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students learning about public history

What is Public History?

Have you ever wondered who creates the exhibits for museums or national parks? Have you ever thought about the ways important historical documents get cataloged, archived, digitized and even preserved? Maybe you even wondered who designs and writes the plaque for monuments … all of these tasks are largely completed by public historians. In its most basic definition, public history is the act of creating civic engagement with the past outside of a classroom – it’s history for the masses and can be disseminated in a variety of modalities. In a time when history has increasingly become politicized and commodified, TU’s new public history major prepares students for a career that is more important than ever before …

Photo caption: History major, senior Dakota Vance shows HIS 122 students the work he has completed at the University Archives for an internship. TU’s Public History major has numerous internship possibilities.

Tiffin University’s innovative public history program adds to the University’s mission of linking knowledge to professional practice. This program has been designed to prepare students for a future in public history careers and/or graduate school in both traditional and experiential settings. It builds on a traditional history major by offering additional courses best suited for the public history sphere, such as museology, digital media and design and communication skills for a diverse world.

TU’s public history program is highly experiential. Students will have multiple opportunities to work in archives, visit museums, monuments and memorials, while also having the opportunity to create their own public history expressions.

First-year student Cody Johnson examines a photograph of an Italian Immigrant making bread in Tiffin's Little Italy neighborhood

Photo caption: First-year student Cody Johnson examines a photograph of an Italian Immigrant making bread in Tiffin’s Little Italy neighborhood.

In this growing field, TU’s public history major is currently the second of its kind at the undergraduate level in the State of Ohio. TU’s public history program is unique in the sense that it incorporates courses that will prepare students for work in digital history and the digital humanities.

Students Mercedes Gazda (left) and Miranda Stallard (right) holding

Photo caption: Students Mercedes Gazda (left) and Miranda Stallard (right) discover “Dance Invite” artifacts from TU’s past.

Students graduating in the public history program can expect a multiplicity of career opportunities. Whether its local, state or national museum and archive work, libraries, private consulting jobs, or even working for the National Park Service, the field of public history is continuing to grow. With TU’s emphasis on incorporating courses suited for work in the digital world, students will have a competitive advantage over their peers graduating from similar programs.

Student, Zack Keaton, examines a TU yearbook from the 1980s to explore the continuity and change of college student clothing.

Photo caption: Student Zack Keaton examines a TU yearbook from the 1980s to explore the continuity and change of college student clothing. While examining the yearbook, he found a photograph of one of high school teachers who attended TU

One of the courses that I am most excited for is HIS 475 (practicing public history). This capstone course will give students to apply the knowledge they have learned throughout the program by creating a public history expression. One hope I have for this course is to work with local governments to have students create an expression that is unique to a particular community.

History students standing in front of the City of Tiffin's memorial dedicated to our nation's veterans

Photo caption: History 122 students conducting fieldwork on how the City of Tiffin can improve memorials dedicated to our nation’s veterans.

This program is perfect for those who love history first and foremost. This program is also great for students who enjoy visiting museums, being in the outdoors, reading, working with technology and using social media. No background knowledge is necessary, but students should have a passion for the hobbies listed above.

If you’re interested in learning more about this exciting new program, you can contact the Director of the Public History Program, Dr. Michael Daniel Goodnough, at