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Public History M.A.?

dingo roosevelt

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Hello, all!

I'm looking into Public History programs for next fall (2017) or possibly even this Spring (also 2017). I have a B.A. with a History major and an M.A. from Columbia in Modern European Studies. Since graduation, I've spent a year teaching at a private high school and about 18 months writing and leading tours of a NYC-area historic landmark on an ad-hoc basis. 

Let's just say that my masters degree hasn't been the most lucrative thing I've ever done. While I am really confident in my research and writing capabilities, I feel that I'm really lacking in the more practical skills - archive management, project management, etc. - that a lot of positions require. I'm wondering if a second M.A., this time in Public History, might make me a little more marketable. I went straight into my first round of grad school from undergrad, and I think with the benefit of a little time, a tiny bit of wisdom, and frankly more/clearer ambition, I would be able to get a lot more out of a degree. 

I think the idea would be potentially to go part-time and keep my full-time job (in an unrelated and soul-destroying field) since I'm really not looking to add to my student debt. However, I would also want to be aggressive in pursuing any possible funding in the hope of clearing some day-job time for an internship. I live in the DC area; so far most of my research has been into the program at American.

I'd love to get some thoughts on this plan from the collective brain here. Do you have any recommendations for particularly great programs in the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic region? What do you think of my chances at being accepted, much less receiving funding, with my background? Do you even think this is a good plan, or would you recommend something else entirely?

Thank you!  

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Ha! Must be something in the water. But cool that more people are researching public history.

But here's the thing: a public history degree doesn't give you experience--practicing it does. You're already a public historian, based on what you've done with the walking tour. What you need is more experience, not more education, esp if you can't afford it (unless you want to move into archives--an MLIS/MLS is necessary for that). If you're just interested in getting a firmer grip on the various types of public history out there, I suggest keeping your day job and pursuing more volunteer opportunities. Most positions I've seen want at least six months to two years of experience. Going back to school is going to interfere with your ability to earn those 2+ years, seeing as how an MA usually takes 2 years to complete. 

You're in DC--so many museums, historic preservation committees, heritage sites, and so on! I would love to be there right now because of that. Start reaching out now.

ETA: I just re-read that you teach at a private high school. Omg, perfect opportunity to bring public history into your day job! An alumnus from my college did a panel session last year about what he's done since graduating (albeit in the mid 90s). He's a public high school history teacher, and he trained his students to conduct oral histories with the WW2 vets in the senior homes in his area. His research and activities eventually took him into the heart of the WW2 historian and WW2 museum community. You can start right where you are. Reach out to the local PH community to forge partnerships. 

Edited by NoirFemme
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Are you looking for a PhD? If so, specifically public history? Certainly there are scholars in history departments that do public history but as far as actual public history PhDs the field is quite small.

If you were a NY resident I'd recommend the CGP at Cooperstown. It's an amazing program and their graduates have gone on to work/lead some of the most famous institutions in the NE. That said, it's an MA program.

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