Constance Schulz

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Interviewee: Constance Schulz
Interviewer: Moira Church
Date: September 21, 2016
Accession #: PHP 024
Length of Recording: 63;31
Sound Recording
Summary

Constance Schulz graduated from the College of Wooster in 1964 with a BA in history. She then went on to receive her PhD from the University of Cincinnati in 1973. She served as the co-director of the Applied History Program/Public History Program at the University of South Carolina from 1990 to 2008. From 1999 to 2008, she served as the co-director of the joint MA/MLIS archival degree program. Schulz is currently a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History and serves as the editor of The Papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry. Interview includes discussion of how Dr. Schulz became involved in public history, her experiences with the public history community in Washington, D.C., her role in shaping UofSC’s Public History Program, her connection to the library school, and the England Field School for public history students. She also discussed her perception of public history has changed over time and the importance of teaching digital humanities.

 

Keywords

Applied History | Archival Science | College of Wooster | Digital Humanities | England Field School | Library of Congress | National Archives | The Pinckney Papers | University of Cincinnati | University of South Carolina | Women in Academia

 

Transcript

Moira Church: Ok, this is Moira Church. It is September 21st 2016. I am interviewing Constance Schulz for USC’s Public History Program archive. We are conducting this interview at Dr. Schulz’s house. Ok, to start off—how did you end up at USC and then how did you end up working within the public history field?

Constance Schulz: Well, they sort of came together. You’ve seen my resume, so you know my CV, so that I got my PhD in 1973. At that time, ah, I had three children under the age of six at home. I’d been writing my dissertation with small babies and a pre-schooler. And childcare was very difficult back in that time, not so long ago, so I immediately began doing some teaching, but it was all at night. I was teaching as an adjunct university college, the University of Maryland or part-time for American University or part-time for the University of Maryland day school or… I just, I was home during the day with my children, and as they became… I wasn’t looking for a full-time academic job. What that meant was that my local history community turned out to be public historians. I wanted to continue doing research. I tried to get a publisher for my doctoral dissertation, because it was the bicentennial of the Revolution, and I thought, I might get nibbles. So, I arranged when my children were in school or otherwise taken care of, that I had a desk at the Library of Congress. And I would go down three days a week, like from nine to two and sign in and take books off the shelves, but all the people around me were scholars from all over—people from the public history community, historians at the department of agriculture or historians who were the subject specialists at the Library of Congress or…

So, a couple of friends who were documentary editors working on the Booker T. Washington papers. I became a member of a group that we called ourselves the Friday Lunch Bunch, and we met once a month on Fridays in the back one of the conference rooms in Smithsonian Museum of American History. The organizer was Edie Mayo, who is a very good nineteenth century political historian, and women from all over the city who worked at the National Archives, at the Library of Congress, at the Department of Agriculture, at the National Parks Service, who wanted to continue to talk to other scholars, came to lunch. So we gave ourselves the fancy name of the Washington Women Historians and…I became as an adjunct part-time faculty member, part of the public history community. I knew those people, I knew what they did, and I continued, only wanting to do part time teaching in Washington D.C., where we lived, where my husband had a good job, until 1980.

In 1980, I applied for and got a position with the NHPRC [National Historical Publications and Records Commission]. They have a fellowship program for editing. And I, at that time, my children were old enough, they were 10 and 13. I was ready for a full-time job, and had begun trying for one as an academic, and was told by the guy at the University of Maryland who hired the people who teach the evening and weekend classes for Maryland, “Do you want this job or not? Historians around here are a dime a dozen!” (Laughs) “Take it or leave it!” He wanted me to teach history of Vietnam. My field was 18th century U.S. (Laughs) Wasn’t gonna go there.

