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Public History | Alumnae & Alumni

Allison Boals

The combination of learned theory and hands-on work provided by AU has allowed me to pursue a diverse and interesting career path in public history and the museum world. I utilized my time in graduate school to maximize internship opportunities and pursue development work at the Smithsonian Institution, grants management at the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and museum education at Tudor Place Historic House and Garden. After graduation, I worked as a contractor at the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum where I helped staff prepare for the exhibit Jubilee: African American Celebration. Next, I moved to a permanent position at a small exhibit design firm in Virginia called The Design Minds, where I served as a Content Developer. My job included research, exhibit planning, label writing, project management, and proposal writing for clients ranging from the National Park Service to the Alexandria Sanitation Authority. Three years—and my third job!—later, I found my way back to the Institute of Museum and Library Services and I am currently a Program Specialist for the Museums for America and Native American/Native Hawaiian Museum Services Program grants.

Jodi Boyle

As an undergraduate history major at Douglass College, Rutgers University I enjoyed both coursework and research on various history topics. However, upon graduation, I began a career in public relations, which paid well, but was not associated with history. Several years later, missing my old major, I entered the graduate history program at American University. I chose to concentrate on public history with an objective of ultimately securing a position in libraries and/or archives. While at AU, I worked for over two years in the Department of Archives and Special Collections at Bender Library, participated in archives internships and projects through the History Department, and took formal classes in archives education thanks to AU's relationships with the University of Maryland and Catholic University. Armed with my master's degree and graduate training, I first worked as a project archivist on the PNC-Riggs Bank Collection at George Washington University, a job I literally dreamed about, and currently hold a position as a project archivist at the University at Albany. Today my responsibilities include arranging, describing, and preserving records from manuscript collections, providing reference services for researchers, and supervising graduate and undergraduate student efforts in the department. In addition to applying daily insights from my archives education, my job requires that I regularly call upon my interdisciplinary graduate skills in exhibit development, interpretation and traditional history research and writing. My very fulfilling and enjoyable second career would not be possible without all of my training and experiences at AU.

Priya Chhaya

My interest in public history began with my undergraduate degree in history from The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA where I realized that my passion for the past was inextricably linked with the stories and material culture that had been left behind.  Immediately after graduating I enrolled in American University for my masters degree in history concentrating in public history. My time at American provided a variety of different skill sets from working with digital and new media, to writing for different audiences. These skills coupled with practical internships at the Smithsonian, the British Museum, and the National Park Service, helped me to expand my knowledge base and further define my career goals. Since graduation in 2006 I have worked at the National Trust for Historic Preservation managing online content for Forum, the preservation professionals membership program. In this capacity I get to look at public history  through practical applications to saving places. In addition to my work with Forum and training programs, I also write for the PreservationNation.org blog. You can learn more about my work through my personal blog here.

Kelsey Fritz

Since graduating from American University in May of 2012, I have been working as the Collections Manager for the Center for Puppetry Arts Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. As Collections Manager, I am responsible for maintaining the museum’s object collection, library, and archives. The Center for Puppetry Arts is the largest non-profit in the United States devoted to the art of puppetry, and is currently preparing to expand its’ museum space in anticipation of acquiring a large number of objects from the Jim Henson Legacy collection. The public history program at American University helped prepare me for my current position by providing me with the hands on field experience needed to learn the best practices of the museum field.

Kelly Gannon

A few weeks after graduating with my MA in Public History in May 2011, I began working for the District of Columbia Public School system (DCPS) in the Office of Curriculum and Instruction. There, I manage a Teaching American History (TAH) grant that provides professional development and graduate-level coursework to DCPS teachers. She also contributes history content knowledge and helps design professional development services for DCPS social studies teachers. AU’s public history program prepared me for a variety of jobs after graduating; the structure of the program gave me a broad knowledge base while still allowing me to develop the projects and professional skills that interested me. The TAH grant is a 3-5 year grant with DCPS. After that time, I contemplated moving on to a PhD and/or pursuing other “front-of-the-house” public history jobs, such as museum education, public programming, or museum curation.

Jordan Grant

After finishing my MA in Public History in the spring of 2011, I began pursuing a PhD in 20th U.S. History at American University. As a public history student, I developed a keen interest in the digital humanities, particularly in how new media provides novel opportunities for the public to explore cultural institutions and meet the experts who "curate" the past. Currently, I work as a web design intern for both the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum.

Lindsay Flanagan Huban

While working on my MA in History at American University in 2007, I began volunteering at the American Red Cross. Initially it was part of a class, but I enjoyed giving tours of the historic national headquarters building and continued to do so after the semester ended. Several months later I started an internship in the historical resources department and was hired to a full time position shortly after that. My job has three main components. I manage the tour program, work in the archive, and assist with developing exhibits throughout the headquarters space. Through my position I recruit and train volunteers, respond to research requests, process collections, and interact with the public. Without my experiences and training at American University, I would not be successful in my current position. The skills I acquired in interpretation, exhibit design and development, and collections management have served me well and I continue to use them every day.

