This seminar will go behind the scenes of the production and communication of history in settings such as museums, historic sites, and archives, and in the digital realm. We will learn from controversies such as the display of the Enola Gay at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and the creation of the President’s House site exhibit in Philadelphia. We will see how civic engagement techniques and the interpretation of diverse, multiple narratives of history have come to the forefront of public history practice. We will investigate the interactions of history, memory, and tourism.

Participants in this seminar will have the opportunity to connect with the vibrant network of public history professionals in the Greater Philadelphia region. Each participant will visit a public history site, meet with a history professional, and produce a newsletter-style article and web page for the Public History Year in Review website. This project will build into a public history issue paper that draws upon the most current scholarship in the field (including The Public Historian, the leading journal in the field, which has an office on our own campus). Participants in the seminar will gain a realistic understanding of the employment outlook for public history by gathering and analyzing data from recent job postings. In addition, we will spend time at the Digital Studies Center to permit each participant to learn to create a professional website and social media presence.

This seminar welcomes graduate students from all disciplines.

  • History: All students are welcome, regardless of specialization. Past students in this seminar are working in public history settings such as the Camden County Historical Society, the Alice Paul Institute, the Fire Museum of Baltimore, the Wells Fargo Museum in Philadelphia, the American Philosophical Society, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation. Several are working on campus for The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Center for the Humanities. Others are teaching or pursuing further graduate study.
  • Liberal Studies: Explore your own interests as you become acquainted with the field of public history and acquire new skills.
  • Childhood Studies: Take this opportunity to learn about children’s museums and the interpretation of history for children.
  • Public Administration: Broaden your understanding of nonprofit organizations to include the public history sector.
  • English / Creative Writing: Deepen your considerations of narrative by investigating how histories are constructed for public audiences.
  • Education: Become acquainted with the techniques of teaching with historic places and learn about resources available from the region’s museums, historic sites, and archives.


Book list for Fall 2016 (updated 8/1/2016)

Thomas Cauvin, Public History: A Textbook of Practice (Routledge, 2016).

Tom Englehardt, ed. History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past (Henry Holt, 1996).

David Hamer, History in Urban Places: Historic Districts in the United States (Ohio State University Press, 1998).

James Oliver Horton, Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory (University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

Benjamin Hufbauer, Presidential Temples: How Memorials and Libraries Shape Public Memory (University Press of Kansas, 2006).

Kendall R. Phillips and G. Mitchell Reyes, eds., Global Memoryscapes: Contesting Remembrance in a Transnational Age (University of Alabama Press, 2011).

Ruth Sergel, See You in the Streets: Art, Action, and Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (University of Iowa Press, 2016).

– Special issue of The Public Historian on Sites of Conscience.
– Your choice of one book from the “Interpreting History” series of the American Association for State and Local History.
– Your choice of one book about the history of tourism, from a provided list.

Before the first class:

Before the first class meeting, please read: Thomas Cauvin, Public History: A Textbook of Practice (Routledge, 2016). This is a more basic overview than other readings we will discuss during the semester, but it will give everyone a common overview of the field.

Also, sometime during the summer or early fall please visit the following two sites, which will be important to our discussions in the seminar:

  • President’s House site, Sixth and Market Streets, Philadelphia.
  • Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site (including especially the “Prisons Today” exhibit), 2027 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia.