In the last two decades, hundreds of scholarly books have appeared on public history, memory, museum studies, historic preservation, and related fields, but few have addressed teaching public history. A vast literature exists within the scholarship of teaching and learning, but these studies tend to examine classrooms from an altitude of 30,000 feet, and few address public history. We have a need for more pedagogical work on the teaching of public history, but we do not need more theory, jargon, or how-to-do-it manuals. What we need are stories.
We intend to edit a collection of first-person, narrative essays that go behind-the-scenes inside graduate and undergraduate public history courses. Inspired by Patrick Allitt’s "I’m the Teacher, You’re the Student" (Pennsylvania, 2004), we envision 8-10 instructors taking readers through a semester-long journey of teaching a public history course, including inside looks at their thought process, preparations, class sessions, interactions with students, assignments, evaluations, student projects, and community partner relationships. We seek reflective essays that illustrate successes and failures. Instead of advice, authors will recount what they did, and why. These articles will take a variety of forms, but we envision most will mirror journal or diary entries where essayists will summarize what they did in class on particular days, assess how students responded, and mull over what that day’s lesson did or did not accomplish. As the semester progresses, authors will be able to contemplate goals, learning outcomes, and how well their students responded overall. We expect to encounter raw emotion at times, and we anticipate as many failure stories as successful ones.
We have identified two main problems that this book will solve. First, through our disparate stories, we will offer case studies that explore a fundamental question that lies at the heart of all public history instruction: how should we teach a subject all about history outside the classroom while our course often meets inside a classroom? This question leads to the second problem this volume will address: what exactly is public history? In a way, we collectively refine public history as we teach it, and by including stories of divergent styles and innovative ideas, we will push our field forward. This volume will be peer-reviewed, and it has received interest from UNC Press. We will remain in exclusive conversation with UNC Press going forward.