Category Archives: HistoryMaking

Interning at ContemPlace

When I put the address for ContemPlace into my Google Maps I was certain that I’d made a mistake. Why did it look like the “Kansas City, Missouri based” non-profit I was about to start interning for was somewhere out in Leavenworth, Kansas? I didn’t even know that KC proper extended past the Missouri River, let alone so far out into the countryside; when I pulled up the gravel driveway surrounded by ripe rows of grape vines stretching out across the hills, I became increasingly excited and mildly concerned that I had been mistakenly placed in an internship at a vineyard.

ContemPlace, founded by exhibit designer and vintner Jerry Eisterhold, is an umbrella non-profit for educational initiatives, trying to make a name for itself in national conversations surrounding civic engagement taking place among organizations such as American Public Square and the American Association for State and Local History. I was hired on to assist in the development of its premier project: a scalable, customizable poster exhibit titled Seeing Through the Census, designed for display in libraries and community centers to help inform the public of the history, purpose, utility, and wide-ranging implications of the United States’ decennial census. Several of these educational panels had already been designed before I started at ContemPlace, my initial task was to generate content for an additional 7 panels. My days were spent researching the history of the census, its successes, its failures, and its controversies. The first panel I wrote addressed LGBTQIA+ visibility in the census, something I had honestly never given a moment’s consideration to. I learned that, by tracing concentrated usage of the word “partner” rather than “husband” or “wife” to denote the relationship between two heads of household, we can use census data from 1900 on to visualize historic queer neighborhoods in U.S. cities. I also learned that, while the 2020 census will be the first to provide the option of clear distinctions between same-sex and opposite-sex relationships, it will not provide any visibility for trans and non-binary folks. And that the 21st census in 2000 was the first to allow Americans to choose more than one option when describing their racial identity. I learned, above all, that the census was not an apolitical exercise but rather a battleground for social justice and reform.

Most of my peers, and in fact, much of mainstream America, came to the same realization over the last six months due to political controversy over President Trump’s attempt at including a citizenship question in the 2020 census. Many worried that the information would be used unlawfully to identify so called “illegal immigrants” for deportation by the Trump administration’s zealous ICE raids. Though his efforts were blocked by the courts after 17 states sued the Census Bureau, significant damage had been done to the institution’s reputation as a safe and benevolent custodian of private data. Consequently, states with a high immigrant population are now facing the serious threat of an undercount that could result in the loss of millions of dollars of federal funding.

Seeing Through the Census couldn’t constitute even a drop in the bucket when it comes to the amount of census awareness needed to combat a PR catastrophe of that magnitude. Yet, however modest its impact, the project has heart. I wrote 6 more panels for the exhibit, on hard-to-count census tracts, visualizing the history of racial segregation in Kansas City, the undercounting of young children, congressional reapportionment, prison gerrymandering, and the difficulties of reconstructing Native American genealogies using historic census data. I began promoting the exhibit by contacting every public library and as many community centers as I could find in Missouri before reaching out to library systems across the nation. As of today, December 13th, only a handful have accepted the exhibit and agreed to display it. However, I’ve also had the opportunity to present a project to a meeting of regional library professionals put on by the Kansas City Public Library and to meet with members of the Mid-America Regional Council’s Complete Count Committee to discuss strategies for encouraging census participation. I have learned valuable lessons in panel design, written my first grant, collaborated with colleagues and made true friends. I continue to promote and seek funding for Seeing Through the Census and hope to have it displayed at several more venues.

So, What Does a Humanities Council Do, Anyway?

That was my first question when I began my internship at the Missouri Humanities Council (MH) this semester. I quickly learned that humanities councils work with a wide network of organizations to provide residents high quality exhibits and programming, often in communities that might not have been able to access them otherwise. Every state has a humanities council, and ours is particularly active: 

 “MH provides programming that encourages family reading, highlights Missouri’s heritage, supports creative writing by veterans, and assists local museums, libraries, and other organizations promoting education—facilitating public conversations on topics that include history, religion, archaeology, anthropology, philosophy, literature, law, ethics, and languages.”

As you might imagine, it is nearly impossible to describe a “typical work day” at the Missouri Humanities Council. As a graduate intern this semester, however, I was able to glimpse a small part of their widespread impact. 

