This week I have been thinking about the challenges of undertaking a public humanities project for a summer and what I can realistically accomplish. While we’re all here because we believe in the importance of public scholarship, public scholarship and particularly public humanities projects can suffer from being broad, ambitious, and, at times, nebulous in scope. For this reason, I think that these kinds of projects benefit from specificity more so than other academic projects, like writing an academic article.

Partly, this relies on setting concrete goals. I have tried to be realistic with myself about what I can do for 20 hours a week, for just two months this summer. This involves a sort of check-list, which can itself be quite a bit of work. Between research, meetings, developing skills, organization, and the actual creation of material, there’s a lot to do. Helpful for this is a kind of day-by-day planning method, which needs to be flexible: I know that my goals, areas of interest, and priorities will change as I become more and more familiar with my project.

Something that makes this difficult is the ambitious aim of something like “public humanities.” While I would love to imagine that I could create a hit podcast and affiliated website that could revolutionize the way that the public thinks about art, labor, and craft and furthermore instills a sense of urgency and importance about art, I think a more helpful stance is that I will create something for a non-academic audience that is dynamic and compelling. Still, the ambition is important: as long as I have these aims, I can lay the groundwork for a project I could continue, or something that someone else could continue.

Finally, the accumulation of skills, like website design and podcast editing, is something that will stay with me beyond this seminar. I guess my point in saying all of this is that I may need to be humble about what I can do over a summer, but this time limit is itself as porous as the ambitions of the public humanities in general.