Public History stands at the intersection of a coherent understanding of the human past (the discipline of History) and human acceptance of and use for that understanding in a public setting. Public historians convey historical understanding to the general public. Their work involves critical thinking about History, understanding historical significance, and analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing, and interpreting historical findings at more than 15,000 chartered public history venues. Most commonly, public historians apply historical perspectives to contemporary issues while honouring historical interpretations from diverse cultural traditions and values. They present historical narratives in the public sphere, developing collaborative relationships between the academy and the general public. Their community-based research methods are grounded in the discipline's professional standards, ethics, and practices.
The practice of Public History involves work in museums, archives, tourism, community history, historic preservation, cultural resource management and interpretation, and media. The discipline offers students an opportunity to follow their love for History while acquiring the practical skills to succeed in an ever-expanding field. Its study is highly experiential, gained in skills-based courses.
Students completing the program will understand the core concepts and theories about museum studies, archival administration, historic preservation, and Local History. Through experiential learning, they will acquire the skills to present History to the public by completing projects such as museum exhibits, archival finding aids, community history programming, and digital resource creation. These practical applications will exist within the scope— and use the methodologies and procedures—of public History.
Ouachita's carefully-developed history program allows each student to acquire the professional skills and knowledge base required to succeed in various careers and vocations. Each student takes an introductory course exploring historical research, analysis, presentation, and available professional and career paths (some of which require graduate study). Each student then uses those basic skills in more advanced courses. The experience culminates in the Research Seminar, which utilizes research, writing, and presentation skills to investigate a self-selected topic. The Topical Seminar, which investigates a specialized part of human experience in a more self-directed study.