Mary Sherrer

Return to Interviews

Interviewee: Mary Sherrer
Interviewer: Maurice Robinson
Date: October 19, 2016
Accession #: PHP 027
Length of Recording: 41:35
Sound Recording

Mary Sherrer is a 1998 graduate of the University of South Carolina’s Public History Master’s program. A native of Indianapolis, she received a bachelor’s degree in history in Maine. After studying Ancient British history, she starting working at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. At UofSC, she pursued a historic preservation concentration. She is currently the Project Assistant Director and Associate Editor of the Papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney and Harriott Pinckney Horry at the Pinckney Papers Project. Interview includes discussion of Sherrer’s public history background, her professional and academic endeavors before attending UofSC,  the dynamics between traditional PhD students and public history students, and the gender makeup of her cohort. Sherrer also spoke about the importance of the Public History Program within UofSC and nationally, her advice to current, future, and former public historians, the importance of the field and alumni network, and how helpful the Public History Program has been in her career.



Bates College | British History | Historic Preservation | Indianapolis, IN | Pinckney Paper Project | Strawbery Banke Museum (NH) | Public History



Maurice Robinson: Alright. Hello, this is Maurice Robinson. It is October 20th, 2016. I’m meeting with Mary Sherrer…Mary Sherrer. She is an alumnus of the public history program and we’re gonna talk about her time, her thoughts, and experiences within the program…the USC public history program. First of all, thank you for interviewing or being interviewed.

Mary Sherrer: Sure.

MR: Why did you decide to say yes to the project? Just curious.

MS: To come to USC?

MR: Yes.

MS: I was working in New Hampshire actually. I was living in Maine and working in New Hampshire and I finished an undergraduate degree in history in ninety-one…up in Maine and my major in history was actually…ancient British history, which is not immediately useful if you’re not gonna go on to grad school. (Laughter)

I didn’t know what I wanted to do. After finishing that I sort of tried out some different things. I did a lot of archaeology projects and eventually, I landed at a museum called Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth, New Hampshire doing interpreting, being an interpreter, giving tours, hard side cooking. Half the time I was in costume. Half the time I was just interpreting to groups and programs. I did it for a couple years but I realized that without the graduate degree, I was not gonna be able to move into a full time position. It was seasonal. That’s when I met my husband, John. He was in Maine. He working at the Old York Historical Society, kind of doing the same thing.

We met, we both…we want to do museums as a profession. We know we need a master’s degree and all the programs we looked at in New England were extremely expensive…very, very expensive. I think we knew Maine didn’t have one…we didn’t have any sort of in-state. There were some in New Hampshire. There were some in Massachusetts. We were actually…he’s from Columbia. We were down here visiting his mom and like a very good mom, she said, — “Well, gee. You should really look at USC.” (Laughter) I’m sure they have a history department.

To sort of humor her, we said, — yeah, yeah…we did not intend…John did not intend to move back here. I don’t know what he said in his interview but…our plan was not to move to Columbia but we were here and we told his mom we’ll come…we look at…we’ll go on campus. I think it was like spring break. There was nobody here. This is just this classic story but we walked into Gambrell…sort of walking around and the one person who had her door open and was in the office was Connie Schwartz.

MR: Really.

MS: So, we walked in and sort of told her who we were and she immediately sat us down and talked to us…I don’t know probably an hour…convincing us that we need to come to — this was the perfect fit…we need to come to the public history program. It sounded like this is exactly what we were looking for because the program at that point…this was probably ninety-six…ninety-five…probably nineteen ninety-five. The way they had it structured was that the incoming public history students did an assistantship, which offered you a tuition reduction and you worked twenty hours a week in your profession.

You got to know people. You got professional experience, while you were doing the degree. Which sounded great. The tuition even without the reduction was much less than we were looking at spending at other places in New England. Connie was just so enthusiastic and she talked about the Kipling program and traveling to England and doing a comparative study of public history…we were so excited and we had no intention of being excited by this program and by the time we had finished talking with her, we were both really excited about it.

We both applied. I think John started six months before I did cause I wanted to finish out a program. It just seem to kind of match everything that we needed to get out of a degree. We’re older students at this point…we’re…was I twenty-seven…we’ve been out of college for awhile.

