A Usable Past: New Trends in Applied and Interdisciplinary History
St. Petersburg, Russia, 28 – 29 March 2014
International Conference, Faculty of History, National Research University Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg, Russia, 28 – 29 March 2014. The working language of the conference is English.
Today history is becoming more involved in interactions with other disciplines. This helps create new interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research fields. A large part of such research is of an applied nature. Using and interpreting data enables historian to construct “a usable past” as a tool for understanding the present and considering possible avenues of future development. Applied or public history embraces methods and practices dealing with identification, preservation, interpretation, and presentation of historical artifacts, texts, structures, and landscapes. Today environmental and technological historians are making a usable past available to scientists, policy makers and the public at large. Even environmental history is more and more considered as a public history nowadays.
Trends found in the fields of technological history and economic history also indicate high demand for historical studies that supply a usable past. Yet, engineers and economists often try to construct this past on their own, which can lead to simplifications and distortions.
Currently, however, the growth of applied history suffers from poorly developed protocols and modes of dialogue between history and other disciplines. Before introduction in museums and other media landscapes, in education and in political debates, these issues should be discussed by representatives of different disciplines that employ a usable past, including but not limited to economics, sociology, law, natural sciences and technology. We would like to discuss new approaches to the complex problem of historical legacy and heritage that will provide a platform for creating interactive processes that link the historical object, the historian, and the public.
Russia is a good venue for a conference on applied and interdisciplinary history. Although the Russian academic community suffers from significant barriers to interdisciplinary research, interest to applied history is growing and the dialogue between international and Russian historians is crucial for further development of the field in Russia. Faculty of History at Higher School of Economics at St. Petersburg is a dynamically developing center for historical education and research which is actively promoting public and applied history St. Petersburg, the metropolitan imperial city and a UNESCO World site provide a very rich environment for discussions of variegated practices of preservation of material legacy and approaches to historical memory studies.