But the point was, there weren’t any full-time jobs in the Washington area in the academy. And so, this position announcement came out for a fellow in scholarly editing at the documentary history of the first federal congress. Which was at George Washington University in downtown Washington D.C. And I applied for and got the fellowship, so it was like a one-year post-doc. I already had some experience because I had done a summer, just a summer job with the Booker T. Washington papers. I knew a lot of editors, so bottom line, that was the start of my wanting a full-time job. I then had three one year academic, replacement-for-somebody-else teaching positions. One in Ohio where I commuted (telephone rings). We’ll ignore that. One in University of Maryland, Baltimore county. (Phone continues ringing) I’m sorry.

MC: It’s fine.

CS: I’ll get that. If you want to pause that. (CS goes to take phone off the hook, the recording is briefly paused at 6:27.)

CS: The bottom line is—I had experience with public history, I had started going to the National Council on Public History—just sort of local meetings—I knew I still wanted to teach, I knew what the public history community was, so when my friend Jessica Kross forwarded me the announcement here at South Carolina that there was a position opening in the then called Applied History Program, and she…I knew her because I had been a friend of hers through reading advanced placement exams for educational testing service, and we…I’d been to Columbia to see her, so I’d been to South Carolina. I knew her pretty well, we’d become very good friends, and she forwarded me this job announcement.

She said “When you see this, you probably, it wouldn’t cross your mind to apply for it.” She said “But I think we want somebody like you.” She was on leave that year, so when I applied, and was eventually invited for an interview, she wasn’t even here. But, I looked at the announcement, and I said “Oh yeah, I could do that.” Because they advertised for somebody who could teach the archival component of the Public History Program and manage the joint degree between history and library science for archives administration. Well, my NHPRC fellowship at the first federal congress project coincided with the year that the Reagan administration decided that they were going to show their supporters that they were against big government, and they were going to close down unimportant and unnecessary federal agencies, one of which they picked on was the NHPRC. (Laughs) Which was a part of the National Archives.

My boss in the, the editor at the first federal congress project, Charlene Bickford, was very active in the northern Virginia political party. She knew how to be a political activist, and she really organized the editorial community and then reached out to the archival community because they were also cutting the budget of the National Archives—I mean who needs to store old paper? (Laughs) The National Archives was then part of the General Services Admission, rather than an independent agency, and the idea behind this cut was: well, general services provides desks and paper and supplies to federal government offices, and they had been managing the National Archives, and they said “You know, you don’t need all that space or all those people to just store dead paper.” (Laughs) And I wound up spending that year, because my position was funded by the Mellon Foundation, even though it was distributed through NHPRC and the National Archives, so I was not technically a federal employee. So I could lobby in my position as the NHPRC fellow in scholarly editing, so an awful lot of that year, we did a lot of editing, I got a lot done in my job as an editor, but we spent that year lobbying Congress, lobbying members of Congress and their office staff, sending out letters, explaining what the National Archives was and what it did.

Of course, what editors did and what, why scholarly editing was important. We were successful. Neither did they zero out the budget for NHPRC, nor did they cut the budget of the National Archives. And it grew into a larger movement for the independence of the National Archives. So, I felt comfortable saying to the University of South Carolina “I know what archives are. I am not an archivist.”—I made that clear from the beginning—“But I am a historian who knows how archivists work and why they do things the way they do, and where that fits into public history, why historians need to be a part of the archival community.” And as my now friend, also retired from the History Department, Marcia Synnott, used to say ‘Well you were our third choice.’ (Laughs) The two people who were archivists either turned the department down for the position—Fred Miller, who is a good friend of mine, was offered it, and he said, talking to me afterwards at a Society of American Archivists meeting, he said “I laughed all the way to the airport at the salary they offered me.” (Laughs) And then, the second person, apparently was asked the question after she gave a great presentation on how she would teach archives administration, and they said “Well, you know, you will really only teach one, or at most two, archives classes in a year, what other courses would you be prepared to teach in a History Department, and, this is hearsay, she apparently said ‘Oh, I can stand up in the front of the room and tell stories.” (Laughs) So, they didn’t offer her a job, and then they were left with me. And that was 31 years ago, and they and I have been happy ever since.