Most days I worked with Dr. Monique Johnston, Director of Education Programs, helping to facilitate history education on a statewide level. My major project was managing the Show Me Missouri Speakers’ Bureau, which connects history speakers to organizations across the state. I was offered many opportunities to provide input and take leadership of projects as well. Using my knowledge of the current Speakers’ Bureau program and seeing a need for teen-related humanities content in the state, I created a project proposal for adding young adult presentations to the bureau roster in the future. I was also responsible for scheduling the tour of Rightfully Hers, a pop-up exhibit from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) celebrating the centennial of 19th Amendment. So far, the exhibit has been viewed by students in four high school and university libraries in the KC metro area. It was even used as part of an extra credit assignment for a Liberty High School social studies class!

Some days offered experiences that were just plain fun! In September, I helped children (and a few adults!) create their own story books as a stop on a Where the Wild Things Are themed literary scavenger hunt in the Crossroads neighborhood. Though not something that I would have expected to do as a history intern, it was a great opportunity to see how MH gets children and their families engaged with the humanities. 

One of the most interesting days was spent in Columbia, MO. I attended and helped prepare for a statewide planning meeting for organizations hosting the upcoming WaterWays exhibit, about the human connection to water. Missouri Humanities is bringing this exhibit to the state in 2020 via the Smithsonian’s Museums on Main Street (MOMS) program, which works exclusively with humanities councils to offer high quality exhibits to small towns across the nation. The meeting was fascinating, as each host organization discussed their town’s historic connections to Missouri’s water system, and their plans for engaging their communities in those stories. 

Though no two were the same, each day at MH provided opportunities to learn something new, and helped me gain skills to add to my public historian’s tool belt. 

So, what does a Humanities Council do? A better question might be: What don’t they do? 

The Chiefs have an Art Collection??!!

From the first day of my fellowship, I’ve been on a mission to spread the word about the amazing art collection at Arrowhead Stadium. There are over 50 local and regional artists in the collection and the range of size, style, and medium is unmatched in the Kansas City area. In fact, the Chiefs were applauded by the National Endowment for the Arts as wonderful example on how large sports franchises can support the arts.

The Arrowhead Art Collection is nationally acclaimed and yet those in Kansas City are often shocked when I tell them my role with the organization. So the primary focus of my fellowship, in addition to supporting the day to day operations involved with the collection, is to forge strategic partnerships in the community.

I am the fourth fellow from UMKC to have the opportunity to work with this collection. The ground work that those before me laid has allowed me to advance the collection. Matt Reeves, Austin Williams, and Brooke Leisinger all had a major role in curriculum development for the children’s groups who tour the art collection at the stadium. Up until recently, the children’s groups had been the primary focus of the fellows. The organization wanted to support the children’s tour with Visual Thinking Strategies developed by the fellows. They are awesome!

Over the last year, in addition to the children’s groups, the fellows were able to organize events such as “paint and sip” and “cookie decorating” that allowed adult groups the opportunity to engage with the collection for a fun event.

Since I started, I have met with organizations in the Kansas City art community to expand the opportunities for adult groups and specifically arts related groups in the city to experience the collection. Over the last five years working in the Kansas City art community, I’ve found that the best partnerships are formed when both parties have a deeper sense about the mission of the other organization. So, I have been working on bringing outside arts organizations in and the Chiefs organization out into the arts community.

I have been pleasantly surprised with the enthusiasm and support that I have received both internally and externally in the work I have done this semester.

On November 2nd, November First Friday, I organized an event for members of the Chiefs organization to visit six (!) arts organizations in the Crossroads. I led the group through the venues and spoke a bit about the differences in the arts organizations and the exhibitions. The variety in the Kansas City arts community is vast and something to be celebrated. I believed that if the Chiefs organization was to begin thinking about strategic partnerships with organizations, they should have a better idea of the different types of organizations in the community.

Conversely, on the night of November 20th, I was able to successfully plan and execute an event for the members of the KCPT to come into Arrowhead to experience the art collection. The event invited 150 of the patrons who support KCPT to come to the stadium for a behind the scenes experience with the art. I was able to recruit ten of the artists who are affiliated with the collection to come for the event to share some of their personal inspiration behind the works. The response to the event was overwhelmingly positive and many avenues to continued partnership discussed.

Although its only my first semester with the organization, I feel that I have been able to make a positive impact. I’ve honed some of the skill I’ve developed in my school and professional work and have been able to translate that to a large-scale organization.

I’m excited to see what next semester will bring!!

APS is moving….

So, it has been a crazy week at APS! APS has officially moved into the Westport Plexpods and they are still moving quite a bit of office stuff! So, I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible this week and focus on the APS HISTORY PROJECT. It is going well. I met with APS designers for their social media platforms and we decided to use this great app called blurb and I have been learning a lot about Blurbs uses. I have chosen to form a Trader book for APS that they can hand to their Fundraisers and then I am still trying to come up with a pamphlet styled sheeting system they can adopt and change to their ongoing platforms, so we will see how that goes. So this week has been kinda in the middle of craziness for APS And just trying to assist and stay out of the way, much as possible!!! I am using all of the material they have been housing and trying to find that cohesive collection from the beginning to the present of what APS consists of.

