Public History - Where Do We Begin?

Going into my Master's program, I knew I'd have to start a blog for class purposes at some point, but when the time came to actually write a post (ie. right now) I had no idea where to start. So, I suppose we'll start from the beginning.


My first introduction to public history that I knew was public history was in the third year of my undergrad at Algoma University. The course, "Topics in Community Based Public History" ran every second year and was typically taught by one of the heads of the History department at Algoma. I got lucky the year I took it, as it was being taught by trained public historian Krista McCracken (researcher/curator at the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre at Algoma University, and also a graduate of Western's Public History MA!). Krista introduced us to so many different aspects of public history through site visits, guest speakers, and even Q&A sessions with staff from both Know History and Canada's History. Before taking this class, I knew I wanted to do something more with my History BA, but I wasn't totally sure what direction to take. This course, coupled with working alongside Krista in the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre throughout most of my undergrad pushed me in the direction of public history, and I'm so glad it did.


The question that keeps making an appearance - whether it be in that undergrad class, when I tell people what I'm going to grad school for, or our very first public history class - is "what is public history?". Is there really just one definition? The best one I could personally come up with was "the use of history in a public context, through museums/archives/exhibits, and how the public interacts with and is affected by history". Obviously there's more to it than that, but I feel like this is a pretty good generalization of the subject. In this one year intensive program, I know I'll be able to come up with a better definition.



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