Historians as Project Managers

“Students in history [must] learn techniques of project management” because of the growing need for collaboration on “Big History” projects, says James Herbert in the most recent issue of Perspectives (the magazine of the American Historical Society), in an article titled “Professions and Publics.”  Herbert is paraphrasing the words of author James Cortada, who writes about the ways that historian need to change their research practices in his recent book History Hunting: A Guide for Fellow Adventurers.

It would be nice to see those skills incorporated into graduate school, but I can hardly imagine such a sea-change occurring anywhere but at the most innovative of institutions, where staff support, in the form of technologists and project managers, is available to graduate students.  Off the top of my head, I can only think of two (well-heeled) programs that might have such resources allocated to their graduate students.  Few (too few) even have technical support for faculty, much less their students.

I haven’t yet read Cortada’s book, so perhaps it’s premature for me to offer my concerns about the practicality of his suggestions.  However, I’m looking forward to reading it to see what concrete ideas he offers about how this change in curriculum might fit into the training of students at non-elite universities.