On September 22, 2022, Jennifer Ortiz, director for the Utah Division of State History, visited BYU for the annual Fernando R. Gomez lecture. Jennifer’s vision and intention for State History includes diversifying the narratives we collectively share as a state and ensuring those who practice history better reflect our demographics in Utah.
History is the way people want to express themselves. Jennifer Ortiz, the first woman to run the 125-year-old organization and the first person to identify as a minority, shared with students and faculty about The Peoples of Utah Revisited program. The multi-year initiative is designed to celebrate Utah’s diverse past and is a follow-up to the original Peoples of Utah project published over 50 years ago.
The initiative is comprised of a variety of events to teach families and communities how to record, scan, and treasure their history. “The goal for the project,” says Ortiz, “ is working with community groups to tell their stories in ways they want to tell them; to gather those untold stories, amplify misrepresented voices, and share with communities across the state that their stories are important.”
Along with this major project, Ortiz spotlighted an assortment of projects focused on the last 50 years of Utah’s history created to document history for the misunderstood and growing populations in the state. Amongst these are the Utah Historical Quarterly, which presents updated research in the field of Utah History; the Women’s history initiative, which examines the contributions Utah women have made over the years; and the collections and library program, which houses a host of Utah artifacts, photographs, and manuscripts.
Ortiz emphasized how the original Peoples of Utah project changed the trajectory of public history in the state saying, “It really laid the foundation for diversity in teaching scholarship on Utah history.” She encouraged all to get involved in recording their personal history.
Learn more about BYU’s Department of History.