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The History of Human Services: Tracing the Development of Contemporary Services Patterns & Some Universal Lessons that can be Learned from this History (2-day, in-person workshop)

September 11 @ 9:00 AM September 12 @ 5:00 PM EDT

NOTE: Registration is required in order to attend this event.

Using about six hundred images, this two-part presentation documents how major human service concepts and practices developed over time, from ancient informal, voluntary, unpaid personal helping forms to the largely commercialized patterns that we see today. Illustrations of human service settings, of service practices, and of works of art are used to show what the service patterns and assumptions were at a given time, and how and why they changed.

Day One sketches early–indeed ancient–service patterns, and shows that the history of human services of all types is inextricably interwoven with care for the poor and residential service provision. The presentation then traces human service practices into the late Medieval period, and the dramatic impacts on services of political, economic, cultural, and other changes in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries that led to much segregation and brutalization of the people served.

Day Two explains how services became alienated from valued cultural roots and analogues they once had, and how the people served began to be interpreted as menaces and treated accordingly. The presentation also explains the impact on services of the materialistic worldview that arose in the 18th century, leading to further brutalization. Then, many lessons from this historical review are spelled out.

The material is very sequential, each part building on what was covered previously. Therefore, only those who have attended Day 1 will be admitted to Day 2.

One main purpose of the presentation is raising of consciousness, and people who attended this presentation in the past have remarked that it fundamentally altered how they perceived many human service practices, and that it helped them to understand–often for the first time–some of the things they had witnessed, or of which they were a part, or to which they had contributed.


Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium

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Senator John Heinz History Center

1212 Smallman St
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15222 United States