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Public History Courses


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Public History Courses

Brenn Mill

Field trips to historic sites and museums constitute key components of several public history courses. Students from the American Material Culture and Historic Preservation courses visited this early nineteenth-century Rockingham County mill, where they were able to examine much of the original milling machinery.

Click here for a checklist for the History Major with Public History Concentration.

For more information, contact Dr. Gabrielle M. Lanier at


Required Core Courses (6 credits)

Internship in History (HIST 340) provides students with practical experience in using historical skills in a public or private agency.Periodic student reports and seminars required. This course may be repeated with permission of department head. Prerequisite: Junior or senior standing, HIST 395 and permission of the department head.

 As part of a summer internship at Old Fort Jackson in Savannah, Georgia, undergraduate history major Julie Herczeg(standing at far left in photo), worked as a costumed interpreter and a special events coordinator for a "Georgia Homefront Weekend," which included demonstrations of Civil War homefront life and a Georgia women's militia organization, shown here.



Introduction to Public History (HIST 396/596/ARTH 396) provides an introduction to the varied and interdisciplinary "field" of Public History--such as community/local history, historic preservation, archives, historical archaeology, museum studies, business and policy history, documentary editing and publishing, and documentary films--through readings, class discussions, occasional guest speakers, and occasional field trips.  

Historical Society

Students in the Material Culture course often visit museums and historic sites as part of their course work.  At museums such as the Shenandoah Valley Folk Art and Heritage Center, shown here, students go behind the scenes to learn about how the museum researches and cares for artifacts in its growing collection.Primary Electives (6-9 credits)

American Business History (HIST 310) is a survey of the role of business in the United States from the Colonial period to the present, with emphasis on the entrepreneurial spirit, business developments, and innovations and the relationship between the federal government and commerce.

Historical Archaeology (HIST/ANTH 331) introduces students to the purposes, subject matter, methodology, and historical background of the discipline of historical archaeology. Building on research issues and methodologies of anthropological archaeology and history, the multidisciplinary aspects of this field are introduced through field trips, projects, guest lectures, readings, and classroom presentations. Prerequisite: ANTH 197 or HIST equivalent.

Farm Trip


Students in the Workshop in Local History course visited the Virginia Poultry Growers' processing plant (top left) and several Shenandoah Valley farms(top right and bottom left) as part of a class project on farming and the poultry industry in the region.

Introduction to Museum Work (HIST /ARTH 394) covers the practice and philosophy of museum work, including the areas of exhibit design, conservation, registration, education and administration. Subject is taught from the perspective of the museum profession and is applicable to diverse disciplines and types of collections. Formerly ARTH/HIST 494. Workshop in Local History (HIST 438) focuses in depth on selected historical topics relating to the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding region. Students will undertake primary research and collaborate on a final project. See e-campus for current classes. The course may be repeated when content changes. Prerequisite: GHIST 225.

Oral History  (HIST/SCOM 441) explores the theoretical and methodological questions that have been raised in the field of oral history related to evidence and objectivity, personal and collective memory, narrative structure, ethics and social justice. Throughout the course students will conduct multiple interviews in the Shenandoah Valley and prepare a final presentation based on this material. Prerequisite: HIST 395 or permission of instructor.

Editing Historical Documents (HIST 491/591) is a seminar in the techniques of analyzing manuscript collections in order to create an edition of historical documents. Study will address the theory and practice of historical documentary editions, including collecting, selecting, transcribing, annotating, proofing, illustrating, indexing, and publishing. Prerequisite: HIST 395 or permission of instructor.

Material Culture (HIST 492/592/ANTH/ARTH 492) provides a broad introduction to the multidisciplinary "field" of material culture studies through readings, written assignments, in-class exercises, and field trips. The course introduces ways of looking at and learning from objects and examines how scholars from several disciplines have used material culture in their work. Prerequisite: HIST 395 or permission of instructor.

Fort Egypt Fort Egypt 2

Fort Egypt 3

Professor Darryl Nash and students from the Material Culture and Historic Preservation classes inspecting the interior of Fort Egypt, an eighteenth-century dwelling in Page County, Virginia.

Historic Preservation (HIST 493/593/ARTH 493) is an introduction to the philosophy and techniques of historic preservation, guidelines for restoration, state and National Register forms and procedures, historic architecture, structural analysis, restoration techniques as well as the business aspects of historic preservation projects. Field trips are a major component of the course. Prerequisite: HIST 395 or permission of instructor.

