Current Public History Students
Christopher Benning | Ph.D. Candidate
I had a good sense of what I wanted to study in graduate school. I was concerned, however, that I would have to develop my own curriculum. The information related to the Public History Program on the University of Massachusetts History Department website was nothing short of an epiphany. It piqued my interest in a course of study combining theory and praxis that went beyond conventional programs in history and museum studies. Having studied at Amherst College, I was also keenly aware of the tremendous resources available through the Five College Consortium, both academically and culturally. For students of history, the Pioneer Valley is an embarrassment of riches in research opportunities and practical experience, whether archival, teaching or museum work. In terms of intellectual atmosphere and physical environment, Amherst has the cultural amenities of a cosmopolitan city without the urban hassles; it’s the best of both worlds and ideal for scholarship. Having lived in busy metropolises most of my life, I cherish Amherst’s quality of life, the accessibility of its resources, and its sense of community and place. It's the perfect place to undertake my dissertation project, a study of the Gilded Age/Progressive Era museum movement.
Peter Blackmer | Ph.D. Candidate | W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies
I was born and raised in Syracuse, NY, and received my B.A. in History and M.S. Ed. from Wagner College before entering the Ph.D. program in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies at UMass, where I am in my third year in the History and Politics track and second year in the Public History graduate certificate program. My primary research interests focus on northern struggles for Black liberation with emphasis on community organizing and political activism in Harlem preceding the rebellions in 1964. In addition, I also research 19th Century African American history and politics with particular emphasis on Reconstruction, institutionalized political violence, and African American community responses.
My interest in Public History is essentially two-pronged. For my undergraduate thesis, I sought to gather oral histories of Harlem residents to produce a community-centered history of social movements in the early 1960s. I plan to hone my skills in oral and community histories through the Public History program to produce a more refined history of political activism in Harlem, centering the experiences of local people. In addition, I am currently developing an educational website to present my research findings regarding the evolution of political violence and the overthrow of Reconstruction. I plan to utilize my training in public history to effectively present this information in ways that are accessible to popular audiences and useful to students and teachers.
Gabrielle Chapman| M.A. Candidate
I graduated from Occidental College in the spring of 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in History. During my time there I completed a research project that focused on the political discourse surrounding economic issues and the role this played in the formation of American identity and culture in the nineteenth century. In addition to continuing this research I am interested in historic preservation, memory, and visual/print culture. I chose the Umass Public History program because it provides students with opportunities to gain professional skills within the field of history through a combination of hands-on experience and learning within the classroom.
Matt Coletti | M.A. Candidate
Believe it or not, I recall my first visit as a toddler to one of the country’s stirring National Parks: Antietam National Battlefield. As my family and I strolled across the rolling hills of outside of Sharpsburg, Maryland, my imagination ran wild from the countless stories of the American Civil War that the Park Rangers recounted. That family trip planted the seed that blossomed into my boundless about curiosity about United States’ history.
Toward the end of my undergraduate studies at Washington College in 2012, I realized that I wanted to continue with my education, and become a professional historian working in the public sphere. My interests in historical memory began to form at this point, and I knew that I wanted to combine my American Civil War fascination with its resonance in contemporary, American society. Based on my experiences at the Park Service’s Civil War battlefields, I knew that a career with the Park Service was possible. The idea of how park staff compresses the national narrative to an intimate level for its visitors was something I admired and aspired to join.
I was able to apply the knowledge I’ve obtained from the public history faculty to the internship that I completed during the summer of 2014. I spent the better part of four months working with the staff at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to design and interpret visitor programs that explored the complex connections between the town and the national events encompassing the Federalist Era, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. Following the completion of my internship with the National Park Service, I’ll working on an interpretive program that will enable park employees to educate visitors in the intimate relationship concerning Harpers Ferry and Reconstruction history.
With my career hopes and academic interests in mind, I knew that the public history program at the University of Massachusetts offered an exceptional, educational opportunity, and a pathway to service with the National Parks. The program’s focus on memory studies as well as historic site interpretation will fully prepare me for connecting local and national audiences with their history.
