Student Projects

Students research primary sources from the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress

Every spring, as part of the public history practicum (HIST-730), students and faculty work alongside American University’s partner institutions to develop new educational programs, future exhibits, and other interpretive works. These projects provide students opportunities to learn public history in the field, hone project management skills, and practice working as a team. With every project, AU’s partners benefit from the valuable, professional assistance of talented scholars trained in the best practices of the field.

Projects require students to work in teams of two to four people and spend about 100 to 150 hours apiece researching and developing the final product. Through the process of creating these projects, students learn best practices in interpretive planning, visitor evaluation, writing for public audiences, and working with new media. Students are required to build digital portfolios and present their work to a gathering of partners and faculty at the end of the semester.

Cleveland Park Practicum Group

Building Cleveland Park, Spring 2018

Partner: Cleveland Park Historical Society
In consultation with Carin Ruff, director of the Historical Society, the student team of Colleen Cheslak, Dave Kramer, Ashley Latta, and Kevin Lukacs produced videos about the Cleveland Park neighborhood's unique architectural history. The Society now features their videos online.

NPR Practicum Group members standing with their poster

Unreeling NPR History, Spring 2018

Partner: National Public Radio (NPR)
In partnership with AU Public History alumna and NPR Archivist Julie Rogers, the student team of Blake Harris, Lina Mann, Micaela Procipio, and Josh Zampetti worked to preserve and increase public access to NPR's audio shows. The group focused on the early years of All Things Considered, from 1971 to 1983, and on making the audio available to students conducting research for National History Day. 

Students standing with Mapping Whiteness poster

Mapping Whiteness in Late 1960s Washington, DC, Spring 2018

Partner: DC 1968
The student team of Asia Bostock, Hannah Byrne, Chloe Eastwood, and Rachel Hong worked alongside Dr. Marya McQuirter to look at the public memory of DC in 1968. Using Washingtonian magazine as a source, the team studied the presence, practice, and projection of whiteness in Washington, DC during the late 1960s and created a website to share their project with the public.

Students adhering exhibit elements to wall

Sharing History at Dupont Underground, Spring 2018

Partner: Dupont Underground
In partnership with the nonprofit arts and cultural organization Dupont Underground, the student team of Kristin Herlihy, Callie Hopkins, Ally Laubscher, and Abigail Seaver worked to interpret the organization's history. They created a website, brochure, and onsite panel to share the history of Dupont Underground, located in the 1940s trolley tunnels under Dupont Circle, with the public.

Students in NMAH group stand with their poster

Treasures of the Smithsonian, Spring 2017

Partner: National Museum of American History
The student team of Jenna Hill, Sydney Weaver, and Katrina Wioncek developed a set of 17 large flashcards for use at the National Museum of American History, which highlight 10 famous artifacts and link them to less familiar artifacts in the museum. Volunteers will use these flashcards to engage museum visitors in historical thinking and to orient them in the museum to encourage exploration.

Students stand with their poster

St. Elizabeth's Wayside Sign Project, Spring 2017

Partner: National Building Museum
The student team of Ama Ansah, Elizabeth Gonzalez, and Ronald Teague created a set of wayside signs for St. Elizabeth's, the new home of Homeland Security. These wayside signs address such themes as treatment, architecture, people, and changes in practice, and they will be placed around St. Elizabeth's to offer information on previous uses for the buildings and on the institution's history.

Students present their poster to another person

The Bill of Rights and National Parks, Spring 2017

Partner: National Park Service
The student team of Ashlee Anderson, Lisa Beaudoin, Madison Carper, and Alison Russell created a website connecting various National Park sites to the amendments of the Bill of Rights. By drawing connections between each amendment and specific sites, the team worked to help navigation and to allow for the public to better understand the parks.

