The Public History Practicum will return in the 2022 winter and spring quarters, once again offering graduate students the opportunity to develop and deploy historical skills outside of the traditional academic setting. Taught by Professor Alice Goff, HIST 67603 will partner with four different organizations around Chicago: the Field Museum, Black & Pink Chicago, the Anišinabe Waki-Aztlán Exhibition Project, and the Brewseum. The practicum is sponsored by the UChicago Grad PATHS, a Mellon-funded program dedicated to helping students in the humanities and social sciences develop professional skills.

First offered in 2017 and again in 2021 by Leora Auslander, the Public History Practicum was founded with the aim of diversifying students’ skills and experiences in order to prepare them for careers both in and outside of academia. The two-quarter sequence meets in the winter as a colloquium in which students discuss the theory and history of the public history field. In the spring, students work in groups of 3-5 people on a project developed with partner organizations. The course is open to graduate students at all stages of their degree program, including those who are finished with coursework and working on their dissertations.

Past partners include Forensic Architecture, the Haitian American Museum of Chicago, the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19), the Newberry Library, and Kizuna Project. The projects involved everything from assisting with community collection of oral histories, to creating online educational resources, designing and recording audio tours, conducting archival research to support political advocacy, creating interactive maps, and building digital exhibits and archives. Madeline Adams, a History PhD student and one of this year’s course interns, worked with CRR19 last spring. “It was gratifying working collaboratively in what can otherwise be a pretty solitary graduate program,” Adams says. “I especially appreciated contributing to a project with a direct political impact on the city.”

This year, the course will focus on projects that involve some aspect of archival work in service of expanding public access to regional and national histories. Student teams will help to collect, preserve, and organize historical records in a variety of media to create teaching resources, exhibitions, or databases. The shared theme of archives will guide seminar discussion and skills training in the winter quarter and provide a foundation for collaboration and mutual support between student teams as they move into the project phase in the spring. “Historians tend to think about archives primarily as places for research,” Alice Goff says. “These projects all offer opportunities to engage with additional forms of archival work like collecting, digitizing, arranging, and describing that make historical research possible, and that make it possible for communities beyond the university.” Detailed information about this year’s projects is available here.

At the end of the practicum, students will have a finished project to add to their portfolios, which they will share in a final public showcase. Whether via a digital exhibition or archive, a set of museum education tools for teachers, or a collections policy, these completed projects will testify to a set of skills and experiences of value to historical work within and beyond the university. “The practicum solidified my interest in public history into a definable skill set,” says Kirsten Lopez, a PhD candidate in Romance Languages and Literatures. “It gave me the confidence to seek increasingly loftier and more challenging opportunities in the history and museum sector. It was the catalyst that helped me make the transition from academia to work more in line with my long-term goals and passions.”

For more information about the Public History Practicum, contact Alice Goff (agoff@uchicago.edu) and course interns Madeline Adams (mradams@uchicago.edu) and Nikki Grigg (ngrigg@uchicago.edu). Applications are due November 22nd at this link.

Information on images at right: these images come from project videos the Public History Practicum groups from 2020-2021 presented in May of 2021, showcasing the collaborative process and final products created by each group in conjunction with their partner organization. Images are labeled, but the five partner organizations were the Chicago Race Riot of 1919 Commemoration Project (CRR19), Forensic Architecture, the Newberry Library, in c/o Black Women, and Kizuna Project.