But that’s how I came to South Carolina, is a frustration that not getting a different kind of academic appointment, but increasingly really seeing myself within the public history community and being excited by the people who were in it. I mean, Beth Grosvenor—now Boland—at the National Park Service was wonderful. Really doing wonderful things. I’m trying to think who else was in that Washington Women Historian’s Group. Edie Mayo, as one of the senior curators at the Smithsonian. The women’s history specialist at the Library of Congress. The women’s history specialist at the National Archives. They were doing really relevant, interesting, exciting stuff as historians, so I was delighted to have a chance to become part of it.

MC: Well, throughout the years what role do you feel that you played in shaping the Public History Program at USC?

CS: Probably had a pretty major role after 1990. I came in 1985, and the program at that point had already been shifted from a generalist program—basically three courses and an internship—to a much more focused track program. My predecessor as the director, Mike Scardaville, came in having worked in a historic preservation. He had been a PhD in Latin American history at the University of Florida, and the first job that he got was with Historic St. Augustine. So, he had seen what do the historic preservation community want, that was really his training. What do historic sites need in terms of training? And he said this program has to concentrate more training in the specific areas. They should still have some exposure to the broad aspects of public history, then applied—it was still all applied history then.

But we need to focus people if they’re going to be looking for a museum career, they need more specific background and training and experience in museums. If they’re going to be doing historic preservation, they need more than a single overview course. They need to know how to do section 106 compliance and what are the standards for preservation, what are the tax issues? They need to know more about the history of structures than they’re getting. He also was the one who negotiated with the library school the creation of the, the joint program with history and library science in archives. Because we were already offering a course in archives, as well as a couple of courses in museums and a couple of courses in historic preservation. And we need more courses in archives and the library school can’t teach all of them.

So, he was the one who structured it into tracks and got the joint program up and running. When he left in 1990, I had just been promoted to associate professor, so I was then tenured. And I think, my shaping of it was two-fold. One, it was really under serendipity, and I can tell you this story if you have it in your questions and want to do it, the England Field School. The comparative public history of the United States and the United Kingdom. Which we all called the England Field School. And that program, I really built. And that was an important component of the Public History Program until it reached the point in 2010, and really in 2013, when the university didn’t support it financially, and students were no longer willing to take out student loans to pay the actual costs of what running a program like that involved. So that was a very successful program for 22, 23 years. And I think I was really instrumental in creating and building and shaping that into an important international component of the Public History Program.

The other thing, and again, this was a kind of serendipity, we already had a situation—the state archives, the state department of archives in history, was then physically located on bull street right next to the campus. And the South Caroliniana library, the South Carolina State Archives, all hired USC public history students—some of whom were archive students and many of whom were not— to work, as they do at South Caroliniana library now. And there were quite a few who were hired by the state archives because the state archives wasn’t open until 9 o’clock every night, except one…except Sunday. So they needed evening and weekend, basically minimum wage staff, and so they hired public history students or USC history students. We had people working at McKissick, we had people who were working at the State Museum, which was just then…I think it opened in 1990. It had had a skeletal staff, but now it needed more people. We had connections to Historic Columbia Foundation. And so it was sort of my idea, after talking to faculty and other units, not the History Department who knew nothing about this.

Actually it was social work that had a system worked out with the graduate school at that point, that if you had graduate students in your program who were working for an outside agency, doing the work that they would do as professionals once they had graduated—the graduate school had a system were you could declare that they were doing as an agency hire, to be a graduate assistantship. Now, you had to go through a lot of paperwork and jump through a lot of hoops, and you had to bring the actual paying of the student’s stipend into the university’s payroll system. So, it was a contract with the agency that they would reimburse the university for the graduate student’s stipend. But they…the students then got the same graduate student tuition benefit that a teaching graduate assistant in a department did. And, I said “Well, we can do this. (laughs) We already have all these students who are already don’t have financial funding from the History Department. They’re working in these other outside organizations—let’s make those into graduate assistantships.”

