Some thoughts about public history work and graduate education, compiled for the Southern Historical Association’s Graduate Council with my good friend Mandy Higgins
My #publichistory thesis:
Public History requires creating your classroom before you get to teach in it.
Building a public history classroom means attracting your audience and delivering a lesson in an engaging form that retains them over the short and long term.
As grad students, we’re trained to convert new scholarship into undergraduate instruction.
This is entirely transferable to public history. What isn’t taught to history grads are soft skills and administrative follow through to create that teachable moment outside the university setting.
Public history is the work of fundraising, exhibit and program design, marketing, project management, networking, event planning, etc. to bring learners into your non-traditional classroom.
So, students need to learn the skills it takes to create opportunities to use our training as researchers and teachers and how to stay motivated and engaged when bureaucracy, funding, and politics make it tough to build and sustain the classrooms you want.