Public History Program Requirements
Graduate Certificate in Public History Requirements
The combined strength of the University's history faculty and professional staff at nearby historical institutions offers graduate students an excellent environment for public history training. Available to any MA or PhD student on the UMass Amherst campus, the graduate certificate in Public History develops skills in museum studies, oral history, digital history, historic preservation, archival management, and other fields within the larger scope of public history.
A graduate certificate in Public History is granted to students who complete the public history seminar, two courses in a defined area of practice (ideally including at least one course in another department or discipline, to strengthen interdiciplinary knowledge), and an internship. Whatever track a student chooses, he or she must support it by completing four professional development workshops, seminars or other skill- and network-building activities with regional or national organizations (see below).
The course sequence (the foundation course followed by two courses ina defined area of practice) requires students to read deeply and widely in the literatures of Public History. In most of our seminars, students put those readings to the test in field experiences that allow them to exercise their skills on projects for local clients. By the time students leave the program they have completed a number of real-world assignments to take on the job market. For a sampling of the kinds of projects presently undertaken by our students, see our gallery of student profiles. For program requirements, please refer to this checklist.
I. Museum Studies
The principal track of the public history program, designed to prepare students for positions in museums, historic sites, and historical societies. It usually consists of the following required courses:
- History 659 (Public History): This course is the common core of the Public History program. Readings explore themes in the history and current state of public history practice, from shared authority to cultural entrepreneurship. In a substantial group field project, students develop skills in project management, collaboration, and community engagement.
- At least one course in material culture. Several courses presently taught on campus introduce students to the study of objects. Among them are: History 661 (American Material Culture, offered alternate Spring semesters with Hist 662 below), Anthropology 597 (Historical Archeology), Art History 527 (Decorative Arts in America ), as well as the UMass Summer Field School in Historical Archeology.
- History 662 (Museum/Historic Site Interpretation Seminar): This is an advanced level course concerning the practice of museums and historic sites. Students are required to produce a field project with a local museum or historic site. This class is usually offered in alternate Spring semesters with Hist 661 above.
- Site Internship: Students are required to accumulate approximately 300 hours working at a museum or historic site and complete a substantial project. Click here for a sample internship contract.
II. Historic Preservation
This track is designed to prepare students to work in local, state, federal governments, or in preservation agencies. The Historic Preservation track consists of the following courses:
- History 659 (Public History- see description under Museum Studies, above).
- At least one course in Architectural or Environmental History: Several courses presently meet this requirement, including those in architectural or urban history (see courses offered by Professors Max Page and Tim Rohan). Also recommended is Landscape Architecture 544 (History and Theory II, Landscape History since the Renaissance), 597B (Cultural Landscapes: Theory, Management, Design), Landscape 691E (People and the Environment: Applications of Environmental Psychology Research to Planning and Design), Building Materials and Wood Technology 597T (North American Building Traditions), and Art 297T (History and Theory of Historic Preservation).
- Historic Preservation Seminar with Professor Page in Architecture and Design.
- Historic Preservation Internship: Students are required to accumulate approximately 300 hours working at an historic preservation agency and complete a substantial project.
- Additional courses: Students would benefit from taking additional courses, such as Regional Planning 651 (Planning History and Theory), and Anthropology 525 (Archeology and Law).
The Historic Preservation track in the UMass Public History program is closely aligned with the historic preservation program in the Department of Architecture , led by Professor Max Page. Click here to watch a short video that conveys the content and flavor of preservation studies at UMass.
III. Writing History Beyond the Academy
The History Department has had a long tradition of supporting writers who aim to reach audiences beyond the academy. For more than a decade, we have annually hosted writers-in-residence (brought to campus each spring for a week of intense conversation about writing) like Rebecca Onion, Robin D.G. Kelley, Jill Lepore, Charles Mann, and Debby Applegate, and in Spring 2016 we hosted the nation's first summit on History Communication as an emerging field. This track -- designed for students who want to concentrate during their training on writing history in the form of narrative nonfiction, newspaper editorials, magazine articles and other formats -- consists of the following courses:
- Public History (see description under Museum Studies, above).
- History 691W: Writing History, a course that combines a passion for history and a dedication to writing. It explores ways in which historians and others with a reverence for the past write well, in diverse manners, for their particular, chosen audiences. The course features work by writers who have had success in bringing narrative nonfiction to “publics” outside the academy.
- History Communication, a course that introduces students to this emerging field of practice. Students explore how history content fares in new media contexts, from Twitter and blogs to graphic nonfiction to radio and podcasts. Students also consider magazine writing, policy briefs, and other ways historical insight is conveyed in short-form genres.
- A related course from the departments of English, Journalism or Communication, selected with approval of the Public History Program director.
- Internship: Approximately 300 hours working at university or trade press, with a literary agent, magazine, or some other venue for history publishing.
This track is designed to prepare students for an entry-level archival position. The track consists of the following courses:
- Public History (see description under Museum Studies, above).
- Archival Management: TBA.
- Archives Seminar: TBA.
- Archival Internship: Approximately 300 hours working at an archive, completion of a substantial project.
V. Additional Courses and Fields in Public History
In addition to the three tracks leading to a Certificate in Public History, students, in consultation with the program director, may develop concentrations in public history in areas presently without formal tracks, such as community and local history, public policy, and documentary editing by completing the Public History course, two relevant outside courses, and an internship. Students in any of these tracks would also benefit from taking Arts Management courses.
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. Thanks to the generosity of alumnus Charles K. Hyde, we are able to offer scholarship support for many students whose internships are either unfunded or underfunded. Internships sites in recent years have included placements at Monadnock Media, the National Museum of American History, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Historic New England, City Lore, the W.E.B. Du Bois National Historic Site, and Colonial Williamsburg. Other placements have included Old Sturbridge Village, Historic Deerfield, the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, Lowell National Historical Park, Strawbery Banke Museum, Museums of Old York, the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and American Radio Works. Please see the Public History Internship page for internship details and a sample internship contract.
Students who are accepted into the Public History Program supplement their academic training by completing a series of 4 skills-based workshops, seminars or institutes over the course of their graduate work, selected with the approval of the director of the Public History program. You may complete one each semester, or any other arrangement convenient to your course of study. An on-line workshop is acceptable, but since "virtual" workshops do not lend themselves to networking, no more than 1 of the 4 can be completed on-line. In order to complete this requirement, degree candidates are strongly urged to join the New England Museum Association, and/or the Massachusetts Historical Society and take advantage of their program offerings. Other appropriate organizations include the American Association of Museums, the National Council on Public History, the American Association for State and Local History, The Society of American Archivists, the Oral History Association or other professional associations related to your career goals.
The history department also offers a number of teaching and administrative assistantships to qualified applicants. Occasionally, through grants and contracts, we are able to arrange graduate assistantships with historical organizations. The University's Financial Aid Services office provides educational financial planning information.