Alyssa Constad

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Interviewee: Alyssa Constad
Interviewer: Maurice Robinson
Date: September 30, 2016
Accession #: PHP 006
Length of Recording: 48:40
Sound Recording
Summary

Alyssa Constad is a 2015 graduate of the USC Public History program. Constad, a native of New Jersey, earned her BA in American Studies from Dickinson College. Before attending the University of South Carolina, she worked for A&E Television Networks, Museum at Eldridge Street, and the South Street Seaport Museum. At UofSC, she worked under Dr. Allison Marsh. She is currently the Women’s History and Resource Center manager at the General Federal of Women’s Club in Washington D.C. Interview includes discussion of Constad’s reasons for attending USC, her views on the importance of Public History within the History discipline, and how she chose her thesis topic studying the media and its portrayal of the New Left Movement at USC. She also discussed the role of public history across academia and the differences between the specialized fields of public history.

 

Keywords

American Studies | Media Studies | Museum Studies | New Jersey | New Left Movement | Public History | Women in Academia | Women’s History

 

Transcript

Maurice Robinson: Alright, I am Maurice Robinson, for the Public History, University of South Carolina Oral History Project, and we are talking today, or I am talking with Alyssa Constad, an alumni of the program. It is September 30th. I am speaking to her over the phone. And we are about to get started. How are you doing Alyssa?

Alyssa Constad: I’m good, how are you? (Unintelligible at 0:30)

MR: I am well, I am well. I’m well. I’m well, doing well, doing well. Um, yea, just want to first ask you a few questions and see what we can come out of this. So let’s go ahead and try to get started. So, how did you pick USC as a program that you wanted to join or study under?

AC: I would say I kind of went into applying to public history programs a little bit blindly. So, I came out of college, I graduated from Dickinson College and I knew that I wanted to go back to grad school, but I wasn’t really sure what for. I had been an American Studies major in college and I absolutely loved my major, and I loved working with history in a way that went beyond just memorizing history and facts and dates, and just being analytical with different kinds of contexts around you, but I wasn’t really sure how to parlay that into a career.

So, I had worked at an internship at the Museum at Eldridge Street in Manhattan and fell in love with everything about it, and realized that museums were something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So that led me to poking around online at museum studies graduate programs, and from looking at museum studies programs, it kind of led me actually to the International Council of Public History website, which gave me a list of public history programs, which is something that I had never heard of until I started applying.

I knew that I wanted to go to a school that was outside of the New York City area. I grew up in New Jersey, I worked in New York, I wanted a change. So I made my list of schools that were all on the East Coast, and USC happened to fit into that list. And right away I was very impressed; I know USC is one of the oldest programs in the country. I was just really impressed with everything I read about them, so I applied, I ended up getting into all of my schools, but USC was, by far, the most welcoming. They seemed like the most eager to have me, just from their communication, and the resources they gave me right from the get go. So once I got that acceptance letter, I began talking to professors there that kind of sealed the deal for me.

MR: Awesome, okay, that’s, wow. You came to USC in a very interesting way. A very interesting way. So when you got to Columbia and went to USC, who did you work with the most, which professors did you spend most of your time with or actually working under directly?

AC: Sure, so, in the Public History program, my advisor was Allison Marsh. My first semester at USC I actually didn’t take any classes with Allison. I took my first public history course with Bob Weyeneth. And I took the Charleston Field School course. I would say because that was my first experience with really, in a, not only a classroom setting with public history, but in a hands-on setting, where I actually knew what I was doing with public history. I think the experiences I had in that career shaped, not only my vision of what public history is and what it can do, but what I wanted to do. So Dr. Weyeneth played a really huge role, I think, in the direction I took after that.

