What Is Public History?

The Board of Directors of the National Council on Public History defines public history as "a movement, methodology, and approach that promotes the collaborative study and practice of history; its practitioners embrace a mission to make their special insights accessible and useful to the public."  (See:

Most public history practice takes place outside of a traditional classroom setting.  Even so, public history is much more than shifting the location of employment.  Public history is a way of understanding and practicing the historian’s craft that emphasizes engaging a variety of public audiences.

Public historians are educators and teachers, formally and informally engaging past and present in a range of public venues.  Increasingly, communication means not only the ability to write clearly and speak effectively but also the ability to make appropriate use of technology.

Problem solving and collaboration are cornerstones of public history.  Public history problems and projects often originate with someone else or grow out of interdisciplinary or collaborative discussion.  Public historians may work in situations where they share both inquiry and "authority."

Historical perspective, with its emphasis on time and context, is central to the work of public historians, but so is the ability to represent the discipline while working cooperatively within an interdisciplinary environment.  A public historian should understand the value of networking and of on-going professional development.