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Reframing History

We need a more productive public conversation about history.

Amid ongoing national controversy, it is more important than ever for educators, historians, and advocates to be able to clearly explain what history is, how we come to understand the past, and why it matters to society. Reframing History provides the field with a new set of evidence-backed recommendations for communicating about history.

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon foundation and carried out in partnership with the American Association for State and Local History, National Council on Public History, and Organization of American Historians, Reframing History is the result of a two-year, deep-dive research effort to understand how Americans think about history and how our field can more effectively explain history’s value. The recommendations from this project are designed to give those working in the field the tools to more cohesively and convincingly communicate about history and build a wider understanding of what inclusive history looks like.

Despite the best efforts of the field, much of the public still assumes making sense of the past is about finding a single objective truth, about documenting “just the facts.” To more effectively explain why history matters, we must shift the conversation to emphasize critical engagement with the past and the incorporation of new evidence and diverse perspectives. Reframing History—through a report, toolkit, and forthcoming training resources—provides specific, flexible strategies for achieving that shift, overcoming major communication challenges, and building a more widely shared understanding of the importance of learning from the past.

Reframing History is funded through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.