Who Are Public Historians?
Public historians are front-line interpreters bringing historical knowledge to a broad public audience beyond the traditional academic classroom. Working in such varied institutions as museums, government agencies and heritage destination sites, public historians expand on the research skills and content knowledge of traditionally trained historians to incorporate new sources of historical evidence such as oral history and material culture.
How Are Public Historians Trained at CCSU?
The CCSU M.A. Program in Public History combines traditional academic coursework, job-specific skills and field-based experience to prepare students for work in museums, historical societies, local and community history and historic sites. These careers offer outstanding opportunities for preserving, interpreting and researching the past. Many of our students are also professional educators who use their degree to energize their classroom teaching, while others are dedicated amateur historians committed to exploring their communities’ stories.
With CCSU’s central location in New Britain, the Public History program utilizes Connecticut as its field lab, drawing on the state’s wealth of museums, historical societies, archives and historic sites. CCSU maintains institutional affiliations with multiple local, state, and national organizations.
Students may also design specialized programs in such areas as public policy, documentary filmmaking, archives, museum administration and historic preservation. If you interested in this option please contact the Public History Coordinator prior to application.
Who Should Apply?
The program welcomes both recent college graduates and nontraditional students seeking to enter the public history field. We have both full-time and part-time students enrolled in the program. Full-time students can complete the degree in two years. Many public history students also pursue the degree on a part-time basis and evening classes allow them to combine work and school. Admission to the program usually requires a B.A. in history or a related field. Prospective students who do not meet this requirement, however, should consult with the program director to learn of alternative routes.
Be sure to review the Public History Student Guide.
The program requires 33 semester hours (11 classes) divided between traditional academic coursework, specialized seminars in public history, and field experience. Ideally, students should at the beginning of their program complete HIST 510, (Seminar in Public History), which explores the field’s development, methodologies, and employment opportunities, and HIST 501, The Professional Historian, which focuses on research and writing methodology as well as the professional nature of history. The Public History Coordinator will work with students to design a program of study that builds upon acquired skills and is specific to a student’s interests and goals.
Public History Courses Required:
- HIST 501 The Professional Historian
- HIST 502 Historiography
- HIST 510 Seminar in Public History
- HIST 511 Topics in Public History (taken twice with different topics)
- HIST 521 Public History Internship • HIST 595 Public History Research Project (Plan C) ￼
Other History Courses Required:
- Non-History Elective
- Directed History Elective
- General Graduate History Courses (6 credits)
Public history students take at least two topics courses (Hist 511) designed to provide them with applied knowledge and hands-on experiences in the practice of Public History. Upon graduation our students are repeatedly recognized by experts in the field as ready to begin work, having spent so much time “doing” history rather than just reading about it.
Skills Workshops and Conference/Event Participation
Students are required to attend 5 pre-approved conference or workshops during their tenure in the program. These may include workshops that develop hands-on skills such as database training or materials conservation. The requirement is also to encourage students to attend conferences and events that allow them to network and become part of the professional historical community. Dependent on scheduling, available field topics may include:
- Oral history
- Museum interpretation
- Educational programming
- Material culture
- Digital history
- Historic Preservation
- Collections management
- Community History
An integral part of the program is the Semester Internship. Students work with the Public History Coordinator to determine an internship that helps them define a career goal and provide field experience. Students spend 120 hours on the job and an additional 30-40 hours completing a final paper and annotated bibliography project.
The program culminates with a Capstone Project, as opposed to a traditional MA thesis. Student-designed projects incorporate client-based and/or academically based research that is presented to a non-academic audience. Students will determine final projects that correlate with their internship experience.
Projects can broad and imaginative in nature. Some projects have included the following:
- Walking tours
- Local or institutional histories
- Oral history projects
- Visitor surveys
- Grant applications
- Historic site educational curriculum
- National Register nominations
- Historic Structure Reports
- Historic monument interpretations
- Collections database projects
Be sure to review the Public History Student Guide. For admission requirements and application materials see the Graduate Studies website. Be sure to click on the link for Additional Admission Materials.