MR: Okay. Well, that just segways into another question. You said — so, you were doing public history before you got your degree to be a so-called public historian…is that correct?

MS: Yes. I didn’t really…I don’t know that I knew that I sort of understood public history from traditional history. I didn’t think of it that way but I didn’t…when I finished my undergraduate degree, I really didn’t get any sort of guidance from the professors who I’ve worked with on…other than going to — most people either went to law school or went to graduate school in history to teach at a university. I think they really didn’t know what to do with history majors who didn’t want to do that. I didn’t really have any career guides. I just kind of like you said kind of stumbled from one thing to another.

I thought I might wanna go to graduate school for archaeology and kind of just landed at that museum doing early American history and interpreting it. Yeah. It was…John and I were lucky too in that for whatever reason the class that we started with in fall ninety-six…spring ninety-seven…I can’t remember how big the class was but most of us had been out of college for a while. We were older students and a lot of people had worked in parks. I was with Al Hester…who else…I’m trying…Ricky Good was another student and she worked in an Archive. A lot of people had kind of done what we had and sort of loved history, tried it out in different public history fields without knowing we were doing public history and then thought, — okay we want to do this professionally. We need more of an education and more guidance so…

MR: I did not anticipate asking you is about the makeup of your cohort but what you’re saying is that when you were there at the late nineties, your typical public history student was not for the most part fresh out of undergrad.

MS: I think that was just our class and it was just kind of one of those weird things…

MR: For your class though…

MS: It was true for our class. Connie or Bob could kind of verify this. The class before us I think were a few years younger..I think most of them maybe came right out of undergrad but for whatever reason we landed with this group…Margret Thacker and we all kind of…we kind of gotten our feet wet like I said and then come back. It was kind of nice though cause we all hadn’t done school in a while. (Laughter) All right, I gotta write a paper again and I thought it was…yeah…

MR: Pressure. Pressure. No pressure.

MS: Yeah, it was a great group of friends to fall in with.

MR: Who did you work under? Did you…Dr. Schwartz, you worked under the whole time or…Who were your professors that you worked with?

MS: No. I probably frustrated by Bob and Connie too cause I couldn’t quite choose what concentration. I’ve done museums but I was really interested in preservation and I kept going back and forth between the two. I settled on doing preservation. Bob was…I was under Bob and then I had — because I had done early American history at the museum…my area focus was preservation in early America. My thesis was actually under Jessica Cross…and Bob Weyeneth in preservation.

MR: Okay. Awesome. To what extent had you maintained contact with your professors or cohort after completing the program? Just curious what happened with your experience.

MS: Because we stayed here, John and I both got jobs right after graduating and again sort of our plan was to finish the degree and go somewhere else and not staying in Columbia but we both were very lucky and got jobs here and ended up staying. I keep in touch with and I work with Connie. (Laughter) I see Connie almost everyday. I see Bob and we keep in pretty close touch with that class. Most of the people from our class are still some of our closest friends.

MR: It’s important.

MS: Yeah. Not just that but the people we met through — not just people we went to classes with but people they would have come speak to our class like people from the (Unintelligible 8:18) staff there. I later ended up working with…Tracy Power…Amy Chandler…Brad Salls. People from Caroliniana. I ended up doing research there, I got to…I feel like I see those people still cause I still work with them and not just this job but jobs that I had right after graduation.

MR: That’s amazing.

MS: Yeah, I think so. We keep in pretty close contact.

MR: That answers that. What do you do now in terms of what is the official title of what you’re doing? Can you explain the project or the work you do now?

MS: I am an editor with the Pinckney Statesmen.  We actually call our project — The Pinckney Papers Project. We first published the digital editions of the papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney and her daughter, Harriott Pinckney Horry. Then…and this is with Connie Schwartz, she’s the editor. Then, Connie applied for a grant to publish the papers of Eliza Lucas Pinckney’s two sons and their cousin, Thomas Pinckney, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, and Charles Pinckney. They were all diplomats — Revolutionary War. Soldiers. Thomas and Charles were both governors. They were very involved in South Carolina and the nation in the early — in the revolution in the early republic.

We are finding all their papers. Transcribing them and publishing them in a digital edition through Rotundo, which is at University of Virginia Press.

MR: Do you see yourself using any skills? Can you elaborate for anybody who does not know what you do in terms of how you translate? Your publishing skills till now.