But after that first semester, I think I worked most closely with Allison Marsh. She became a friend, and a mentor, and a professor, and I think really changed my context of what not only museums could do, but a good curator could do and how many different lives they could touch and minds they could change. I also worked extremely closely with the staff at McKissick Museum, in the Public History program students are ideally assigned an assistantship, which instead of being a teaching assistant you do some kind of hands-on real-life job experience and that becomes part of your stipend. I worked for two years at McKissick Museum. My first-year I worked under an IMLS grant in the Natural History collection and I worked extremely closely with Chris Cicimurri. And my second-year, I worked with Claire Jerry, who was a curator at McKissick, who just recently left for a job at the Smithsonian; and I worked with Mark Smith in Collections. And I would say out of everyone those people really solidified what I wanted to do with and shaped my experience the most.

MR: Wow, that’s very impressive. You have a whole range of who’s who at USC at the moment, in terms of actual curators, archivists, historians. I mean it’s the whole mix. You definitely seem to have had, kind of, the best of both worlds, in terms of getting as much knowledge and experiences as possible while you were here.

AC: Right, I would say that’s, I think one of, I mean I can’t speak for other public history programs, but for USC, one of the things I would say I’m most impressed with is the ability to not only work with people, you know, in Gambrell in the academic side of things, and development good relationships, but also to kind of work with everybody on campus. So I worked in McKissick, other people worked in archives, like Caroliniana, or Political Collections. More people worked with the Greater Columbia history community, so people would have assistantships at the Confederate Relic Room, or at Historic Columbia. So really your ability to kind of put your fingers in every pot in USC is unbelievable.

MR: That’s outstanding. So, that leads me to just another question that I’m curious about. How do you see yourself, or the public history program within the larger History program? Where you exclusively all Public History or were you allowed to take other classes? How do you, Alyssa, see yourself within the History discipline?

AC: I would say that I am probably a different case from many of the other public history alumni that you’ll talk to. Just because I came in as a public history student. My second year, I decided that I wanted to go further and applied and got into the Ph.D. program. And then, after three years, I finished my coursework. Right now, I am currently taking a leave of absence for a year to be able to go and work, and get some real public history job experience. So, I think because of that experience I felt included in the greater history program.

However, I will say that I think another one of the public history program’s strengths, is that they make sure that you’re also taking traditional history Ph.D. courses along with the fieldwork. You’re not only getting a hands-on experience of learning, you know, how to write an exhibit label, or what objects you want to be collecting, but you’re also learning how to think critically about those objects, about how you need to convey it, about how the line of thinking that you’re putting on public display fits into the greater historiography. So, in that sense, I think the public history program is extremely inclusive within the greater History program.

MR: Well, amazing, amazing. That’s a great perspective. In that case, does your work now reflect, if you were to reflect on your career now as a pubic history professional, what skills or what, I’d say, modes of learning did you learn that are helping you at the moment?

AC: I would say I’ve taken everything with me. So, right now, I work for an organization called the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in Washington, D.C. It is a 126-year old organization. It started off as a women’s club that was formed in the Progressive Movement, and it’s basically a club of women volunteers that operates on the local, national, and international levels. So, I am the women’s history and research center manager. So, I came into this job, I am currently a one-person department, and I basically inherited a 126-year old archive, and I was trained as a curator. My public history track was in museums, so not trained in archives, but I inherited this archive and I was told, you know I could take the women’s history and research center and go in whatever direction I would want with it, which has been overwhelming.

But I think because I was able to get experience doing so many different things at USC, I didn’t feel like I was completely blindsided. So you know I had experience working in archives, which helps, but I think essentially taking Allison Marsh’s classes, I also had a lot of time sitting in class and discussing problems that come up, and discussing, you know, what working in a museum is like in the real world and not just sitting there in classes. I had enough foresight to know that, you know, this is not a problem that I am alone in. And also, there’s certain things that you prioritize.

I think that gave me the ability to step back, realize what programs I want to do, what needs to be done right now, what can wait. And I also think because I had the ability to design so many of, not only my own exhibits, but with Bob Weyeneth I was able to go to the Aiken-Rhett House in Charleston, and I reinterpreted the entire house for them. So having that experience let me come into this position and think, you know, “If I was a visitor, how would I want to see this archive and this museum in a way that’s fresh and how would I want to reinterpret that.” So I would honestly say I’ve taken a little bit of everything from my three years at USC and I’ve been using it to the full extent for the past few months.

