MA in Public History

MA in Public History

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The MA in Public History at Carleton University was first offered in 2002 and it has quickly become one of the leading programs in Canada. Some graduates of our program have found employment in a wide variety of museums, archives, and cultural institutions, while others have continued their academic studies at the Ph.D. level. Our program is flexible, exciting, and challenging, and aims to open up new employment avenues for graduates while allowing students the opportunity to pursue academic studies at more advanced levels.

Our innovative two-year program combines traditional academic strengths in historical theory, historiography, and primary research, with specialized courses on topics related to history in the public sphere (ranging from museums and archival theory to oral history and photography). In the summer months between the first and second year, students enroll in a fully-paid internship (worth approximately $10,000) which provides first-hand practical experience as a public historian. Like other M.A. students, Public History students research and write a Research Essay (40 to 60 pages) using primary sources on a wide variety of topics (historical and contemporary) related to public history, public memory, and historical consciousness.

The Carleton Advantage

Carleton is arguably the best place in Canada to pursue Public History. Here in the National Capital, many national institutions employ significant numbers of historians, including Library and Archives Canada, Parks Canada, the federal departments of Canadian Heritage, Native Affairs, National Defence, and Foreign Affairs. There are also numerous local and municipal historic sites, museums, and archives in the National Capital Region.

Many members of the Department of History are actively engaged in various aspects of public history, public memory, and historical representation. Our faculty have attracted a wide range of external grants to carry out research in the field of public history, funds which often lead to further support for public history students. Carleton’s varied programs in Canadian Studies, Heritage Conservation, Cultural Mediation, Film Studies, Art History, and Journalism all offer courses of possible interest that would complement programs of students concentrating their degrees in Public History.

Our program also benefits from the presence of the Carleton Centre for Public History, a university research centre that encourages an interdisciplinary dialogue on public history and cultural memory, building bridges between faculty, graduate students, and the wider community of public historians. Public history M.A. students are automatically considered to be Graduate Researchers associated with the CCPH. Check out some of our current students and their projects.

What is Public History? Why study Public History?

When most people think about public history they think it refers to historians who work outside academia, in museums or archives, in television and film, or who are engaged in digitizing history on the web, carrying out research for companies or writing popular historical works. All of this is true, but public history is also much more.

In broad terms, public history deals with the ways in which history is created and presented in the public arena. This includes traditional sites of institutional history (like museums and archives), but it can also refer to many different sites of collective memory and how history is expressed in film, on the web, or in photographic scrapbooks. To study public history is to come to terms with the contested nature of history itself, and to situate narratives of history within a broader field of public memory, identity, and political/institutional interests.

Our concentration has been designed to equip historians with an enhanced awareness of the specific challenges of applying historical knowledge and methodologies in the public sphere. The program allows flexibility to meet the needs of those seeking employment in the field of public history, as well as providing a solid grounding in history for those who wish to pursue further graduate studies.

Disclaimer: Information on this website is only a guideline and is subject to change. Please be sure to consult the graduate calendar for official program information.