Student Projects

Researching 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.

drawing of street and houses

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 will produce videos about the architectural history of the neighborhood. Because of the unique architectural history of the area the group has many styles to choose from and their final videos will be featured on the Society's website.

Unreeling NPR History, Spring 2018

Partner: National Public Radio (NPR)

In partnership with program alumni and NPR Archivist Julie Rogers, the student team of Blake Harris, Lina Mann, Micaela Procopio, and Josh Zampetti will work to preserve and increase public access to NPR's audio. The group will be focusing on the early years of All Things Considered, 1971-1983 and how to make the audio available to students participating in National History Day to use for research.

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

Partner: DC1968

Student team of Asia Bostock, Hannah Byrne, Chloe Eastwood, and Rachel Hong will work alongside Dr. Marya McQuirter to look at the public memory of DC in 1968. Specifically, they will look at the presence, practice, and projection of whiteness and create a final product using the Washingtonian as their main source.

 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 will work to interpret the history surrounding the organization. Dupont Underground is located in the 1940s trolley tunnels under Dupont Circle that have been used for many purposes over the years. The team will work to create a website, brochure, and onsite panel to share the space's history with the public.

MA students in front of their practicum project poster

 Treasures of the Smithsonian, Spring 2017

Partner: The National Museum of American History

Student team of Jenna Hill, Sydney Weaver, and Katrina Wioncek developed a set of 17 large flashcards. These cards highlight 10 different famous artifacts at NMAH and link them to less familiar artifacts. Volunteers will use these flashcards with people as they wait in line to engage them in historical thinking and orient them to the museum so they explore more.

 St. Elizabeth's Wayside Sign Project, Spring 2017

Partner: The National Building Museum

Student team of Ama Ansah, Elizabeth Gonzalez, and Ronald Teague created a set of wayside signs for the institution St. Elizabeth's, the new home of Homeland Security. The wayside signs will be placed around the campus where the buildings stand and offer information about what the buildings were used for and history about the institution itself. The themes of these signs include Treatment, Architecture, People, and Changes in Practice.

MA students in front of their practicum project poster

 The Bill of Rights and National Parks, Spring 2017

Partner: The National Park Service

Student team of Ashlee Anderson, Lisa Beaudoin, Madison Carper, and Alison Russell created a website that connects National Park sites to different amendments in the Bill of Rights. They connected each amendment to a specific site to help navigation and allow for the public to easily draw connections between the sites.

NMAH American Enterprise line engagement proof of concept project

Trendsetting Trivia: The Evolution of Advertising, Spring 2017 

 Partner: The National Museum of American History

Student team of Ashleigh Aycock, Madeline Makhlouf, and Emily Sullivan developed a set of large flashcards that museum volunteers will use in line to educate visitors about the history of advertising and the ad wall in the museum. Volunteers will use the flashcards to play a trivia game with visitors that ask questions about advertising and offer information about the history of advertising itself.

Anacostia Community Museum

Anacostia Community Museum CDI Blog, Spring 2016

Partner: The Smithsonian's Anacostia Community Museum

Student team of Meg Biser, Rebecca Brenner, and Phoebe Sherman wrote twelve blog posts for the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum's Community Documentation Initiative (CDI) blog. The blog posts drew upon research in secondary literature and primary newspapers and photographs in order to document the history of neighborhood change in the DC Latinx community.

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

Student Historian Kits: Transportation Station, Spring 2016

Partner: Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

Student team of Joan Cummins, Samantha Hunter, Matt Wong, and Rebecca Quam created educational programming, aligned with DCPS 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 teach students how to examine primary sources, exercise historical thinking, and explore how their own choices shape the history of their city.

Business of Beauty, Spring 2015

Partner: National Museum of American History

Student team of Jen Giambrone, Catherine Schultz, and Alison Jobe photographed around one hundred objects, conducted research, and designed a website that explored the business history of cosmetics.

A red, white, and blue patch that reads "Made in the USA" on piece of blue fabric

Made in the USA, Spring 2015

Partner: National Museum of American History

Student team of Marga Anderson and Danielle Dulken researched and designed a website on the history of trade in the US and products produced in America. They also modified the project into a physical exhibition for the Kogod Business School at AU.

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

Student team of Chelsea Hansen and Katherine Kitterman researched and scripted a public program exploring the history of innovation through artificial hearts. The program debuted at the NMAH on July 1, 2015 as part of the Wallace Coulter performance stage. In an article on the museum's collection of artificial hearts, Smithsonian Magazine publicized the performance presentation.

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

Three Stars, Two Bars, One City, Spring 2015

Partner: The Historical Society of Washington, DC

Student team of Zach Klitzman and Sydney Johnson researched and wrote a school program that answered the question: “Who’s a Washingtonian?” for 12th graders. The program introduced students to the history of DC using archival and three-dimensional objects in the Society’s collections. You can watch the introduction video to the program on YouTube.