MR: That’s very amazing, very, very amazing, you’ve done a lot of things, So, you say you did an exhibit or you worked to interpret a house, an historical house in Charleston, South Carolina. So, what else have you done while you were a student here, in terms of, have you done any conferences, any papers that you’ve presented, or any experiences you’ve had because of public history or as a student just in general? What have you done or what is your C.V. like here?

AC: In terms of conferences, I went twice to the National Council of Public History Conference. My first year, I did a poster presentation there, on a student group there, that’s called the History Advocates. It primarily consists of public history students, but it’s a group for public history students, for traditional history students, and for the outside community. And the purpose of the group is to foster relationships within the Greater Columbia community and the historic community. And also gives students a chance to advocate for things in Columbia that really means something for them. Whether that means, advocating for historic preservation, or using History Advocates as a vehicle to volunteer at Historic Columbia or at another one of the local museums. So I did a poster presentation on History Advocates. Last year when I attended the conference in Baltimore, I actually went, not to present anything, but I used it as a networking opportunity, because at that time I had started applying for jobs. I also was president of History Advocates, I was a member my first year and president my second year of grad school. (Fun digression follows) I feel like I’m just. In the words of Trump, I feel like I’m being braggadocious and just listing off my accomplishments.

MR: That’s okay, that’s alright, that’s okay.

AC: I did a conference presentation on, every four years, USC hosts a Media and Civil Rights conference and it fell on second year of grad school. So I gave a presentation on that. At that time, I had just started what was my primary research topic at USC. I had started out just wanting to research student protests in the 1960s at USC, which is a pretty broad topic for any school I think. And as I was researching, I fell across all these independent publications that had been produced by students, from, you know, New Left groups, to Black Power groups, to even conservative groups that were kind of mocking these publications. I was able to give a presentation on how independent are student run newspapers, as well as alternative underground newspapers helps to shape the movement that was growing out of Columbia in 1960s on the USC campus. How that kind of created this really unique confluence between Black Power groups and between New Left groups.

It was a really incredibly experience, because I gave that paper and I talked about newspapers. This one specific publication that, oh my gosh, its name is escaping me right now. I gave my presentation and I sat down, and then one of the student leaders who had actually written that newspaper came up and gave a presentation. I think like two people asked for me and started talking about the same things. It was just a really wild moment and something that I don’t think you would get everywhere else. In terms of others things I did. I had mentioned I worked for two years at McKissick Museum. During that time, I helped put together, I think, five exhibits, which is incredible for any student within the span of two years to be able to have that hands-on accessibility. And the wonderful part was I participated in every single part of the exhibit. Any work from taking out objects, to staging them and figuring out the logistics of an exhibit, to writing labels, to thinking about programs that would go along with the exhibits. I know I keep saying it, but I’ve done a little bit of everything.

MR: It sounds like it, but it sounds very, very impressive. Did you have a chance to travel anywhere that was of note, beyond South Carolina while you were here?

AC: Absolutely! I think the crown jewel experience of my time at USC was my spring semester of my second year that was Spring 2015. I took a historic interpretation class with Allison Marsh and we talked about UNESCO’s historic sites of conscience. These are basically historic sites, they might be museums, they might be national landmarks that commemorate some kind of dark and uncomfortable history. We talked about the best way to commemorate, the best way to build educational programs around them and really use it as a teachable experience. The end result of that class was the ability to go to Guantanamo Bay and interview people on base. We did oral histories with them there.

That was a tough experience, it was right before the border with Cuba had been reopened and the trade embargo was lifted. You had people a little on edge, because this has been happening. Also, because, as always Gitmo is in the news because of the detention center there and I think people were suspicious of our motives and thinking it was a purely political trick. When in reality we had been participating in this wonderful program called the Guantanamo Bay Public History Project, which seeks to think about the detention center in Guantanamo Bay, but it’s trying to go past that history and talk about the entire history of Gitmo, why it’s in United States possession, where it has been before that, and what led us to this moment of the detention center and kind of really get into a groove.