And so, there was a golden age where the graduate school, at that point—before the bean counters got a hold of them—the graduate school had an across the university system that, if you had a graduate assistantship, you had to pay as a graduate student—I can’t think now whether it was 1,000 a semester or 1,000 a year. But the rest of your tuition was free. That was a really good deal for public history students. Basically, we could offer a graduate assistantship to an incoming student like yourself at the State Museum, at Historic Columbia Foundation…You didn’t earn a lot of money, but you became—for the basis of tuition—you were an in-state student. You still had to pay a thousand dollars, but that was all you had to pay. And, what you got was two years of experience as a staff member of that organization. That you went out into the job market with two years or—in the case of archives students—often two and a half or three years of professional experience as a member of the staff. And that was very valuable. So, we built that system up.

At one point, we would typically have 20 graduate assistantships at state agencies. We had them at the state parks recreation…the state parks history office, we had them at the downtown development office, we had them at Historic Columbia, we had them at State Museum, we had graduate assistantships at the children’s museum—although no longer—at the Confederate Relic Room. I mean, we had assistantships for all of our students in professional positions. And then, somebody in the dean’s office or somebody in the bean counters in the hierarchy of the university said “The graduate school is giving away for free what they should be charging students for. The graduate school is costing this university ten million dollars a year in uncollected tuition fees!” And across the board, in the university, they ended that.

It hurt the university pretty badly, I think. The library school didn’t do this. They had been placing people. They have been, in some ways, a poor relation in all the — because they’re small. The History Department lobbied the dean of what was then the College of Humanities, since the College of Arts and Sciences…or maybe that’s about when it changed over…don’t know when that happened. They may have been happening at the same time. History Department lobbied their dean to say “We need to continue provide assistantship tuition benefits to our public history students who are working in the community.” And so, that’s sort of the origin of the current system where you have to be…And the dean at that time huff-huff-huffed and “Well I don’t know…” and…The money that comes to underwrite the payment of graduate student tuition—abatements they were renamed—comes for undergraduates who are paying for classes, and the graduate assistants who teach in classes—that’s where the money comes from to pay those graduate assistants is from undergraduate tuition, and “We shouldn’t be giving it away to people who aren’t teaching undergraduates!” (Laughs) And the History Department prevailed and has been continuing to…But I think I was the one who really saw that opportunity, built it, when the rules changed on us, helped—by then I was the director of the program—helped to figure out what could we salvage out of this destructive decision made on the university level. So, I think those are the two things that I really…

Plus, my students were my family. I think Dr. Marsh operates that way in some ways. The Public History Program has always been a place…and I think that was the role models I had, and the role that I tried, or the relationships that I thought were important within the program was the graduate students we have are our future colleagues. And we ought to treat them that way. Not as gophers who run errands, not as “You student, me full professor” kind of…that you’re learning and I’m helping you and mentoring you, but you and I are in the same profession. And that has made the Public History Program a place where people enjoy each other. It’s not a dog—it shouldn’t be, I hope it’s not anymore—but it’s not a dog-eat-dog, that you’re all competing for the only available A, and I need to stab in the back the other people here.

But that came down from the faculty, or came up from the faculty. And I used to take my travel to professional conferences in the form of a van so that I could take six or eight or ten students along. And I’d share my room at the conference with students to make…because I knew—to be successful, the Public History Program had to get its students out there. Now, Bob and Allison do that in a different way. They still are very encouraging and supportive that you guys get—whether it be SCMC or the National Council on Public History or the…I took people to Society of American Archivists meeting. We had a van that went to the SAA meeting probably—this is ’97 or ’98, I can’t remember. It was in Montreal, Canada and we took a van. (Laughs) But, I think that was…Mike was already doing some of that, but I continued to do it, and I think that’s an important component of the Public History Program today. You are in, at some level, you are not only colleagues with each other, but I hope you are beginning to see—you are a colleague in training with the faculty who teach you. I don’t know if that’s true, but I hope it is.

MC: You talked a little bit about this international component and then this component of collaboration—what were some other themes while you were at USC?

