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Public History | Why American?

Public History students learn about historic site management and interpretation at George Washington's Mount Vernon.

At American University, students study the best practices of public history both in and outside the classroom. As part of the MA in Public History or as an outside field for the PhD, students learn to work collaboratively as they pursue meaningful historical research and projects alongside our faculty and partners. Read more about what makes American’s program unique below.

Work Experience

American University’s public history concentration is designed to give students vital hands-on experience in the field. Through internships and classroom-based practicum projects, students learn to collaborate with local communities, public institutions, and each other. Learning through practice, students develop versatile skill sets and outstanding resumes. Take a look at a few of the projects completed by our public history students.

Distinguished Partners

AU’s program affords students opportunities to work alongside professionals at the nation’s premier federal and non-profit institutions, from the National Park Service to the Smithsonian institution. Students not only forge lasting bonds between each other and faculty, but also develop professional relationships that extend beyond the mere application of public history coursework and theory. See a full list of our many partners here.

Faculty Support

The Department of History at American University has a deep commitment to public service and to mentoring its graduate students. Students learn from experienced scholars whose work blurs the lines between the academy and the public. With the close support and guidance of faculty, students acquire the tools necessary to succeed in a dynamic field. Meet our faculty.

Intuitive Curriculum

AU’s public history program encourages students to follow their passions. Students have the freedom to develop their own unique set of skills and expertise, pursuing internships and classwork in the fields of their choice. (See American Historical Association's proposal for history graduate programs.) Meet some of the program's alums and learn about their experiences at AU.

Historical Rigor

In addition to understanding the best practices in public history, students cultivate a deep knowledge of their chosen historical field, learning how professional historians conduct scholarly analysis. Students complete AU’s program with a record of original research and command of historiographical literature.


The public history program at AU seeks to foster a sense of community and collegiality among its graduate students. Both in and outside the classroom, students develop friendships that provide support and a lasting professional network. In recent years, students have arranged trips to historic sites in Philadelphia, planned weekly happy hours, and driven cross-country to conferences. Browse through some of our student photos and recollections on our Facebook page.