By Jason Carrillo, Communications Intern
This month we are proud to introduce our newest public historian: Cassie Clark!
Cassie grew up in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, a mountainous dune-decorated region that borders New Mexico. She had a traditional rural upbringing, surrounded by chickens, horses, sheep, cows, and goats, bailing hay, and going to the rodeo. Growing up in rural Colorado naturally gave Cassie an inherent love for the outdoors. She consistently found herself working with animals, camping, fishing, biking, roller skating, and climbing. To her, there’s nothing better than breathing in the air at 10,000 feet. Now a Salt Lake urbanite, Cassie recreates a semblance of farm life indoors with her two dogs, two rabbits, and five birds.
Cassie received her BA at the San Luis Valley’s Adam State University, her MA at Greely’s University of Northern Colorado, and her PhD at the University of Utah. She focused on the Civil War and 19th century history, but her interest in Utah’s history began to bloom during her time at the American West Center. As a Collection Manager for the Utah American Indian Digital Archive (UAIDA), she digitized primary and secondary sources, working with librarians, historians, and members of Utah’s eight tribal nations to add new content to UAIDA. As a lover of niche histories, she quickly fell down the rabbit hole of Utah’s past—studying Utah’s eugenics movement, general Mormon history, and now the environmental history of mental institutions in the Intermountain West.
It’s these diverse subjects that motivate Cassie’s dedication to public history. It helps people understand the past from a number of perspectives and identifies with people from their respective eras. Through her work, she finds that most people enjoy history, even if they say they hate the subject. With public history, Cassie seeks to help change that attitude by developing creative ways to present the past to people in engaging, exciting, and sometimes solemn ways.
But what is public history anyway? Cassie describes it as many things, but it’s primarily the collective effort of historians dedicated to creating relatable content for the general public. It comes in various mediums: museums and their exhibits, digital history, blog posts, podcasts, walking tours, documentaries, plaques and even homes, buildings and landscapes. Public historians recognize that people enjoy learning about the past in different ways and therefore work hard to create engaging and accessible content to better inform audiences of the past.
For the past few months, Cassie has been working on the I Love History website, helping revamp it by updating old entries and writing new content. Looking ahead, she is incredibly excited to be working on projects that showcase Utah’s diverse and complex past. The people who moved to Utah brought religious and cultural traditions and political ideas integral to building the state and helping it grow. And as a public historian, Cassie is excited to create content for a modern audience.
Cassie’s biggest piece of advice for people interested in “doing history” is to be open minded. It’s easy to focus on one potential profession, figure, region, time period, or movement—but one can paint themselves into a corner if they do this. While there’s nothing wrong with pursuing a career in writing academic papers or teaching, one can miss out on learning new ways to have fun with history and engage with the past if exclusively focused on this.
Said Cassie, “By keeping your mind open and having a willingness to learn about different peoples, perspectives, and ways of creating and delivering historical content, you find that you have skills you didn’t know you had. And that you love learning and advocating for silent voices whose stories are essential in understanding our past.”
Welcome. We’re excited to see more from you, Cassie!