Crystal Donkor | Ph.D. Candidate | W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies
Learning environments that extend beyond the confines of the classroom have always been a source of great fascination for me. As a child, museum spaces were my favorite because they had a unique way of brining the past to life. As an adult, this fascination for Public History grew as I became deeply interested in historic preservation sites, particularly plantation spaces. As a PhD student in the W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies with a research focus in the nineteenth century, I am drawn to the living history and memory that plantation spaces evoke. My research is primarily focused on the literature of the late 19th century and how African American women writers engage the legacies of these spaces in their fiction.
My participation in the Public History program at UMass has provided me and my research with a whole new set of analytical tools with which to understand how space, place, and artifact speak to making and understanding meaning. On a much more personal level, Public History has challenged me to consider the broader impact of my own scholarship. Working with Springfield youth on creating a digital archive of their oral histories around a natural disaster during my first semester in the Public History program created a new enthusiasm within me for bringing historical methods and practice to real people.
I think the best feature of the Public History program at UMass lies in its ability to introduce students to community partners like Historic Deerfield and Historic Northampton. These spaces give in-class research a much more tangible and practical outlet. My relationship to these spaces in Massachusetts often inspires me to return to my hometown of New York City, full of large, well-known museums, and explore some lesser known, historic homes and historic sites.
Erica Fagen | Ph.D. Candidate
I am originally from Montreal, Quebec, Canada. There, I completed my BA (Honours) in History at Concordia University. I received my MA in Public History at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in June 2012. My research interests include 20th and 21st century Germany, public history, South Africa and the TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission), memory, photography, and digital humanities. My PhD committee includes Jon Olsen, Andrew Donson, James Young, and Jennifer Evans (Carleton University, Canada).
I first became interested in the study of public history at Concordia University, and during these past few years I have been fortunate to work on several public history initiatives, including the Montreal Life Stories project (Concordia University, Montreal), the YM-YWHA (Young Men's Young Women's Hebrew Association) Archive Project, (Jewish Public Library Archives, Montreal), the Douglas Cardinal Archive Project (Carleton University, Ottawa), and Hate 2.0: Combating Right-Wing Extremism in the Age of Social Technology (Carleton University, Ottawa). I was also the Research Assistant for the Carleton Centre for Public History at Carleton University for the 2011-2012 academic year, as well as a member of the organizing committee for the bilingual History, Memory, Performance conference held at the University of Ottawa in April 2012. In Summer 2013, I participated in the German Historical Institute's Summer Archival Seminar in Germany, and I learned how state and federal archives, libraries, and memorial sites are operated in the country. During this past academic year, I helped organize a workshop entitled “Wikipedia 101 for Women’s History (and Other Underrepresented Subjects,)” at the NCPH Annual Meeting in Monterey, California. I presented a similar workshop in June at the Mass Humanities conference with Marla Miller. In April 2015, I will be a presenter for a panel entitled “Selfies, Tweets, and Likes: Social Media and its Role in Historical Memory,” at the NCPH Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.
At UMass, I like to attend Public History and Digital Humanities lectures and workshops, and I also like to visit the many great museums and historical institutions in the area. You can follow me on Twitter at @erfagen or take a look on my website, http://ericarfagen.wordpress.com/.
Kate Freedman | Ph.D. Candidate
I came to UMass in 2009, after completing a BA in History at Hampshire College (2004) and an MLIS at the University of Rhode Island (2007). After completing my MA in History, with a certificate in Public History, in 2009, I stayed on at UMass to pursue my doctorate.
My interests are antislavery; religion, race, revolution, and movements for social change in the Early Modern Atlantic world, finding ways to use new media to help bring historical knowledge to a broader population. In my research, I seek to illuminate how tensions between morality and economics shaped the Quakers' relationship to slavery in the Anglo-Atlantic world.
In addition to being a doctoral student in the history department, I am also the Undergraduate Education Librarian at UMass. In my work, I help faculty and graduate students teach undergraduates access, find, and evaluate the information that the use in both their scholarly and non-scholarly lives.
