As we prepare for the 2017 Annual Meeting in Austin, the Educators and Interpreters Affinity Group Committee is trying an experiment. We’re giving presenters who are chairing sessions with education and interpretation themes a chance to give readers a little more information about them – a teaser, if you will. We’ll share two to three sessions each week. We hope this will be helpful to prospective conference attendees and presenters alike. Please share your thoughts and comments with us!

(If you haven’t heard from us and you’d like to share a post on your workshop or session, drop a line to Sarah Jencks at

Session: Commemorating Tragedy, Healing Wounds: Mother Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, SC
Friday, September 8, 8:30 – 9:45 am
Chair: George W. McDaniel, Ph.D., President, McDaniel Consulting, Charleston, SC

How should historical organizations respond when hateful violence and mass murder strike their communities? They expose deep divides in our social fabric, and often, as most recently in Charlottesville, VA, at Emanuel AME, at the Pulse night club in Orlando, and elsewhere, everyday citizens from throughout the nation respond and endow objects with their grief, sympathies, and hopes and leave them as memorials. They also send letters and gifts by mail and communicate by social media.  Do such expressions warrant preservation, and if so, how and by whom?  If a history organization does wish to step forward, how should it do so? How might the memorabilia be used for education and interpretation?

In this session attendees will hear answers from four respondents to the murders at Mother Emanuel AME Church, who worked together but still offer different points of view. One is a leading member of Mother Emanuel AME and the African American community in Charleston. Another is the retired director of a historic site in Charleston, who organized the response. The third is a genealogist who preserved social media responses, and the fourth, an exhibit designer who used the memorabilia to produce two exhibits with the church to commemorate the tragedy.

If history be a guide, such tragedies will happen again, so this session marks the time to initiate dialogue and begin a planning process among history organizations across the nation.


Check out other sessions and workshops listed in our Annual Meeting Program Guide.