Charting Public History Careers: Findings from "Career Paths in Public History: A Report"

AHA Session 62
Friday, January 4, 2019: 8:30 AM-10:00 AM
Stevens C-4 (Hilton Chicago, Lower Level)
Daniel Vivian, University of Kentucky
Theodore Karamanski, Loyola University Chicago
Debra Reid, The Henry Ford
Stephanie Rowe, National Council on Public History

Session Abstract

A recent survey by the Joint Task Force on Public History Education and Employment offers the most comprehensive portrait of public history careers compiled to date. Based on more than 1,400 responses, the survey charts the career paths of alumni of MA programs in public history from the mid-1980s to 2016. It considers broad trends in employment and advancement, reasons for exiting the field, the utility of historical knowledge and skills for non-historical positions, and how personal circumstances have affected career decisions. Coupled with the task force’s 2015 report, "What Do Public History Employers Want?," "Career Paths in Public History" provides insight into the conditions of public history employment and the future of the field. The panel will discuss the findings of the report and consider the implications for public history education, career opportunities, and the historical profession.

The Joint Task Force on Public History Education and Employment is an initiative of the American Association of State and Local History, the American Historical Association, the National Council on Public History, and the Organization of American Historians. A similar session on the first report produced by the task force, "What Do Public History Employers Want?," was held at the 2018 AHA meeting in Washington, DC. It attracted about fifty attendees and stimulated vigorous discussion, in the session and on social media. The proposed panel will share new information compiled by the task force and continue conversations initiated last year. The panelists have been selected to provide informed perspectives on the report and the major questions raised. Stephanie Rowe is the executive director of the National Council on Public History, the leading professional organization for public historians. Ted Karaminski (Loyola University of Chicago) and Debra Reid (formerly of Eastern Illinois University) are experienced public history educators and program directors. Reid is now Curator of Agriculture and the Environment at The Henry Ford and thus represents a public history employer and can speak about the hiring market from that perspective. The session will be chaired by Daniel Vivian, a public history educator and practitioner who has co-chaired the joint task force (with Philip Scarpino of Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis) since 2014.

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