Public History

Adapted from the National Council on Public History’s “Best Practices in Public History” (;

American Historical Association’s “Public History Employers-What Do They Want?” (;

American Historical Association’s “Retrieving the Master’s Degree from the Dustbin of History, Appendix 3: Essential Competencies for National Park Service Employees: Historians” (

Recommendations Activities to Achieve Recommendations
Train students as historians
  • Provide opportunity for students to become expert researchers, writers, and interpreters of history by acquiring a strong foundation in historical research methodology
    • Ability to determine the need for research and/or survey, and to outline a scope and objectives of the study.
    • Ability to conduct or review historical research and cultural resource surveys.
      • This includes: ability to identify and gather primary and secondary sources, evaluate critically historical evidence and to place research findings into a larger context, and ability to evaluate critically historical research, planning documents and proposals, and other documents.
  • Provide opportunity for students to begin developing an area of historical expertise.
  • Provide knowledge of historical discussion and debate on topics of expertise.
Train students as public historians
  • Provide course to introduce students to ethical and professional differences between working in a public sector work environment (such as a museum) and the university, and which exposes students to scholarship of the field;
  • Provide information and knowledge on the identification, evaluation, documentation, registration, treatment, and management of cultural resources.
  • Provide a knowledge of public history and related fields (historic preservation, archaeology, etc.) and their theory philosophy, and practice, including a working knowledge of laws, regulations, and guidelines.
  • Require that students complete an internship that helps them acquire marketable, real-world experience. Internships should include:
    • Needs to be well structured and well supported by both graduate program and the institution.
    • A significant work product as the outcome
    • Direct access to professional practitioners of public history who can properly train student in techniques of public history
    • Practical work experiences and/or projects that encourage collaboration and teamwork.
  • Provide skills-oriented courses that introduce students to the theory and methods of public history as a field. The curriculum may include courses in:
    • Oral history
    • Archives management
    • Material culture
    • Historic preservation
    • Museum studies
  • Provide courses that instructs students in core professional conditions of public history:
    • Shared authority
    • Collaborative work environments
    • Community-buidling
    • Application of historical content and methodology to public projects
  • Provide students the opportunity to fulfill elective requirements through interdisciplinary study. Students need a working knowledge of related disciplines involved in cultural resource activities and the ability to participate in the development and implementation of a variety of interdisciplinary cultural resource research, planning, technical assistance, and reporting projects. Courses could be taken from other departments such as:
    • Archeology
    • Architectural history
    • Education
    • Visual studies
    • Art history
  • Require a culminating final project the documents and demonstrates the student’s advanced thinking in history and public history. Final project could take the form of one or more of the following:
    • Thesis
    • Exhibit proposal
    • Documentary film treatment
    • Website development plan
    • Reflective essay and portfolio (associated with internship opportunities pursued)
  • Provide collaborative opportunities with local schools, museums, parks, or other historical associations.
  • Provide understanding of basic administrative and communication skills
    • Necessary administrative skills: time management, budget planning, computer literacy, employee supervision, marketing, fundraising, grantsmanship, institutional governance, etc.
    • Students need “people skills” or the ability to communicate and work with the public and other professionals, the ability to present material in written form or orally, and an understanding of different audiences.