MS: Right. I was sort of…I sort of fell into this. I didn’t…I was a preservation focus with my degree and started working on this project with Connie…I think it was 2008. It…I hadn’t done editing before but with my focus on earlier America, I was familiar with the Pinckneys in Charleston from that time period. I had done…I had worked with…I’m not really sure how you sort of get this experience unless you work on a project like this with the university. I done a little bit with…when Connie combined…she was creating a combined index to the Henry Lawrence papers, which no one had done. I did some part-time work with her doing that.

Then as a graduate student I worked with David Chestnut. He had started a project here when I was in graduate school called MAP– it was model additions partnership and it was trying to create…it was sort of when a lot of these digitals documentary additions of papers of fill in the blank were trying to figure out how to go digital. The model additions partnership was a way to try to establish good practices and standards of how to do that. I was a graduate student with a few other people from the program and it was — the work that we did as graduate students was very…it wasn’t getting a broad picture of the editing. It was really kind of marking up the text for internet publications. It was really kind of working with the code but we got to…(Laughter)

It was a very kind of experimental project. Sheryl Morrison come in…I think she was in the program too. I think she was an archive student and she was supervising it and one day, she’ll come in and say, — we’re gonna try this with this and we’re gonna mark — we’re tag every person in this paper this way — so, that the link to an idea, — which is what we do now and we do it one way. Then, it felt like the next day she come in and she’s like, — okay, yeah that didn’t work. We’re gonna try this…but it was very without knowing it and at the time when I did it, I thought I did not think doing this is as a career but this experience was extremely helpful to be able to do what I do. It’s not the exact same technology but it’s that it’s very similar and it laid the groundwork for that. Before I did this job I kept I have — I’m sort of a sporadic public historian. I have done…I did museums before I got here and then when I graduated I got a job at the state museum and then I worked for preservation consulting firm and then I ended up directing a non-profit. I’ve kind of been all over the place.

I know. I am…yeah. Dabble a little.

MR: It’s a good thing.

MS: (Laughter)

MR: You’re a renaissance woman of the public history program.

MS: No, I don’t think of…No, I wouldn’t say that.

MR: It’s a good thing.

MS: I keep shifting in my professions.

MR: What kind of classes did you take that stood out while you were a student here? Is there one or two that you really enjoyed taking?

MS: I can’t really think of a class I didn’t enjoy. The first class I took was a preservation class with Bob Weyeneth and we had to write a national register nomination. That was a really good kind of just baptism in the nuts and bolts of preservation. That was excellent. I know Robin Copp  talked about the methods class, which was very challenging but so important. Especially, for a student coming back to academia…being gone and coming back and saying, — okay, here’s what this is not what you did in undergrad. We’re gonna talk about how you really…are you gonna research and clearly write as a public historian. It’s not just picking a topic you’re interested in and going…you need to write for a purpose and very clearly and it needs to be without error.

No typos. Cite things consistently. Cite them correctly. Here’s all the sources you should look at. Here’s how to find them. Here’s how you talk to people. Robin talked about this but they really taught us everything from how to do research to how to dress for a presentation…how to give the presentation. It was like you’re a professional now…here’s how you present yourself. It was a really good holistic class into here’s what we expect of you and here’s how you do it. Bob even talked about…this is kind of almost irrelevant now but you’re male that you got as a professional or how you keep up with journal articles just kind of that basic…

MR: (Unintelligible 14:32)

MS: Yeah. Professional advice but also here’s how you approach your research topic and then produce a paper from it that’s actually new research and that is…that’s usable to other people. That was an excellent class. Every class I took with Jessica Cross in Early America was fascinating. We had…great seminars. I took a…the seminar class we did…taking that with PhD students was so good because there was always this idea that there’s public historians and there’s the PhD students. I don’t know if that still kind of exists but that was true for in some ways but we were really close friends with a lot of PhD students. We all hangout together and talk and I didn’t feel a lot of that tension but they were doing…they were doing other classes than what they brought to the seminar was so good.

I learn a ton from them as well.

MR: That’s perfect because that was one of my questions to ask you…well, I wanted to ask was do you see yourself segmented by traditional history and public history? Was that a divide for you while you were a student?

