Public history is perhaps one of the fastest-growing sub-fields within the historical profession, as it allows the use of the traditional skills of the historian outside of academia. Museums, historical societies, national parks, historic sites, and tourism bureaus employ public historians to effectively generate interest in a regionís cultural and physical heritage. Businesses, public policymakers and government entities depend upon the skills of the historian to either assist them in recording their history or to provide insight into the decisionmaking process. Documentary and feature filmmakers also rely upon historians to ensure that what they produce is an accurate reflection of the historical record. With experience in public history, it is hoped that students who possess an interest in history will find opportunities to continue to pursue a career in these and other areas. Through a cooperative relationship with the Grady McWhiney Research Foundation and other museums and historic attractions in the Abilene area, students of the McMurry University Public History Program have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in Public History by pursuing projects and internships at the Buffalo Gap Historic Village, McWhiney Collection, McWhiney Foundation Press, the Grace Museum, and 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum. McMurry University students also are offered the opportunity to promote regional heritage tourism through participation in Co. C, Fifth Regiment U.S. Infantry, a living history unit formed through a partnership with the Fort Phantom Foundation.
The Public History Certificate at McMurry University is one of the few programs of its type in the United States that provide undergraduates with an advanced, experiential introduction to the multi-disciplinary field of Public History. By taking fifteen hours of college credit and completing two ten hour internship modules, students will receive a certificate in public history. It is anticipated that this certificate will enhance their employment opportunities in the field of history, as well as increase their chances for acceptance into graduate programs in public history, as the program is currently seeking articulation agreements with a number of graduate programs in Public and/or Applied History located throughout the region.
Requirements for the Certificate in Public History
1. Major or minor in history; or approval of the program director, Dr. Robert P. Wettemann.
2. Required Courses: Three courses/nine hours:
HIST 3340: Public History
HIST 3310: Texas History
HIST 4340: Public History Practicum
Students in the McMurry University Public History Program are encouraged to pursue projects that contribute to the further development of the Buffalo Gap Historic Village. Students play a major role in the sites' interpretive programs, as shown above. BGHV, operated by the McWhiney Foundation since 1999, is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the history of the last fifty years on the Texas Frontier, 1875-1925. Originally a static collection of structures and artifacts, BGHV is in the process of transforming itself into an outdoor museum integrating traditional exhibits with living history interpretation to provide a dynamic portrayal of life in Texas as a variety of forces led to the gradual closing of the frontier.
3. Elective Courses: One course selected from any two of the following areas of concentration (two courses/six hours total):
ART 2302: Art History II
ART 3390: Gallery Practices
MLH 2350: American Popular Music
COMM 2330: Public Speaking
THRE 2350: Costume Construction
MGMT 3310: Principles of Management
MKTG 3370: Principles of Marketing
BA 4385: Ethics in Business and Society
PSC 3310/GEOG 3310: Political and Cultural Geography
Special topics courses in related areas of study (Historical Archaeology, Living History Interpretation, and Public Policy) may be substituted for the six elective hours with approval of the program director.
4. Field Work: In addition to the required coursework, students seeking a certificate in public history will also perform ten hours of volunteer work in any two of the following areas of concentration, working under the guidance of a public history professional. The program director will coordinate this work, in conjunction with the appropriate local entities:
Archival Management Editing and Publishing
Historical Archaeology Historical Interpretation
Historic Preservation Material Culture Conservation
Government/Public Policy Site and Museum Management
Field work must be performed in fields unrelated to the project undertaken in HIST 4340: Public History Practicum.
In February 2002, members of Co. C., 5th U.S. Infantry, the Fort Phantom Garrison, participated in living history programs and the groundbreaking for a new interpretive center at the Palo Alto National Battlefield, Brownsville, Texas. This all-volunteer organization, composed entirely of McMurry University students, provided educational programs for approximately 3000 area students. They periodically offer similar programs at Fort Phantom Hill and other locations along the Texas Forts Trail. This spring, the unit will be hosting INSPECTION 1853, a living history event recreating one stop on the U.S. Army's 1853 inspection of the Eighth Military Department (Texas).
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