Fall 2017: Intro to Public History in Review

I’ll get back to Scotland and Ireland very soon, especially because I had a lot of great encounters with bodies, death, and exhibits in the last half of the trip, but I want to take a moment to reflect on my Fall 2017 Intro to Public History class.

Students at the Horry County Museum, Fall 2017

This was my third time teaching this course at Coastal Carolina, and I, for one, had a blast this time around. The class was often engaged in discussion and debate, even if that meant sometimes we got a little off the scheduled topic. We went to museums, exhibits, historic districts, an archive, and more. We had guest speakers on almost every topic we covered. We discussed everything from the ownership of history and objects, legislation in regard to history, museums and exhibits, interpretation, oral histories… the list goes on.

The students described the class on their website as:

Our course deals with discussions and readings that surround public history and all that it entails, this may include defining public history, understanding different legislation that has been passed to promote the preservation of different historic landmarks in addition to visiting museums and national parks and hosting guest lectures across the state of South Carolina to inform students of certain opportunities that are available if one would like to venture further into professions that surround public history. Public history can be viewed anywhere outside of academia such as museums, national parks, and monuments. Our class also consists of wide variety of individuals, who were put into this class to express their views on history and to gain a better understanding of what public history is.

In reading student reflections on the semester, the most impactful aspect of the course seems to have been our engagement with Reacting to the Past pedagogy. I’ve been familiar with RttP, but right before the semester began CCU hosted a training workshop in which we played the Greenwich Village 1914 game. I wanted to try out a game in my class, and with all our discussion on patrimony, preservation, conservation, etc, the Bomb the Church game seemed to be our best bet.

Students Reacting to the Past

Many of my students were Reacting veterans, and already knew the drill.  The great thing about the Bomb the Church microgame is that there is no required foreknowledge of the topic and no real preparation; it just throws students in their roles and they carry it along. The students were engaged in debate and persuasive speaking, and we all had a blast.

I plan to detail the second game (and Reacting in general) in another post, because it is one that I wrote especially for this and future classes. Considering it was a new game being play tested, again, I think it was a huge success, with special thanks to my colleagues Shari Orisich and Carolyn Dillian. Keep checking back for more on that game…
Another aspect of the HIST395 course this year was a class website and blog. Dr. Robert Connolly instilled in me the importance of a web presence when students are looking for jobs or even just when they are being Googled in the professional world. The class website includes information about the class, students, guest speakers, and each student was required to write at least one blog related to public history. The website is: www.publichistory52.wordpress.com – check it out!

In the coming weeks, I plan to share blogs from their website, so be on the lookout for that.

Thanks for a great semester, HIST395 Fall 2017 public historians!!

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