MS: I mean it was like in the methods class, it was all public historians. The seminars we were with and the writing seminars, reading seminars we were with traditional historians and then, there were certainly some PhD students who thought we weren’t doing real history or we weren’t doing because we weren’t doing the PhD degree. It wasn’t as — the work wasn’t as hard or I don’t know but I would not say that was true for most traditional historians as all. I thought we had a really good repore with everybody. I learned a lot from them. I thought the professors didn’t…I didn’t see the professors treat us any differently at all.

MR: That’s good. It’s your experience.

MS: (Laughter)

MR: Why did you choose a public history program versus a museum education program, archival program, etcetera ?  What’s your opinion on that like a specialized graduate education?

MS: That was really hard because I was really torn. I think being an older student I kind of knew what the risk was like I felt like I couldn’t mess this up. I had to get the right program. I didn’t want to start something in two years and be like, — oh, this is not…this isn’t what I wanted to do. I was very anxious about it. I thought…I was very anxious about the emphasis this program put on taking…doing those seminars with graduate…with traditional history students and I thought do I really need to be in a preservation program that’s just practical classes and I don’t know if this is the right thing. It probably wasn’t until my second semester here that I realized that this was right. I think it was honestly the variety of experience I was getting here. I was getting…that’s another reason why it was so attractive was that you had that twenty-four assistantship.

Even if that semester you were doing a reading seminar, a writing seminar and you felt like you were with traditional historians all the time and not getting practical experience. You were working twenty hours a week at the state museum at the archives. You felt like you were making those connections, you were networking, you were on the job. That twenty hour week assistantship was so important for me getting jobs later. Just to feel engaged with the public history community in a city, which is an incredibly supportive community. That’s one thing that blew me away about Columbia that I didn’t see in New England.

I don’t know if it’s just what was going on. I mean people act differently at different times. It just depends who people are but the group here in Columbia…I felt like it was very competitive in New England and there was a lot of like if a job came open it was extremely competitive. Here, a job comes open, people call people they know and say, — did you hear about this job. They may know other people applying for it but they may — but they’ll also call you and say, — this job opening up, you should apply for it. Here’s somebody else you should talk to for it.

It’s a very friendly, very open, very…just great community…supportive community. So welcoming to students. Like I remember one of the first conferences I went to…I worked for Rogers Stroup at…who was at that time the curator of history at the State Museum. Then he went on to be the director of archives in history and he hired now. When I interviewed him for an assistantship there, my experience coming from my museum in New Hampshire, Strawbery Banke but there was this huge rift between museum educators and museum curators. That they were doing…they were sort of at opposite ends.

The educators always wanted as much to be…access to the public and hands on stuff, open more and the curators were very…let’s put this burier up, this is not (Unintelligible 19:58)…it was just different perspectives. I came here and I sort of mentioned that to him and he looked at me like you did — like are you crazy — like what’s going on. Then I saw him…I remember I went to a conference like that semester and it’s like the morning session and Roger Stroup was making the coffee. He was just like pouring it and that was just something I hadn’t seen the people I worked under at in previous jobs do that.

Say what needs to be done. It doesn’t matter that I’m the supervisor here at this level…the coffee needs…I’m just gonna make the coffee. I think Bob and Connie, I think in one of the first classes…it was…they were Bob and Connie. They were…you’re adults, you’re here, you’re gonna be our colleagues. Everything was sort of bringing you into the community of public history and that’s still true. Every job I have gotten has been through networks through the public history program. It’s been people who I knew or who knew me from work I did for a project or is it who were from this program or supervise me in an internship and that network is crazy. It’s very, very supportive.

MR: That’s amazing.

MS: I don’t remember your original question was. I probably like went way off.

MR: You answered it. You speak however you want to speak. You’re not being restrained.

MS: I tried to answer your question…I don’t know if I went off track.

MR: You’re fine. You are more than fine. You’re good. You also talked about networking or conferences. Which conferences do you remember going to or you were encouraged to go to while you were a student here.

MS: The South Carolina Historical Association…I think SCHA. They were really good with students giving papers. I think I did a graduate…was it the…is it the GSA, the graduate…do they still have a conference?

MR: GSA…not that I know of.

MS: The graduate students…I feel like they had…

MR: They might but I do not know.