CS: Well, an important part of the collaboration was those graduate assistantships. Because that meant that not only the faculty—inviting curators at the State Museum or administrators at Historic Columbia or the moving image archivist from USC’s Cooper Library to come in and give a lecture to our classes. We were actively working with those people to place our students. And of course then our students became staff at those organizations and said “Well, I had this assistantship and it was wonderful—can my organization work out a contract with you for a graduate assistant?” So, a lot of the collaborations were local, some of them through that.

But, Mike Scardaville taught me this—and I took it very seriously—that in the State of South Carolina, and even nationally, your colleagues are not just the other faculty in the History Department. Your colleagues are staff at the South Carolina Historical Society in Charleston, the staff…And so, I started out my first two or three years here trying to build collaborative relationships not just in Columbia but throughout the state of South Carolina for archives and records and small historical societies who managed archives because those were the places that I would place my students as in internships. And, as it turned out, who became my colleagues then in the research that I laid out for myself as a public historian. My PhD work was not really anything that at that time seemed to lend itself, so I had to create research projects and interests for myself that would make me visible in the archival world into which my students would be going looking for jobs so that if they said “Oh I studied with Connie Schulz,” people at the National Archives would know who that was. And that was important.

Within the university, Mike had already put in place some collaboration in the partnerships with the anthropology department. I was very lucky to build the partnerships with the library school because my counterpart in the library school initially was a man—wonderful man, Bob Williams—who had himself been an archivist. I’m not sure they’ve had anyone since who has actually been an archivist. But, Bob had been an archivist for the Rockefeller Foundation, and he was the one who pushed from their side for the joint program and said “You need the library school training.” That is really important in the way…in the digital direction in which archives is going. And it is the library school courses and the understanding of cataloging and the way that the digital world is going to just create new ways to do that. History students need that if their going to be good archivists. But, librarians who think they want to work with manuscript collections or archival records, even modern records, need a historical background. So that was the other—that we really created a strong joint program there.

And another collaborative program that arose out of that—that Bob Williams was very strongly supportive of. And which, after he retired and there was a new dean of the library school, the library school pulled out of. But we were for six years part of a really interesting, early, digitally enhanced or— because it operated on internet —collaboration in archival education with four other universities in the southeast. It was known as the Southeast Archives Collaborative. And we basically, since any one of the four universities, which were LSU, Auburn, the University of Kentucky, and South Carolina, we each had an archival program. Two were in library schools, two were in history departments. We each had only one or, at most, two faculty who were qualified to teach the kinds of courses that archivists needed. What if—this was the idea, came out of Liz Daoud, Elizabeth Daoud, who was then at LSU—what if we pooled our resources. What if we offered six courses, eight courses over a year for…well, actually it was lower.

We each committed that we had to offer one course to the collaborative per year, but we could offer two, if we could offer it. And so that we could put together a really enhanced set of course offerings for a graduate degree in archival science that no one of us could do alone. And we did it through a distance ed that was broadcast live to all four campuses. And we used to…you’re too young—I don’t know if you ever saw the television show Hollywood Squares—but that was how…we had a live microphone, we had a live camera in every university, we at students at all four campuses. The instructor gave out…everything worked through blackboard, and everybody got on their blackboard on campus, but you saw the students on the other campus because there was a camera. We had what we called “Hollywood Squares” because you could show all four at the same time on the same screen. That sort of died probably about 2005 or 2006—library School had born the brunt of the digital cost. I mean, you could now do it as you know Skype. But there was no such thing then, so it had to have a digital IT infrastructure and the library school had worked with the computer services division, which was very excited about this program. I mean, we were ground-breaking in the year 2001 or 2002 in doing something like that. And it was a collaborative effort. We were in it about five years. It still exists—it’s self-sustaining. Michigan State I think is now a part of it and I think Indiana—Kentucky and South Carolina dropped out.

But that’s a, an example of an opportunity comes your way, you see what it could offer your students, it’s an exciting thing to do—they actually had some grant funds the first year or two from IMLS to begin it. It was a wonderful experiment. And my archives students got to know…they are now archivists who knew some of the people they meet in their jobs through the SAEC, the Southern Archival Education Collaborative, who were at LSU or Auburn. It was an inter-university collaboration that was very exciting.

