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MCLA adds Public History Minor

03/15/17

Students with a passion for history but aren’t sure if they want to go into teaching may be interested in a new public history minor at MCLA. The program prepares them for a variety of professions, such as those in public history and historic preservation, as well as positions at museums, archives, libraries, and local, state and federal historic sites.

“It is a natural offering, given the interests of many of our students and the strengths of the College, especially our unique arts management program, which offers expertise and coursework in so many areas that overlap with public history,” said Dr. Anthony Daly, associate professor of history. “Many of our alumni are already working in the field, at places such as the National Archives in Maryland and the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston.” 

Housed in the Department of History, Political Science and Public Policy, the public history minor is a joint venture with MCLA’s arts management program. It provides students with opportunities to combine expertise in history with applied learning in areas such as fundraising, marketing and museum studies.

“We looked at the offerings from the history program, the arts management program, and the wealth of institutions in the Berkshires that could serve as internship sites, and decided to go ahead with a mixture of required and elective offerings from the two programs, along with a required internship to combine academic knowledge within the field practice,” Daly said.

As she looked ahead to the new program’s expected approval in January, Katherine Rowell ’17 of Billerica, Mass. (right), a double major in history and political science, decided to add the minor because she realized that she wanted to attend graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in public history, archives and museum studies.

Daly, along with arts management professors, helped Rowell to plan her courses in anticipation of the minor’s formal addition to the curriculum at the start of this semester. As a result, she will complete the minor in time for graduation.

“I’m pursuing programs in history museum studies, history and archives management, and public history,” Rowell explained. “My ultimate goal is to pursue the research and interpretive elements of historical exhibit curation. Ideally, I would conduct in-depth research on exhibit topics and materials, and develop descriptive labels and educational literature based on that research.”

MCLA’s public history minor, Rowell said, is providing her with a solid foundation on which she can build her master’s degree. Through arts management courses like “Grants and Fundraising or “Museum Studies,” she’s gained an understanding of how cultural institutions function, and where there’s room for change and improvement.

 “There’s been a significant emphasis on community engagement in museums and the arts in my courses, which I find to be both personally interesting and relevant to the public history field's current direction,” Rowell said.

In addition to courses offered through the arts management program, requirements include a new course in historical methods and theory, which incorporates elements of digital history in addition to traditional skills in research, and understanding how historians work to understand and interpret the past.