Old Town San Diego SHP Relevancy & History Project

The Relevancy & History Project is an innovative public humanities initiative that seeks to highlight the underrepresented histories and voices of California’s diverse communities in order to advance and integrate equity, inclusion, and social justice practices within the interpretive landscape of California State Parks.

This is done by developing and implementing:
   •   critical historical and interdisciplinary research;
   •   culturally relevant and responsive heritage interpretation and preservation;
   •   equity-minded, antiracist, and evidence-based outreach and engagement;
   •   the diversification of personnel, employment pathways, and areas of expertise; and
   •   the cultivation of sustainable partnerships with academic/scholarly institutions and cultural organizations.

As indicated by research from the National Park Service (based on the 2011 report Imperiled Promise) and Parks Forward/Transformation Team findings, there is a need for historians and new historical/interdisciplinary research in parks as a way to equitably engage and include the diverse publics that make up California.

The desired outcomes for underrepresented/underserved populations include:
   •   increased sense of place and belonging;
   •   educational and recreational enrichment opportunities;
   •   volunteer and employment pathways;
   •   preservation of community histories and cultural resources; and 
   •   connecting park resources to community needs.

Throughout its history, the Relevancy & History Project has centered a community-driven approach to interpretation and education.  The pilot project led by the Public History Program of the University of California, Riverside at California Citrus State Historic Park from 2016 to present has focused on migration and immigration and highlighted hidden histories of people and place. This includes new research, partnerships, internships and pathways for student employment, community story collection, outreach events, and exhibitions. The integration of the Relevancy & History Project led by the History Department of San Diego State University at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park started in Spring of 2021, and will involve much of the same methodologies and frameworks.  Currently, the focus of the project is on conducting listening sessions and visitor surveys, as well as creating career pipelines for students.  In the Summer of 2021, one of our Public Humanities Fellows and one of our undergraduate interns were each hired as interpreters in the San Diego Coast District of California State Parks. 

With a commitment to equity-oriented practices, bilingual programming, decolonizing frameworks, and anti-racist engagement, the broader impact for all Californians through the Relevancy & History Project is the creation of opportunities that enable fuller, more complex understandings of California’s history and cultural resources as well as opportunities for civic engagement and dialogue.

To learn more about the Relevancy & History Project in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, please contact Dr. David Cline, Professor of History and the Director of the Center for Public and Oral History at San Diego State University, at dpcline@sdsu.edu or 619-594-0476. To learn more about the Relevancy & History Project at California Citrus State Historic Park, please contact Dr. Cathy Gudis, Associate Professor of History, Director of the Public History Program, and Teresa and Byron Pollitt Endowed Term Chair of Interdisciplinary Research and Learning in the Humanities and Social Sciences for the University of California, Riverside at cagudis@ucr.edu or 323-445-9557.


Relevancy & History Project Team


Undergraduate Public History Class, Fall 2022

Part of the focus of Dr. David Cline’s Fall 2022 Undergraduate Public History Class was giving students the opportunity for hands-on learning in different topics focused in Old Town San Diego and San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Parks.

The first student group worked on developing ideas for the revitalized 4th Grade Education Program, including familiarizing themselves with curriculum and Park standards, developing topics, themes, and engagement activities for the program, and thinking through important logistical considerations like inclement weather, accessibility, and more.

Another student group worked to develop a series of “Listening Sessions” conducted with various Park stakeholders in an effort to host open conversation and collaboration in the Project planning process, an important tenet of the Project’s commitment to equity-oriented engagement practices.

The third student group developed and conducted visitor surveys aimed to assess why visitors attended that day, how they use the park, what they enjoy and don’t enjoy and what they’d like to see more of—this data will be used to help guide the Project in the future as community collaboration continues to develop.

The final group focused on San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park in Escondido, an under-utilized site with great potential for digital humanities and other ‘non-traditional’ modes of interpretation. Students conducted research, created proposals, and laid the groundwork for continuing work to develop the Park’s digital presence.

As the Relevancy & History Project continues to develop at Old Town San Diego and San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Parks, we look forward to sharing updates on the Spring 2022 interns.

Undergraduate Interns, Spring 2021

An important aspect of the Relevancy & History Project is the diversification of personnel, employment pathways, and areas of expertise, and the cultivation of sustainable partnerships with academic/scholarly institutions and cultural organizations. This internship partnership touches on both of these aspects of the program. While this internship opportunity focused on the creation of digital interpretive content, projects were tailored to match intern interests and future career paths, and onsite, in person opportunities were available. Through a combination of original research, content creation, and conversations with existing park staff, interns had a diverse, dynamic experience where they:

  • gained an understanding of the Interpretation and Education Division of California State Parks, particularly at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park;
  • participated in a Parks career seminar as well as a resume/CV workshop to help in their continuing professionalization;
  • honed their skills in completing original historical research;
  • and developed their skills in public programming as part of their work to create digital interpretive content for the park’s website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, and other applicable social media channels.


Jolenne Cisneros

Nathan Fogerson

Benjamin Khamis

Peyton Lindsay

Eloy Oakley, MA

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park logo


Bryce Tomecek