Graduate Emphasis in Public History

Public History at NAU

The new Public History emphasis is up and running in the history MA Program.   Beyond the traditional archives or museum studies, the field of public history is actually much broader and includes digital historians, historical consultants, curators, historical interpreters, historic preservationists, and local historians, just to name a few.  Other public history careers include government historians, oral historians, cultural resource managers, film and media producers, historic preservationists, policy advisers, and community activists.  Regardless of the position, all public historians share an interest and commitment to making history relevant and useful in the public sphere.

Following the National Council on Public History’s (NCPH) “Best Practices Guidelines,” the history department’s Public History emphasis first trains students to be good historians by requiring everyone in the program to take the same theoretical and methodology requirements of HIS 600, HIS 602, and HIS 550/560.  Additionally, Public History students must select a Primary Field of Study from one of the department’s eleven fields including:

  • North American Borderlands/West
  • United States
  • Indigenous Peoples/Native Americans
  • Europe
  • Asia
  • Latin America
  • Global/Comparative
  • Environment& Health
  • Colonialism and Nationalism
  • Class, Race,& Ethnicity
  • Gender & Sexuality

Then, following the NCPH’s guidelines, public history students are required to take a prescribed set of courses designed to introduce them to skills-oriented training.  These include:

  • HIS 502: a graduate seminar in public history
  • a public history elective (such as Museum Studies 599 or Anthropology 524 Cultural Resource Management)
  • HIS 686, an approved internship with a museum, archives, or similar institution

Finally, depending on whether they are taking extended coursework or are thesis track, public history students will be assessed through the presentation and defense of a portfolio, a thesis, or a public history project.  

Links to public history sites

National Council on Public History
Arizona Historical Society Pioneer Museum
Cline Library Special Collections and Archives