NDSU’s public history program prepares students for archival work, museum studies and other careers that involve preserving that past.
Public history differs from a traditional history major because it emphasizes community education and ethical representation. In their classes, students regularly work with historical items to build displays, catalogs or exhibits presented to the public in museums, libraries, collections, archives and more.
Less focused on academia, and it’s work is presented to the public.
Tatum Hoff, a senior from Perley, Minnesota, has always been interested in museums. She was undecided when she started classes at NDSU. But she was drawn to public history when her advisor recommended the major.
“I knew you could work in museums, but I didn’t know there was a degree to do it and that there was a degree path,” Hoff said.
Public history has coursework across all history disciplines with a focus on hands-on experiences. Courses like introduction to public history, collections management and digital history are foundational to the field and give students a tangible project to work on.
One of Hoff’s favorite courses focuses on museum studies. In the class, she and classmates built an exhibition for the Historical and Cultural Society of Clay County in Moorhead, Minnesota. The exhibit centered around the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and its effects in Fargo.
“The best part about public history is you get to create things,” Hoff said. “It’s a very creative major. It’s definitely based on a foundation of scholarly work, but you get to do something with that work and you get to present it to the public.”
Hoff’s experience extends outside of the classroom. Last summer, she completed an internship with the Ransom County Historical Society in Fort Ransom, North Dakota. Over the course of the internship, Hoff cataloged nearly 2,000 items in the museum’s collection in addition to managing the venue’s daily operations. She worked with unique items from a variety of historical periods, including draft letters from the Civil War era and a cannon from the 1400s.
“I think that is the best part about the program,” Hoff said. “You get to work with the materials of history.”
Apply now to start your NDSU experience.