But the one thing that nobody had ever done with that project was go to Gitmo, but also capture the everyday side of things, nobody had talked to people who live on base and find out what it’s like for them and how their lives are shaped by living in this bedrock of controversy. That’s what we went there to do, it was a fine line to walk to get people to trust us and to actually open up to us and tell us their stories, but it was so worth it. We did everything on that base, we got tours of base. Gitmo has the largest recreation budget of any other Army base in the United States, because it’s so isolated. They have an outdoor movie theater there. They have recreation on the water, they a mini golf course and of course on top of all that, it’s absolutely beautiful.

So having that experience was amazing, and then at the end of it, we broke up two sections of the class and each of the two sections broke up into smaller groups and everybody was charged with coming up with an exhibit. It wasn’t necessarily on our experience in Gitmo, but just on some aspects of Gitmo’s history. My group explored the idea of Gitmo. Whenever you read former residents’ recollections of Gitmo, it’s always very Mayberry-esque, kind of like what you would think Pleasantville would be like. We explored this myth, through the lens of what it was like living there right before the Cuban Missile Crisis and during the Missile Crisis. Everybody’s little mini exhibits got turned into a couple of panels, and it ended up being made into exhibits in the McKissick, and I was actually lucky enough to be able to participate after the exhibit went off. I was on a panel with Allison Marsh and Chris Fite, who is another alumni of the program, and Claire Jerry, the former curator at McKissick, who also accompanied us to Gitmo, and Cane West, who is currently a Ph.D. student; and we had members of the public come in and you’re able to talk about our experiences. We actually had a few former residents of Gitmo come in and also join us, ask us questions on the panel. That was just I think more than anything that I did at USC that was just the most surreal experience that I had.

MR: That’s an amazing experience. I don’t know anyone, no matter where you are, that gets to go Guantanamo Bay, but not just to go to Cuba, but also the type of work you were doing, the of issues you had to deal with. That sounds like a very surreal but very unique experience, that I think will put in good steed for the rest of your life, in terms of, I don’t know, that’s just a very interesting experience. That’s all I have to say about that.

AC: It’s always fun to drop into a conversation that, you know, that one time I was at Guantanamo Bay. It’s a good conversation starter.

MR: I can only imagine that you use that. So where are you now, actually? Where do you reside, if you don’t mind telling me.

AC: Of course not, I currently in live in Washington D.C. I just moved here in June and I came straight up from Columbia.

MR: Okay, awesome, awesome. Do you still consider yourself, has South Carolina as a state informed or formed any part of your identity, now that you’ve been a student. You used to be here for at least two and half years, at least right?

AC: I was in South Carolina for almost the full three years and I will say that I moved there, I don’t want to say reluctantly, because I very willing went to USC’s program. I grew up in New Jersey; my entire family is from New Jersey and whoever is not from New Jersey lives in Manhattan. So I grew up my whole life shuffling between New Jersey and New York City. Right after college I moved to Hoboken and worked in Manhattan and I’m very much a city person and very much I would a typical Northeasterner. Moving to Columbia was, it was a change of pace. Along with grad school was an absolute change of pace from daily life, and it was a bit of a culture shock, but I will say it opened my mind to considering different experiences and perspectives that I don’t think I ever would have familiarized myself with otherwise.

If you had told me four years ago that I was going to be picking a dissertation topic that focused in the South, I would have told you that you are out of your mind. I think living in the South for that long, and especially coming to terms with Southern history and using that in my own line of thinking, I think every day it affects me, especially right now with the election we have going on, with the unrest in the country we have going on. To be familiar with a more inclusive side of American history and being able to use that as a filter to process how I understand things, I think has had an invaluable impact on me. And I think it beholdens me to have that impact.

MR: That an amazing perspective. Very amazing. Speaking of Southern history, in terms of you being in Columbia. Can you give me, a kind of, someone who doesn’t know anything, kind of what your cohort, or what your racial or gender makeup of your cohort was. Were you aware of anything that was, you know; a better way to say this is, do you think that the USC program is pretty diverse? Is that a good way to put it for you? On gender and racial terms?

AC: Is my cohort diverse?

