads and current events as a way of finding new markets for historically based businesses. This was the panel’s second major theme and the one that may require the biggest shift for academic historians: recognizing just how large and diverse the audience for history truly is. 

Jennifer Stevens had always planned to be a consultant rather than an academic, and she had an early introduction to that world through her mentors. The Boise, Idaho-based Stevens Historical Research company conducts studies on behalf of a variety of environmental and legal clients and is now moving into cultural resource management. A “fairly good market for this” already exists, Stevens explained, if you know how to market yourself and make potential clients aware of what you do. What’s more: “all of you in this audience know exactly how to do this research.”