Prayers, Ceremonies, and Spiritual Practices to Guide Public Historians
Introduction: Why Do Public Historians Need Prayers?
Although public history is often meant to be a secular world, it is often related to religion, cultural heritage, and artifacts that are considered sacred. While many professionals frown upon bringing spirituality or religion into a secular historical space or art museum, others are seeking ways to become more attuned to and prepared for, dealing with cultural heritage and history that is considered sacred.
Spiritual Ethics is a growing concern among public historians. Whether it is a religious artifact, ancient goddess statue, or human remains, these sacred objects and places require a respectful approach. Demands for repatriations, reparations, and return of stolen items are in the news every day. Public historians may find themselves dealing with anything from finding a way to spiritually bless a new addition to a collection of ancient Bibles, to managing the United States government to Tribal government negotiations related to the return of ancestor remains. They must deal with history related to trauma, pain, suffering, and human horrors, and communities that have been hurt and suffered great loss. There are home museums, historical houses, sacred sites, and ancient monuments that may need spiritual attention.
This is an interfaith and multicultural book. It is also a non-denominational and secular book. It is hoped that there is something for everyone within these pages. The prayers are meant to address the many different ways public historians might be dealing with sacred, spiritual, or religious objects. But also, how public historians must deal with historic places, cultural heritage, ancient history, locations of historic events, and places of deep and disturbing trauma.
You name it and public historians may have to deal with it. I wanted to combine my training as an interfaith minister with my education as a public historian to honor the spiritual aspects of our work and our experiences. I have adapted some traditional religious prayers and blessings, and have written a plethora of new ones to fit the needs of public historians. These are meant to help you:
- Add elements of respect, reverence, and spiritual/emotional support to your daily work
- Honor trauma, and the pain of those that came before, with a blessing or a prayer
- Find solutions for dealing with situations, objects, or events considered sacred by honoring them spiritually, or by finding a non-religious approach that is inclusive of all.
Rev. Laurie Sue Brockway
SUNY School of Graduate Studies
Master's in Public History student