New M.A. Program Trains Historians for Careers in “Public Culture”

January 31, 2012

Preparing a new generation of historians for careers beyond academe, St. John’s has launched a graduate program in Public History that combines advanced historical research with technology and electronic media for use in managing public and private information collections.

The 33-credit Master of Arts degree program is part of a new, interdisciplinary initiative by faculty from across the 18 academic departments in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the University’s oldest division. They form the new Committee on Public History, Museum and Archive Studies (PHMAS).

Classes begin in the Fall 2012 semester. Those interested are invited to apply now.

Advances in computer technology and electronic media are creating new demands for well-educated professionals to gather, organize and help disseminate vast stores of information shared by repositories of “public culture” — archives, libraries and museums as well as corporate and private agencies.

Taught by faculty with strong ties in the industry, the graduate program in Public History meets this need. It also equips students for careers in heritage tourism — managing, preserving and guiding tourists to cultural and historic sites around the world.

“This is an exciting program that embodies St. John’s mission,” said Jeffrey Fagen, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Dean, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Students engage in advanced scholarship providing specific, industry-related skills students will use in today’s constantly evolving professional landscape.”

“With the growth in media technologies, history majors and other liberal arts students are especially well-suited for public culture careers,” said Kristin Szylvian, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History and Director of PHMAS. “This program is an important step toward success in the field.”

Students will benefit from the advantages of St. John’s New York City location along with the University’s international reach, Dr. Szylvian added. “New York City has many of the world’s most interesting archives, libraries and museums,” she said. “Our students also will be able to study and gain internship experience around the world, through the University’s campus in Rome, Italy, and our facility in Paris, France.”

PHMAS answers the recent call for universities to rethink the way they train historians, Dr. Szylvian explained. In a recent article published by the American Historical Association, authors Anthony Grafton and Jim Grossman suggest that a new generation of historians must be “contributors to public culture” by working in “the exploding realm of digital history and humanities.”

“The idea,” Dr. Szylvian explained, “is that the traditional venue of academe is no longer the only source of employment for historians. There are emerging fields that need a historian’s skills in collecting, interpreting and disseminating information.”

To learn more about the Master of Arts Degree Program in Public History, contact Dr. Szylvian: (718) 990-5239; [email protected]