Katie Garland | M.A. Candidate
I fell into public history almost by accident. Knowing that I loved history, I signed up for an introductory public history class during my sophomore year at Messiah College. As I encountered ideas about how to interpret the past for the public for the first time, I found my calling. After finishing the Historic Deerfield Summer Fellowship Program in 2011, I knew that I wanted to pursue public history in graduate school.I decided to attend UMass in order to take advantage of the Pioneer Valley's rich historical resources, and because I appreciated the program's combination of traditional history with public history theory and hands-on experience.
I am particularly interested in how public historians talk about the history of religion, as my research centers on early American religious history. In summer 2013, I was a Buchanan/Burnham Intern at the Newport Historical Society in Rhode Island. To help celebrate the 350th anniversary of Rhode Island's charter that granted religious toleration to the colony's inhabitants, I composed a series of essays about the history of religion in the colony. My essays can be found at: http://www.spectacleoftoleration.org/blog/
I am also pursuing a certificate in Arts Management through the Arts Extension Service here at UMass. Taking classes in financial management, board development, marketing, and the like will prepare me to run a non-profit institution when I graduate.
Andrew Grim | Ph.D. Student
I graduated from UNC-Asherville in the Spring of 2012 with a Bachelor's in History and Political Science. While there I conducted research on the history of urban renewal in Asherville. This project, for which I relied in large part on oral histories, introduced me to the study of place-based history and memory. My interest in public history grew from there.
As a Master's student at UMass I continued my study of twentieth century US urban history, focusing particularly on issues related to land use and the intersection of race and public policy.
My primary focus in the public history program has been writing history for a public audience. I gained valuable experience in this area during the summer of 2013 when I served as editorial intern with Yankee Magazine in Dublin, New Hampshire. My internship with Yankee provided me with insight into the inner working of a popular publication and my experience in compiling several short pieces on New England history allowed me to experiment with writing for a non-academic audience.
In the public history program I have also worked with digital history, collaborating with others to design an app for a historic walking tour in Amherst. Going forward I plan to continue to incorporate digital media and material culture analysis into my research on American urban history. My time in the public history program at UMass has allowed me to develop a diverse set of analytical tools to apply to my work.
Michael Holmes | M.A. Candidate
Hi everyone! My name is Michael Holmes and I am second year Masters student in the Public History Program. I attended UMass Amherst for my undergraduate education, graduating in 2010 with a Bachelor in the Arts of History. During my undergraduate studies, my interests focused primarily on U.S. History from Early Colonial America up to the Gilded Age at the turn of the 20th century.
When I graduated in 2010, I found myself drawn to the National Park Service. I started out as a volunteer at Minute Man National Historical Park and later became a Park Ranger at the site. Afterwards I applied for more park ranger jobs through the federal government and landed a position in Juneau, Alaska. During the summers of 2011 and 2012, I worked as a Seasonal Park Ranger for the U.S. Forest Service at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center. I gave interpretive talks about the glacier, local wildlife, and other fascinating aspects about Southeast Alaska.
After working for the Park Service I decided to return to graduate school in order to further my education, develop new skills, and enhance my understanding of what it means to serve with and for the public. I knew from my previous academic studies that the UMass Amherst History Department and the Public History Program had strong reputations for their faculty and for the quality of their education and hands-on experience.
My current academic interests include Public History, 18th and 19th century U.S. History, the history of U.S. National Parks and Conservation, world parks, Native American studies, and Protected Areas with and for Indigenous Peoples. In summer 2013 I completed an internship with Historic Newton. It is my hope to graduate with a Masters Degree in Public History. With the knowledge and experience that comes with this Degree, I hope to continue my service as a Park Ranger with and for all of the people of the United States of America and perhaps, someday, world wide.
Emily Hunter | M.A. Candidate
Growing up in Cooperstown, NY, home to several museums and to the New York State Historical Association Library, I developed an appreciation for public history at a young age. Throughout my middle and high school years, I enjoyed working as a volunteer interpreter at The Farmers’ Museum, a living history museum which recreates life in an 1840s village. As a history major at the State University of New York at Oneonta, I began to focus my passion for public history on archives and special collections libraries. Through an internship at the New York State Historical Association Library and as an intern and researcher in the archives at my university’s Milne Library, I accessioned and created catalogues for archival materials, conducted oral history interviews, compiled materials for library publications, and participated in outreach programs which introduced the public to the archival holdings. For the last 2 years, I have served as a moderator at the Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, an annual event hosted by the Baseball Hall of Fame.