Jen Jablonsky

Since graduating from AU in May 2011, I am continuing to work for the National Park Service at Arlington House. I am also working as a researcher at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The public history program at American University has given me invaluable experiences working in the field. My practicum project and internships gave me the ability to put theory into practice and made me more marketable in the job market. View my online portfolio here.

Stephanie Jacobe

My passion within the field of public history is public interpretation. I began my career in public history at Ferry Farm, George Washington's boyhood home, which is a developing historic site with a focus in public archaeology. Directly interacting with the public is very important to me and I have worked as an interpretive guide for over ten years. While completing my MA in art history with concentrations in architectural history and museum studies I began working at the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond (VHS). At the VHS I worked with the museum collection eventually working my way up to assistant registrar. When I began the PhD program at American University my intention was to seek a higher-level curatorial and museum administrative positions. Presently I am a PhD candidate at AU and work as an historian for a cultural resources management firm in D.C.

Amy J. Johnson

I graduated from AU in 2006 with an MA in History with a concentration in Public History. I am now a 4th year PhD Candidate in American Studies at Brown University. My dissertation focuses on a topic I started at AU -- the intersection of race and space in the formation of Los Angeles’s Chinatown at the turn of the twentieth century. As a graduate student at Brown, I continued to pursue my interest in public history and museum work by co-curating three exhibitions: Chow Mein, Chicken Wings, and Cheeseburgers: Recalling Downcity Chinese in the Postwar Period at the Culinary Arts Museum at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, and the Chinese Storefront Library in Boston, MA; Food on the Move at the Culinary Arts Museum; and Remember the Old Times: Cape Verdean Community in Fox Point, 1920 to 1945 at the John Nicholas Brown Center for Public Humanities and Cultural Heritage in Providence, RI. I was recently hired as an Assistant Managing Editor for Digital Humanities Quarterly, an open-access and peer-reviewed online journal discussing digital media in the humanities, and I also serve as the co-chair of the Student Committee for the American Studies Association. The breadth of experiences and knowledge I gained during my time at AU helped prepare me to fill these varied roles and continue to have a lasting impact on my career goals.

Mekala Krishnan

I am the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Fellow in Indian and Himalayan Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As the point person in the reinstallation of the PMA's collection of South Asian art, I work with both the curatorial and education departments in researching the collection and reinterpreting it for the public. This involves everything from overseeing visitor surveys and drafting a fresh interpretive plan, to re-thinking physical presentation and design, and coming up with innovative delivery methods for content. I will also be working on the programming around the new galleries and community outreach to widen the visitor base and engage more of the local heritage community. The aim is to activate the artworks and engage audiences who may not be familiar with broader culture, history and context. The galleries will re-open in 2015.

Stephanie Massaro

I work with the National Park Service's Department of Cultural Resources in Washington, D.C. Now at NPS for three years, I was hired as part of a long-term digitization project focusing on documentation and photographs for the National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmark programs. I also perform tasks in public outreach and interpretation using social media, writing and creating website features, and working on print publications. Concurrently, I work part-time for the International Spy Museum as a museum educator. There, I work specifically with Youth Education programs. The mission: teach students, and sometimes their parents, the tradecraft skills of espionage and while exploring one of the most unique D.C. museums. As chair of the American Association of Museum's Emerging Museum Professionals D.C. chapter, I organize monthly networking and professional development opportunities through behind-the-scenes tours of D.C. museums and cultural institutions. More information on Emerging Museum Professionals can be found at www.facebook.com/dcmetroemp.

Loren Miller

I am currently pursuing my PhD in history at American University. My areas of interest are modern American history, women and gender, and visual and material culture, specifically fashion history. I am working on my dissertation, which focuses on how society used the concept of “glamour” to recruit women into the military during World War II, and in turn how servicewomen interpreted those messages. I am also consulting on various public history projects. Presently, I am developing a program for the Securities Exchange Commission Historical Society on Hollywood’s depiction of financial regulation. View my online portfolio here.

Linda Neylon

I earned my bachelor's degree in history from Millersville University of Pennsylvania and my MA in history with a concentration in public history from American University. I am currently working as the assistant program director for education at Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site. Like many people working in the field of public history, my daily responsibilities vary. The main responsibilities of my job, though, are centered around the interpretation of Eastern State Penitentiary for children and families. I am currently working to make our school tours more interactive and to make them more useful and accessible for teachers. I also have partnered with local schools and community organizations, helping kids to understand our history, as well has how we learn it. My training in public history at American University was invaluable, in understanding the basics of interpretation, how the public views museums, and how they connect with history. I use my training and experience that I gained at American every day, researching and developing programs for and with the public that will interest and engage them with their history, as well as evaluating the effectiveness of those programs. Of course, my favorite part of my job is what drew me to the field in the first place -- interacting with the public, sharing the site's history, and learning from those who were here when it was a working penitentiary.

Megan Rafferty

I currently work as the Education Associate at Mount Vernon. Much of my position is focused on teacher outreach and program development. I facilitate our Teacher’s Institute every summer, all regional teacher workshops and all leadership programs. I have also spent a lot of my time at Conference meeting new teachers and helping them discover what Mount Vernon has to offer. My position has allowed me to build strong communications and personal skills and I look forward to continuing to support Mount Vernon’s main mission.