MR: I feel like they I specifically remember going to Lander University with Mardy Matthews and giving papers there. What else did we do…with a couple of other preservations students, I think I went with Al Hester and…I can’t remember if Marda went…but there was a preservation conference we were really interested in because it was very technical. It was people like doing presentations on preserving brick structures in Georgia from 1740 to 1745. It was very, very… what was it…it was like… I can’t think of the exact name but it was a fascinating conference. I think it was at Williamsburg that year.

We did a poster…I think we did a poster session. We all got in a car and traveled up and did that.

MR: That’s cool.

MS: It was fun. That was probably…that was the biggest sort of out-of-state conference I remember going to. I don’t remember that time that we went to the big NCPH or AAM. We did go to SCFM — South Carolina Federation Museums. They still are and were very welcoming to students, I did that even though preservation was my field…I go to this conferences. Mostly ones in-state or regional. That was I remember we were very much encouraged to go and do that. Usually, it was with a group.

Try to do a poster session or something or a group project. You try to present and do…

MR: What was your social life like while you were in the program? In Columbia? Restaurants? Experience with your co-hort? What was the non-academic social life things you would do?

MS: There wasn’t a lot of time…I remember…(Laughter)…to not…

MR: That sounds about right.

MS: Yeah, between working and classes. I think it was… social life was pretty much with the people in the program. You mean like specifically where did we would go or what did we do?

MR: You don’t have to name the exact place but what’s the way to wind down?

MR: We went to the public house on Devine Street a lot. (Laughter)

MR: Really? Things don’t change.

MS: That was our gathering place mostly. (Laughter) Mostly led by Kevin Gannon if I remember right. It was…there was a group of us that would go and we were there quite a bit. We worked just during the week cause a lot of us were working jobs and those assistantships and doing classes. It wasn’t a lot going out. I don’t remember going a lot during the week but definitely probably thursday and friday and late. I go to bed now at like 9:30…10 ish. I think we go out super late, go to the public house and go out and go to five points a little bit.

Just a lot of public house. I did not go to a lot of football games. I’m not a big football fan. I remember it…there’s much more actually I think there’s much more to do now in Columbia but there’s a lot of work to be done I don’t remember other than being able to go out and have a drink and kick back… doing much else.

It was definitely with people in the history department and that was our social group. We had Halloween parties. We had…the Christmas parties were really fun. I remember our friends Mardy and Marda would have the department Christmas party and the afterparty they would have at their house. That was really a fun one to…the department parties were a way to get to your professors and have fun and they would come to the other parties too. That was good.

MR: That sounds fun.

MS: We took…one year we did with some friends on Christmas break we traveled…we did…we called it the capital cities tour. We actually wanted to go to…our friend Marty was from Raleigh and our friend Marda was from Richmond. I never been to DC I think at that point. We sort of did a road trip after Christmas and went…we’re history geeks. We went to all these history sites in every city. It was good. It was fun.

MR: That really sounds fun…on the record. That sounds fun.


MS: That was a good joke. Even though we had no money and also, we were sleeping on parents floors and stuff like that.

MR: Now, this is a question you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to but were you cognisant….or were you aware of the gender make-up of your cohort at the time?

MS: At the time was I…

MR: Was it all male or…

MS:  No…

MR: Not all male but the majority?

MS: I think there were…I think I was cognizant at the fact that I saw more diversity in the public history program than in traditional history. Gender, race…background in general. We tended to come from all kinds of different experiences looking at public history. Traditional historians…I remember it definitely being more male. I do remember it being conscious of that at the time.

MR: I just wanted to answer that one. I appreciate that.

MS: That’s a good question.

MR: Appreciate that. Is there anything that you would like to say to public historians who find themselves considering careers outside the field? It sounds a little crazy I know but what are your two cents?

MS:  (Laughter) For people who’ve been doing public history professionally and look at other jobs outside the field?

MR: Well, think of it like they are graduates of USC…

MS: Okay.

MR: …but they’re not doing…they are technically public historians but they found themselves outside their career. What advice would you give them or things like to say…what is your two cents on that? In 2016 of course.

MS: You mean recent graduates like people who struggle to find a job or just decided to switch fields?

MR: Anybody. Should they stay…are there opportunities?

MS: Yeah. I think…

MR: Have the landscape changed?

