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.
Students in our MA in Public History enjoy:
- a wide range of courses taught by both core faculty and professional public historians including archives, museums, aural and material culture, digital history, photography, history and public policy, performance, memory and commemoration
- the chance to collaborate with over thirty national and local institutional partners through course projects, paid internships, fellowships, and research projects
- the opportunity to make history not just on the page but through films, podcasts, performances, graphic novels, play scripts, digital platforms and more
- synergy with faculty and research in History and related disciplines such as heritage conservation, art history, architecture, communications, law, literature, cultural studies, film, Canadian and Indigenous studies
- the fact that our two-year degree is designed to prepare them equally well for careers in public history and for doctoral studies in History and related disciplines
- the opportunity to enhance their degree with Carleton’s Collaborative MA in Digital Humanities and
- Graduate Diploma in Curatorial Studies
- full membership in the Carleton Centre for Public History with its local, national, and international research connections
Questions About the Program
- Do you admit International Students into your program?
Please note that we are rarely able to offer institutional funding to International applicants at the MA level. If there is the possibility of obtaining financial support from a funding agency in your home country, or you have access to other sources of funding, please contact the Graduate Supervisor to discuss your application. We are sometimes able to offer funding to International applicants to the PhD program – again, please contact the Graduate Supervisor.
- Community Partners
In the past three years, Carleton University M.A. in Public History Students as well as undergraduate History practicum students have been employed by the following partners:
- Aga Khan Foundation
- Archives and Research Collections, Carleton University
- Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences
- Canadian Medical Association
- Canadian Museum of History
- Canadian War Museum
- Canada’s Science and Technology Museum
- Carleton Immersive Media Studio
- Carleton University Corporate Archives
- City of Ottawa
- Council of Heritage Organizations of Ottawa
- Diefenbunker Museum
- Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Arts and Cultures
- Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada
- Know History
- Library and Archives Canada
- National Capital Commission
- Parks Canada
- Partnership Africa Canada
- Skate Canada
- Worker’s History Museum
We would also like to acknowledge the following partners who have also supported internships and practicum students in the past:
- Abiwin Coop Project
- Alberta Heritage (Ukrainian Village)
- Archives of Martinique
- Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC)
- Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
- Canada Agricultural Museum
- Canadian Association of Professors of Obstetrics and Genecology
- Canada Aviation and Space Museum
- Canadian Family History Project
- Canadian Policy Research Network
- Canadian Heritage
- Canadian Postal Museum
- Department of National Defence
- Eigg Road Consulting
- Federal Heritage Building Review Office
- Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
- Friends of Fairfields (Pinhey’s Point)
- Health Canada – Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Research
- History to Knowledge
- Imperial Order, Daughters of the Empire, Ottawa Branch
- International Research Development Centre
- Lowertown Heritage
- National Research Council
- Nepean Museum
- Niagara Parks Commission
- Office of the Curator of the House of Commons
- Ottawa Jewish Archives
- Ottawa South research project
- Parliamentary Library
- Rideau Valley Conservation Authority
- Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons
- University of Alberta Archives
To all we are grateful for the support. The experiences and mentorship extended towards our students is fundamental to their education and their professional careers. Indeed, all of us partners should take pride in the incredible work and successes of our students.
- Our National and International Profile
Carleton’s Public History Program actively promotes public history in Canada and across the globe. Our faculty have been involved in the Canadian Historical Association’s Public History Network and the Carleton Centre for Public History offers logistical support to the committee responsible for the CHA’s annual Public History prize.
Carleton History is an official partner of both the National Council on Public History (NCPH), the world’s oldest international association of public historians based in the United States founded in 1980, and the International Federation for Public History (IFPH), founded in 2009. Adjunct Research Professor Jean-Pierre Morin is the chair of NCPH’s Long Range Planning Committee. Professor David Dean is a member of the IFPH’s steering committee. Each year a Carleton faculty member is on the IFPH’s annual conference organizing committee. Professor John Walsh will be serving that role for the next conference taking place in Sao Paulo, Brazil in August 2018.
David Dean is also co-editor, with Dr. Andreas Etges of the University of Munich, of IFPH’s new journal International Public History. His role has been made possible thanks to financial support of Carleton’s Office of the Vice President Research and International.
Carleton public history faculty and students are regular participants in international conferences and you can read about their contributions on their individual profiles (see the links provided on the Our Faculty and Our Students pages).
- What is 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.
- Why study Public History at Carleton?
Carleton is one of the best places in North America to study public history. In part, this is because our MA program draws on twenty years of collaboration between public historians at the university and public historians employed outside academia. Being located in the nation’s capital allows us to benefit from collaborations with key institutions such as national and local museums and archives, research firms, government departments and non-profit organizations.
