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.
John Dickson | M.A. Candidate
I came to the UMass Public History Program with more interests than focus, but was specifically drawn to the writing track, alongside acquiring a deeper academic foundation in history.
My interests remain eclectic. After a career in the Foreign Service, I often saw the importance that history and memory played in national identity and, further, in the interactions the U.S. had on a regular basis with the government and citizens of the countries where I served. So, upon completing my career, I determined to explore more fully this relationship between history, national identity and U.S. foreign relations. At the same time, moving to Massachusetts has also opened up the great laboratory this state offers by way of its own role on the broader national historic stage. Environmental factors in colonial settlement and transportation; a bevy of religious, literary and cultural contributors to national consciousness; and the traces of our immigrant and industrial pasts are just a few that grab my attention in my wanderings around the state.
As an undergraduate at Princeton, I studied U.S. Cold War history and earned my teaching certificate. I spent eight years as an English and social studies teacher, first in the Peace Corps in Gabon and then in New Hampshire public schools.
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, and I am currently a PhD student here at UMass, Amherst. My research interests include 20th and 21st century Germany, public history, memory, photography, and digital humanities, and I am working with Jon Olsen.
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.
During my studies at UMass, I hope to be involved in public history and digital humanities initiatives, and I intend to visit the many great museums and historical institutions in the area. You can follow me on Twitter at @erfagen.
Kate Freedman | Ph.D. Candidate
I received a BA in history from Hampshire College in 2004, an MLIS, with concentrations in information literacy education and archives management, from the University of Rhode Island in 2007, and an MA in public history from the University of Massachusetts in 2009. I am currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts, working on the history of Quaker slaveowners. As a public historian I am very interested in how digital technologies are impacting the practice of history. I am a member of the NCPH Digital Media Group and have worked with humanities faculty at UMass to help launch a digital humanities initiative here. I have experience in a variety of positions in the public history field, including archives management, reference librarianship, museum education, exhibit design, university education, and website and database development. I am interested in a career that combines education (either direct teaching or designing curriculum) and working with students and the public.
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. My passion for public history grew as I completed internships at archives, historical societies, and museums. 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. My research interests center on Revolutionary and Post-Revolutionary America, and I am particularly interested in how the memory of the American Revolution affected the first generations of Americans. I plan to combine these interests with museum and archival experience while at UMass in order to teach a wide variety of audiences about the past.
Amanda Goodheart | Ph.D. Candidate
My introduction to public history came in the form of an undergraduate museum studies 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 great privilege of working with museums and historical institutions 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 both 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
Andrew Grim | M.A. Candidate
I graduated from UNC-Asheville in the Spring of 2012 with a Bachelor's in History and Political Science. While there, I conducted a research project on the history of urban renewal in Asheville. 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 out of this project.
As a Master's student at UMass, I'm continuing my study of urban renewal, housing, and other issues related to land use and the intersection of race and public policy.
Laura Miller | Ph.D. Candidate
I graduated from the State University of New York at Geneseo in 2005 with a BA in History. From my first work experience as a tour guide at Ash Lawn-Highland in Charlottesville, Virginia, I have continually sought to bolster my education in history with work experience in the realm of public history. In the summer of 2005 I worked as an intern at the Margaret Sanger Papers Project at New York University and then spent a year as an Acquisitions Assistant at the University of Pennsylvania Press. While working at Penn Press I studied oral history and conducted my own oral history project, an experience that introduced me to the challenges and rewards of such nontraditional methods of historical inquiry.
My focus in the Public History program is on oral history and memory, and my research interests include 20th century U.S. history and urban history in both the United States and Europe. This program has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to further explore these interests while also developing the practical skills necessary to pursue a career as a public historian.
Jacob Orcutt | M.A. Candidate
As an undergraduate at SUNY Potsdam, I was constantly being pulled in different directions by my academic interests. I loved colonial American history, was fascinated by the archaeology of Native American sites in New England, and respected the principles of cultural relativism and the holistic approach in anthropology. Unable to choose between the three subjects, I majored in all of them. Eventually, history edged out the other two, and I chose UMass to further my studies in the field.
It was not until I visited UMass in the spring of 2012 that I first became interested in the Public History track. The various projects that current and past students had been involved in were incredibly interesting to me, and I saw the program as a great opportunity to incorporate archaeology and anthropology into my graduate studies. My goal is to incorporate public history – especially museum studies – into my interest in Native American history during the early colonial period in New England. I have had limited experience with public history at this point in my studies, but I have participated in an archaeological excavation in Menorca, Spain for the Ecomuseu Cap de Cavalleria, and served as editor-in-chief of SUNY Potsdam’s Collegiate Anthropologist – an informal journal of student research projects. Both of these projects have helped make important research more accessible to the public. I am excited to get involved in more substantial public history projects here at UMass, and I plan to work with Dr. Alice Nash in order to connect my interest in Native American history with public history.
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. My focus at UMass will be on Early America, Early Modern Europe (transatlantic influences on colonies), and Public History. Having spent a year in New Zealand and Australia and a year in Holland, I always yearn for new adventures and am looking to do an international internship for my Public History certificate. Along with traveling, I also enjoy learning Dutch, focusing on my photography, knitting and playing with my kids.
Shuko Tamao | M.A. Candidate
I grew up in Hiroshima where there is little historical continuity in its landscape. The memory and the past were erased. I grew up in such a landscape and thought this absence of the memory, the detachment from the past was a universal experience. I did not want to believe it, I rebelled against it.
After working at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, I lived and travelled to various countries, hoping to absorb what lies beyond my initial life experience. I have worked and volunteered to hear the lives of my fellow neighbors through the lens of my camera, by the crumbling walls of abandoned buildings, across the counter at public libraries, and beyond the prison wall of rural Midwest. My passion started from engaging with my community and I have been supported by grateful neighbors and colleagues who helped me pursue my intellectual journey.
I am interested in the development of the asylum in 19th and 20th century Massachusetts. I pay a close attention to the interaction between people and the built environment. My encounter of state hospital cemeteries was the crucial moment for the development of my academic interest. Why and how could people's identities be reduced to numbers? What were their life stories? What is madness? I became aware of those questions while writing my blog the Reversed View of Massachusetts where I document and gather the voices of forgotten and/or extraordinary people who I meet in everyday life. I hope that a training in public history can help me to continue telling "people's history."