HIS 440: Public History Practicum Reflection

I really enjoyed having the opportunity to create my own exhibit this semester in HIS 440. While it seemed daunting at first and difficult at times, I am very happy with how this course went and how the exhibit turned out overall. It was also great to learn about what goes into creating an exhibit, and I think that taking HIS 341: Introduction to Public History at the same time was really beneficial.

The readings and course materials used at the beginning of the semester were definitely helpful in building a foundation for the exhibit. Prior to this class and HIS 341, I had never learned about the field of public history in any of my other history courses. I never realized how much thought has to go into creating an exhibit prior to this semester, so the readings from the textbook, as well as the case studies, really helped me understand the process.

Sara Shields

After the introductory readings it was time to get started on the research and writing part of the course. At first, I had no clue what I wanted the topic of the exhibit to be. Knowing that it could be almost anything I wanted, the possibilities were endless. After choosing my topic, I got started on the research. This definitely seemed difficult at first, but once I familiarized myself with my secondary and primary sources, it was really enjoyable. The order in which assignments were due couldn’t have been better. Starting with the annotated bibliography, I used each assignment from the previous week to help me in the next one. By the end of the course, all of my research was laid out in front of me and all I had to do was piece it together for the final exhibit. This helped me realize that when you have a difficult task, you just need to trust the process. When I saw all of the assignments on the syllabus, I thought they would be impossible to complete. However, each assignment I completed made the next one easier.

I thought that every component of the class was great. Even though this semester was different because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it didn’t have much of an effect on this course. We met weekly over Zoom and Dr. Black gave me feedback on all of my assignments very quickly. The feedback I received was extremely helpful and made me think more about the decisions I was making for the exhibit. The only thing that may have gone different if we weren’t currently going through a pandemic was that the exhibit probably would have been in-person and not digital. However, I think that the exhibit still turned out great despite it being digital. Many museums and institutions are doing online tours and exhibits right now because of COVID-19, so I think that it was important to learn about how museums are adapting to this difficult time.

Overall, this course has probably been one of my favorites. It gave me hands-on experience and equipped me with skills that I will need in my future career. As I said previously, taking this class concurrently with HIS 341: Introduction to Public History was very beneficial because each week in HIS 341, I learned new information that was helpful in creating my exhibit. I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in or wants to know more about the field of public history.

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