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UMass Sesquicentennial

University of Massachusetts Amherst

History Department

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Contact us:

History Dept., Herter Hall Room 612
University of Massachusetts
161 Presidents Drive
Amherst, MA 01003-9312

Tel. 413.545.1330
Fax. 413.545.6137



Public History Internships

Internships, the final requirement for Public History students, serve all aspects of our mission, enabling students to draw connections between theory and practice while contributing to communities of public historians. Internships, both paid and unpaid, are available at a variety of area historical institutions. Past institutions include Old Sturbridge Village, Historic Deerfield, the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, Lowell National Historical Park, Museums of Old York, he Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Monadnock Media, the National Park Service, and American Radio Works. (Organizations interested in connecting with history students may find more information here.)

Four principles guide the development of internships that mutually benefit the student, the host institution, and the Public History Program:

  • First, it is the policy of both the University of Massachusetts in general and the Public History Program in particular that interns not assume positions formerly held by regular employees.
  • Second, internships are education placements that give students a chance to develop skills under the supervision of a professional staff member with expertise in the project area. While interns, especially at the graduate level, should have some autonomy in developing their work, they necessarily must remain apprentices to a professional from whom they'll learn this aspect of their craft.
  • Third, though helping with day-to-day administrative work can be educational, and is sometimes necessary, internships should include a project with a tangible end product that students can take with them on the job market.
  • Lastly, internships completed during the academic year should conform as closely as possible in terms of workload and calendar to the demands of other jobs offered graduate students at the University of Massachusetts. Typically, graduate students are expected to be at their duties from the first day of classes until the last day of final exams; they receive a break in January, and resume their duties on the same schedule for the spring semester.

Eliza Ahrens with the Global Arms and Armor exhibit she helped re-design as part of her internship at Worcester's Higgins Armory Museum during the summer of 2010.

How to Plan and Register for your Internship

The Internship Contract

The Public History Program requires that internships be approximately 300 hours, which can be completed during the school year or over the summer.  It is sometimes possible to divide these hours into two separate internships with the approval of your advisor: for example, a short 40 hour internship could be combined with a larger 260 hour internship, or students may complete two 150-hour internships. 

When you have agreed upon an internship plan with your advisor and the host institution that you will be working with, fill out the internship contract (click here for a sample internship contract), confirm the details with both parties, and obtain the necessary signatures from the institution and your advisor.  Make sure to give one copy to the host institution, one copy to your advisor for your program file, and keep one copy for yourself.

Registering for your Internship
If you are planning to complete your internship in the summer, register for the internship during the spring semester before you plan to begin your work.  The course will be considered “In Progress” until completed, but you do not need to worry about the fact that you will not have a grade posted at the end of the semester.
If you are planning to complete your internship during the school year, register for the internship during the semester you will be working on it.

To register, obtain an offline course form from the History Department Graduate Program Assistant in Herter 612.  You can not register for the internship online in Spire.  Fill out the course form, listing the course as History 698: Practicum (6 credits).  Bring the course form to your Public History Program advisor for signature, and return the form to Herter 612.
When the Internship is Completed
At the end of your internship, ask your supervisor at the host institution to write you a letter evaluating your performance.  Ask them to send (or email) it to your advisor in the Public History Program.  You can tell them that your advisor will use this letter to evaluate your performance and to write you recommendation letters in the future. 

At the end of your 300 hours you will submit a paper reflecting on how your experiences in the field correspond with the insights gleaned from coursework -- where does fieldwork confirm the scholarship, and where does it complicate it?  For these purposes, it might be useful to take notes during the course of your internship. 

Interested in connecting your institution or history project with a UMass graduate student? See the guidelines here.