Until next week, my goal is to keep knocking down this major project and find bits to work on within the #metoo presentation that is taking place later on this year.

APS BINDER and office

I have been working steadily to create an accurate account of APS HISTORY. It has been a rough start due to an office move from their Troost quarters to the new Plexpods in Westport and not having access to certain computer programs but their design team had been helpful in getting a flow started. The APS team and I are gearing up to make sure it comes together nicely for the teams use. I am just very overly cautious about having control and time to set myself up for success. I want to present a final piece that they want to use over and over for their as an introduction binder to their finders. I do have a format happening against PowerPoint and bringing PDFs in one area to help contain project. I have piled all the information that had been doubled up and extensively used. Ideas are flowing and I am cutting down the unnecessary information, which I have been practicing fiercely!!!! So far, I have enjoyed jumping in on the projects that APS needs an extra hand and steadily working on this Independent project for their team to present at the end of my time. I will keep at it.

Next week I will be working APS social hour to present their new facility to their clients. So this will be an opportunity that I need to work in the community and network.

A low key setting that is a perfect setting to begin that community networking!

Until next week. I will provide a look of the project hopefully if we get to work with APS design team and computers work right!! Fingers crossed!

Last Post for APS-Finding the last step..

This will be my last post for my internship at APS. I have learned a lot from my experience with working with this small non-profit organization. Adam, Claire and Alana have given me quite the freedom to find what I felt fits Public History and what could benefit their organization too.

In the end, I put myself in areas most helpful during times of their move from their new home at the Westport Plexpod and provided assistance during their Fundraiser ‘Social’ to introduce their new site too!

During my Summer Internship, I kept busy with a side project that fit into the Public History program at UMKC (despite some computer issues at APS, I am speedily finishing the project to be able to present it to the APS TEAM! It fits perfectly for both organizations. The project contains the research of who and what APS stands for. I have to say, it was a bit tricky in the beginning, the CEO of APS really did not want the organization who owned APS PRIOR, to be present within the research. I had to meld both together to find cohesion to make sense in the end. I have written about this prior blogs about presenting a Trade Book to the team to be able use for their clients! Something to actually use and reuse, and change at will.

I have also worked closely with the APS Team on their next panel which is the #Metoo discussion. I did preliminary research on all the panelists and completed the APS fact check sheet they use during the discussion. So I am pretty proud about this! APS chose several of the candidates I selected as well!

I also assisted their Project Coordinator, Adam, through out the the Summer in any Office data entry he needed done as well.

Over all, the internship was a success. I found more connections in the community that I sought and a new support group! There is also a brand new type of discussion panel to come and visit as well that I had no knowledge of before this internship.

Thanks to APS for opening your office and workspace to me and UMKC.

I will provide Dr. Sandra Enriquez a copy of my APS HISTORY Project. Thank you!

I will see you in Sept, to assist with the #metoo panel on my on time! Thanks. Kat Miller


I participated in American Public Square’s Evening Social. It was a chance to present their new home to their current members with an appreciation social hour. APS and I put together a venue that showed appreciation with free snacks and drinks. I was a helping hand to whatever Adam, Claire and Alana needed that night. It was a mix of preparation of the dining hall for the guests, pouring drinks for the guests, and cleaning up the venue afterwards. I was able to put faces to names I recognized on paper. It was nice to see and talk with the long standing members of APS. Many members were interested in my story and what my journey was all about. It was quite surprising actually! It was also interesting to see the APS work in action! This wasn’t just a thank you social hour but to remind them that there is so much more to accomplish within this non-profit organization. Claire and Adam really show how a small non-profit organization is really run by getting out in the community and keeping your organization’s name in the rotation. That is what I learned from this late night work event! Cheers to that!

I am wrapping up my final weeks at APS, there were a few computer issues when APS moved and had to wait a few days to get up and running again to speedily recover lost time on their APS HISTORY PROJECT that I am hopeful to present to them as a gift before I leave by July 31st! It has been a great and interesting internship that I definitely needed to see what else was out there in the community.

Until next week. Feverishly typing and arranging my project! See the post below about the social that took place for their members

Job Alert: Seasonal Positions at Jackson County Historic Sites

The Historic Sites and Outdoor Education Department of the Jackson County Parks and Recreation is looking for two people to join the teams working at Missouri Town 1855 and Fort Osage National Historic Landmark. These seasonal, part-time, paid positions are perfect for public-historians-in-the-making. Staff will have the opportunity to dress in period clothing, interpret at living history sites, work with students, and more.