With eight core faculty currently, and double that number as adjuncts and associates, not to mention over a dozen colleagues in other disciplines working on key issues in the field, we have the largest number of academic public historians at any university in Canada and more than most programs in the United States, Europe, Australia and elsewhere.
Three particular features distinguish our program:
- We are committed to international public history. Although most of our core faculty research and teach Canadian public history, others focus their work on European, African and Caribbean history and we have strong connections with public historians internationally.
- We are committed to combining applied history with historical theory. Our paid internships and course project work are complemented by a compulsory seminar in historical theory and all our seminars require students to think theoretically and reflexively about their work.
- We are committed to helping our students make original contributions to knowledge in both traditional and non-traditional formats. The culmination of our two-year degree is the Masters Research Essay (MRE). The MRE most often takes the form of an essay, but we encourage, and have the resources to support alternatives. Students have produced MREs that have taken forms such as films, staged performances, graphic novels, digital soundscapes, podcasts, and exhibits.
Our program has been designed to equip students with an enhanced awareness of the specific challenges of applying historical knowledge and methodologies in the public sphere. It allows flexibility to meet the needs of those seeking employment in the field of public history, as well as providing a solid interdisciplinary grounding for those who wish to pursue further graduate studies in history or other disciplines.
- What is the capital advantage?
As you will see if you explore the profiles of our core and adjunct faculty, many of us collaborate and work with public historians across Ottawa and the national capital region. This means that many of our students are able to draw on expertise and knowledge from practitioners and historians working in our national and local museums, in government departments, in the National Capital Commission, and the many private research firms that employ historians to work in the regions archives and research collections from Library and Archives Canada to the Canadian Conservation Institute, from the City of Ottawa’s local history collections to the libraries and collections of the national museums. You will find our students exploring artifacts at the Canadian Museum of History, reading First World War diaries at the Canadian War Museum, or working through advertisements for domestic technologies at Canada’s Science and Technology Museum. They will be on the streets examining monuments and heritage buildings, participating (and sometimes leading) walking tours and they may be on our stages performing history through film, digital media, or theatre.
Our classrooms often involve active collaboration with public history practitioners through course based projects. Our students have curated online exhibits for Canada’s Science and Technology Museum, developed exhibit proposals for the same museum as well as the Canadian Agricultural Museum, the Canadian Aviation Museum, the Canadian War Museum, and the Canadian History Museum. They have created exhibits – online, travelling, and in situ – for many local museums and heritage organizations. Recently those in a museums and public memory seminar curated 17 installations across the city for the Ottawa-based Workers’ History Museum’s 2017 project. We’ve provided some links below to media coverage for you to learn more about such course based projects. Sometimes we collaborate with public history institutions beyond Ottawa and even Ontario, as with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.
Finally, of course our Capital Advantage is experienced especially in our paid Internship program about which you can read more here:
- What is the Carleton advantage?
As well as having the largest cluster of academic public historians in Canada, there are many faculty and graduate students at Carleton working in complementary fields. This means that our graduate students can take seminars and get research advice from colleagues in related disciplines such as Architecture (Steven Fai) Anthropology and Sociology (Tonya Davidson), Art and Culture which includes Art History, Film Studies and Music (Carol Payne), Business (Leighann Neilson), Indigenous Studies and Canadian Studies (Peter Hodgins), Communications and Journalism (Miranda Brady), Law (Stacy Douglas), Public Policy (Frances Abele) and others. These are active relationships with colleagues whose work is widely read by public historians as you can see for yourself if you click on the names of just a few examples noted above.
When we think of the “Carleton Advantage” we are also thinking of the outstanding research and project work carried out within the framework of Carleton University Research Centres. The Carleton Centre for Public History is one, but others where public history work takes place include the Centre for Indigenous Research, Culture, Language and Education, the Centre for Transnational Cultural Analysis, the Max and Tessie Zelikovitz Centre for Jewish Studies, and the Carleton Immersive Media Studio.
We also enjoy collaborations with colleagues in Migration and Diaspora Studies, African Studies, Latin American Studies, and the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art, and Culture. There is obvious synergy between our MA program and Carleton’s prestigious MA in Heritage Conservation.
Besides the opportunity to take seminars and work with faculty and students in related fields, Carleton has recently developed two exciting programs that our students can take advantage of: the Diploma in Curatorial Studies and the Collaborative Masters in Digital Humanities. Things are always on the go at Carleton, for example there are discussions about collaboration across many disciplines, including public history, to develop work in performance and performance studies.
