Holding History
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Joshua Calhoun Associate Professor, English; Affiliate Faculty, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies


Sarah Marty

Program Assistant

Thom Van Camp


Holding History is a student-driven public humanities program focused on the history of media and book arts. Each year we host a slate of special events & interactive experiences in collaboration with academic and non-academic partners—from hands-on papermaking workshops on campus mall to science-fair-style events in rare book libraries where students invite audiences to turn the pages of centuries-old books. These bookish conversations continue in digital form on our website through The Bookish Blog, HH-produced videos about book history and bookmaking, and the Holding History Podcast. Holding History serves as a model—both in Wisconsin and around the world—for accessible, engaging, multimodal public humanities scholarship and community-building. By providing students with opportunities to partake in specialist analyses of print media, for instance, we aim to remove the barrier between expert and student and to amplify the role of the classroom in cutting-edge scholarly discovery. This process is similarly replicated in digital formats: by documenting and sharing their work on the Holding History blog, podcast, and social media channels, students gain the capacity to reimagine, enhance, and improve specialized research in conversation with public audiences. In this way, Holding History models a high-impact approach to the public humanities that has been carefully adapted to meet the challenges of our time.