HIST 28
Introduction to Public History Winter 2023

Class Details

This course will introduce you to the expansive world of public history: the ways in which history is put to work in the world beyond an academic setting. Our course will explore public history’s primary ideas, questions, and the practical concerns confronting public historians in a variety of professional and institutional settings. The course will center around key ideas and themes that inform the world of public history, including memory, shared authority, decolonization, audiences and audience engagement, racial justice, historic preservation, and museum interpretation. To explore public history’s manifestations beyond the classroom, this class will include field trips and site visits to museums, monuments, historic sites and preserved structures, and other public history institutions in the Berkshires and western Massachusetts and incorporate guest speakers into our class meetings to secure a wide-ranging introduction to this field and its key concepts. Our class is structured to be reflexive, meaning we will learn about how public history has evolved over time and grapple with the way the field’s history frames contemporary social and political issues confronting public historians today. A minimum of 10 hours of time per week will be spent in the classroom, including time at field trips and site visits, and an average of 15-20 hours per week will be spent on outside-of-class work, including travel to and from field visit sites. In addition to travel, time spent outside of class will be used to work on course assignments and complete weekly readings of significant past and present literature in the field. For your final evaluation, you will identify a set of “best practices” with your peers for public historians and choose one of our field site visits to write an exhibit or site review. Ultimately, by the end of this course you will have a strong grounding in the field of public history and formulated your own understanding of what constitutes public history.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 30
Expected: NA
Class#: 1178
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: Short paper and final project or presentation. Students will individually write an exhibition or site review that addresses each site's particular history, how its relates to its contemporary administration, and how the site approaches key concepts in public history like audience engagement, social and racial equity, and connects the public to major historical questions/inquiry.
Prerequisites: N/A
Enrollment Preferences: Students will be selected based on seniority and need for a history course to fulfill academic requirements of the institution.
Unit Notes: Brian Whetstone is an urban historian, public historian, and historic preservationist whose teaching promotes student engagement with the ways history informs our understanding of contemporary social and political struggles.
Attributes: EXPE Experiential Education Courses
STUX Winter Study Student Exploration

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