Lauren Stelzer

Lauren Stelzer is the Programs Manager at the Virginia Center for Architecture, where she focuses on public outreach through tours, exhibitions, and special initiatives. She will have responsibility for day-to-day oversight of the program once it is launched. Stelzer graduated in 2010 with a Master’s Degree in History with a concentration in Public History from the American University in Washington, DC. Her resume includes internships at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and work at the Valentine Richmond History Center. Since joining the Virginia Center for Architecture, Stelzer has reinstituted tours of the historic Branch House, enriched the mission-centric programs for the Center, organized notable lectures focused on architecture, and participated in public outreach programs throughout the community.

Leah Suhrstedt

I earned my undergraduate degree in history from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where I developed a special interest in Civil War history. After spending a summer as an intern at President Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldiers’ Home — an historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, DC — I also became interested in the fields of preservation and public history. After graduating from Dickinson, I worked in the National Trust’s membership office for a year before enrolling in American University’s Public History program. My time at American was unique and useful because of my focus on public history. Being in Washington, DC offered endless opportunities including internships, field work, guest professors, and more. At American, I participated in a number of internships, including working with other AU students to revise the historical tour program at the American Red Cross Headquarters Building. I also developed lesson plans for the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program. After graduating from American, I came back to the National Trust as their full-time grants and awards coordinator, working with grantees and awardees across the country to share their stories and successes in saving places that matter to them. It was through my training and coursework at AU that I gained the skills necessary for such a position. My time at AU taught me how to share my love of history with the public in ways that I never realized were possible. View my online portfolio here.

Will Tchakirides

As a graduate student in American University’s Public History program, I interpreted the past to cultural tourists at the National Park Service's C&O Canal in Great Falls, Maryland, helped construct a furnishing plan for Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial’s slave quarters and winter kitchen, and built a website documenting the evolution of Milwaukee’s brewing industry in the Cold War Era. During the 2010 - 2011 academic year, I worked as a web-designer for the National Museum of American History’s upcoming American Enterprise exhibition (2014). Upon graduation, l began designing and building a community-based website for the Smithsonian Institution’s Anacostia Community Museum. Currently I reside in Milwaukee, WI and work as a new media consultant specializing in historical interpretation. View my online portfolio here.

Emily Thompson

Emily Thompson at the Santa Claus Museum.

I graduated from American University in 2007 with an MA in Public History. Following graduation, I accepted a permanent position as a Park Ranger and Publications Specialist at Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial. During my six years with the NPS, I worked at numerous sites in many different capacities. My various roles with the NPS included: Strategic Planner for parks along the southern U.S. - Mexico border; Supervisory Park Ranger at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, HI; Public Affairs Officer and a Permits Officer for the George Washington Memorial Parkway; and Management Assistant for the 2009 Presidential Inauguration. In 2010, I relocated to the town of Santa Claus, Indiana and continued to work remotely for the NPS as an Historian for the Washington Office. I recently decided to give the world of non-profits a try and in Spring, 2012, I accepted a position as the Executive Director of the Santa Claus Museum & Village, a small historic site dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the history of Santa Claus, IN. In my new position, I am responsible for the daily operation of the museum, as well as all curatorial duties, research, planning, fundraising, marketing, and special events. I also run the Santa’s Elves program, an organization of dedicated volunteers who devote their time and resources to answering tens of thousands of letters to Santa each year. The education and training I received at AU allowed me to become a successful, professional historian and work in a variety of diverse and fulfilling positions.

Cassie Ward

American University’s Public History Program provided me with the skills, experience, and knowledge to practice history in a way to reach and inspire the greatest amount of people. I have utilized the skills that I obtained in the program every day in my professional career.

After graduating in 2009, I became a project contractor for the Heritage Education Services department of the National Park Service Headquarters and the National Register of Historic Places. During my time with the NPS, I researched, wrote, and programmed online historical travel itineraries and resources for teachers, students, and historic preservationists. While the National Park Service provided me with an invaluable experience, I decided to leave the big city for a Director position at a small, local historic site. I am now the Director of Public Programming at the Historic Long Branch House Museum & Farm in Millwood, Virginia.

Historic Long Branch recently completed a 5-Year Strategic Plan in which the organization’s ultimate goal is to become the most accessible historic site in Virginia. I chose to work at Historic Long Branch because it provided an opportunity to join an organization in the middle of a major transitional period – we are completely changing the way the museum, exhibits, programs, and events are executed.

In my new position, I have the opportunity to create, manage, and implement all of the public programs at the historic site; to create new exhibits; to accurately refurnish rooms in the historic house; to write a new interpretive plan for the site; to develop a collections management system and archive; and to conduct marketing and community outreach (just to list a few of my responsibilities). The beauty of being at a small, local historic site is that you get to wear many hats. There is never a dull moment, and it is exhilarating to be in the physical historic space in which you are interpreting. Through new endeavors at Historic Long Branch, I hope to fully impart upon our visitors a sense of history, place, and the past.