Public history is history at work in the world.
How do the histories that we learn in the classroom differ from those we learn on the street, in the museum, and in government documents? What does it mean to ‘preserve’ shared history or heritage? Does the public consume historical information differently than scholars and students? Who controls the narratives of our histories, and what does that mean for who is and is not included in our retellings of the past?
Practitioners of public history work in museums, archives, historic sites, landmarks, architecture firms, government offices, and beyond, where they aim not just to share historical information with diverse audiences, but to critically examine how history is presented.
The Public History Program within the Rutgers University New Brunswick History Department offers students, faculty, and staff opportunities to participate in public historical engagement through coursework, experiential learning, events, and collaborative projects. Students have the opportunity to engage with current debates around contested histories, work alongside community partners to share historical information with diverse audiences, and to learn more about the myriad methods and fields in which historians work. The program offers an undergraduate Certificate in Public History with exciting course offerings, and an experiential learning Public History Internship program, which connects students with opportunities to work and learn hands-on in the field of public history.
Partnerships with historic sites and agencies in New Jersey
Rutgers public history students build impressive resumes of empowering research, interpretation, presentation, and outreach engagement. In recent years, these students have participated in the curation of exhibits at Rutgers Special Collections & University Archives and the New Brunswick Free Public Library, collaborated with the Humanities Action Lab, consulted on the construction of mobile apps featuring historical data, created and offered historical walking tours of the Rutgers campus as part of the Scarlet and Black Project. As part of their coursework, students in the Public History Program have processed and digitized archival collections at the New Jersey Hispanic Research Information Center and Puerto Rican Community Archives, planned community history events like Power and Protest: 50 Years After Rebellion in Camden: Recovering Histories, Exploring Memory, conducted fieldwork at museums, archives, and historic sites like Eastern State Penitentiary, the Brooklyn Historical Society, and the Cornelius Low House Museum, conducted oral history interviews with coLAB Arts, the Rutgers Oral History Archives, created podcasts, and much more.
Since 2016, the program has been directed by a public historian and scholar of early American history who has worked in the field as an archivist, curator, research analyst, and consultant, Dr. Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan.
For a printer-friendly informational brochure about this program, click here.
To learn more about the field of public history, visit the website of the profession’s largest organization: the National Council for Public History.
If you have any questions or would like to discuss the public history program and opportunities, contact the program coordinator.
Dr. Kristin O’Brassill-Kulfan
Department of History
213C Van Dyck Hall