We tried to set one like that up in historic preservation shortly after Bob Weyeneth got here, within the state in that Clemson and the College of Charleston were both offering historic preservation, but we had the only master’s degrees…master degree in historic preservation in history in the state. It was located in the school of architecture at Clemson. And we said “We don’t do bricks and mortar.” And we tried to set up what we called a “three-legged-stool” and we spent a lot of time actually talking to deans and some other people. But it wound up that it was really kind of a decoy, and Bob Weyeneth probably has some other different memories of how this worked. What we finally concluded was it was a paper attempt on the part of the College of Charleston and Clemson to get approval to create their own master’s degree program from the commission of higher education. And they really wanted their own, they really didn’t want to cooperate with USC. They wanted to do it by themselves, but it looked like they were trying to do it with us and that got their approval through, and then they dropped us like a hot potato. So, some collaboration works, some does not. You invest a lot of time and effort in it, and sometimes it just doesn’t work.

MC: How did you conceive of or how do you conceive of the Public History Program within the broader history program at USC?

CS: I think it has been a central program, bringing first-rate people into the university, sometimes going on into the University in the state. I think that we have always had excellent students—as witnessed that many people who finish the MA in public history are then recruited by their advisors to stay on and do the PhD program. And Mark Smith is one of the people who has actively done that in the past, don’t know if he’s doing it now, but he had a couple of classes of just superb U.S. 19th century PhD students who came out of the Public History Program—half of whom went on to teach in universities and half of whom who have had really good public history careers. So, I think it has made the USC history faculty and program, overall graduate program visible in programs outside the south, or for those not offering a component in southern history, the USC’s Public History Program has been a really key, nationally visible element of the graduate program in history.

I think all of us on the faculty on it have helped make it that. Certainly that was one of the goals that Mike Scardaville had in the early 80s when he came was to make it visible to the public history community by making sure that our students were prepared for national-level jobs, not just the local historical society, lone-ranger kind of one-off in the professional…It was part of my goal in making sure that I went not just to the public history conferences, I went to the national history meetings and served on committees for the AHA and the OAH and the Southern and become active in the Southern Association of Women Historians as a public historian that’s saying “We have this first rate program. Our students are good.” And it worked. National visibility of the program was strong when I came and has became much stronger.

So, I don’t know if that answers your question. I think it’s been very slow for the faculty across the board to recognize that. Because many of them came from Ivy League or other high—I don’t know what names to use, what labels to use—more elite universities than they perceived South Carolina to be. And there were, there have been, there may still be—I don’t know the faculty well enough to know—I think it’s decreased, but there were people who thought that a public history cheapened the overall ambiance of the department that made it more difficult for them to present themselves as high-level historians from a high level department. I don’t think that’s as common now. I think because the world of universities has moved to wanting public history as a component of History Department programs—whether at the undergraduate level or the graduate level. And so, for someone to come from a program at a university with a 40-year history of a strong Public History Program, I think our faculty across the board are beginning to recognize and agree that this is a good thing. That wasn’t always true, but I think it is now. I hope it is now.

MC: Throughout all your years at USC, has your definition or idea of public history changed any?

CS: It probably has, and that links into the international component. I hope I’m not running you out of time. We didn’t really start until 2:30, so you’re ok on tape and on…?

MC: (Nods)

CS: Ok. That linked into my experiences internationally. I think, as the field has grown and frankly become more respectable, my personal understanding of what public history involves and needs to be part of it has grown. To the extent that I was able while I was on the faculty to bring that into the program itself, I’m not sure. I have always believed that a public historian has to first be a good historian. That’s the bottom line. If we’re not good historians, then the public part of what we do won’t have the value that we can bring to it. Historians need to be at the table, having important conversations in all of the public world where history has meaning. So, to do that, you have to be a good historian, so that’s where I began. I really became aware of a very different meaning. I was trained in public history by people who were trained as historians but who had jobs, as PhD historians because of the job crisis of the ‘70s and ‘80s, who had jobs…One of my best friends in Washington became the first historians of the FBI. Because she was a good historian. And she was a fan of FBI stuff (laughs). But, she created that.

