HIST 3807A: Practicum in History
Winter 2023

Coordinator: Professor James Opp

Course Description

Introduction: Each semester this course is offered, eligible* third- and fourth-year students devote one day / week (or its equivalent) working in the city as a historian.  Some work for one of the many museums, often conducting research on collections in preparation for future exhibits.  Others do research on specific topics for various non-profit organizations, usually at Library and Archives Canada or the City of Ottawa Archives. Finally, a third group of students find themselves doing a number of different things in which they get to apply the historian’s skills of conducting research, analysis of data, and the communication of results. In the past few years, students have worked for, among others, Canada War Museum, Library and Archives Canada, Canada Science and Technology Museum, Bytown Museum, Archives and Research Collections here at Carleton, the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Skate Canada, the National Capital Commission, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, The Council of Heritage Organizations in Ottawa, Partnership Africa Canada, and the City of Ottawa (Heritage Conservation Division).

While we are unsure about what work will be available to practicum students this year given the unique and evolving conditions in which we find ourselves, every effort will be made to match students with an employer that can provide a meaningful experience even if the conditions of work are not what they normally would be.

While this work is unpaid, it is for a 0.5 credit at the third year.  And it also gives you a unique experience in applying your academic skills and thus enriching your cv.  For any student considering a career in public history, HIST 3807A should be a very high priority, but it should also be a high priority for students already thinking about life after their undergraduate studies and how they can position themselves in the workforce.

*Eligibility:  this course is restricted to General or Honours history students with third- or fourth- year standing and a CGPA of 9.00 or better in history courses. Students must have permission to enroll.

To get permission, please contact the course instructor directly via email to express interest. In this email, please provide a statement of interest about why you wish to take the practicum and what kinds of work and / or workplace environments you wish to experience. Please also attach to that email a short cv that provides details about your work (paid and unpaid) experience, your academic background, and your workplace skills (language, software, etc.).  While we try to match students to their preferred area of interests and experience, we also ask students to keep an open mind about the placements.  Please note, too, that the course can only accommodate as many students for whom we can find placements.

Class Format: There are no class meetings. Students spend one day / week working for their employer (in traditional daytime work hours only). While usually that work is done on site, it is possible that work will be done remotely, but still following the employer’s work schedule. Ideally, therefore, the weekly hours are not split over multiple days, but occasionally we can accommodate students’ schedules to split the practicum work over 2 different days.

Aims and Goals: Students gain experience in how historians apply their skills and knowledge to work done outside the discipline. As such it provides a rare opportunity for reflection about what being a “historian” means beyond the academic definition of that term. Students also learn about the dynamics, opportunities, and challenges of working in professional workplace environments.

Assessment: A final grade is calculated based on both the student’s workplace diary (weekly entries) and the employer’s final report.  The workplace diary is kept at the course website in CuLearn, and is only visible to the course instructor and the student. 

Questions? Please email me at: james.opp@carleton.ca