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Public History at the University of Louisville

Public History at the University of Louisville Interested in a career in museums or historic preservation? Eager to work at an archive or historic site? The University of Louisville public history program trains students for careers in public history. If the idea of developing strong historical skills and applying them in settings outside the classroom sounds exciting, our program may be for you.

Scott Wienhusen, Nicole Cissell, Larry Edwards and Andrew Clark

What is public history?
Public history refers to the practice of history outside of traditional academic settings.


  •  Public historians work at historic sites, museums, historical societies, government agencies, archives, and a host of other institutions. 
  •  Public historians curate documents, artifacts, and other materials.  By acting as stewards of material heritage, they ensure the survival of valuable materials for future generations. 
  • Public historians convey historical information to public audiences.  By creating exhibits, historical brochures, interpretive panels, and public programs, they make the past accessible. 
  •  Public historians conduct original research.  Like all historians, public historians see the past as presenting limitless opportunities for exploration.  Investigating important questions constitutes a regular part of the work of many public historians.


At the University of Louisville, we strive to provide students with broad-based training in history and historical interpretation.  Students take courses that investigate the intellectual origins of public history, its relationship to “traditional” historical scholarship, and the challenges that public historians face.  Exploring these topics helps students understand the boundaries of the field and begin building professional identities.  Students also develop strong skills in traditional historical methods.  Public historians must be capable researchers, writers, and thinkers.  Like all historians, public historians rely on strong analytic and communication skills to perform their daily work.  Solid grounding in basic research methods is essential for successful, productive careers.  

 Andrew Clark and Robert Goforth

At the same time, we recognize that specialized training gives students an edge on the job market.  Toward this end, we emphasize three areas of concentration:


  •  historic preservation
  •  history museums and museum education
  •  community-based historical programming


These draw upon strengths within the University and in the Louisville metro area.  Electives, internships, and extracurricular opportunities allow students to develop skills specific to their area of concentration and long-term professional goals.

Public history students enjoy a low student-faculty ratio, access to extensive research materials, and opportunities to work at historical institutions in Louisville and throughout the Kentuckiana region.  Graduates of our program have obtained full-time employment with leading historical organizations. 

 Sadieville Trip


Students who wish to study public history at the U of L have several options.


A.    Graduate Certificate in Public History.  This is a 15-credit hour program that provides students with general training in the field.  It can be pursued as a stand-alone credential or in combination with a Master of Arts in history or a related discipline.  In the latter case, students who complete all requirements will graduate with a M.A. and a certificate in public history.  To apply, click here.


B.     Students enrolled in the Master of Arts in history program may choose public history as a major or minor field of study.  For information about admissions and the graduate curriculum, please click here.


Required admissions materials for the certificate program:


  •  two letters of recommendation
  •   undergraduate transcripts
  •   GRE scores
  •  personal statement of interest in public history (500 words)
  • $60.00 application fee


History M.A. students who wish to enroll in the certificate program must complete the online application (see link above) and submit (1) a letter of recommendation from a U of L faculty member, and (2) a personal statement of interest in the public history program.  All materials from your application for the M.A. program will also be considered. Students enrolled in the M.A. program are eligible for a fee waiver when applying for admission to the certificate program. When completing the online application, mark the option indicating that you are already enrolled as a graduate student.  Then, in the dialogue box, indicate that you paid the admission fee when you applied to the M.A. program.





Mission Statement

Public history today: an in-depth discussion


U of L Public History Blog



Questions?  Please contact Professor Daniel Vivian, Director of Public History, at (502) 852-7583.

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