Emma Silverman

Many of my peers in this program are tackling summer projects that are an extension of their academic research, or of long-term passions volunteering in prisons or running educational programs in schools. My project dropped in my lap when my initial proposal for the Public Scholars program fell through—I had never even heard of Pond Farm until several months ago!

Yet, there are some advantages to tackling an entirely new project this summer. For instance, my keen awareness of how little background I have with my community organization makes me predisposed to be humble about how much I will be able to accomplish in the scope of the program. Two months. It is certainly not enough time for me to become an expert in the rich and complex history of this site.

If being a public scholar means surrendering the pretense of mastery, then what do I have to offer? In my last blog post I wrote that I consider my role this summer to be that of a translator and facilitator rather than an expert. With this framing of my duties, I am able to set achievable goals for the summer. I’ll help to translate a handful of people’s life histories into video interviews. I’ll facilitate the creation of a platform for a digital history map, and collect the materials to be showcased in that platform. Finally, and just as importantly, I’ll translate what I have accomplished this summer into an accessible guide for the person who takes up the project after me.

Two months is limiting, but it is enough to make great strides in establishing a public history of Pond Farm, provided that I admit the limits of my knowledge so that I can direct my resources where they will be most effective.