I’ve been mulling over the idea of putting together a public history course. We don’t have the resources to develop a major in public history, but by pairing a course or two with an internship and practicum, a minor might be a possibility. If we go through with such a change, I’m expecting that it will give our majors more career flexibility once they graduate.

Aside from working at The Hermitage and rubbing elbows with my fellow MTSU grad students in public history years ago, my only experience with that area was when I taught an independent study course on historical interpretation in 2006. The course was raw, and I’m not sure how much it benefited the two students who took it. In addition to asking students to serve as interns at historic sites in Concord, New Hampshire, I assigned the following books for the course:

  • Jennifer L. Eichstedt and Stephen Small, Representations of Slavery: Race and Ideology in Southern Plantation Museums (Smithsonian Books, 2002)
  • Michael Kammen, Mystic Chords of Memory: The Transformation of Tradition in American Culture (Vintage, 1993)
  • James Loewen, Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong (Touchstone, 2000)
  • Timothy B. Smith, This Great Battlefield of Shiloh: History, Memory, and the Establishment of a Civil War National Military Park (University of Tennessee, 2004)
  • Mike Wallace, Mickey Mouse History and Other Essays on American Memory (Temple University Press)

A former student recommended some possible readings for a public history course, and I also found syllabi at the Public History Resource Center.

What say you, readers? Are these books appropriate for an introductory public history course? If not, what would you recommend?

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