MS: (Laughter) I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been able to find jobs here in public history since I graduated. As I said it’s mostly been from that network of people I’ve worked with and knew who have helped me find sort of the next step. That’s said I do know people that have gone into say development, grant writing, and in that sense I think that’s not a different enough career that they’re experience in public history didn’t help them. I think they probably agree with that. You go where you feel the opportunity is and it’s so many…when I was in graduate school, it’s sort of a decision of what do I want to do, what am I interested in, and ten to twenty years down the road you think how can I support my family and what’s gonna work right here while I’m living here and maybe my spouse is doing that.

I’ve been lucky enough to be able to…John and I both to stay in public history but I think there are certain other decisions that come into play. I don’t…I think public history is one of those degrees that you can come back to as well but if you left to do a different job that public historians have skills…practical and managerial that are applied to other jobs but I think you could also move back into it…I think.

MR: Good answer.

MS: If somebody left it and thought I can’t ever work in a museum or with preservation again. I don’t…I can’t imagine that would be true.

MR: How was your time in and how has your time in South Carolina informed your identity? Since you are from New England originally.

MS: Well, I’m actually from Indiana.

MR: Oh, nevermind.


MR: From the west.

MS: I grew up in Indianapolis and then I went to school in Maine and I lived in Maine for awhile. Then, moved from Maine to down here. I still hold on to that Mid-Western identity. I am not a Southerner.

MR: For the record, what is a Hoosier?

MS: Hoosier is anybody from Indiana. I’m not really sure what that means cause I lived there until I was eighteen and left. People from Indiana would probably say you are not a hoosier cause in a way I know Columbia better than Indianapolis. It’s changed so much when I go back I’m like I don’t know where I’m going. Columbia has been I think a really good size city to live in. The way that it’s developed the last ten years has been phenomenal. They made it an amazing place to be and to live and I can’t imagine Columbia without the university. I think the diversity and the opportunities the university offers to people.

On just an any given weekend, a million things…I’m not a sports fan but I can go to the Kroger Center or any kind of concert.

MR: It’s amazing.

MS: It is amazing. To me that makes Columbia what it is. That’s a good question. I just…cause I get that push back too working as a…as soon as I open my mouth a lot of people from here say you’re not from here, are you? I…

MR: What does that mean?

MS: Right. Who are your people? (Laughter) That it took me a long time to get used to those questions. I still get them. It’s definitely hard cause my husband is from here. There is a bit of like — well wait, who is she?

MR: That’s funny.

MS: The first job I had from finishing my degree was working for the State Museum on a grant to do research for the Heritage Corridor. Which was a program to try to draw tourists away from Charleston and into the rural parts of South Carolina as an economic incentive to get them to spend money in Abbeville and Edgeville and Pickens county. I traveled all over the areas and met people in museums and historical societies community groups and talked to them about what’s important to your community. Of your history, what do you want to talk about?

That was a definite fascinating job. Very inter…very, it was a hard…the project ended up being very massive and difficult to kind of get our hands around and manage but that process was really interesting to me to get to know the people of South Carolina. I often got that. They would kind of look at me and be like…

MR: Who are you?

MS: You’re not…I can tell you’re not from here. Why…how did you get this job? That’s why I try to sell public history right. I’m a public historian. I can do this. I know how to do history and kind of got…(Laughter) … I don’t know not my history. Hearing that response is important. I think we all do that and you kind of…people…history is this very emotional, personal, thing to people and if you’re gonna come in and tell someone’s story, they have to trust you and they have to believe that you know what you’re doing and that you’re not gonna mistake…what they have in their mind is history. As a public historian, that was a very good education for me.

I still miss the cold. I really like cold weather.

MR: What aspect of cold do you like? Are you like a ski person…the environment just…

MS: No. I don’t even ski. I just want it to freeze. On a regular basis, I want to put on my coat and I want to wear boots. I know.  I just really love that. I kind of… this (Unintelligible 34:15)

MR: I love your realness. I really do.

MS: I really do. (Laughter) I want the bugs to die and go away.

MR: That’s practical.

MS:  Four months of just like nothing…that kind of just barely…I miss that. I know it’s funny.

MR: It’s cool. I love it. (Laughter) That was cool. Bugs dead…I love it.

MS: My husband laughs at me too.

MR: It’s cool. I love it. What is your vision for the future of public history program? What is your two cents? What would you like as an alumnus to see?