My knowledge of public history was of people who had been trained traditionally as historians and then got jobs in national or state or regional institutions as historians. But increasingly throughout my career, people getting jobs in public history are now coming, not out of traditional PhD programs, but are coming out of graduate degree programs at the Masters or PhD level who are training them as pubic historians. So, I think that that has changed some of how I look at public history and some of how we as a program have looked—that we not only have a responsibility to train, to educate people, to create historians out of lovers of history. But to create historians who have the skills and the knowledge in the areas of the public arena where they’re going to be functioning as historians. That became really clear to me…and that our goal was to create historians who were prepared to work professionally in public history jobs.

Then I spent a year…I got involved with the England field school. And began to meet and know a lot of people who I regarded as public historians but who did not think of themselves as public historians in England. Working for the British library, working for the National Archives at queue, working at the many museums in north Yorkshire, working for English Heritage, working for National Trust, being a supervisors or an interpretive historian for a national trust historic house, working at the local public record office in Yorkshire, working at the t-side. They had read history maybe as undergraduates, but the training for what they were doing was not in history, and the academic units in the English universities did not see that as a reputable or even respectable career for anybody that they trained at the graduate level. Yes, they would be happy to give you a master’s degree in history, but you’re going to work for English Heritage? (Laughs) Come on. We want you to do real history.

But there was in the U.K., a very strong area called public history that came out of—I’ll say his name wrong, I’m having a mental block—Rayfield Samuels. Out of the sort of leftwing open university idea that the public out there can all be really good historians of their own historical experience so that people who are miners should be writing the history of the mining communities in which they live, and yes, they should do that in local historical societies and as volunteers and as amateurs. That the role of the academic historian is as to study the public’s understanding of its own history. Which is a very different thinking about what is public history.

Now, the British have come close to what we do, and I think increasingly, there is an appreciation of that in the public history world here. And oral history has been one of the bridges, I think, between the academic public historian seeking to train people for public history careers. And the understanding that, if you’re going to have real public outreach in the communities, that oral history is a way to do that, and that the people that you interview in those oral history projects are historians creating their own histories. So, oral history has always been there, but the larger public history community I think has come closer to that. It’s interesting that I think the model that we’re seeing in Europe in the International Federation for Public History—jumping on the bandwagon of doing academic training for public history in the university—is an interesting mix of those two.

The British are now really beginning to try to develop Public History Programs that give their students opportunities to move into those careers of the people I was taking my students to see in 1990. So, that’s a way I think in which the U.S. public history model has really had a big influence internationally. And clearly, I mean, Allison Marsh going to China and talking there about public history in China with academics who want to create Chinese Public History Programs. The other really strong public history international programs that have been more on the U.S. model have been in Australia and in Canada. And those, again, Canada grew up simultaneously with the public history movement in the U.S. in that Canadians in public history institutions didn’t have an organization. And so, they early on became active in the National Council for Public History. And it is misleading to say that it’s a U.S. organization. It has always been equally a Canadian organization.

In Australia, the direction was in a slightly different way in that its strengths were not getting students who came through the program into existing public history organizations like state or national museums, but to fulfill the need for Australian legislatively based demand for good historical research for documenting the impact of government activities on cultural anything. So, in Australia—at least my knowledge of it up through 2008, 2010—in Australia, the really successful moving of public history students into careers was into basically freelance historians doing the equivalent of cultural resource nominations or reports for agencies that needed those professional reports. Australia had a lot of equivalent of history associates. The movement of their students was not exclusively, but more likely to be into the public history consulting business—public historians as business people, fulfilling a need for history in the community rather than fulfilling a need for a professional staff for cultural organizations.