MR: Your time here at USC.

AC: Gosh, that’s a good question. Yes and no. I think museums, particularly I would say in the past, maybe ten or twenty years, have been an extremely female dominated profession.

MR: Really? Okay.

AC: It was actually, now that I’m thinking about it, it was interesting coming into USC, because my cohort had a pretty good balance of male to female, but within public history, I want to say there were twelve of us that came in and two guys who were specifically public history students. The year below that I think it had a better mix of male to female. But public history has been predominately female.

MR: Okay.

AC: The traditional Ph.D. students, I think, tends to lean towards more male dominated than female. I would say is reflective of the field of history in general. In terms of diversity, racially, I would say the program is mainly white. But I mean, there is diversity there. That’s a tricky question to answer, knowing the program and the people who take applications as I do; I certainly don’t think it’s a conscious choice. I think it’s probably more reflective of the American education system and who’s kind of think about careers in history. I will say that the program at USC does a really excellent job of not just teaching dead white man’s history, and giving history from all lenses and from the top down and from the bottom up. In that sense, it’s been very positive.

MR: Okay, cool. That was a very loaded question. So you actually did very, very well. I was just curious about your perspective, that’s really helpful. Thank you. Another question I was curious about would be, kind of, what motivated you to be volunteered to be interviewed? I think that you got a notice that you may be asked to be interviewed for this project. Why did you not mind to be interviewed? That’s probably what I’m curious about.

AC: To be honest, partially just because Allison had sent out the call and asked. I consider Allison, or Dr. Marsh, I consider her both a friend and a mentor, and helping her was on my mind but also I feel like this program has given so much to me, and I grew so much being a part of it, that to be able to lend my voice any word of wisdom, or helping out in any way, is something that I wanted to do. It kind of seemed like a no-brainer.

MR: Fair enough, fair enough, that kind of leads me to another question about, do you still stay in touch with your professors, or professor, or instructors from USC?

AC: Yes, I have actually emailed both Dr. Marsh and Claire Jerry multiple times since I’ve been here. These past person about being a one-person department, is I’m kind of calling the shots by myself, and I also because I work for a non-profit volunteer organization and not a historical institution. There is nobody else who has my training there for me to bounce ideas off of. I have contacted Allison and Claire multiple times, just asking their thoughts on things, asking them for advice. My advisor as a Ph.D. student was Dr. Patricia Sullivan. She’s also somebody who I’ve been in contact with over the past few months. And certainly somebody whose thoughts and opinions that I admire and somebody who I would continue to be in contact with. I think my time at USC really built a community for me and it’s something that I plan on utilizing.

MR: Awesome, okay. Well, you are definitely a great student and alumnus or alumnae; I need to figure out my Latin for that. What was your social life like while you were in the program, did you hang with your cohort, did you go on trips, restaurants? What parts of South Carolina did you hang out at in Columbia? What was your life like, not personal but socially?

AC: I would not say I had no social life, but coming from living in Hoboken in a situation where you have access to New York and you don’t really have any homework. I would say my social life went from a 100 to a 6-percent. The wonderful thing about, I want to say my cohort, but I think it’s every cohort at USC, I think that they very specifically let in people who they know are not going to be competitive and conniving with each other. I got along with everybody in my cohort and I would say almost everybody outside of the cohort. Coming into Gambrell every day you could go into the common room and sit down and just have a conversation with people.

Outside of school, I was lucky enough that my roommate for the first two years of grad school became one of my best friends. Having that pressure valve released there, living with me was amazing. My last year, I also lived with two people who are still members of the program right now, who are wonderful friends and lifelong friends. I would say I hung out with people a lot outside of class. My cohort was also my sanity and they were friends. Everyone was really good at checking in on each and making sure that you’re not glued to your book for the fifteenth hour in a row and you’re going to go out and have a drink and regain your sanity. I’m not going to tell you I was able to go party every weekend. You certainly, it’s important, even for a grad student to make time to do things and see friends and enjoy themselves. I was still able to have that opportunity in Columbia. Absolutely.

MR: If you don’t mind telling me, who was your roommate for the first two years?