Students stand next to their poster and smile

Trendsetting Trivia: The Evolution of Advertising, Spring 2017

Partner: National Museum of American History
The student team of Ashleigh Aycock, Madeline Makhlouf, and Emily Sullivan developed a set of large flashcards for museum volunteers to use to educate visitors about the history of advertising and the museum's ad wall. Volunteers will use the flashcards to play a trivia game with visitors, asking questions and offering information about the history of advertising.

Three children hold their hands out, holding cards from their student historian kits

Student Historian Kits: Transportation Station, Spring 2016

Partner: Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
The student team of Joan Cummins, Samantha Hunter, Matt Wong, and Rebecca Quam created educational programming, in accordance with DC Public Schools' standards for third grade social studies and geography, for the Historical Society. The program uses the Historical Society's collections to illuminate the history of the streetcar in Washington, DC and to teach students how to examine primary sources, exercise historical thinking, and explore how their own choices can shape their city's history.

Three students stand with their practicum poster

Community Documentation Initiative Blog, Spring 2016

Partner: Anacostia Community Museum
The student team of Meg Biser, Rebecca Brenner, and Phoebe Sherman collaborated to write 12 blog posts for the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum's Community Documentation Initiative blog. The blog posts drew upon research in newspapers, photographs, and secondary literature in order to document the history of neighborhood change in DC's Latinx community.

Three people hold the "Who's a Washingtonian?" program outline binder

Three Stars, Two Bars, One City, Spring 2015

Partner: Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
The student team of Zach Klitzman and Sydney Johnson researched and wrote a school program for 12th graders answering the question: “Who’s a Washingtonian?” The program introduced students to the history of DC using archival and three-dimensional objects in the Society’s collections, and incorporated multimedia elements, such as this introduction video.

A woman writes on a white board at the performance presentation

How do You Fix a Broken Heart?, Spring 2015

Partner: National Museum of American History
The student team of Chelsea Hansen and Katherine Kitterman researched and scripted a public program exploring the history of innovation through artificial hearts. Their program debuted at the NMAH on July 1, 2015 as part of the Wallace Coulter performance stage, and the presentation was publicized in a Smithsonian Magazine article on the museum's collection of artificial hearts,

Four students stand by a poster outdoors

Honey Bee History, Spring 2015

Partner: Smithsonian Gardens
The student team of Alexandra Erichson, Anna Reiter, and Anna Snyder produced a pop-up exhibit titled “Buzzing Through History," which traced the history of honey bees from the ancient world to modern America. They presented their exhibit at the Smithsonian Gardens’ Garden Fest.

Business of Beauty, Spring 2015

Partner: National Museum of American History
The student team of Jen Giambrone, Catherine Schultz, and Alison Jobe photographed around 100 objects and conducted research to create a website exploring the history of the cosmetics business.

Made in the USA, Spring 2015

Partner: National Museum of American History
The student team of Marga Anderson and Danielle Dulken researched and designed a website on the history of American-produced products and trade in the U.S. They also modified the project into a physical exhibition for the Kogod Business School at AU.

The Spirits that Linger: Haunted History in Lafayette Square, Spring 2014

Partner: White House Historical Association
The student team of Maria R. Eipert and Amanda Zimmerman researched the origins of the ghost stories and folkloric tales that surround Decatur House, the White House, and the President's Neighborhood and created a walking tour to engage visitors in a dialogue about the history behind these stories. Additionally, they wrote short biographies on the locations and people key to these ghost stories and designed wireframes to be used in a self-guided walking tour app.

District of Columbia War Memorial, Spring 2014

Partner: National Park Service
The student team of Julie Boser Rogers and Evan Phifer created an interpretive website for the District of Columbia War Memorial, which commemorates local men and women who died in service during World War I. Through documents, images, and audio, the website tells stories of the World War I experience in Washington, DC and of the monument's conceptualization and dedication, incorporating themes of individual sacrifice, community mobilization, and the contested national memory of the war.