I chose the public history program at UMass-Amherst because it will allow me to combine historical research and writing with the skills I will need for my career in archive management. I was drawn to the program because of the rich archival resources available through the Five College Consortium and because of the professors whose areas of expertise link to my own research goals. At UMass, I plan to focus my research on women in the U.S. Progressive Era and first-wave feminism.
Deborah Kallman | M.A. Candidate
I have taken a somewhat non-traditional route to UMass. I am returning to school following a career in the finance and accounting fields. Having spent much of my professional life in higher education financial administration, I recognize the transformative power of education. Now, I am thrilled to pursue my personal dream of studying history. I was initially drawn to UMass because of its highly regarded Public History program. Public historians play an important role in making history and historical sites approachable to the general public. My own passion for history was ignited by visiting many of the historic sites in New England. Since my first visit to campus, I have felt part of the UMass history community and I continue to be impressed not only with the UMass faculty and scholarship, but the vast resources that are available through the Five College Consortium. In addition to the field of Public History, I plan to study modern European history and early American history.
I am now in my second year of study. This past summer I completed an internship at The Mount—Edith Wharton’s former residence in western Massachusetts. This internship offered me the opportunity to apply what I learned in the classroom and further supported my interest in education as I wrote lesson units for two of The Mount’s onsite school programs and adapted a physical exhibit to an online format. This practicum reinforced my belief in the transformative power of education and that, indeed, education does not only occur in a formal classroom setting.
Kelli Morgan | Ph.D. Candidate | W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies
Originally from Detroit, MI., Kelli Morgan earned her B.A. in Africana Studies at Wayne State University in 2006. With profound interests in African American conceptualizations of self-image, Kelli is currently a Ford Dissertation Fellow in residence at the Birmingham Museum of Art. As an analyst of visual imagery, she examines the ways in which people construct visual discourses, conceptualize images, and sometimes resist these discourses. Her interdisciplinary research concentrates on African American visual culture, linking Art History, Performance Studies, Women’s Studies, and Museum Studies to analyze the complex ways that black women artists visualize, represent, and reappropriate images of minority women to challenge mainstream visual discourses concerning beauty and sexuality. Ms. Morgan is a very diligent scholar whose academic career is committed to highlighting the significance of minority-produced visual culture to create stimulating and culturally sensitive educational opportunities for students and public audiences alike. In March 2015, she will assume the Birmingham Museum of Art's Andrew W. Mellon curatorial fellowship in African American Art.
Amanda Goodheart Parks | Ph.D. Candidate
My introduction to public history came in the form of an undergraduate internship at Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea. As a history and secondary education major at Salve Regina University in historic Newport, RI, I was no stranger to museums and their potential to educate and inspire students of all ages. However, after my summer by the sea, I realized I wanted to pursue a graduate degree in public history as a means of blending my interests in education, history, and museums. I've been a public historian ever since. Over the past several years I've had the privilege of working at museums across New England including Mystic Seaport, The Preservation Society of Newport County, The Newport Restoration Foundation, Historic Deerfield, Strawbery Banke Museum, and most recently, the Springfield Museums. I chose the UMass Public History Program for its reputation of combining theory and practice, as well as its picturesque location in the heart of the historic Pioneer Valley. I am now pursuing a Ph.D. at UMass. After graduate school, I hope to continue my work as a public historian, working to bridge the gaps between K-12 education, academia, and museums through public programming, museum education, and curriculum development
Sandra Perot | Ph.D. Candidate
I came to UMass, Amherst for a Master's Degree in History because of the Public History program. The focus here on the importance of landscape and community allows public history students to visualize history and, more importantly, help the public visualize history as well. With an MA in English Literature and teaching from San Jose State University, and an AB in English from Princeton University, I spent several years teaching high school English and American Literature, though I've always incorporated a cultural approach to teaching literature. After becoming involved as a guide at the Emily Dickinson Museum here in Amherst, I wanted to discover what makes museums work and how to make them successful. Public History, for me, is the perfect blend of history, culture, and literature. Since then I have worked both at local museums and internationally. I spent a summer as an educational intern at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK; conducted an extensive inventory of material culture at The Evergreens, part of the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst; and worked both as a guide and as staff support at the Leiden American Pilgrim Museum in The Netherlands. My focus currently at UMass is in examining transatlantic influences throughout the Anglophone world, particularly the way in which 17th- and 18th-century women interacted with, experienced and examined their surroundings as they moved from place to place.