Introduction to Archives and Manuscripts (HIST 495/595) is an introduction to archives administration and the principles and practices of archival arrangement and description. Through targeted readings and leadership roles in discussion, as well as field trips and projects, students will explore topics in appraisal, acquisition, preservation, and intellectual and physical access, as well as contemporary ethical, legal, and technological issues. Prerequisite: HIST 395 or permission of instructor.

Secondary Electives (3 credits)

The Automobile in Twentieth-Century America (HIST 326) uses the automobile as a window into 20th-century American life. It examines the influence of automobility on patterns of work and leisure; on struggles over gender, race, and ethnicity; on individualism, consumerism, and government regulation. It also surveys mass automobility's effects on our physical and natural environments and looks at future prospects of automobility in the information age.

Car class

Students in the Automobile in Twentieth-Century America class on a field trip to the Eastside Speedway in Waynesboro, VA on the evening of the stock car season final.

Technology in America (HIST 327)is an historical survey of the complex and changing relationship between technology and American society from Native American canoes to the Internet. Attention is given to technology's role in relations of power, in the home, on the farm, in the workplace and on the battlefield.

U.S. Urban History (HIST/SOCI 338) examines the complex social interactions among people in the U.S. urban areas from the colonial period through the present focusing on the themes of race, gender, sexuality, labor, housing, consumption and the environment. Participants of this course will engage in a collective research project examining the transformation of Harrisonburg in the post-World War II era.

Research Apprenticeship in History (HIST 360) provides students with advanced research and writing opportunities. Student learning contract must be approved before a student can enroll. Periodic student reports and seminars required. Open to history majors only. Prerequisite: HIST 395.

Travel Studies Seminar (HIST 391) is designed to encourage the student to augment the regular academic program through independent investigation including organized travel-study. Prearrangements must be made with a designated faculty member who will direct the study with preparatory instructions and final requirements. Prerequisite: permission of the department head. See Office of International Programs link for more information on the programs listed below. 

The Summer in Ghana Program focuses on history and African experiences, including lectures in religion, literature, linguistics, development issues, and women and the family.  See Ghana Program link for further details.


Students in the Summer in Ghana Program visit a pineapple plantation.

Workshop in Colonial American Life (HIST 402/502) is a comparative study of life in 18th-century Virginia and Massachusetts. Colonial Massachusetts is studied through the use of printed materials, films and lectures. Published sources, lectures and a four-day study visit to Colonial Williamsburg are used for the study of Virginia. Supplemental fee required. Prerequisite: HIST 395 or permission of instructor.

Workshop in Civil War Virginia (HIST 403/503) examines the impact of the Civil War upon Virginia and its citizens.  It explores the secession crisis, the revolution in firepower that forced changes in battlefield tactics and war aims, and the development of "hard war."  A four-day battlefield tour will reinforce ideas discussed in the classroom.  Supplemental fee required.  Prerequisite: HIST 395 or permission of instructor.

Dillard battlefield battlefield

Students in the summer Workshop in Civil War Virginia visit numerous Civil War Sites as part of their course work. Professor David Dillard and students discuss the Battle of Bull Run (Mannassas, VA) (Left) and visit the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA (Right).

Monticello (HIST/ARTH 406) is a seminar on the architecture and material culture of Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. The course will examine the house's design, artwork, decorative arts, mechanical devices, landscape/garden design and Mulberry Row. Topics will include African American artisans at the Monticello joinery, Jefferson's Indian Hall, and European and African American domestic life in the Federal Period. Required field trips. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

The Museum: Histories and Controversies (HIST/ARTH 408) centers on art museums in the United States. Topics include the historical development of museums, related cultures of display, recent debates on institutional mission and responsibility, and contemporary artists who employ the museum as a medium, subject matter or site. Required field trips. Prerequisite: GARTH 206 or permission of instructor.

Field techniques in Archaeology (ANTH 494) is a laboratory course directed at teaching students the basic field techniques and procedures of historic and prehistoric archaeology. Classroom lectures will present techniques and relevant aspects of method and theory.

brenn mill brenn mill 1

Students from the American Material Culture and Historic Preservation courses visit an early nineteenth-century Rockingham County mill.