The Garth Wilson Fellowship
Ingenium – Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation & Carleton’s MA in Public History
The Garth Wilson Fellowship in Public History is a 2-year fellowship offered by Ingenium and Carleton University’s Department of History. It celebrates our collaboration with Canada’s Science and Technology Museum and is in the memory of Garth Wilson (1960-2010) who was the Curator of Transportation at the museum from 1989 until 2010. He was a passionate advocate of museology with interest in public history, transportation history, and material culture. He was highly respected for the intelligence, imagination and discipline that he brought to the collecting of artifacts, writing and editing of professional and general interest publications, curating of exhibitions, and teaching of museum studies.
The Fellowship provides a graduate student with an excellent opportunity to participate in public history projects at a national museum, gain valuable work experience in this competitive field, and have unique access to materials that contribute to a student’s research interests. The funding supports training, research travel, conference participation, and on-line and print publications.
Garth Wilson Fellows:
- What do graduates go on to do? What kinds of jobs do graduates get? What is your placement rate?
You will find our graduates working close to home in Ottawa, across Canada, and as far afield as India. They have found jobs in every conceivable type of public history work from federal, provincial and local archives to national and local museums, heritage houses and living history sites, corporations and non-profit organizations, and of course in academic institutions and government agencies. Some have set themselves up as contract researchers and editors, and several have gone on to do PhDs, not just here in Canada but also in the United States.
These recordings were made as phase one of the Carleton Centre for Public History’s Alumni Project where current students interview graduates from the program.
All the interviewers noted below are now themselves graduates. And this is just the beginning.
We are rolling out phase two over the next few months and well as profiles of all of our alumni and alumna so be sure to check back soon for more stories.
Alex Comber (now Military Archivist, Library and Archives Canada) talks with Lina Compton (now Program Officer, SSHRC).
Tom Bigelow (then Curatorial Assistant and now Procedural Clerk, House of Commons) and Natascha Morrison (researcher for Contentworks Inc) talk with Anna Kuntz (now Senior Associate, Know History)
Emily Lonie (then archivist with Library and Archives Canada and now City Archivist at the City of Coquitlam, BC) talks with Lauren Markewicz (now working at Elk Island National Park, Alberta and a noted blogger at History Research Shenanigans)
Joel Legassie (now completing his PhD on Japanese history at the University of Victoria) talks with Meghan Lundrigan (now completing her PhD on the holocaust and visual social media at Carleton).
Angela Beking (now Archival Assistant, Library and Archives Canada) talks to Sinead Cox (now Curator of Engagement and Dialogue at the Huron County Museum and Historic Gaol and one of the directors of Staging Our Histories)
- How to apply
We normally admit eight to ten new students every year. Your chances of success are increased if you can demonstrate a strong interest in public history, show that you have had some experience (paid and / or volunteer) working in public history sites (museums, heritage houses, archives etc.) and/or creative ways of engaging with history (creating exhibits or digital sites, participating in performances or film-making etc.). While most of our students have an undergraduate degree in History, some come to us with degrees in other disciplines.
When applying be sure to connect with your referees well ahead of time so they can write you an informed letter of recommendation. Be careful in choosing your writing sample – we do read all of them – and of course take care in writing your statement of interest. The writing sample should demonstrate your ability to conduct research and communicate analytical thinking. It should therefore come from a recent, senior undergraduate-level course and while essays are the normal type of writing sample, please contact the Program Co-ordinator, James Opp, if you wish to submit an alternative example of your work. Both the writing sample and the statement of interest play very important roles in the application process as it is where we really get to know who you are and what you would like to do. Besides speaking about yourself, your interests and your background, it is important to tell us in the statement of interest what you would like to do for your major research project with some precision. For example, telling us that you want to look into issues of historical accuracy in opera, perhaps using the Canadian Opera Company’s recent Louis Riel production as an example, will help us more than telling us you’ve always loved history and music and want to work on a topic that brings the two together. Of course, you’ll not be tied down to what you propose in your statement; many topics change once students begin to take courses and get to know faculty.
If you have any questions about applying please contact the Program Co-ordinator, Professor James Opp. For technical requirements related to admissions please contact the graduate administrator, Ms. Joan White.
- About co-op and internships
One of the unique features of our program is the paid internship. Students work with a public history institution or on a public history project for a full academic term (Spring-Summer, Fall, or Winter of the second year). Students normally earn around $8,000 as salary as well as course credit (HIST 5703), but wages depend on the length of the internship and the funding model used by the employer. Over the past 20 years students have found work with over forty internship partners. In many cases their experience has led to further contract work after the internship is over and even long-term employment once their MA is completed.
