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.
Janelle Bourgeois | M.A. Candidate
I graduated from UMass Lowell with a BA in History and a minor in Labor Studies. For my honors thesis I researched Franco-Belgian anarcho-syndicalists who immigrated to New England textile towns in the early twentieth century, and became an important force in the Industrial Workers of the World. I researched these immigrants with a French-language newspaper published by their IWW locals. Working on my thesis sparked my broader interests in foreign language publications as source material, the intersections of immigration, radicalism, and the labor movement, and in the spread of syndicalism globally in the twentieth century.
I was lucky enough to write my thesis as part of the centennial celebration of the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike, and to get involved with other commemorative projects around the centennial. In particular I helped research and design an exhibit on the 1912 Lowell Textile Strike for the Boot Cotton Mill in Lowell. My thesis, along with working on the exhibit, formed my interest in public history. UMass Amherst attracted me because it offered a place to do the things I love most: research, write, and adapt that research for a public audience. I plan to pursue the writing track within the Public History program.
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.
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.
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 and continue to evolve during my program. After a career in the Foreign Service, I was drawn to the role that history and memory played in national identity and, further, in the conduct of 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. Historic preservation of buildings and landscapes, the 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 across the state. The breadth of my interests met a perfect match during an internship this past summer at Herman Melville's Arrowhead, which threw me into the research and design of an exhibit on the Civil War, a historic preservation study of a new entrance, and a review of the interpretive script for guides. And, that doesn't even include the joy of re-acquainting with Melville and his contributions to American literature.
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. 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. I am working with Jon Olsen, Andrew Donson and John Higginson.
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 was awarded two fellowships; I participated in the German Historical Institute's Summer Archival Seminar in Germany, and received a DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) Intensive Language Grant which took place over a two-month period in Berlin.
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 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.
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. During the Summer of 2013 I served as editorial intern with Yankee Magazine in Dublin, New Hampshire, conducting research and fact checking articles in addition to compiling several short historical pieces on New England history.
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
Fields: Early U S, Public History, Modern European
Advisor: David Glassberg
I have taken a somewhat non-traditional route to U Mass. I am returning to school following a career in the finance and accounting fields. I received a BBA (Bachelors of Business Administration) from Georgia State University in Atlanta, GA and an MBA from University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA. 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 U Mass 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 U Mass history community and I continue to be impressed not only with the U Mass 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 early American history and modern European history. I am particularly drawn to the comparative study of consumerism and capitalism.
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.
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 in her forth year of study as a doctoral student in the W.E.B. Du Bois dept. of Afro-American Studies and a second year student of Public History at the University of Massachsetts Amherst.
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.
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 aware of Public History, but it appealed to me immediately. 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. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to engage in projects myself (digitizing an inventory of a cemetery for the Deerfield Historical Commission, designing a walking tour for Historic Deerfield, and working as a collections intern at the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, CT), my reasons for joining the program have been affirmed. I have had the pleasure of merging my interests in public history and Native American history in ways that I had not previously imagined possible. I look forward to continuing my work with Dr. Alice Nash in over this coming year, as well as investigating new ways of studying America’s indigenous peoples through the practice of 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.
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
Although I was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, I’ve lived for the majority of my life near Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The city is a Mississippi River town and has a few museums and historic sites, but there is also a beautiful downtown and riverfront. I’d always loved history in school, and I fell in love with the beautiful old buildings in the downtown area. One of my goals in life was to find a career where I could do what I love, but I wasn’t sure how I could ‘do’ history besides teach it in an academic setting. It wasn’t until I was pursuing an undergraduate degree at Southeast Missouri State University that I discovered the unlimited amount of possible careers in history. The university’s historic preservation program opened my eyes to these possibilities. I realized that I could become a preservationist, curator, archivist, or really anything while still ‘doing’ the history that I loved. I was able to develop many of these skills through various projects, such as Building Conditions Assessments, Strategic Planning, Archival cataloging, and National Register nomination. These experiences were supplemented by 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 May 2013 with a BA in History and BS in Historic Preservation, I came to UMass-Amherst to pursue a Master’s Degree in History. I decided to come to UMass because of the Public History program. I wanted a university with a program that would allow me to continue to hone my skills in historic preservation and public history. The program at UMass fit all of my criteria. The historic resources and beautiful landscape of Amherst were also factors that made me eager to move to Western Massachusetts. Although I am just beginning my graduate education, I look forward to all that I will learn and experience at UMass.
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."
For my internship, I processed the Judi Chamberlin Papers at the UMass Special Collections and University Archives. Judi was a pioneer in the psychiatric survivors movement and a renowned cross-disability activist based in Boston. The papers are now open to researchers and visitors. Please visit Chamberlin, Judi, 1944-2010 for details. If you plan a visit or have any questions about the collection, please contact me.
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:
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.