What We Do

See our What’s New page for upcoming events.

Monthly Programs: In these Institute-wide gatherings, members share their work and, if desired, receive feedback. Presentations might include a paper to be delivered at a conference, an outline of a longer work, a draft of a chapter or article, a performance, a rough cut of a video, or even an idea looking for a format. (See more information here. For examples of what members have been working on, see Member Profiles and News.)

Study groups play an important role. We encourage lively, informal discussions. Each group has a coordinator, and meetings are held in members’ homes on a rotating basis. Members are welcome to form new groups according to their needs and interests.

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Seminars and conferences: On occasion, the Institute mounts seminars for its members, taught by one or several members or by invited speakers. We have sponsored and co-sponsored conferences of independent scholars, and we have assisted members in forming panels for history conferences.

Other member events:  We also organize special meetings, such as workshops on topics like publishing, orientations to various libraries and archives, and tours of places of historical interest. We have an annual potluck in the fall and an annual business meeting, with lunch and a program, in February.

Public Programs

Sunday, August 21, 2:00 pm, Public Program via Zoom.
Writing and Revising Narrative History
A Presentation by Megan Kate Nelson
Join the Mechanics' Institute and the Institute for Historical Study for this exciting talk about writing with historian Megan Kate Nelson who left academia in 2014 to become a full-time writer. During this Zoom event, she will offer advice for writers who want to publish trade history books and other pieces for general readers. Dr. Nelson will talk about how to make the transition from academic to narrative history writing, how to revise manuscripts for trade publication, and how to pitch articles and Op-eds to newspapers and magazines.
Megan Kate Nelson is a historian and writer, with a BA from Harvard and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Iowa. She is the author of four books: Saving Yellowstone: Exploration and Preservation in Reconstruction America (Scribner 2022); The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West (Scribner 2020; a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in History); Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War (Georgia, 2012); and Trembling Earth: A Cultural History of the Okefenokee Swamp (Georgia, 2005). She writes about the Civil War, the U.S. West, and American culture for The New York Times, Washington Post, The Atlantic, Smithsonian Magazine, and TIME. Before leaving academia to write full-time in 2014, she taught U.S. history and American Studies at Texas Tech University, Cal State Fullerton, Harvard, and Brown. She grew up in Colorado but now lives in Boston with her husband and two cats.


Many of our members have received mini-grants from the Institute in aid of their history research. There is an annual deadline in the fall. Only Institute members are eligible. For more information, see Information for Mini-Grant Applicants. Download the application form here.