Public Humanities at WesternWestern Arts and Humanities


The Public Humanities @ Western program is designed to enhance the Faculty of Arts and Humanities’ commitment to the promotion of innovative forms of publicly engaged knowledge creation, experiential learning, and campus-community collaboration. Bringing together faculty, students, staff, and public partners, the program aims to address common problems as well as opportunities that arise between the campus and community. It also seeks to foster a more recognized place for public scholarship as an important mode of academic inquiry, and to encourage young scholars across the disciplines to pursue research projects aimed towards broader publics and forms of engagement. Above all, the program is designed to cultivate a renewed spirit of citizenship and engagement through arts and humanities research and collaboration. 

Objectives for The Public Humanities Project @ Western:

1) The project intends to move beyond an institutionally entrenched opposition between traditional scholarly research and public academic work by exploring interdisciplinary methodologies for fostering collaborative community-campus initiatives, public arts projects, and civic engagement programs that integrate groups and communities within and beyond the university.

2) The project will be responsive to exciting new models of experiential learning, and will build a community service learning program that would allow engaged undergraduate and graduate students to work in closer contact with public humanities institutions in the London community, such as libraries and literacy programs, museums and galleries, arts groups, social justice networks, historic sites and archives, non-profit and philanthropic organizations, and relevant media outlets. Working in collaboration with the Experiential Learning Team at The Student Success Centre, The Public Humanities @ Western’s service learning programming aims to enhance the academic and civic learning experience for students, to encourage engaged pedagogies, and to address the needs and concerns of the community.

3) The final objective of this program will be to put in place the infrastructure and institutional resources to develop democratic, collaborative, long-term projects that connect the campus with the community in ways that are mutually enriching for faculty, students, and public partners.

What is public scholarship? One of the most widely adopted definitions of public scholarship comes from the work of Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, which is a national consortium of American universities and colleges dedicated to expanding the role of public research in the arts and humanities. “Publicly engaged academic work,” according to Imagining America, “is scholarly or creative activity integral to a faculty member’s academic area. It encompasses different forms of making knowledge about, for, and with diverse publics and communities. Through a coherent and purposeful sequence of activities, it contributes to the public good and yields artifacts of public and intellectual value.”

As part of our activities to launch the program, the Public Humanities Team has created a new speaker series across the Arts & Humanities disciplines. The Scholarship of Engagement Speaker Series highlights scholars, artists, and creative professionals who are nationally and internationally recognized for their work in directing public humanities initiatives and community partnerships, promoting and publishing on public scholarship, or practicing other forms of engaged academic and creative work. The speaker series will also host public dialogues at local arts institutions to help foster community-campus partnerships between arts programs at Western and in the greater London area.

With the generous support of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the Public Humanities Team is committed to making Western a national and international leader in the public humanities movement.

Public Humanities at Western
Western University 
London, Ontario