According to the National Council on Public History, "Public History describes the many and diverse ways in which history is put to work in the world. In this sense, it is history that is applied to real-world issues. In fact, applied history was a term used synonymously and interchangeably with public history for a number of years." Public history can be any history field directed to audiences outside the academy.
If you study public history, you might become a historical consultant, museum professional, government historian, archivist, oral historian, cultural resource manager, curator, film and media producer, historical interpreter, historic preservationist, policy adviser, local historian, or community activist, among many many other jobs. The common element is an interest and commitment to making history relevant and useful in the public sphere.
At NDSU a B.A. or B.S. degree may be earned in Public History. The major requires 48 credits in history courses, including a nine-credit internship. An additional 18 credits in supplementary vocational courses or an approved minor to prepare for a career in public history are also required. The Public History program prepares students for employment in fields such as archives and museums, historical editing, historic preservation, costume conservation, and archeology. The 18 credit supplementary vocational courses are divided into three tracks: 1) museums, intended to prepare students for work as a curator, interpreter, or administrator in museums, 2) archives, intended to prepare students for work with documents and/or photographs in a archival repository, and 3) historical preservation, intended to prepare students to work with the National Historic Preservation legislation to identify historic buildings and sites throughout the nation, 4) cultural resource management, 5) digital history. For more details regarding the courses available for the 15 credit distribution courses or 18 credit vocational supplement see the Public History Curriculum Guide.
An independent study is designed to give students an opportunity to conduct research and write a scholarly paper or create a public history project. The process works this way:
- The student is responsible for the initial project idea(s).
- At our first formal meeting, we can brainstorm the project together and work out objectives and a a rough timeline.
- You then create a syllabus that delineates a schedule for research and writing as well as project deadlines and milestones. It will also include the objectives of the study (What do you hope to achieve?) and a project proposal. You’ll provide me with the syllabus, which you’ll prepare soon after our first meeting. In the project proposal, include:
- Type of project
- Intended audience
- Available sources
- We will meet every other week at a preassigned time. During these meetings, you will give a progress report and we will discuss research and issues that may arise.
- Research should be conducted in primary and secondary sources.
- Each student is required to write a 2-3 page reflective essay about their process that is due at the end of the semester.
- Everything must be completed before the end of the semester.
- Grades are based on the quality of the work and adherence to the deadlines set in the syllabus.
- If you create a project, you will write a 10-12 page research paper that informs your project work. This anchors you in the relevant historical material.
- If you write an academic paper, it must be at least 20 pages long with an annotated bibliography.