Concentrations in Public History

Public history embraces a wide array of history-related fields. The MTSU Public History program offers specialized education and professional training in historic preservation, cultural resource management, museum managementarchival managementand oral history. A sixth concentration in historical archaeology is in development. The Program also collaborates with the Walker Library Media Studio to develop digital collections and other digital initiatives.

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Historic Preservation
Historic preservation involves the identification, preservation, and interpretation of historic resources determined to be "significant" in American history. Examples of significant historic resources include properties such as: buildings, structures, objects, districts, archaeological sites, cultural and religious sites, historic landscapes, and examples of innovative architecture and engineering. Whether considered significant for their historic associations or architectural aesthetics, preservationists approach historic resources as "texts" that help reveal details about the past lives and values of the people who created them. In addition to their utility as sources for research, historic resources provide communities with a sense of character and identity. The preservation of our historic built environment is vital to our understanding of history at the national, state, and local levels.

Students trained at MTSU will be equipped to work with historic resources in a variety of public and private settings, including such venues as downtown historic districts, state historic preservation offices, military bases, national parks, federal agencies, historic sites, preservation or cultural resources management consulting firms, architectural and engineering companies, departments of transportation, and various non-profit organizations. In recent decades, historic preservation has become increasingly focused on economic development programs that adapt or recycle historic buildings for such new uses as offices, stores, restaurants, museums, and housing. Historic preservation planning is another field attracting increasing attention, particularly as communities struggle to deal with the destructive effects of suburban "sprawl" on historic buildings and rural resources.
See: Center for Historic Preservation

Cultural Resource Management
Of the four area concentrations, students are least familiar with cultural resources management or CRM. In fact, historic preservation is integral to cultural resources management (identification, preservation, and interpretation of historic resources), both are shaped strongly by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which created the National Register of Historic Places, and a variety of other laws and regulations. For example, both fields require knowledge of historic architecture, but CRM incorporates the study and analysis of cultural landscapes, archaeological sites, natural resources, and Native-American burial grounds.

CRM typically involves the responsibilities of major federal land-management agencies in the United States such as the National Park Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bureau of Land Management. With jurisdiction over millions of acres of land and cultural resources (buildings, objects, sites, structures, and districts), these agencies operate within a regulatory system that requires not only careful stewardship of the national domain but also interpretive programs for public education and entertainment.

The training and skills involved in historic preservation and CRM are closely intertwined, both conceptually and organizationally. Separating the two areas of concentration can be difficult, but they do have distinguishing characteristics. Moreover, MTSU's other two areas, Museum Management and Archival Management, also deal with the identification, preservation, and interpretation of "historic resources."

Museum Management
The museum concentration at MTSU is designed to give students the training they need to succeed in a wide variety of museum careers, such as museum administrators, curators, registrars, and educators. The goals of our museum studies courses are to provide in-depth knowledge of the theoretical and methodological issues that effect today's museums and to apply that knowledge with practical, hands-on experience. Our course offerings emphasize applied training in museum administration, collections management, exhibit development, fundraising, museum education, and other technical and communication skills. As new technologies and ideas continue to transform traditional museum practices and employment patterns, our concentration in museums has responded to these changes by offering the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed by current and future museum professionals.

Archival Management
Governments, organizations, and individuals throughout history have recorded information in a variety of textual, visual, aural, and electronic documents as they carried out their daily activities. Those documents preserve personal, community and institutional memory and extend that memory over time, space, and place. Individuals and societies depend on these documents to establish their legal rights and to insure the accountability of governments, businesses, and other institutions. Society charges archivists with selecting and preserving those documents that have enduring legal or social value and making them available to present and future users.

Students in the archival concentration acquire the skills they need to meet that responsibility. Introductory and advanced courses cover the seven domains of archival practice recognized by the Society of American Archivists and the Academy of Certified Archivists: appraisal, arrangement and description, access, preservation, outreach, professional responsibilities, and management. Students also have an opportunity to achieve proficiency in a single domain through an archival practicum and to acquire broad professional experience through an internship in one of a variety of cooperating repositories.
See: Albert Gore Research Center, Center for Popular Music, Rutherford County Archives  

Middle Tennessee State University is a member of the Archival Education Collaborative (AEC). MTSU and the other AEC schools, Auburn University, Louisiana State University, and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, share faculty and students through classes delivered via live video streaming over Internet 2; they provide their students one of the finest archives education programs in the United States.
See: AEC

Graduates can expect to find employment in national, state, and local government archives; manuscripts repositories and special collections associated with historical societies, educational institutions, and other cultural agencies; and a wide range of organizations and businesses. They should also be able to pass the examination to become a Certified Archivist.