Internships benefit from the “Capital advantage” because many faculty across a wide range of disciplines at Carleton have deep research links in the community. These relationships bring a good deal of synergy between the university and the wider community and our negotiations for paid internships draws from the trust established through such research collaborations. This also means that our paid internships often involve higher level work than is commonly experienced by interns, work study, and practicum students. It is the responsibility of the coordinator of the program to identify and explore internship possibilities and to link internship partners with students, but connections that students themselves have are often useful starting points for such negotiations.
Our students have worked in the national museums here in Ottawa, in many local and regional museums, in Library and Archives Canada as well as local city and corporate archives, for a great number of government departments, for Parks Canada and the National Capital Commission, for private corporations and non-profit organizations, for private historical research firms and so on. They have designed and curated exhibits, produced digital projects, conducted research and written scripts for living history programs, been the first to open, identify and create finding lists for archival collections, reviewed and developed outreach programs and so on. Occasionally we have place students outside of Ottawa and the National Capital Region.
- About our faculty
Our Core Faculty
David Dean specializes in public history, museums, theatre, film, and performance as well as British history. He has published many articles, co-edited History, Memory, Performance (2015) and is editor of the forthcoming Companion to Public History. On the steering committee of the International Federation for Public History, he is co-editor of their new journal, Public History International. David is co-director of the Carleton Centre for Public History and led the Workers’ History Museum’s Ottawa2017 project Capital History Kiosks.
Audra Diptee specializes in Caribbean and African history, humanitarianism and human rights, children and childhood, slavery and human trafficking, race, memory, critical applied history and historical consciousness. The author of numerous articles, she co-edited Remembering Africa & Its Diasporas: Memory, Public History & Representations of the Past (2012) with David V. Trotman. Audra is the founder and curator of History Watch which brings together an international network of activist scholars committed to public engagement.
Jennifer Evans researches the history of sexuality and visual culture, especially the role of photography and social media as agents of historical meaning. She has published extensively in these areas including Life Among the Ruins: Cityscape and Sexuality in Cold War Berlin (2011), co-edited The Ethics of Seeing: Photography and 20th Century German History (2017) and the forthcoming co-written Holocaust Memory in the Digital Mediascape. She curates the Hate 2.0: Combating Right-Wing Extremism in the Age of Social Technology” research blog
Shawn Graham was trained in Roman archaeology but has become over the years a digital archaeologist and digital humanist. He keeps an open lab notebook of his research and experiments in digital history and archaeology at his research blog, www.electricarchaeology.ca and a more experimental one at http://smgprojects.github.io/.
He is the founder and editor of the open access journal, Epoiesen: A Journal for Creative Engagement in History and Archaeology. He co-wrote Exploring Big Historical Data: The Historian’s Macroscope (2016).
Paul Litt teaches and publishes on late twentieth-century Canada with special interests in public history, cultural policy, Canadian nationalism and the 1960s. His publications include the award winning Trudeaumania (2016) and his currently investigating the origins and development of the Ontario heritage establishment in the 1950s and 1960s. Paul has worked as a public historian for the Ontario Heritage Foundation, as a freelance historian leading research teams that produced histories for corporations and public agencies, and has policy experience at the Ontario Ministry of Culture.
James Opp is a 20th-century Canadian historian researching the history of photography, archives, public memory, gender and the history of the body, visual culture, digital history, religious history, and the history of the Canadian West. The author of many articles on public history, Jim co-edited Placing Memory and Remembering Place in Canada (2010) with John Walsh. A former co-director of the Carleton Centre for Public History, he led the team which developed the Rideau Timescapes digital app which won the public history prize of the Canadian Historical Association in 2015.
Monica Patterson is co-editor of several articles and two books: Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places (2011) and Anthrohistory: Unsettling Knowledge and Questioning Discipline (2011). Currently, she is working on a manuscript that examines the multiple and contested understandings of childhood in late-apartheid South Africa. Monica is an investigator on the SSHRC-funded Partnership Development project, “Thinking through the Museum: Difficult Knowledge in Public” and from 2018 will be coordinator of Carleton’s new Diploma in Curatorial Studies.
Anne Trépanier is an historian born in Québec city, and associate professor in the School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies. A builder of intellectual and cultural bridges between the two solitudes, Anne researches, publishes and teaches on Quebec, its society and myths, its distinctions, its literature and its tensions. She has just completed a manuscript on historical representations of Confederation before 1867. Anne is currently based in Rome, Italy.
