Public History – HIST 705

CG • Section 8WK • 11/08/2019 to 04/16/2020 • Modified 09/05/2023

Course Description

Advanced studies in public history, focusing particularly on local history using primary sources and local archives.

For information regarding prerequisites for this course, please refer to the Academic Course Catalog.


Public history is applied history outside of the academy. Expertise and understanding of the nature of public history will broadly equip you for greater vocational and professional opportunities as a historian.

Course Assignment

After reading the Course Syllabus and Student Expectations, the student will complete the related checklist found in the Course Overview.

Primary Source Proposal Assignment

This assignment is the first scaffolded assignment leading students toward full completion of their primary source assignment (CLO B).

For these assignments, you will begin demonstrating that you understand the difference between primary and secondary sources as they relate to their local history research project. In Preliminary Bibliography: Primary Sources, you must provide 10 properly-cited primary sources related to your assignment. In Preliminary Bibliography: Secondary Sources, you will need to provide 10 properly-cited secondary sources. These bibliographies should provide the foundation for the research and writing for the assignment; it will be on-going, at least a few weeks. (CLO: C)

For this assignment, you must choose three primary sources related to the research from the primary source assignment. The primary sources can be local government records, political speeches, audio recordings, newspaper articles, wills, legal cases, diaries, personal correspondence, oral interviews, or any other source that provides an original understanding of the time being studied. After locating pertinent sources, you will practice the historian’s task of transcription, editing, and annotating. Specific steps of the assignment are included in the instructions. (CLO: C)

You will be able to customize this assignment to your interests. There are several ways that this assignment can be successfully accomplished. In general, the goal of this assignment is for you to explore opportunities available within the field of public history. It is a broad discipline, so you should narrow your analysis to one public history opportunity.  These opportunities could include employment prospects, grant opportunities, growth within the field of public history, etc. Additional suggestions are highlighted in the assignment instructions. (CLO: A)

Discussions are collaborative learning experiences. Therefore, you will submit a thread and reply to two peers’ threads. Each reply should be at least 250 words. The discussion assignment is unique. In that thread, you will provide a link to the video, Multimedia Presentation and Transcription Assignment. (CLO: D)

You will create a quality, video presentation that can be used as course content in HIST 705. The video explore one of the public history topics already covered during this course.  The format of this presentation is flexible.  You may consider, but are not limited to a presentation that abides by the following formats: lecture, interview, guided tour, mini-documentary, etc.. Maybe you want to create a local library or museum exhibit.  It is your responsibility to film, edit, and transcribe this presentation and then upload it in a way that the professor can review. You can be creative in this assignment.  The goal is how to learn the best ways to present good content to the public. (CLO: D, E)

In order to accomplish the goals of this assignment, you must use local archives to complete the assignment and use primary sources. The scope and type of the assignment, however, can be uniquely geared to your interests.  You should research, in-person and online, what sources might be available to you.  To successfully complete this assignment, you must use at least 30 primary sources. However, you do not have to write a singular project using all 30 sources. Instead, for example, you could write ten publication-quality encyclopedia articles with each of these using at least three primary sources. Another option is that you could write five short biographies each, using an average of six of these sources, or the student could write one long paper on local-historical event and then several shorter pieces on important individuals that interacted with the event.  How can you be creative to tell the public concerning what is important regarding local history? (CLO: B, C, E)

For this assignment, you must attend a public history event.  Before then, during, or after the event, you should talk with one of the organizers--or a public historian-- asking how the event was envisioned and carried out to its culmination. (It is a great networking opportunity.)  You should then write a short summary of the event and then a reflection/analysis of the event. You should then examine the organizer's goals, method, and interests in the topic, and whether you (as a participating audience member) thought the goals were met. This is not merely a report of what was done at the event. It is a reflective analysis and assessment, so you can become a public historian. (CLO: A)

Students will respond to a prompt asking them to reflect on what they have learned about public history and the efficacy of this course (CLO: D).