Julie Peterson | M.A. Candidate
As an undergraduate at Lewis & Clarke College, I studied the built environment in order to understand how the actions of people throughout history have impacted the physical environment, the political landscape, and the cultural milieu of the United States. Analyzing the ways that groups of people have expressed themselves—or conversely, been repressed—through the landscape is my primary interest in history, which led me to the field of public history; historical sites, house museums, and walking tours represent spaces in which these ideas can best be expressed. Other areas of academic interest include: oral history, race and ethnicity, social justice, the rise of the prison-industrial complex, the digital humanities, and modern Latin America. I decided to come to UMass because of the wide array of tracks offered within the public history program—from museum studies to historic preservation—and the opportunity to support a summer internship gaining experience in one of those tracks through my receipt of a Hyde Scholarship. When I’m not doing history, I can be found running, listening to podcasts, practicing guitar, doing the NY Times crossword puzzle, drinking craft beer, or exploring foodie culture!
Kayla Pittman | M.A. Candidate
I have always been interested in a multidisciplinary approach to studying the past, however the further I advanced my degree it seemed the less wiggle room I had. I had bounced between universities during my undergraduate years, trying to find a way to combine by interests in Early America, Archaeology, and Museum Studies in a manner that made me a viable candidate in the job market. My senior thesis at the University of Oklahoma, “The Worlds of Monticello Mountain: How Space Reflected Power & Politics on an Eighteenth Century Plantation,” was written out of my experience attending the University of Virginia-Monticello Archaeological Field School. I analyzed Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello plantation in terms of what the organization of physical space can teach us about politics and power on an early national plantation.
I regularly crossed disciplinary boundaries putting history, archaeology, and anthropology in conversation with one another to produce a clearer, more vibrant understanding of the past. Without museums and historical sites, that not only preserve the past, but disseminate their findings to the public through online databases such as the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery, my research would not have been possible.
I realized that the study of Public History would not only allow me to combine and hone my interests, but would also allow me to engage with the public in a manner that truly brings history alive. UMass Amherst’s Public History program allows me to grow as a traditional historian while at the same time gain invaluable hands-on experience in the field. I am currently interested in blending the study of space and place in the Virginia Piedmont during the Early Republic with historic preservation.
Rebecca Schmitt | M.A. Candidate
Throughout my life, I have always had a love of history as I grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin and later near Cape Girardeau, Missouri. However, it was not until I went to Southeast Missouri State University for my undergraduate work that I realized the vast array of employment opportunities within Public History and Preservation. While working on my BA in History and BS in Historic Preservation, I completed multiple skill-based projects such as architectural inventory surveys, National Register of Historic Places nominations, building conditions assessments, strategic plans, and traditional history research and historiographical essays. Along the way, I completed two internships at the Stars and Stripes Museum in Bloomfield, MO and the Lutheran Heritage Center and Museum in Altenburg, MO.
After graduating from Southeast in 2013, I came to UMass to pursue a Master’s Degree in History with a specialization in Public History and Historic Preservation. Within the program, I have been able to complete projects such as a National Register of Historic Places nomination and an architectural walking tour for the Springfield Museums. In my coursework, I discovered new methods of investigating and interacting with the past, primarily through the study of memory, landscapes, and heritage tourism.
