“Public history describes the many and diverse ways in which history is put to work in the world.” – NCPH

Every historical marker by the roadside, every war memorial, every historical article in a magazine, every exhibition at a historical society is an act of public history.

  • How does public history differ from — but grow out of — academic history?
  • How can we communicate ideas about history effectively to a broad audience?
  • What is the purpose?

Look for these questions throughout the History department’s public history “threads.”

What is a thread?

A thread lets you knit together courses on a wide array of topics that share a common interest in the problems and techniques of public history. Lower key than a formal field, this is a purely optional way of pursuing public history that introduces you to an exciting range of issues, analysis, and assignments, all of which connect to the common theme.

Public History courses: 2019-2020 – (2020-2021 courses tbd.)

HIST 200 Historians for Hire, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, and Spring 2020 (Susannah R Ottaway)
A two-credit course offered each term in which students work with faculty oversight to complete public history projects with community partners. Potential projects include educational programming, historical society archival work and other local history opportunities. Locations: Faribault, Northfield, on-campus.

HIST 138 Crusades, Mission, and the Expansion of Europe, Spring 2020 (Victoria Morse)
This course examines the complex roles of crusade and mission in the gradual expansion of Europe into the eastern Mediterranean, the Iberian peninsula, the Baltic, and even Central Asia, with opportunities to share knowledge with a broader public. Location: On-campus.

HIST 226 U.S. Consumer Culture, Spring 2020 (Annette Igra)
We will explore the development of consumer culture through such topics as advertising and mass media, the body and sexuality, consumerist politics in the labor movement, and the response to the Americanization of consumption abroad. Location: On-campus.

HIST 306 American Wilderness Winter 2020
OCS Spring break trip to the Grand Canyon, Spring Break 2020
HIST 307 Wilderness Studies at the Grand Canyon Spring 2020
(George Vrtis)
Today, and throughout American history, wilderness has meant many different things to many different people. A place of refuge and renewal, a place of malevolent spirits and forces, a pristine ecological community, a source of material well-being, a wellspring of national and personal identity – wilderness was, and continues to be, all of these things. This two-term seminar and off-campus study program will explore these ideas and many more, as we ponder the significance of wild country in the American experience. The seminar will engage with officials at Grand Canyon National Park, and it will include opportunities to share research with park officials and with the Carleton community. Locations: On-campus, Grand Canyon.

Additional courses of interest:

AMST 231 – Contemporary Indigenous Activism (Meredith McCoy)
Students will be preparing a public display about the history of contemporary Indigenous activism. Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island and the Pacific Islands are fighting to revitalize Indigenous languages, uphold tribal sovereignty, and combat violence against Indigenous women, among many other struggles. What tools are movements using to promote Indigenous resurgence? And what are the educational, gendered, environmental, linguistic, and religious struggles to which these movements respond? Students will acquire an understanding of contemporary Indigenous movements, the issues they address, and the responsibilities of non-Native people living on Indigenous lands. (Location: On-campus) Fall 2019.

Additional 2019-2020 Academic Civic Engagement (ACE) courses can also be found here: ACE Course List, 2019-2020

Public History / Digital Humanities Resources


Please contact Victoria Morse, Susannah Ottaway, or Serena Zabin.