Public History brings historical scholarship to audiences in non-academic settings. These activities include museum work, historic preservation, archives, contract work, policy analysis, community history, publishing, and support for businesses and institutions. This work combines the skills and knowledge common to all historians with an understanding of how to convey historical knowledge in a variety of forms. Writing for non-academic audiences, creating exhibits, surveying historic properties, and cataloguing collections of documents and artifacts are just some of the activities that public historians engage in.
With a focus on local and community history, the Public History Program at Wichita State University is one of the oldest programs in the Midwest and offers a course of study that integrates a traditional history curriculum with Public History classes and fieldwork, leading to a Master of Arts degree. Students select a major field from among the following options in the graduate history curriculum: United States, European, or Ancient and Medieval. The Public History component includes a core of classes that address the needs and skills unique to public historians. In addition, practitioners working in the field teach courses geared to several specialties including archives, historic preservation, and museum administration. Degree requirements include least one internship, a comprehensive examination (for recommended public history reading list, click here), and a thesis.
Important Public History Links
Required Core Courses
History 701. Introduction to Public History (3). Acquaints students with the many arenas of public history and, through guest speakers, with some of its practitioners. It also examines the place of public history in the larger discipline. In the course of a semester, students explore the nature of public history as well as the application of historical knowledge and methods in archives, museums, history organizations, government agencies and programs, historic preservation and the cultural resource protection process, business settings, and the public policy arena. Prerequisite: graduate standing or instructor’s consent.
History 725. Advanced Historical Methods (3). Reviews basic historical research methods, the general character of field bibliographies, and recent interpretations and the techniques of professional narrative development. Prerequisite: departmental consent.
History 729-730. Seminars in American History (3-3) [or History 733-734, Seminars in European History (3-3)]. (Total of 6 hours.) Topics vary from semester to semester depending on instructor. In addition to assigned readings, students typically write a research paper. Prerequisite: departmental consent.
History 801. Thesis Research (2). Research leading to thesis completion. Student works individually with major professor.
History 802. Thesis (2). Thesis completion. Students works individually with major professor.
Internship in Public History (2-4). Public History students practice their skills in summer or semester internships. Type and level of responsibility vary depending on student’s interests and work setting. Students are required to take at least one internship during their course of study. Students may take History 781, Cooperative Education in History, in lieu of History 803. Prerequisite: History 701 or instructor’s consent.
Public History students have served at or completed projects for:
Block Island Historical Society
Botanica, The Wichita Gardens
Cessna Aircraft Company
Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library
Harvey County Museum
Kansas Aviation Museum
Kansas Oil Museum
Kansas Sports Hall of Fame
Lone Chimney Films
Mid-Kansas Jewish Federation
Mount Hope Public Library
Museum of World Treasures
Nevada City Museum in Virginia City, Montana
Old Cowtown Museum
The Orpheum Theater
Sedgwick County Records Management
Sedgwick County Zoo
Wichita Public Library
Wichita State University Libraries Special Collections & University Archives
Public History and Local History Projects
In addition to specific internships and cooperative education efforts, students have worked on numerous book projects, including African Americans of Wichita; Wichita: 1930-2000; Kansas: In the Heart of Tornado Alley; Wichita's Lebanese Heritage; The Cherokee Strip Land Rush; Wichita's Legacy of Flight; and From the Land of Andalusia to the Wheat Fields of Kansas: A History of Wichita's Historic Orpheum Theatre. Other projects include creating a walking tour of WSU campus, a study of Highland Cemetery, a national register nomination form for the Wirkler-Krehbiel House, and a project documenting the history of local bands from the 1950s through the 1970s. WSU students participate in the Kansas Museums Association annual conference and the Kansas Association of Historians, among others! For more information, check out the Society of Public Historians
Depending on their course of study, students will take either a second internship/work experience or a supplementary class connected with their career goals to meet the minimum credit requirements. See the section on supplementary classes for suggested coursework.
Public History Electives
Public History graduate students are required to take one of the following three elective courses:
History 702. Historic Preservation (3). Advanced survey of the multifaceted, multidisciplinary field of historic preservation. Presents a broad view of the many arms of preservation in the U.S. as well as the numerous opportunities available to trained professionals in the field. Prerequisite: History 701 or instructor’s consent.
History 703. Museum Administration (3). Addresses the many facets of museum administration from a specialist’s point of view. Covers collecting, management, law and ethics, and resource development. Gives a close view of the operations of American museums. Prerequisite: History 701 or instructor’s consent.
History 705. Introduction to Archives (3). Introduces the basic knowledge, theory, and related skills of archival administration, including the nature of information, records and historical documentation; the role of archives in modern society; and issues and relationships that affect archival functions. Students learn the theory and skills necessary to understand and apply basic archival functions. Prerequisite: graduate standing and/or instructor’s consent.
Depending on their course of study, students may, in addition to their required classes, take courses in an outside discipline such as art, anthropology, geography, or business. For example, students interested in a career in museum work might take Anthropology 606 (Museum Methods) or Anthropology 607 (Museum Exhibition) or classes in Public Administration.
Students who have not taken an appropriate historiography course as an undergraduate are required to take History 698 for graduate credit in addition to the courses outlined above.
Public History graduates are required to take an additional twelve credit hours of history courses numbered 500 or above. These courses cover various subjects in the fields of American, European, and Ancient and Medieval History.
Assistantships and Scholarships: Graduate assistantships are available on a competitive basis. Students must apply by March 1 of each year. Graduate Teaching Assistants receive a stipend plus a partial tuition waiver. Graduate Research Assistants receive the same stipend, but without a tuition waiver.
Tuition & Fees: Tuition and fees are subject to change by action of the Kansas Board of Regents or the state legislature. Please contact the Department of History for current tuition and fees.
Financial Aid: Loans and work-study assistance are available through the Office of Student Financial Planning and Assistance. Their telephone number is 316-978-3430.
To learn more about department awards, please go to our awards page
For more information about the Public History program at Wichita State University, please contact:
Jay M. Price
Public History Program Director