Well, the simple answer is that we thought the people of Indiana were thirsty for fun humanities programming. Last Thursday night, we found out we were right. More than 120 people participated in a new program, called INtoxicating History: A Historic Bar Crawl through Time, Space, and Debates.
This event can be done in virtually in any city with any historical theme. However, for our first historic bar crawl, we chose Indianapolis, and decided to theme each of four stops on the crawl with a different historical issue and period.
Locations and topics for the evening included:
Slippery Noodle Inn: Human sexuality in the 1890s
Union Station: Mass transit in the 1910s
Canterbury Hotel: Economic policy in the 1930s
Libertine Liquor Bar: Foreign affairs in the 1970s
In addition to first-person historical interpreters, each location featured a performance of some kind – a can-can show, a silent film, international music, etc. To provide an authentic experience, we researched and developed content for each theme and turned our results into infographics, images and background information for the interpreters. Each of these topics could easily become a lecture or even an entire symposium. However, those talks (no matter how sad it makes my historian heart) would not have sold out two weeks before the event like the bar crawl did. The key was giving people this very important and interesting information in a digestible format – with a suitable adult beverage in hand, of course.
As a public historian, I am constantly surrounded by people worrying about the future of our profession as many museums struggle to survive and our society becomes increasingly technologically-driven. But, most people do value history, even if they don’t realize it. People use their personal past experiences to understand their present reality. Historians just have to creatively package their content and learn to adapt to engage our changing audiences (something that I will freely admit can be very difficult for those of us who spend our lives studying the past).
I pitched the idea of a bar crawl to the staff at Indiana Humanities specifically to engage a broader audience. While numerous people who attended the event are perpetual attendees of Indiana Humanities programs (who we love) there were also many new faces. I even conversed with a number of people who had never heard about our organization before.
We learned as much as our participants did on Thursday and we met several new friends. However, we are eager to make our next event even more educational and engaging! Therefore, chime in and let us know what you think about this program or other ideas for engaging (and fun) humanities programming.
This post was written by Jenny Kalvaitis, a graduate intern with Indiana Humanities. The historic bar crawl was Jenny’s final project. She completed her Master’s degree in Public History in May.