Public History Specialization

The Public History Specialization enables students to earn a master’s degree in history while specializing in one of the following areas: museum studies, archives, historic preservation, or cross-discipline with thesis option. The 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 historical organizations. Coursework and internships provide a solid foundation for entry-level positions in a variety of historical agencies and museums or for entry into a public history PhD program.

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

For questions about the Public History Program, please email Prof. Nan Kim (

Course Work

The minimum degree requirement is 36 graduate credits. Those credits are distributed as follows:

  • 12 credits in core public history courses:
    • Hist 700 – Introduction to Public History, 3 credits, offered every fall.
      Please Note: Public History students must take History 700 within the first two semesters after they enroll
    • Hist 715 – Research Methods in Local History, 3 credits, offered most springs
    • Hist 701 – Internships, 6 credits, offered every term
  • 12 credits in History colloquia and seminars:
    • Hist 800s, Colloquia (topical reading courses), 6 credits or 2 courses, varied topics are offered every semester. Please note that students may take 3 credits of either Hist 716 (Professional and Pedagogical Issues in History) or Hist 717 (History and the New Media) as a substitute for 3 credits in one colloquium.
    • Hist 900s, Seminars (topical research courses), 6 credits or 2 courses, varied topics are offered every semester.
  • 9-12 credits in a specialization, with a possible three remaining credits taken as an elective. Please note that students in the museum studies specialization must take 12 credits of museum studies courses and will not have an elective requirement. See areas of specialization below for courses that fulfill these requirements.

Areas of Specialization

Before matriculation, each student should select a specialization in one of the following areas of public history: museum studies, archives, historic preservation, or cross-discipline with thesis option.

  • Museum Studies ( Students must take the four required courses in the following sequence:
    • Anthro 720 – History and Theory of Museums, offered every fall
    • Anthro 721 – Administration and Organization of Museums, offered every spring
    • Anthro 723 – Museum Curation and Interpretation, offered every fall
    • Anthro 722 – Exhibit Practicum, offered every spring

    The four museum studies courses are taught at the Milwaukee Public Museum ( by museum professionals. The courses are interdisciplinary and attract students from Anthropology as well as other fields. Museum Studies students need to register for the first course in the sequence as early as possible in the summer before they matriculate. Admission into this specialization is not guaranteed and spaces can fill. Students must first apply for the Graduate Certificate in Museum studies before enrolling in classes. To apply, go to Museum Studies Admissions page and follow the application instructions. If you have any difficulty, contact Public History Coordinator Jasmine Alinder (

  • Archives. For students interested in careers as archivists, 6 of the 9 credits of specialization should be in courses offered by the School of Information Studies. Students should first enroll in
    • InfoSt 650 – An Introduction to Modern Archives Administration which is the prerequisite for most Archives graduate courses.

    They should then consider other courses including

    • InfoSt 682 – Digital Libraries
    • InfoSt 753 – Preserving Information Media
    • InfoSt 779 – Arrangement and Description in Archives
    • InfoSt 850 – Seminar in Modern Archives Administration
    • InfoSt 891– Appraisal and Collection Development for Archives and Manuscripts
  • Historic Preservation. Students interested in careers in historic preservation are advised to take at least three of the following courses in the School of Architecture and the Department of Art History:
    • Arch 560 – Introduction to Historic Preservation
    • Arch 531 – Historic Concepts of Architecture
    • Arch 533 – Topics in Architectural Theory
    • Arch 760 – History of Building Technology
    • ArtHist 458 – Comparative History of Architecture and Urbanism
    • ArtHist 459 – American Architecture
    • ArtHist 461 – Early Modern Architecture in the Midwest
    • ArtHist 701 – Colloquium in Architecture History
    • ArtHist 760 – Colloquium in Modern Art/Architecture
  • Cross Discipline with Thesis. Students in the thesis track write a thesis in public history instead of pursuing an internship. Students are required to take 6 thesis credits instead of 6 credits in Hist 701, and they are required to take 9 credits in interdisciplinary courses in the humanities and/or social sciences that focus on culture and politics in public history, instead of the 9-12 credits in specialized courses. The 9 credits of interdisciplinary courses should be selected in consultation with the public history coordinator. This track is designed for students who wish to pursue a PhD in public history.


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. Three credits are the equivalent of 150 hours of work. It is possible, though not recommended, to take one internship for six credits.

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 Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the Veterans Museum in Madison, and the Milwaukee County Historical Society. 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 a 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.

Graduate Grievance Procedures

Federal law and UWM policy require programs and departments to have procedures for graduate students to appeal academic decisions such as grades or scholastic standing. These procedures ensure the protection of students’ rights. These pages serve as a reference on procedures for graduate student academic appeals.