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.
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.
Featured Public History Alumni
Caroline Peters, Class of 2019
"The Public History education I received during my time at Rutgers has set me up for a fulfilling career as a Historic Preservationist. My work has provided so many experiences and adventures, and a background in Public History allows me to connect with communities and stakeholders across the country. I am currently working for the New Jersey Economic Development Authority in their Historic Preservation department to help administer the state’s first Historic Tax Credit."
Sherine Hamade, Class of 2019
"Since I've graduated...I've done everything from costumed interpretation and exhibit work in Florida to museum education and natural historical interpretation in Massachusetts. Though I've had these myriad jobs in various historical fields over the years, now I've settled into a permanent and full-time position as the new site interpreter for Blackstone River and Canal Heritage State Park under the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation. I will forever be grateful to have found myself part of Rutgers' Public History program, as I really do think that the cumulative practical knowledge and hands-on professional experience it provided made me so open to and comfortable with taking on so many different projects over the years. I really love what I do, and hope to cap off my undergraduate academic experience with a completed Masters in the near future."
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