Informational Interview with a Consulting Historian

I interviewed Morgen Young of Alder, LLC. Morgen is a consulting historian based in Portland, Oregon.

Morgen received her B.A. in History, with a concentration in Latin American Studies from Furman University in South Carolina. She went on to receive an M.A. in Public History, with a specialization in Historic Preservation from the University of South Carolina. The main impetus to pursuing public history came to Morgen in the form of a job she held for one year between her undergraduate and graduate studies. She worked as the Cultural Research Coordinator for an Alaska Native Corporation in Anchorage, Alaska. While there, Morgen directed an oral history program to document subsistence traditions, and helped manage a language preservation project. In hindsight, Morgen realizes that that position gave her valuable experience working in the capacity of public historian as well as consulting historian. That experience convinced her to go to graduate school, where she initially enrolled in a traditional history M.A./Ph.D. program. Realizing she didn’t want to teach, she switched to the Public History program by the end of the first semester.

Morgen claims she owes her post-graduate success to being obstinate. Upon finishing grad studies she moved to Portland, and unable to find paid or even voluntary work, she convinced her former employer in Alaska to hire her on a freelance basis for a project. From there, she says, she “registered a business and slowly, but surely began acquiring clients. Now I work full time as a consulting historian.”

Alder, LLC provides a variety of services, from researching house, company, community, and family histories; working in preservation through National Register of Historic Places nominations and Oregon Special Assessment applications; conducting and transcribing oral histories; developing and curating exhibits and museums; writing and editing reports, articles, digital and web content, and marketing materials; educational walking tours, lectures, and workshops; as well as providing photography. Because of this broad array of services, Morgen doesn’t really have a “typical day on the job.” Some days she meets with clients, some days she conducts research in both physical archives and by utilizing digital resources, and some days she focuses on writing content. Morgen also noted the importance of devoting “a fair amount of time” to project management, considering that “on any given day, I’m focusing on anywhere from two to ten projects.” Because of the solitary nature of her work (she is the sole employee of her business), Morgen says her favorite part of her work is working directly with community members. She says that any opportunity to work directly with people is both wonderful and rewarding.

Morgen notes that her skills as a good public historian, namely research, interpretation, and educating outside of a traditional classroom setting have prepared her for a wide variety of work. While she doesn’t have specific technical skills in the digital aspects, she can populate an existing website with her content and appreciates the advantages of digital platforms and works with web designers to achieve them. She has experienced an ability to reach new audiences and interact with multiple generations, through web platforms and social media marketing, and by combining both physical and digital components.

As a last bit of advice, Morgen recommends that young public historians engage with the National Council on Public History. She has been involved since grad school and found it helpful when seeking employment and volunteer opportunities. She has served as a Co-Chair of the NCPH Consultant’s Committee, and is currently a candidate to serve on the Board of Directors.

* I learned about Morgen’s work through her Uprooted Exhibit, which is currently on display at the Minidoka County Historical Society Museum in Rupert. See the project website here:  http://www.uprootedexhibit.com/

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