Readings in Public History Theory and Methods (Spring 2016)

Approach and Goals

During the semester we will investigate both the history of the public history movement and the theories and methods that public historians have brought to their work. Public history constitutes a distinct field of study and we will approach it as such, but at the same time, we will keep in mind all the ways that race, socio-economic class, gender, region, family, and politics work to shape the production and discourse around history. Given these goals, I suggest that we begin our conversations with attention to the following questions:


  • How do the key actors in these texts (historians, people of the past, and publics/participants/audiences) go about the work of representing their subject and its significance to themselves and others? How do they see their world and their place in it?
  • How are power and authority negotiated in these contexts?
  • Do the historical actors more or less align themselves with a version of social roles that is based on claims of equality or difference? How does this impact their experience?


  • What is the methodological approach of the author? What are his/her assumptions about the work of doing history?
  • What is the scope of the research? What materials/elements have been excluded?
  • What is the significance of the work in the larger field of public history?
  • How does this work change our understanding of both the practice of public history and the larger work of historians more generally?
  • How does is this work in conversation with other texts in the field?

Written Work

Please write a substantive blog post for each meeting that addresses the questions listed above.


January 19, 2016

  • Kelley, Robert. “Public History: Its Origins, Nature, and Prospects.” The Public Historian 1, no. 1 (October 1, 1978): 16–28. doi:10.2307/3377666.
  • Grele, Ronald J. “Whose Public? Whose History? What Is the Goal of a Public Historian?” The Public Historian 3, no. 1 (Winter 1981): 40–48.
  • Green, Howard. “A Critique of the Professional Public History Movement.” Radical History Review 1981, no. 25 (January 1, 1981): 164–71. doi:10.1215/01636545-1981-25-164.
  • Cole, Charles C., Jr. “Public History: What Difference Has It Made?” The Public Historian 16, no. 4 (October 1, 1994): 9–35. doi:10.2307/3378008.
  • Conard, Rebecca. “Public History As Reflective Practice: An Introduction.” The Public Historian 28, no. 1 (February 1, 2006): 9–13. doi:10.1525/tph.2006.28.issue-1.
  • Corbett, Katharine T., and Howard S. (Dick) Miller. “A Shared Inquiry into Shared Inquiry.” The Public Historian 28, no. 1 (February 1, 2006): 15–38. doi:10.1525/tph.2006.28.issue-1.
  • Howe, Barbara J. “Reflections on an Idea: NCPH’s First Decade.” The Public Historian 11, no. 3 (Summer 1989): 69-85.
  • Karamanski, Ted, and Rebecca Conard. “Reflections on the Founding of NCPH | Public History Commons.” Public History Commons, February 13, 2015.

January 26, 2016

  • Museums, Monuments, and National Parks: Toward a New Genealogy of Public History – Meringolo, Denise D. (2012)

February 2, 2016

  • Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History – Trouillot, Michel-Rolph (1997)

February 9, 2016

No Meeting

February 16, 2016

  • Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory – Blight, David W. (2002)
  • Horton, James E. and Lois Horton, Slavery and Public History: The Tough Stuff of American Memory. New York: New Press, 2006.

February 23, 2016

No Meeting

March 1, 2016

  • Sacred Ground: Americans and Their Battlefields – Linenthal, Edward (1993)
  • Kelman, Ari. A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling over the Memory of Sand Creek. 1.12.2013 edition. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2013.

March 10, 2016

  • Remaking America: Public Memory, Commemoration, and Patriotism in the Twentieth Century – Bodnar, John (1992)
  • Monument Wars: Washington, DC, the National Mall, and the Transformation of Memorial Landscape – Savage, Kirk (2009)

March 29, 2016

  • The Unfinished Bombing: Oklahoma City in American Memory – Linenthal, Edward T. (2003)
  • Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero – Sturken, Marita (2007)

April 5, 2016

  • The New History in an Old Museum: Creating the Past at Colonial Williamsburg – Handler, Richard and Gable, Eric (1997)

April 12, 2016

  • History Is Bunk: Assembling the Past at Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village – Swigger, Jessie (2014)

April 19, 2016

  • From Storefront to Monument: Tracing the Public History of the Black Museum Movement – Burns, Andrea (2013)
  • The Lowell Experiment: Public History in a Postindustrial City – Stanton, Cathy (2006)

April 26, 2016

  • The Wages of History: Emotional Labor on Public History’s Front Lines – Tyson, Amy M. (2013)