AC: I lived with Brittany Ghee, who’s currently in Houston, Texas. She just started the Teach for America program.

MR: Is she also public history as well?

AC: She was also a public history/museum student.

MR: Are you guys really good friends, or you guys are close, or just a buddy?

AC: She was, I think my sanity for sure, and continues to be a close friend and somebody who I keep in touch with. She was great

MR: Very, very nice to hear about that kind of stuff. Switching gears a little bit, what was your thesis topic for your Master’s, what did you defend?

AC: My Master’s topic was, ironically, not exactly public history themed. I finished my Master’s my third year and that is mainly because I had a lot of trouble finding a topic I liked and sticking with it. I finished it and it was fine. But I’m probably a cautionary tale to future students, pick a topic and grit your teeth and stick with it. I had mentioned before I had done that Media and Civil Rights presentation on New Left groups and alternative newspapers on campus, and that really sparked my interest. I knew it wasn’t something I couldn’t write an entire thesis on, but it was kind of something that just stuck in my craw and I kept gnawing on and trying to figure out how I could write a thesis out of it.

Then my Fall semester, last year to 2015, I took a class with Mark Cooper of the media department on media archives, and that introduced me to MIRC at USC, which is the Moving Image Research Center. I found this really incredibly footage from local news programs in Columbia that was on the protests during the late 1960s. Most of the footage was centered around 1970 after the Kent State shooting happened. They had a myriad of different protests. It was just such an incredibly resource that really hadn’t been passed before. I worked with Mark Cooper and how I could incorporate it into my research and really good videos became my entire thesis.

My thesis was looking at local news programs and how that helped to shape New Left movements and really any protest movement on campus. In turn, how those protest movements helped to shape local news. At this time, local news programs, especially in the South, were still in their infancy; they were still developing and figuring out the best way to reach the public. The best way to spin stories, so being able to cover major campus events like this, and something at the time seemed so urgent; it changed the way they were reporting. I talked about that dichotomy and it was something I never expected to be doing and something totally new.

That experience I think has continued to shape even my current job. I have exposure to media archives and something that I think, I don’t want to say is new, but local news programs is something that hasn’t really been talked about much in historiography. Just because people aren’t really sure what to do with that footage yet. Going in and doing that research and being exposed to MIRC and how they do things there, I think gave me a new appreciation for what film archivists go through and the amount and volume that they have.

My first day on the job, I walked into the archives at GSWC, I thought they had this enormous film collection that was just sitting there unused and not in the proper conditions. That ended up causing one of my first projects to be contracting someone to come in and figure out how best to conserve the films and where we could donate them and how we could digitize them. It’s something I didn’t really expect to have a public history tinge to it. It ended up completely shaping my public history experience in the workforce so far.

MR: Wow that is extremely amazing; you have some really great experiences and perspectives. I’m very impressed, very impressed. I’m going to pivot to, I’m just curious though about. If you were to speak to a person who was curious about public history, what made you choose? You may have elaborated a little bit, but what you choose public history program versus, what I’m understanding are categories of, museum education programs, archival programs. What makes public history, for you personally, different or better than those specific specialized educational experiences?

AC: For me, it came down to thinking about American Studies programs, museum studies programs, or public history programs. Museum studies programs, I think are wonderful for some people, but the limiting factor of them, I think is, you don’t really get that history experience that we are able to get in the way you’re not taking the same classes Ph.D. students are taking. You’re not taught historiography. How to think critically about history, how your exhibits are really a piece of historiography. They’re not just a separate entity. You’re just focusing on kind of the nitty gritty; I almost want to say the administrative side of museums.

In one sense, I think that’s very useful because I think a lot of people who come out of public history programs, unless their doing the museum management certificate, like at USC, they don’t have that whole practical and business minded side of the equation. For me, I came in knowing that I wanted to curate, I wanted to be involved in the research aspect, I wanted to be thinking about the big picture of exhibits and how that’s being presented to the public. Looking at USC’s program and knowing that I would not only be getting experience in the field but I would be getting analytical experience in the classroom. That kind of cemented to me that that would be the best avenue for me to be able to do what I wanted to do.

