Skip to main content

Public History

nate hess

The Department of History offers opportunities for undergraduates, M.A. students, Ph.D. students, graduate non-degree students and graduate students in other disciplines to learn historical research skills to create narratives for public audiences.

Public historians are historians who must also be skilled in working collaboratively and with clients who often decide the scope of research and define the historical questions to be answered. In developing a research plan, a public historian will always ask “Who is the audience?” and must understand the intended outcome for that research. 

Public historians work in museums, archives, historic preservation, for the federal government or as research consultants (e.g. for corporate histories and commemorative events). For more information on the definition of public history, please visit the National Council on Public History.                                                        

The public history program trains historians who work in the public sector by grounding them in traditional research methodology learned in seminars and through public history courses designed to give students practical experience conducting client-based research. The work of public historians often requires a distinct set of research skills that moves beyond traditional archival research and historiographical argumentation. All students in public history learn to incorporate visual and material culture into historical narratives, use place as the center of historical analysis, and develop written and digital narratives that convey historical complexity that can engage public audiences. 


Internships provide the day-to-day experience of working at a historical institution. The Department of History offers guidance for undergraduate and graduate students seeking internships and has a unique partnership with several National Park Service sites. The Public History at WVU Facebook page is an excellent resource for learning more about what our current students are doing. 

Professional development is essential to training historians who wish to work in the public sector, and the program has provided financial assistance for student to travel to state, regional and national conferences. Faculty encourage students to present papers and participate in poster sessions to build resumes, network and disseminate their research. The department is an institutional member of both the National Council on Public History and the American Association for State and Local History. 

The Cultural Resource Management (CRM) Certificate can be earned in conjunction with the M.A. in history and emphasizes practical skills for students interested in historic preservation. 

Undergraduate courses in public history include HIST 412: Introduction to Public History and HIST 489: Historic Preservation. Special topics courses include museum education and oral history. The program often makes internship programs, workshops, and professional development available to undergraduates. Please contact the Director, Melissa Bingmann, to be added to the listserv if you wish to receive notices about these opportunities.

For more information, view our program of study and course descriptions