As a graduate of Smith College with a dual degree in History and Women’s Studies, I came to American University intending to be fully engaged in women’s history, culminating in the [hopeful!] publication of my dissertation on Shirley Chisholm. On a whim while registering for classes my first semester, I signed up to take Kathy Franz’ Public History Seminar. This class, and the Public History program, changed the shape of my education.
Public history turned out to be just the type of engagement with the past that I wanted to work in. I want to expose the passion and excitement of the past for those people who, when they thought of history, were brought back to the memorization of dull facts in high school. History is alive, active, organic, and, most importantly, the foundation of who we are.
In addition to the research and writing skills I’ve continued to develop at AU, I also gained a considerable number of skills that can be used to bring history to the public. With a background in arts administration and archival work, I looked for opportunities to create exciting and engaging ways to bring the voices of marginalized members of society out into the historical realm, while seeking ways for them to take ownership in the construction of a usable past. Oral history is one such methodology that I was experienced in, but the Public History program exposed me to further tools to use. I became proficient in utilizing digital media to explore and interpret the past, and I learned how to interpret primary source material to create museum theater.
As I continue in my doctoral program in 20th century US history, I will continue to use and expand upon these public history skills and knowledge to continue to interpret and bring the past to the present for the public.
During the course of my time in the Public History program, I developed a number of practical skills and theoretic knowledge that I will continue to employ in my work as a public historian. In the coursework, practicum, and internship I’ve completed, I have the academic understanding and the professional experience of interpreting the past for the public.
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