Public History Program

The NMSU Public History Program, founded in 1983, was one of the first in the nation.  For over forty years we have trained students in developing rigorous historical scholarship that is simultaneously available to broader audiences. In collaboration with several departments across the university, we offer a range of undergraduate and graduate courses in the following areas: 

  • Museum and Conservation Studies 
  • Historic Preservation 
  • Digital Humanities 
  • Historic Site Interpretation 
  • Oral History 

The center of our program is an M.A. with an emphasis in public history, a degree that provides intellectual and practical skills needed for careers as historians. Graduates of our program have gone on to work across the country in museums and historical societies, state and national parks, archives, publishing houses, and a variety of businesses and nonprofit organizations.  Many have also gone on to earn doctoral degrees; see our Alumni and Placement Page to see some of the incredible things that Public History students have gone on to do. 

NMSU offers two options for a Master of Arts with a concentration in Public History: 

1) The Public History Track offers a degree best suited for students seeking a terminal M.A. and a desire to work in various fields of public history, such as museums, historical sites, and government agencies. 
For this degree, students must complete 36 credits (27 of which must be at the 500 level) that encompass the following: 

A 12-hour core curriculum consisting of: 

  • the Craft of History (Hist 598) 
  • the Public History Seminar (Hist 594) 
  • a thematic reading seminar (Hist 590, 591, 592)  
  • the research seminar (Hist 596) 

Additionally, students must complete: 

  • 9 hours of graduate classes in “traditional” history 
  • 9 hours of public history electives (this can include up to 6 credits of graduate classes outside of the Department of History; discuss with your advisor)  
  • between 3-9 hours of internship (History 585) and the public history article (History 597) 
  • an oral exam, a defense of the article, and a portfolio presentation.  

Forming a committee: By the end of their first year, students should have formed a committee. Your committee consists of at least three people: your advisor, another history faculty member of your choice, and a faculty member from outside the history department. Ideally, all members of your committee should be people with whom you’ve taken graduate-level courses.  Please see your advisor if you have any questions; your advisor is generally the Director of Public History, and/or someone you’re already working with, perhaps the person who was the faculty advisor for your internship. It’s generally best if the outside committee member is knowledgeable about your subject and is(preferably) someone with whom you’ve taken a graduate-level class. If you haven’t taken a class outside the department and don’t know anyone, you can ask your advisor for a recommendation, or you can ask the Graduate College to appoint someone. (This person acts as the Graduate Dean’s representative in the oral exam, someone who ensures that the exam is neither too easy nor unfair to you.) 

2) The Dual-Track MA offers a similar degree as the Public History Track but includes a substantial thesis project based on original research. This track is best suited for students that will ultimately seek a Ph.D. Students choosing to pursue both the thesis track and Public History specialization must complete the course hours required for the public history specialization, perform an internship, and defend the proposed thesis before undertaking it using guidelines provided by the department, present the public history portfolio at a public presentation, complete the thesis, and defend their course work, thesis and public history portfolio at a final oral examination. In order to satisfactorily complete both programs, such students would complete 39 credits, including three hours of internship credit and six hours of thesis work (but no public history article). As per the guidelines for the Public History Track MA, students should form a committee by the end of the first year. See above for those guidelines. 

For more information about either of our graduate degrees in Public History, please contact the Director of Public History, Jerry Wallace.