John Walsh specializes in Canadian history, space and place, governmentality, epistemology, and maps and mapping. He co-wrote Home, Work, and Play: Situating Canadian Social History third edition (2015) with James Opp and together they also edited Placing Memory and Remembering Place in Canada (2010). John was co-ordinator of the MA in Public History between 2013 and 2017 and is co-director of the Carleton Centre for Public History. John is the Ottawa co-ordinator of the SSHRC funded project Lost Stories Project curating From the North to the Southway Inn.
Adjunct and Associated Faculty
Ian Badgley has more than 40 years of experience in the planning, development and management of cultural heritage projects, with specialization in archaeological resource management. Since 2009 he has been the Archaeologist of the National Capital Commission’s Heritage Program responsible for developing and conducting numerous archaeological resource management projects throughout Quebec, Ontario, the eastern Arctic and Subarctic and, more recently, the National Capital Region.
Andrew Burtch is the Canadian War Museum’s post-1945 Historian. As curator of Gallery 4: A Violent Peace, he is responsible for all questions relating to conflicts from the beginning of the Cold War to the present day. He has worked to develop temporary and permanent exhibitions about the Afghanistan war, the Cyprus peacekeeping mission, the Korean War, military medicine, and war and media. His book Give Me Shelter: The Failure of Canada’s Cold War Civil Defence received the 2012 CP Stacey Award for military history.
Janice Cavell works in the Historical Section, Global Affairs Canada, where she edits the series Documents on Canadian External Relations and does research on the history of Arctic sovereignty and other foreign policy issues. Her research interests also include the cultural history of Arctic exploration (with an emphasis on nineteenth-century print culture) and the role of women in polar exploration.
Sean Graham specializes North American media, broadcasting, and culture. He has written about the early Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, gender in 1930s radio, and the North American media environment. In addition, he has written Lace Up! A History of Skates in Canada (2017) with Jean-Marie Leduc. Shawn is an editor at Activehistory.ca where he is the host/producer of the History Slam Podcast.
Charlotte Gray is one of Canada’s best-known writers, and author of nine award-winning and award nominated best-selling books of literary non-fiction, most recently Who Do We Think We Are? 150 Years of Imagining Canada (2016). Educated at Oxford University and the London School of Economics, she has worked as a magazine editor and newspaper columnist, book reviewer, and political commentator before turning to biography and popular history. Her book on the Klondike gold rush was adapted by the Discovery Channel’s miniseries Klondike and her biography of Alexander Graham Bell was turned into a miniseries, Wire Men, by White Pine Pictures.
Andrew Horrall is senior archivist at Library and Archives Canada and an historian of nineteenth and twentieth century British popular culture. He is currently researching the globalisation of British popular culture from 1850-1920, and working on the influence of British comedy in the 1960s.
Matthew McKean is Associate Director of Education at the Conference Board of Canada. He directs the research program and leads stakeholder relations for a multi-year initiative that examines the advanced skills and education challenges facing Canada today. Prior to joining the Conference Board, Matthew worked in policy, communications, stakeholder and government relations at the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. While there he led a public history project, documenting the Federation’s 75-year history.
Jean-Pierre Morin is staff historian for the department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, specializing in the history of treaties and government policy and administration. In recent years, he has worked at developing new interactive digital historical learning tools, web content and digital media as well as leading the ongoing national commemoration initiatives such as the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the 250th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763. In 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 he was Public Servant in Residence at Carleton’s Department of History. Jean-Pierre is a member of the Board of Directors of the National Council on Public History.
Michael Ostroff is a contract instructor in the Department of History. A documentary filmmaker for more than 40 years, his early works –– made in collaboration with advocacy groups, cultural organizations, poverty groups, health care providers and trade unions ––explore issues related to social change. The later documentaries focus on the history and development of Canada’s cultural voice and have been cited for their political insight, and understated, lyrical tone.
His last feature-length film, “Winds of Heaven Carr, Carvers and The Spirits of the Forest”, has been described as “…one of the best films ever made about our province, these forests, and our history as newcomers.”
Joan M. Schwartz was a specialist in photography acquisition and research at the National Archives of Canada for more than two decades prior to her faculty appointment in the Department of Art History and Art Conservation at Queen’s. She is a Fellow of both the Society of American Archivists and the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. With a particular interest in materiality, memory, and institutional discourse, she has published and lectured widely in the field of archives, historical geography, and the history of photography
John Willis is a historian at the Canadian Museum of History (CMH) who began working at the CMH in 1991 specializing in the social history of postal communication in Canada. John served as curator for the exhibition commemorating the sinking of the Empress of Ireland in 1914: Canada’s Titanic. And more recently he has embarked on a research project documenting the history of the Canadian American border. M. Willis est bilingue et est familier avec l’historiographie québécoise et canadienne-anglaise, entre-autres.