Resurrection City, Spring 2014

Partner: National Park Service
For six weeks in 1968, as part of the Poor People's Campaign, the National Mall was home to Resurrection City. The student team of Joanna Capps, Kristen Horning, and Alex Knabe created an online exhibit examining the history of Resurrection City and its existence (or erasure) on the National Mall and in American memory.

Decatur House Servant Quarters, Spring 2014

Partner: White House Historical Association
The student team of Katlyn Burns and Lisa Fthenakis conducted primary source research, with special attention to architecture, maps, and images, to create a web exhibit exploring the empty spaces of the unfinished servant quarters at the back of Decatur House. Through their project, the team studied the daily realities of servant life among both enslaved and free people in 19th and 20th century Washington, DC.

Marian Anderson, The Lincoln Memorial, and Constitution Hall, Spring 2014

Partner: National Park Service
What can we understand about race relations in World War II-era America from Marian Anderson's Lincoln Memorial concert and the surrounding controversy? The student team of Donelle Boose, Elise Fariello, and Brianne Roth created a web-based audio program exploring how Anderson's concert and the people behind it challenged American conventions about race and acted as an important precursor to the Civil Rights Movement.

C&O Canal National HistorICAL Park, Spring 2012

Partner: National Park Service
AU Public History students overhauled the self-guided interpretive resources in the C&O Canal National Historical Park's Lockhouse 6. The AU team developed a scrapbook, selected wall photos from the NPS archives, wrote labels to supplement the photos, and produced audio clips from oral histories to tell the story of the "Development of a Sanctuary: From Canal to National Park."

Greening America's Cities, Spring 2012

Partner: Smithsonian Gardens
Students worked to develop the framework for "Greening America's Cities: A Timeline of Community Gardens," an interactive, user-driven, educational website about America's history of urban community gardening, highlighting the role of community gardens in alleviating socioeconomic challenges. The group developed the website's thematic structure, produced interpretive content, and gathered photographs and videos from community gardens across the country to seed the site.

The Menokin Foundation, Spring 2012

Partner: The Menokin Foundation
AU Public History students took on the task of interpreting the ruin of Menokin, the home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and its surrounding landscape. Highlighting the site's social and environmental history, the students produced a prospectus to serve as a guide for the Foundation's future interpretive work, with an emphasis on the incorporation of new media, as well as three wayside signs for the site.

American Enterprise Pre-Exhibition Website, 2010-2011

Partner: National Museum of American History
AU Public History students collaborated with curators at the National Museum of American History to build the Smithsonian's first pre-exhibition website for the museum's "American Enterprise" exhibition. Collaborating with staff from the museum's New Media office, the students launched their website in January of 2011, complete with a curator blog, visitor surveys, and a tour of objects featured in the upcoming exhibition.

Museum Theater, Spring 2010

Partner: Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center at the National Museum of American History
AU Public History students worked alongside the staff of the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and the National Museum of American History to develop two original pieces of museum theater based on the lives of two groundbreaking female inventors, Margaret E. Knight and Marion O'Brien Donovan. With the help and guidance of faculty and actors from AU's own Performing Arts department, students wrote theatrical scripts based on original research into these inventors' lives.

Arlington House: Interpretive Furnishing Plan, Spring 2010

Partner: National Park Service
Incorporating contemporary research on historical interpretation, exhibit design, and African American studies, AU Public History students developed a comprehensive furnishing plan for Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial's north slave quarters and winter kitchen. The plan broadened the popular site's historical narrative to include free and enslaved people of color, emphasizing themes of enslaved resistance, contested living spaces, and local, regional, and international mobility.

Arlington National Cemetery: Wayside Exhibits, 2009-2010

Partner: National Park Service
Over the course of two semesters, AU Public History students partnered with the National Park Service to develop an interpretive plan for Arlington National Cemetery. Combining archival research with lessons in graphic design, students created a series of wayside exhibits to educate visitors about the important, though often unmarked, sites and memorials scattered across the cemetery's 624 acres.