Public History Director
Ph.D. 2011, Middle Tennessee State University
422M Minard Hall
Areas of Interest and Specialization: Public History, Museum Studies, 20th Century American History
Angela J. Smith, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of History at North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota where she teaches public history, digital history, museum studies, and twentieth-century American History. Originally from middle Tennessee, Dr. Smith spent 25 years working as a graphic designer and production technologist before returning to graduate school to earn her PhD. She brings creativity, digital skills, and aesthetic sensibilities learned in her previous career to an active and collaborative public history classroom that brings together academic research and interpretation for public audiences. Since arriving at NDSU in January 2012, she has led four public history field schools in small towns across North Dakota, created seven major local history exhibits, eight local history documentaries, a walking tour, and an ever-evolving local history website called the Fargo History Project (http://www.fargohistory.com). She is also the author of a biography of John Beecher, a radical twentieth century poet, entitled Here I Stand, the Life and Legacy of John Beecher. Her more recent research looks at the late nineteenth and early twentieth century sex trade in Fargo, North Dakota through the lens of a local African American madam, Melvina Massey. This research is profiled in the collected volume, Historical Sex Work: New Contributions from History and Archaeology. where Smith is a contributor and editor.
For more information about Dr. Smith, see her digital portfolio: http://www.smithangj.com/asmith/
What made you want to study public history?
I have always been interested in history, but—like many students—I also had an eye on my future in the workplace. With a bachelor’s degree in English and Communication Arts, I spent the first half of my working life in the graphic arts industry as a prepress technician and graphic designer as the digital world evolved in the 1980s and 90s. But when I learned there was a field called Public History with classes offered at a nearby university, I decided to check it out. I soon discovered that my digital skills were an asset in the history field, and I enrolled in the grad program. Eight years later, I graduated with a PhD in Public History and six months later I landed in Fargo.
What makes you excited working with students?
Public History is a collaborative field. My students and I collaborate with regional organizations such as museums, historical societies, and archives. Introducing students to the complexities and rewards of collaborating to create a public history project is my passion. I do not take a top-down approach. Instead, I guide the students through the process of collaborating with me, each other, and stakeholders. Though most of my classes are designed as a hands-on introduction to the field, Public History students also learn best practices for researching and interpreting history for a public audience. They walk away from the classes understanding the value of collaboration and shared authority, a central tenet in the field. It’s exciting to see the students grow through this process. It is also exciting to watch them get jobs in museums or get admitted to excellent graduate programs. I am proud of our track-record and placement in both.
History 104-U.S. History since 1877
History 251-Intro to Public History
History 252-Intro to Museum Studies
History 401/601-Introduction to Archives
History 404/604-Digital History
History 424/624-20th Century American History, 1917-1960
History 730-Readings in Public History
Smith, Angela J. Here I Stand: The Life and Legacy of John Beecher. Tuscaloosa, AL: University Alabama Press, 2017.
Kristen R. Fellows, Angela J. Smith, and Anna Munns, eds. Historical Sex Work: New Contributions from History and Archaeology. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida Press, 2020.
Smith, Angela J. “Angela Smith: Fargo History Project.” Angela Smith: Fargo History Project (blog), October 29, 2015. https://www.processhistory.org/angela-smith-fargo-history-project/.
Randal Rust. “Edgerton, John Emmett.” Tennessee Encyclopedia. Accessed November 9, 2021. https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/john-emmett-edgerton/.
Work in Progress
Smith, A. J., “A Tale of Two Lakes: Corp of Engineers, Recreation, Planning, and Country Music.” A book project.