Four students stand by a poster for the exhibit outdoors.

Honey Bee History, Spring 2015

Partner: Smithsonian Gardens

Student team of Alexandra Erichson, Anna Reiter, and Anna Snyder produced a pop-up exhibit titled “Buzzing Through History” for the Smithsonian Gardens’ Garden Fest on the history of honey bees from the ancient world to modern America.

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

Partner: The White House Historical Association

There are many ghostly tales associated with Decatur House, the White House, and the President's Neighborhood; inquiring minds want to know what's behind these stories - truth or fiction? The student team of Maria R. Eipert and Amanda Zimmerman researched the origins of ghost stories and folklore in Washington, D.C. and created a walking tour that engages visitors in a dialogue about the history behind the stories. Additionally, they wrote short biographies of locations and people involved in the ghost stories and designed wireframes for a self-guided walking app. Even historical fictions can tell us something about the people who created and circulated them.

District of Columbia War Memorial, Spring 2014

Partner: The National Park Service

The District of Columbia War Memorial is a unique memorial on the National Mall that commemorates the local men and women who died in service during World War I. The student team of Julie Boser Rogers and Evan Phifer created an interpretive website for the Memorial including primary sources about both the World War I experience in Washington, DC and the conceptualization and dedication of the memorial. Through documents, images, and audio, the website tells stories of individual sacrifice, community mobilization, and the contested national memory of the war.

 Resurrection City, Spring 2014

Partner: The National Park Service

For six weeks in 1968, the National Mall was home to Resurrection City. Part of the Poor People's Campaign, the community was motivated by a desire for economic justice. The student team of Joanna Capps, Kristen Horning, and Alex Knabe created an online exhibit that examines the history of Resurrection City and its existence (or erasure) on the National Mall and in American memory. The team was challenged to mark something that no longer exists, but have discovered that people, not buildings, create community.

 Decatur House Servant Quarters, Spring 2014

Partner: The White House Historical Association

Constructed in the early 1820s as a servant hall for the residence staff of diplomats, the wing at the back of Decatur House became the quarters for enslaved and free people who served the various families living in the house through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Conducting primary source research with special attention to architecture, maps, and images, the student team of Katlyn Burns and Lisa Fthenakis created a web exhibit 'filling in' the empty spaces of the unfurnished servant's quarters to explore the daily realities of servant life in Washington DC.

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

Partner: The 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 which explores 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 History Park, Spring 2012

Partner: The National Park Service


American University students overhauled the self-guided interpretive resources in the park's Lockhouse 6. This historic structure is part of the innovative Canal Quarters Program, an initiative that allows visitors to spend the night in lockhouses throughout the park. The AU team developed a scrapbook, selected wall photos from the parks 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 an interactive, user-driven, educational website about America's history of urban community gardening. Their project, "Greening America's Cities: A Timeline of Community Gardens," highlights the role of community gardens in alleviating socioeconomic challenges, notably in relation to the experience of immigrants, low-income families, and inner city children. The group developed the themes that will structure the website, produced interpretive content, and gathered photographs and videos from community gardens across the country to initially seed the site.

 The Menokin Foundation, Spring 2012

Partner: The Menokin Foundation

Menokin, the home of Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, has partially collapsed and has a tree growing in it offers significant challenges. American University students took on the task of interpreting this ruin and its surrounding landscape. Drawing on themes that highlight the social and environmental history of the site, the students produced an interpretive prospectus as well as three wayside signs. The prospectus will serve as a guide for the foundation's future interpretive work. It capitalizes on the resources offered by Menokin's landscape, is designed to work well with a small staff size, and incorporates state-of-the-art interactives that draw on new media technology.

 American Enterprise Pre-Exhibition Website, 2010-2011

Public History students at AU collaborated with curators at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History museum to build the institution's first pre-exhibition website. Working in collaboration 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 the possible objects featured in the upcoming exhibition. Visit the American Enterprise site:

 Museum Theater, Spring 2011

Partner: Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Center and NMAH

Historical interpretation comes in all shapes and sizes, and in the spring of 2010 American University students were given the chance to work in one of the its most challenging forms - museum theater. Students worked alongside the staff on 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 path-breaking women inventors - Margaret E. Knight and Marion O'Brien Donovan. With the help and guidance of faculty and actors from American University's own Performing Arts Department, students wrote scripts based on original research into these inventors' lives.

 Arlington House: Interpretive Furnishing Plan, Spring 2010

Partner: National Park Service

Utilizing contemporary readings on historical interpretation, exhibit design, and African American studies, American University 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, Spring 2009-2010

Partner: National Park Service

Over the course of two semesters, American University 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 that educate visitors about the important, though often unmarked, sites and memorials scattered across the cemetery's 624-acre campus.