Training for Public Historians

We provide a broad training in the field. Students learn the skills of historical research, writing, and interpretation aimed at public audiences. Students take courses that investigate the intellectual origins of public history, its relationship to traditional historical scholarship, and the challenges facing public historians today. Focusing on these topics establishes the boundaries of the field and helps students begin building professional identities. They study historiography and apply scholarly arguments to their work as public historians. Like all historians, they need to be able to find information, think historically, and communicate clearly and effectively.

Public history students Jacob Burress and Katy Morrison present their research at the poster session of the annual meeting of the National Council on Public History.
Public history students Jacob Burress and Katy Morrison present their research at the poster session of the annual meeting of the National Council on Public History.

Louisville and Kentucky provide fertile labs for public history work. Louisville is a mid-sized city with a robust tourist economy and vibrant cultural institutions for partnerships and internship/postgraduate placement. A strong network of museums, archives, and historic sites provides opportunities for internships, instruction, and part-time employment. Nationally recognized institutions such as the Filson Historical Society, the Frazier History Museum, Historic Locust Grove, The Farnsley Moreman House, allow students to learn from experienced professionals and observe high-quality programing. Strong relationships with institutions throughout Kentucky and southern Indiana offer additional opportunities.

Encompassing southern and midwestern elements, Louisville is a fascinating place for public history work, offering up an urban setting for the study of race, class, gender, and sexuality. Graduates have obtained employment with leading historical organizations, including the Kentucky Historical Society, the White House Historical Association, the Filson Historical Society, and the Frazier History Museum. Others work for private sector consulting firms specializing in exhibit design and environmental review services. Continuing professionalization and the rapid growth of public history as a segment of the historical profession provide strong indications of future growth. If you are passionate about history and eager to learn how to apply historical skills and knowledge in unconventional ways, we urge you to consider our program.

Faculty

Panel on the state of public history including professors Daniel Vivian, Lara Kelland, Craig Friend, and John Dichtl.
Panel on the state of public history including professors Daniel Vivian, Lara Kelland, Craig Friend, and John Dichtl.

With sixteen full-time faculty members in the department, students have the opportunity to take a variety of courses that cover the histories of the United States, Europe, Asia, South America, the Middle East, and Africa, and that span time periods from the ancient world to the present. Our department also possesses particular strengths in the thematic concentrations of:

  • Culture & Religion
  • Politics & Power
  • Race & Social Movements
  • Women’s, Gender, and History of Sexuality