MR: Perfect, perfect. Okay. That’s a really good way to put it. What would be your vision for the future of the public history program at USC? What would be something you’d want to happen or you think would make anyone’s time better for future historians or public history students.

AC: I think what I want it is probably a microcosm of pubic history in general. I think part of the problem at USC is that public history, in certain circles, is looked down upon and the whole value of it isn’t recognized. I think a lot of historians and historians at USC are guilty of this. If they write an article for a popular journal, then that means they are a public historians, because they’re writing something for the public. Therefore regular history professors are people who don’t have experience in historic preservation, or experience in museums, can just go ahead and teach those classes. There’s no need for specialization. I think that kind of has put the public history program at USC a level down in a lot people’s eyes. I don’t think it gets the respect it deserves.

I would like to see that changed. I would like to see terminal Master’s students, who are coming in for public history be treated with more respect, instead of; I think right now they’re sometimes put as last priority with certain professors. But in my mind, of course Ph.D. students are important and they’re going to go teach, and they’re going to go write and they’re going to reach the public that way. The public history students are going to go and they’re actually going to go interact with the public on the daily basis. They’re going to go and they’re going to talk to the family that’s on vacation that came to see this historic site, and they’re going to give them the interpretation of history that’s probably going to stick with them more than the book they read in their sophomore year history class, because they had to. I don’t want to say anything is more important than another, but public history, it’s a very real and tangible field and it has a bigger impact than I think is realized at the moment. I would like to see the public history program get the recognition that it’s deserved, and I would like to see it stay afloat amid all the chaos that’s been going on at USC recently.

MR: Okay, that’s duly noted. That’s very helpful, very, very helpful.

AC: Honest. (Laughs)

MR: Honesty is all we can ask for. Thanks for your help and being a volunteer. I have one more question if you don’t mind. I know you’re busy, I know you have a lot going on. You are in D.C. I’m sure you have things to do and balls and events and networking to do. Is there anything that you could say to public historians who find themselves outside of their field, so to speak; that are not doing traditional public history work, who are kind of considering their careers outside of public history? What would you say for them if you had any advice?

AC: I would say… That’s a hard question. Because it depends if they want to be outside of public history. If it’s somebody who is outside of their field but they’re trying to get back in, I would say that almost any experience you have in the workforce can be applied to public history and you’re not doing the historical training and maybe that analytical work you want to be doing. I think a keyword part of public history is still public, any job you’re in where you’re learning, even if it’s just soft people skills of how to interact, try to be a leader, how to synthesize ideas, that tends to be applicable in public history jobs.

For people who are working outside of public history, that have decided they want to be outside of public history, Id’ say good for you. I think you can take what you’ve learned in public history and also apply it to almost anything. With anything, public history teaches you to think about the most minute minor detail and what impacts it’s going to have on where it’s spinning outward. It forces you to think about the big picture. When I’m thinking of this, in terms of an exhibit, you need to get every single little word right on your exhibit label and think about, is this worded the best way possible, is this understandable, is this going to get my message across to someone? But at the same time, you have to think about a 150-word little label, and think, is this fitting into the larger story, is this conveying the overarching idea and theme that I’m having? I think having to have that balance and thought is important in really any job that you do and in life.

MR: I think I will take that advice myself. I want to say thank you, I know I took a lot of your time. I just am very happy that you allowed me to speak to you and kind of pick your brain. Thank you for some very great insights. I am glad that you are an alumnus of USC. Sounds like it helped you and that you are still using your skills to your advantage where you are now. Just want to say thank you so much.

AC: Thank you. I was happy to talk and I hope this is helpful. It was a pleasure.

MR: It is September 30th, this is Maurice Robinson interviewing Alyssa Constad, a public history Master’s graduate of the University of South Carolina, who is now in D.C. working and giving us her insights and her perspectives of the public history program; her time here and vision for the future. Thank you once again, Ms. Constad. I hope you have a great rest of the night.

AC: Thank you, you to Maurice.

End of Interview