Public History

Museums, Archives, Historic Sites

Undergraduate and graduate WIU History majors and alums have pursued a variety of internships and careers directly related to their History major in various kinds of public history, where they work to make history interesting and accessible to the general public. Public history positions include museum directors and curators, historic preservationists with state and local governments, archivists, research librarians, library book conservators, genealogical consultants, and National Park Service and National Forest Service interpretive rangers. See below for additional on-line and print resources  related to WIU students and alumni in public history.

A few of the WIU History alums in public history positions:

Cliff Haka (1971): Director of Libraries at Michigan State University

Henry Crawford (1983): Curator of the Texas Tech University Museum

Irene Herold (2004): Dean of the Library at Keene State College (New Hampshire)

Blake Bell (2009): Park Historian at Homestead National Monument (Nebraska)

Ben Justman (2010): Director of the Sarpy County Historical Museum (Nebraska)


Archives Intern Marlaina Haberman

Public History Internships

WIU History undergraduate and graduate students interested in careers in public history may complete internships with the Western Illinois History Museum in Macomb; the Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) at WIU's Malpass Library; the John Wood Mansion in Quincy; the Des Moines County Heritage Center in Burlington, Iowa; the Rock Island Arsenal Archives and Museum in Illinois; the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois; the Kibbe Museum in Carthage, Illinois; the Putnam Museum in Davenport, Iowa; the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County; the Princeville Heritage Center in Illinois; and other museums, archives, and historical sites in the region.

Undergraduate History majors interested in internships should contact Ralph Heissinger, Undergraduate History Advisor (309-298-1129), or Dr. Jennifer McNabb, Interim History Department Chair (309-298-1053). Graduate History students interested in internships should contact Dr. Edward Woell, Graduate History Advisor (309-298-2977).

Students working at the Western Illinois History Museum

Working Behind the Scenes at the Western Illinois History Museum

Careers in Public History

The National Council on Public History maintains a website with information on a variety of careers for history students, as well as listings of specific job openings and internships in the area of public history.

The Museum Employment Resource Center maintains information on position openings in museums nationwide at its website.

The Job Headquarters of the American Association of Museums also has information on job openings.

Visit the On-Line Career Center of the Society of American Archivists for help in obtaining archival positions.

The National Park Service (NPS) has a number of career and internship opportunities as Park Rangers available for History majors. Some are seasonal (summer) jobs or are internships specifically designed for college students . Students graduating with at least a 3.5 GPA are eligible for special preference under the NPS's "Outstanding Scholar" special hiring provision for career positions.

In addition, every Department in the federal government, as well as the Peace Corps and each branch of the military, employs historians. The U.S. government maintains a website with information on all federal job openings . For history-related jobs with the National Park Service, the U.S. military, and other federal agencies, enter "historian" into the keyword box at their website.

Also, many major corporations and labor unions (including, for example, Coca-Cola, John Deere, Anheiser Busch, and the AFL-CIO) employ historians, including in their corporate museums.


IRAD Intern Victoria Stewart in the Archives

For Further Information

On-line Resources:

WIU Career Services offers information on public history job opportunities, as well as resume writing, job search strategies, and interviewing techniques. Using your WIU student ID number, you can register on the e-recruiting site used to match university students statewide with employers around the nation. Or sign into the Leatherneck Link , using your ECOM username and password, to access an on-line library full of information about employers and career opportunities. Remember, it's never too early in your college career to visit one of the Career Fairs sponsored regularly by Career Services.

The website of the American Historical Association includes information on public history job options for History majors.

Careers for Students of History by Constance Schultz, et. al., has much useful information on public history career possibilities.

What Can I Do With a History Major? by Prof. Catherine Lavender, provides additional food for thought for History majors interested in public history.

The Careers in History website, hosted by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, includes lots of ideas about the many public history career options available to History graduates.

Careers for Students of History gives an overview of the many public history options available to those with a degree in History.

Applying History connects the study of history and historians’ methods to nonacademic careers in private enterprise and public service.

History & the U.S. Army explains the many ways in which historians serve their nation through the armed forces.


Print Resources (available for browsing in the History Advisor's office ( Ralph Heissinger , 436 Morgan Hall) or the Graduate Director's office  (Dr. Woell , 432 Morgan Hall):

Camenson, Blythe. McGraw-Hill's Careers for History Buffs. 3d ed. NY: McGraw-Hill, 2009. [436 Morgan]

Dunham, Sarah, Lisa Vollmer, and the Staff of the Princeton Review. What to do with your History or Political Science Degree. NY: Random House, 2007. [436 Morgan]

Facts on File. Top Careers for History Graduates. New York: Checkmark Books, 2004. [436 Morgan]

Get Into Graduate School: A Strategic Approach for Master's and Doctoral Candidates, 3d ed. NY: Kaplan Publishing, 2008. [436 Morgan and 203E Morgan]

Lambert, Stephen and Julie DeGalan. Great Jobs for History Majors. 3d ed. NY: McGraw-Hill, 2008. [436 Morgan]

Peter, Robert L. Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning a Master's or Ph.D. NY: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997. [436 Morgan and 203E Morgan]

Schulz, Constance, Page Putnam Miller, Aaron Marrs, and Kevin Allen. Careers for Students of History. New York: American Historical Association and National Council for Public History, 2002. [436 Morgan]

GreekAt Acropolis

WIU's Study Abroad Programs Provide Great Preparation for Public History Careers