Introducing the Program in Local and Community History

Wichita State University’s Public History Program is changing to a program in “Local and Community History.” This change better reflects where the program has gone in recent years and opens up new emphases and opportunities.

The Local and Community History Program’s mission is to study the local area and the communities within it. Students will take a cornerstone introductory course that highlights specific skills and research techniques. Students will take a course in either the History of Kansas or the History of Wichita as well as a specialty course or internship to deepen their skill set. Students may also use this track in combination with other opportunities, such as museum studies and public administration courses. As with the Public History Program, students also take a core of common history classes, two seminars, comprehensive exams, and a thesis.

The Public History Program at WSU was one of the oldest such programs in the Midwest and was an early leader in the Public History movement under the guidance of figures such as Hal Rothman and Rebecca Conard. Officially a track within the Department of History’s master’s program, Public History featured a core of classes that prepared students for careers outside of the academic world including museums, historic preservation, and archives. Public History remains central to the program, since many local and community historians work with and for museums, architectural consulting firms, libraries, and public agencies. However, the tools and techniques of studying “Nearby History” can also relate to the work of classroom teachers who use local examples. Meanwhile, a growing number of academic scholars are finding that local stories can deepen and shape our understanding of larger national and even global trends. Even those who go on to careers in the military, business, and the professions will find in Local and Community History a set of resources to apply to their various careers and projects.

The shift makes the program at the same time broader in application and more focused in topic. “Universities today are called upon to be ‘Stewards of Place,’” says program director Jay M. Price. “Institutions like Wichita State have to be active participants in their community. Reaching out to record, preserve, research, and present the myriad of local stories helps us all.”

The official change will occur in spring 2016 although efforts to highlight the program and its opportunities are already starting to take place. For more information, contact Jay M. Price at jay.price@wichita.edu or by calling 316-978-7792.