So it’s an interesting way of thinking about what is public history. And internationally, it’s quite different than what it is here. And it was fun to be part of that. I love the International Federation for Public History—and you should get on and join as a student for whatever it is, seven or eight dollars a year. And start getting on their listservs and see the kinds of things that they’re doing in Germany and France and England and the Netherlands and Columbia, South America. And all of those places are beginning to really say “We’re public Historians. Here’s how we’re doing this. You and America don’t have everything.” (Laughs) So, that’s my sermon. Sorry, I preach my sermon.

MC: Looking to the future, what is your vision for the future of the Public History Program at USC? Do you hope for more of a reinvigoration of this international aspect or…?

CS: Well, I think the future of Public History Program in USC is that it has to reflect the field as a whole. And I think the two areas that are changing that weren’t there—even when I left the faculty eight years ago—they were beginning to be there—but the two really important aspects that I think we need to build on, and perhaps become a place to go for, one of course is the international connection. I think that USC needs to continue to be linked, if only through its faculty to the international practice of public history. I don’t know whether the kind of England Field School nature of that can be reinvigorated. But there are other ways. But I think that there needs to be a continued link of the Public History Program, its faculty, and, if possible, its students to international public history practice.

But the second I think is we have to become really good in what’s happening in all of the fields that we offer in terms of the international, digital world. Digital humanities is, in some ways, wallpaper over very traditional stuff and some of what gets called digital history. It’s just a little add-on rather than being at the core. But I think just as—and you may laugh—in 1985 and ’86 and ’87, we in the Public History Program taught incoming graduate in public history how to use word processing programs. Nobody else in the History Department did.

We in the Public History Program had a requirement in the then required historical research methods class, there was a requirement that you create a database related to the historical research project you were building. And you had to use dBase too to do it. You might have been say “I didn’t do this stuff. I’m a history major because I couldn’t do this stuff.” But everybody in the Public History Program had to deal with what is a database. How is it created? What are the components of a good simple good database. It might be a simple database to keep track of a material culture collection that I am working with. Or you could invent it. But you had to learn how to create a database. They didn’t have Excel, they didn’t have Access, they didn’t have, all of the programs already out there. But we taught them. (Coughs) I think we need to do the equivalent of that for being able to create websites, being able to understand how to use the digital humanities’ tools to do historical work. Because that’s the work of the future. And that’s the work that you all will be hired to do. You can’t give up the other things.

It’s a real balancing act because you still need to have good historians and you still need to have a basic knowledge about how does a museum function. And you learn that through how does an archives function, why do archivists do things the way they do, what is the whole infrastructure of the historic preservation world at the local, state, national, and international level, what are section 106 things, how do you get funded. I mean all of those you need. Which are the traditional content of the various fields. But you also need to be bringing along and not skimp on the digital history. But I think we’re doing that. Allison is certainly aiming you in that direction.

I think a lot of the other coursework you’re doing with…I honestly don’t know how much Bob…Bob himself doesn’t do, as far I know, doesn’t do GIS. But he certainly knows how it works and why it’s important and how you would apply it to historic preservation tools. You don’t have to do it to understand what it does. And I think that we’re going to see with Colin Wilder coming into the History Department and more opportunities there for offering that. And potentially that might make the students who do European history see public history as a way in which they, as Europeanists, can create a niche or a career track for themselves with their interests in non-U.S. history. Because public history has tended to be mostly U.S. Hasn’t always been only. But the non-U.S. historians have been few and far between. Some of them have gotten very good jobs. But, there’s not as many of them as U.S. historians.

MC: Lastly, why did you volunteer to be interviewed for this project?

CS: Because I think as an archivist, or an archival educator—I was never an actual archivist—I think that this is absolutely essential that of all places, a History Department should have a historical memory of what it has been and what it has done. And while there are a few who are around who go back as far as I do, there are not many. If my memories help, if my understanding of what the program has been helped to make sure we keep a record of what we’ve done and how we’ve done it and why we’ve done it that way—whether it was serendipity or out of intent—and usually there’s a mix of both—that we should keep a record of that. And oral history is a way to create that record. So, that’s why. Also, I like to talk.

MC: (Laughs) Thank you.

CS: Great.

End of Interview