To Apply and for more information, click on the links below:

Week 3 @ APS–working steadily on APS History project & Assisting in researching panelists for the #Me Too forum

This week at American Public Square, I have been working on two different projects. I have previously mentioned both projects in prior posts. I have been working on American Public Square’s next forum. As mentioned, the APS team has requested me to work on gathering potential #metoo panelists and their biographical data to present on July 8th. I have dove into the realm of the #Me Too Movement and trying to find panelists from both sides has become tricky without getting into muddy waters. Meaning, I have found myself buried within the conservative realm and experienced a darker side in which I have had to steer clear from. I envisioned the traumatic event that took place at UMKC a few months back and do not want anything like this to happen. I am really looking towards scholars and mental health professionals to guide the panel. Without giving any information away about the potential panelists, I came up with eight supportive #me too panelists and five conservative panelists. I provided a small biographical survey of the panelist, whether it they worked as a scholar or they worked directly in the mental health industry. I also provided an image clip of each potential panelist as well. I have finally completed the list and it appears to be quite diverse and fulfills audience expectation for the forum.

The APS History Project was put on the shelve last week, so it was a little discombobulated. However, I finally got the project reorganized once again and back on top of it! All hard copies are in a binder now and sectioned accordingly. The APS has retreated in their own projects, so I do have the extra time right now to spend arranging the company’s old brand of the ‘Village Square’ and mold it into their story of today. This will be the setting of this project. Also, I will make some sort of pamphlet or booklet for APS representatives to be able to present to their clients in the near future. People just do not recognize the APS label and while I am here, we are trying to change this this.

On a side note, this past week, I have helped Claire, the Executive Director of APS reignite their social media platforms and added new ones as well to keep up with a younger generation.

Next week, I will hopefully have a plan set of how the APS History booklet or pamphlet should look because I am suppose to meet with the APS design team this Friday. So, I can move more rapidly after knowing how it will it will be built and how far I can take it. APS is still moving as well, so that is another obstacle that their team is facing and I am really not sure what is happening but I am just taking it one day at a time.

Week #2 at American Public Square: 1)Discovering a project that will be useful to APS, 2)Assisting in research topics/panelists, 3)assisting in office/clerical duties for APS

Week #2 was a mixed bag of projects and office duties that consumed the 20 hours last week. The team leaders at APS wanted to make sure that my time at their facility meets the standard for the Public History program and we came up with ideas of how to fulfill this by completing a research project on APS itself. Their ultimate goal by the end of my internship is to have a collection of their history put together in a logical order of its existence. I was happy to take on this project for the familiarity of past research projects completed within the Public History program so far. In between smaller projects that APS found they needed assistance on, I dug through American Public Square’s archived(mostly boxed in closet & not organized in any fashion) materials. It ended up taking most of the week to sort through the material and organize it to its group. There were numerous duplicated materials on hand and made it harder to verify but at the end of the week I narrowed down the material that WAS NOT needed and grouped other materials by issue or event. I am currently taking a break from this to assist on another project that will consist of researching panelists.

I was asked to complete another small project that needed organization for the Executive Director, Claire last week. For this project, I assisted Claire in re-organizing APS’s Receipt Logs for 2019. Apparently the logs were underwhelming disorganized and Claire felt it needed attention asap. What I did to assist, was break down the file into 3 sections for her, which, for her, made more sense. Paid receipts, Receipts paid, and Merchandise Receipts. I attached all banking correspondence to each transaction and put the logs in descending order. The file was returned to Claire in a new organized fashion that will help her now.

Last week i was also asked to start researching panelists or the upcoming APS forum on the #Metoo campaign. For this, I felt that I needed to educated myself on some of the leading activists and the #Metoo founder’s message / become familiar with their website to find current issues/talks, etc…. And I needed to start thinking about the panelists who I wanted to share as a more of conservative stance. For me, this is a bit hard because I know where my beliefs lie and its hard to be in the middle….so I need to present my picks with activist/bio detail by July 8th. I know I want to pick Tarana Burke, the founder of the #Metoo movement. I know she is willingly to come to speak in this area, she has does this in the past in Kansas State University.

For the #Metoo movement and the for the conservative panelists, I plan to look for local panelist first and turn to websites, twitter, blogs, newspaper articles for contacts and ideas. (the #metoo website has been really helpful–their site links to a persons demographic area and links to resources, etc…..)

So most of these projects are continuous projects, so stay tuned.