MS: I want to see it continue to stay, to be strong. I want to see a lot more students than I see come through. I want it…the classes to be big and competitive. I want people to want to come here cause I think the reasons that I mentioned I think that this is a great place to come … wherever you’re from to come in and do history. I think Columbia professionally offers a supportive environment, very diverse opportunities for people whether it’s archives or museums or preservation. There’s so many things you can do in this state.

I think that the university can and should offer a strong public history program. I love to see it grow and strengthen.

MR: Perfect. What would you like to say or tell that I did not ask you a question? What would you (Unintelligible 35:48) on the top of your head wanting to be told…

MS: No…

MR: That I may have forgotten to ask.

MS: I mean I just… I can’t be… and I think I said this but I can’t be into the program worrying that I wasn’t doing the right thing but I can’t emphasize enough how well designed the program that I did…how well designed it was. How it benefited me tremendously in finding a career. How important those assistantships were to the program not only because of the tuition payment but because you were making connections professionally and getting professional experience. It was a very, very good experience and definitely prepared me professionally as a public historian.

MR: That kind of segways into one more question.

MS: Yes.

MR: Are the skills you learned in the public history program…are they skills you use today?

MS: Yes. All around.

MR: All around. Okay.

MS: I can’t think of something that I didn’t…my fourteen year old son is doing geometry last night and he was like, — “When I’m I going to…how is this useful at all?”

MR: I understand.

MS: Right. I don’t ever have that moment. I mean I think like I said that methods course, the professional preparation, the doing history, the research, getting to work with the history professors. It all prepared me. All those skills.

MR: One last question.

MS: Yeah.

MR: Is…let me make sure I ask it right. What professional advice would you give a current public history student in terms of what organizations are most helpful? What would be your way to tell them to navigate the world when they leave public history at USC? Is there certain networks they should be a part of? Certain conferences they should go to you think are important? Professional organizations? Helpful?

MS: I’m trying to think cause I was sort of a preservation student that time. I think…

MR: You can use even now if you want to…what you think are important

MS: It depends on what you want to do but I think the national regional conferences are as important as the local ones. Perhaps more so if you’re looking on the job market…to look to go to those regional conferences. I think at the time too, we were…yeah, I remember that concern about alright, I may be in Columbia and getting my degree but I really want to work in Wyoming or whatever. It’s a challenge on how do I make those connections outside there but I think all the connections you make here are important as well. You’ll be surprised with our…I would say stay involved with the program. Stay connected.

Even if you don’t want to work in Columbia. Don’t cut your ties here and because it’s astounding to me that the alums we have working all over and that would serve…Bob has going of alums. I mean just reaching out to those alums and saying is anybody working in this area I want to do. This is what I want to do with my degree…does anybody. Just make those connections with the alumni and I think that would be a good resource. Yeah, all the conferences…I mean depends on your discipline but that’s certainly I know an important part of it. Just staying involved as much as possible with the community…whether it’s house museums while you’re here. If you never worked in an house museum or an museum, I think that as much as I didn’t do that after I left it was a great foundation in working with public director directly and seeing…causes sometimes you can — especially if you came right after undergrad and you do your degree and I’m not sure exactly how the program structured now — if you get a lot of experience on the ground — doing public history but if you haven’t while you’re here…do that every way that you can. Whether it’s volunteering or getting a job giving tours in Historic Columbia.

I think…we’re public historians — we’re interested in how the public sees history and how we can make that connection for people. If you don’t on the ground see how people…you can research for an exhibit and put it out there and it’s astounding what you hear people say…staring at your panel because it may not be what you intended at all…(Laughter) or you get… or I would give a tour and be like I’m gonna say this is so great and I’m gonna interpret the heck out of this…and someone asks me a question that I never even thought of and it was so interesting to them.

I think as much as you can be with the public and engage with history that way — do that.

MR: Okay. Perfect. Well, is there anything else that I may have missed…that you…

MS: I can’t…I’ve talked way too much about it.

MR: There’s no limit. You’re good. There is but you haven’t even come close. You’re fine.

MS: Okay. Thank you.

MR: This is Maurice Robinson, meeting with Mary Sherrer in Gambrell Hall. October 20th for the USC Public History Oral Alumni Program. All right. Thank you once again.

MS: You’re welcome.