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Public History Internships

Internships, the final requirement for Public History students, serve all aspects of our mission and enable students to draw connections between theory and practice while contributing to communities of public historians. 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 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.

You can read about past internships on our Public History Internship Resource Guide.
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 educational 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 instructive, 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. 

How to Plan and Register for your Internship 

The Internship Contract 

The Public History Program requires that students complete approximately 300 hours of internship work, 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 60 hour internship could be combined with a larger 240 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, 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 Coordinator in Herter 615.  You cannot register yourself for the internship credits 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 615. 

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 supervisors that your advisor will use this letter to evaluate your performance; it may also inform any letters of recommendation that you request in the future.   
After completing 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 is highly useful to take notes during the course of your internship, so that you can recall your feelings and insights as they evolved.

Funding your Internship 

The Public History faculty active helps students locate internships that involve some sort of support, in the form of stipends, housing, or both.  Due to the generosity of alumnus Charles K. Hyde, we are also able to offer scholarships ($4000 in 2020) to many of our students to help finance internships that are unfunded or underfunded.   

Information for Potential Host Institutions 

Are you interested in connecting your institution or history project with a UMass graduate student? We match students with community partners at a number of levels, from undergraduate internships from field service projects in our graduate seminars to substantial graduate internships.  For help determining what's the best fit for your organization, see the guidelines here.