During the summer of 2014, I completed an amazing internship at the Maryland Historical Trust, the State Historic Preservation Office for Maryland. I worked within their easement program and updated inventory documentation on easement properties. This included photo-documentation, on-site building analysis and investigation, and archival research on the site’s history. My project covered a wide range of structures including a theater, railroad station, private homes, a boat, and even a lighthouse. It was an opportunity that helped me realize what career I would like to pursue, which would preferably be within a consulting firm or historic agency. During my second year at UMass, I hope to continue to expand my skillsets and knowledge of the past, as well as the various ways to interact with the past in the present.
Christopher Templin | M.S. Candidate | Design & Historic Preservation
I have always been interested in history. As a kid my mother would take us to all kinds of museums, parks and programs. I always loved it when we went to a historical site. It was during my early adolescence that I started historical reenacting with my older brother. We started doing Civil War, but both us were more interested in the colonial wars and moved to French and Indian and Revolutionary wars after a few years. During high school I had the privilege to volunteer at our local battlefield park, Saratoga National Historic Park. It was during this time that I decided I wanted to do something with history for my career. I completed an A.A. at Adirondack Community College and was able to take part in some of the archaeological field schools offered through the college. I followed this with a B.A. in History with a concentration in Education. It was at this time that I had the pleasure of becoming a National Park Service Ranger. I worked mainly in one park, but had many details working in other historic sites throughout the Northeast. All the while I worked for NPS I was designing exhibits and educational programs for both the NPS and my reenacting groups.
While working as an NPS Ranger I pursued a M.S. in Education with a concentration in US History. After my term with the NPS was over I taught in both public and private high schools and decided that the “real” teaching of history was as my mother always said, “out of school”. As such I continued working contract positions with numerous museums and historic sites such as Rogers Island Historic Site where I developed and built their three main exhibits. Because of this diverse back ground I have been able to work as a Historical Advisor for several programs for both PBS and the History Channel. All the while I was working contract positions I was looking for a more permanent position in the museum education or curation fields. When not working in the historical education field I have been working for a family firm, Lindop Carpentry of Malta, NY that does historic home renovation and restoration. It was while working on a great old house in Coxsackie, NY that I began to think about historic structure preservation. Through a family connection I learned about the Masters in Architecture and Design: Historic Preservation Program at UMass and Hancock Shaker Village. Once I heard about the program I was interested. After Professor Max Page told me about the possibility of getting a certificate in public history as well I was sold. I joined the program in spring 2014 and am having a blast getting to research and “play” in so many different historic structures! The professors and students come from such diverse backgrounds; we each bring a different point of view to our work and it is great to collaborate with so many wonderful people. This program and certificate will help me bring a wide variety of skills to museums to help them create the best interpretive experience possible. Vivat in historicis!
Amanda Tewes | Ph.D. Candidate
For me, public history means bringing history to the public in easily-digestible but thought-provoking ways. I love the challenge of collaboration and creativity that public history provides. I am also drawn to public history because it inspires activism and community in ways that few other fields can.
I have a strong background in oral history, archives, and museum studies, and I hope to continue these interests here at UMass! I am especially interested in oral history and material/visual culture as it relates to memory and nostalgia.
Here are some examples of my recent work:http://hatfieldhistory.weebly.com/genealogy.html
Charles Weisenberger | M.A. Candidate
Before entering college, I had already developed a passion for history, but I was uncertain how to translate that passion into a career. As an undergraduate at Washington College, I found the solution to my dilemma: public history. Through internships with the Moravian Historical Society, the C.V. Starr Center Oral History Program, and the Maryland Historical Society, I gained invaluable experience working with public history. After graduation, I built on that experience as a researcher in the Legacy of Slavery Department at the Maryland State Archives where I wrote biographical case studies of African Americans during the War of 1812. To complete the case studies, I had the opportunity to conduct research at other repositories including the British National Archives in London as well as National Archives locations in Philadelphia, College Park, and Washington D.C. The project cemented my appreciation not only for the lessons of the past, but also for the value of communicating those lessons to the broader public. UMass offers the perfect environment for me to pursue my combined interest in traditional scholarly history and public history. The Pioneer Valley features a wealth of resources for historians, and the public history curriculum will provide me with a broader knowledge base than either a typical museum studies or library science program.