Public History Graduate Program

The Public History Specialization enables students to earn a master’s degree in history while specializing in one of the following tracks:

  • Museum Studies
  • Nonprofit Administration
  • Historic Preservation
  • Archives
  • Cross‐Disciplinary Studies with Thesis

Overall, the Public History program curriculum combines graduate-level topical and methods courses in history, core courses in public history, courses in the student’s area of specialization, and internships with public-history organizations in the Milwaukee region and beyond. Coursework and internships prepare students for careers in historical societies, museums, archives, libraries, nonprofit organizations, government, and other professional fields, or for entry into a public history PhD program.

For questions about the Public History Program, please contact Prof. Nan Kim (ynkp@uwm.edu).

Listen to the October 21, 2018 WUWM 89.7 Radio Interview: “Public History: What It Is & Why It’s Important.”

Although the majority of students in our program pursue the MA in History with Public History Specialization, it is also possible for PhD students in History to pursue a Public History minor. For more information about the PhD program, see: https://uwm.edu/history/graduate/phd-program/

Credits and Courses

For the MA, the minimum degree requirement is 36 graduate credits, 12 of which must be taken in General History courses, 12 in Public History courses, and the remaining 12 in the chosen area of specialization. For students completing either the Museum Studies track or the Nonprofit Administration track, an additional 3 credits in the area of specialization is required for a total of 39 credits.

For more details on specific requirements for admissions and coursework, please refer to “Requirements” on Public History’s page in the UWM Catalog. For questions about any of the tracks, contact Prof. Nan Kim (ynkp@uwm.edu), the Public History Director.

Museum Studies Track

This track prepares students to pursue or advance careers as museum professionals in a unique program that represents a collaborative effort between UWM’s College of Letters & Science Departments of Anthropology and History and the Milwaukee Public Museum. Those who complete this track receive the interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies, in which the interdisciplinary Museum Studies courses are taught at UWM by our faculty members and at the Milwaukee Public Museum by museum professionals. Space in this track is limited, and students admitted into the History graduate program must then apply for the Museum Studies Certificate Program to be eligible to take museum studies classes. For more information, see Museum Studies Admissions.

Nonprofit Administration Track

This track prepares students to pursue careers in public history through positions in nonprofit management and leadership, nonprofit organizations, the nonprofit sector, and philanthropy. Those who complete this track receive the interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management, a collaborative effort between UWM’s College of Letters & Science Department of Public & Nonprofit Administration, Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management, and Lubar School of Business. Interdisciplinary courses in this track are taught by professionals with extensive experience in the field, and the certificate responds to the growing need for trained professionals to assume management and leadership positions in non-governmental, nonprofit sector organizations.

Historic Preservation Track

This track provides the knowledge and training to pursue careers combining public history and historic preservation. It includes coursework in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning (SARUP) and the Department of Art History. Coursework at SARUP is offered through its Historic Preservation Institute, which is dedicated to promoting historic preservation and adaptive reuse through community engagement. The Institute is focused on expanding the already acknowledged social and economic benefits of historic preservation by both recognizing and promoting significant historic buildings. Community service projects have been an effective way to engage students in actual preservation work. The ability to overlap academic studies with real world circumstances has proven beneficial to both the students and the community. Students and alumni of this track can take advantage of such opportunities as participating in ongoing community-based projects and working with agencies or local preservation firms preparing National Historic Register applications.

Archives Track

This track is intended for students interested to pursue careers in public history as archivists or those who wish to supplement their established expertise in another field by receiving specialized training in archives and records administration at UWM’s School of Information Studies Archival Studies Program, which is ranked as one of the Best Archival Science Programs by US News and World Report. Note that most students training to become archivists are advised to pursue the MA/MLIS Coordinated Degree, which is the standard credential for entering the field. The Archives track within the Public History specialization may be appropriate, however, for students who already have significant technical training or those who have other reasons specific to their own circumstances and career plans. Prospective students, including those with questions about which course of study to pursue, are advised to contact the Public History Director.

Cross-Disciplinary Studies with Thesis Track

This track is primarily designed for History MA candidates in the Public History specialization who plan to continue their academic studies in PhD programs in history or public history. Students in the Cross-Disciplinary Studies track complete a thesis in public history, and they are required to take 6 thesis credits and 3 credits of public-history internship. Instead of the 12-15 credits in specialized courses, students in the thesis track must also take 9 credits in cross-disciplinary courses in the humanities and/or social sciences. Selected in consultation with the Public History Director and the student’s major professor, cross-disciplinary courses may focus on culture and politics in public history, or they may include coursework in theory or methodology relevant to public history. Prospective students interested to pursue this track must contact the Public History Director prior to applying for admission to the MA program in History.

Internships

With the exception of the Thesis option, all students are required to take six credits of internship under the course number Hist 701. Internships are designed to give students valuable, hands-on, professional experience. Usually students take two internships at two different institutions for three credits each (3 credits are the equivalent of 150 hours of work), but other arrangements are possible. Though it is possible to take one internship for six credits, students are encouraged to opt for a distribution of credits across at least two internships.

Internships can be performed at any relevant institution in the world. In the past students have interned at a variety of historical sites and agencies including: the Milwaukee County Historical Society, the Sheboygan County Historical Society & Museum, the Minnesota Children’s Museum, the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, the National Park Service, and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. All internships must be approved by the Public History Coordinator and are to be supervised and evaluated by the Coordinator and a representative from the host institution.

Because arrangements for internships can take some time to complete, students should begin planning at least one semester before they intend to begin work. After you locate the internship and confirm acceptance from the host institution, you need to fill out an Internship Program Memorandum which will serve as the contract between you, the host institution, and the University. What is of particular importance in the Program Memorandum is #8, a detailed list of the duties you will perform during your internship. You should come up with this list in consultation with your host institution and the public history coordinator. For the program memorandum to be completed, the signatures of the student, representative from the host institution, and the public history coordinator are required. Once approved, the student should register for Hist 701 under the Public History coordinator.

At the conclusion of the internship, the student is required to write a paper of approximately 10 pages that discusses the purpose of the host institution, the internship in detail, and the value of the internship as an educational and professional experience. In addition, the internship supervisor must submit a brief written evaluation of the student’s performance, including a final suggested grade. This report will be placed in the student’s file. The Public History coordinator assigns the final course grade once the following requirements are met: the program memorandum is complete, the hours of internship are finished, the paper is turned in, the evaluation and suggested grade are submitted.