Concentration Requirements

All concentration students need to take HIST 525 Introduction to Public History during the fall of their first year and HIST 750 Internship Experience during the spring of their first year.

Students also need to take two public history electives. Some options for courses outside of the history department are available for concentration students.

All concentration students must complete a thesis project (please see guidelines below). During the fall and spring of the second year, all students need to enroll in HIST 801/802 to complete the thesis requirements.

Thesis Guidelines:

The purpose of the Public History Thesis is to conceptualize and execute a capstone research project that allows public history students to showcase a specific set of skills developed in the MA program. The final project is also an important component to a student’s portfolio and/or resume for the job market. As with traditional history MA theses, public history theses are rigorous historical works that must be based on original scholarship and present novel arguments. In addition to primary source material, the research for a public history thesis must be situated in scholarly historical sources and professional literature (studies, white papers, nomination forms, etc.), and be grounded in methodologies specific to public-facing work (museum studies, historical archeology, historic preservation, oral history, etc.).

The thesis topic should be determined no later than the beginning of the third semester in the program.

Thesis Committee:

The thesis committee will consist of an expert in the historical topic (thesis director), selected from the history department members from the joint History faculty, the Public History Coordinator, and a third reader. An optional fourth reader, who is a specialist in the public history field of your chosen project is encouraged. Note: at least one member of the thesis committee must be drawn from CofC and at least one from the Citadel.   


Before beginning work on the thesis project, each student must submit a detailed thesis proposal outlining the project, major arguments, working bibliography of primary and secondary sources, and methodology, which is due on the first day of class in the fall or spring semester. The thesis proposal must be approved by the joint graduate committee.

The Thesis:

The thesis will consist of two equal parts: an historical/methodological analysis and an appendix.

The analysis will be composed as an academic article. This section, approximately 30-35 pages, will explain the necessity of the project, its central arguments, and its historical significance. The historical section must present a historically based argument that is supported through original research that will also provide the historical context. This section will also address the historiography of the subject.

The appendix will be the public-facing project (please consult the list of examples of potential appendices at the end of these guidelines). The appendix will open with a methodological review, rooted in the relevant public history field(s) of the project that demonstrates the student’s understanding of the theories, methodologies, and best practices of these fields. This section will explain the conceptual framework for the public-facing aspect of the project. This section should also explain the ways in which the project incorporated community engagement. A list of examples of the sorts of appendices students might complete is included below.  

Once the thesis committee has approved the student’s thesis, the final component of the public thesis project is a public presentation open to students, staff, faculty, and members of the public. This type of presentation, often referred to as a public dissemination of historical knowledge, is typical for public-facing projects and is a vital aspect of public history work.

Examples of Possible Appendices:

There are various kinds of projects that students can choose to undertake for their appendix section, the public-facing part of their thesis. Here are a few examples, but the list is not exhaustive:

  1. Archival: The student would focus on a collection of archival materials, so the project would need to be completed in conjunction with an archival repository. The appendix would consist of the finding aid for the collection as well as an annotated bibliography relating to the content of the collection.
  2. Historic Preservation: This would most likely consist of a complete National Register of Historic Places nomination or a historic neighborhood survey. The analysis would consist of a historical essay of the period of significance and the property or properties’ contribution(s) to that period, and the appendix will consist of a completed nomination form.
  3. Museum: A museum-based project can consist of a design plan for a physical exhibit with identified objects with exhibit tags, and should be completed in conjunction with a museum or historic site with museum holdings.
  4. Oral History: An oral history project should typically consist of 5-10 interviews for a total of 10-20 hours. At least four interviews must be transcribed as part of the appendix. Release forms, interview abstracts, and field notes would also be part of the appendix.
  5. Digital Project: A digital project might consist of a digital exhibit, with exhibit text and digital images and digitized archival documents, or a digital walking tour. A digital walking tour should be completed in conjunction with the Preservation Society of Charleston, The Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston, the Historic Charleston Foundation, etc.