The 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 recent 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 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 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 the Fellowship and Internship Programs and 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 Project, please contact Dr. Megan Suster, Project Coordinator, at or 619-405-0222. Scroll down to learn more about the Project’s team members and work to date. 


Relevancy & History Project Staff and Fellows


Public Humanities Research Fellows, Spring 2021
The main goal of the Spring 2021 Public Humanities Research Fellows was the development of a critically engaged, culturally aware training program for seasonal interpretive staff, with the potential for the framework to be adapted in the future for other park staff and volunteers.  The development of the manual remains underway.


San Diego State University 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