Nate Johnson

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Interviewee: Nate Johnson
Interviewer: Will Mundhenke
Date: September 23, 2016
Accession #: PHP 016
Length of Recording: 47:11
Sound Recording
Summary

Nathan Johnson graduated with an MA in Public History from the University of South Carolina in 2009. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. At the time of the interview, he was working towards a Graduate Certificate from the George Washington University in Contexts of Environmental Policy. Johnson worked in the National Park Service at Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Formerly, Johnson worked at Fort Sumter National Monument and National Mall and Memorial Parks. While at UofSC, he worked as graduate assistant at the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room. Interview includes discussion of Johnson’s decision to go to UofSC, his research on the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston, the program’s reputation in the professional field of interpretation, and how his educational experiences continually informed his work with the National Park Service.

 

Keywords

Charleston, SC | Environmental Policy | Fort Sumter National Monument | Frederick Douglass National Historic Site | George Washington University | Jenkins Orphanage | National Mall | National Parks Service | South Carolina Relic Room | University of Wisconsin – Madison

 

Transcript

Will Mundhenke: This is Will Mundhenke.  It is September 23rd, 2016.  I am interviewing Nathan Johnson for USC’s Public History Program Archive. We are conducting this interview via Skype.

WM: Alright, Nathan, why did you choose our Public History Program?

Nathan Johnson: Well I had always been interested in history ever since I was very young, and I started, when I started college in undergrad, I started in business and I just said oh, that’s not going to work, I have to go back to history and I changed majors and then became a history major. A lot of people would ask me what I wanted to do, “Do you want to teach?” Would be the question I would get right away. Nothing against anybody who teaches because I think it’s a great profession, but it just didn’t seem right for me.

Then I had an advisor in undergrad that said, “Oh you probably want public history, museums studies like historic sites.” I said, “Yes!” She showed me what classes to take while still an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin. They are pretty limited, but she said, “You will probably want to get ready for your Masters in Public History.” She also recommended doing an internship down in South Carolina, she recommended doing an internship, so I chose one at Fort Sumter National Monument in South Carolina.

While I was there, I started to explore programs and I looked at a lot of the different programs, USC always stood out and I happened to work with somebody who happened to work with someone who went to USC’s Public History program. So driving distance, I drove pretty soon before the application for the coming academic year. Talked to a lot of the department, and I really liked what I saw there. I liked the fact that it was in the traditional history department, so I had a nice academic background. It mixed practical and more theoretical aspects of history, I decided that USC would be a great fit and I really liked that there were assistantships too. That was good. I wanted to keep up my work in the Park Service, but I also wanted to diversify some of my experience. To hear that we had opportunities to work with the State or with some private organization, I found that very exciting because I needed more experience on my resume so when I came to USC, they did that for me.

WM: Experience is key. Who did you happen to work with in Charleston that was related to USC?

NJ: I worked with Chris Zingler, he worked in cultural resource management down at Fort Sumter. He was still a graduate student when he started there, and he worked a little while after he graduated. He continued his work in resource management in the Park Service, and I know he jumped around quite a bit. I believe he is at Shenandoah National Park now. He went down to Fort Jefferson down in Dry Tortugas, and he has gone out to Little Big Horn. I could already tell he was going to do big things when at Fort Sumter. He had a pretty good idea of what he wanted to do with his career. I said, “alright, if he knows what he wants to do with his career, and he says USC is the place to go, then I will definitely check it out.”

WM: Do you think USC prepared you well for a career in public land management?

NJ: Yes, USC did prepare me very well for a career in public land management. It was, actually you see a lot of people come out of the program start to work for the National Park Service I do know that I see alumni up here in Washington, you see them in the greater area here that came out of the program. It’s a pretty good network, I don’t always keep up with everybody around here, but I know there are people I work with. Mainly because I get asked to be on panels and go and talk about different aspects of my job, and work with other public history professionals. I know its often USC people who are recommended for that. So when that came it was great, it led to more professional opportunity, and Bob and Allison are very open to me continuing working. At first they were like, “You might not want to work with the National Park Service while in this program.” And I said, “I think I want to.” And I decided to stay with the National Park Service, and at the end of the graduate road I was able to continue my job in the Park Service. I think it prepared me very well.

WM: You mentioned in Madison, museum studies. What made you choose a Public History program over a program specifying in Museum Studies?

NJ: I found museum studies programs very exciting. I had looked, really the one I tested out the mot, which really was the program I thought I could get into was a George Washington University. It has an excellent museum studies program, but there were a few things that stopped me from going. Number one was the cost. (Laughter) It was very, very high. USC was very affordable and had more bang for the buck. I liked having the kind of choice to do preservation classes and museum studies, and the traditional history. (Unintelligible, Lost Chat Connection)

NJ: I just liked the broader classwork that I got to do at USC, and I really liked being able to take more traditional history courses at USC. I looked at what their historians actually do, and I would gain more traditional coursework, and I knew some of their names already. I was always very interested in African American history and history of the South and 19th century history, and USC’s history department had all that. I was excited in going there for the history.

WM: Is that one of the aspects of the program that specifically influenced your studies? The Strong southern emphasis?

NJ: Yes, definitely so, that is definitely right. I looked at other programs I had seen, which the staff here looked specifically at African American History 19th century history, the history of emancipation. USC had history that I studied and that I am interested in, and USC was very strong in that area, and I didn’t find anything else.

WM: Was there a specific aspect about the program, whether it be internships, your thesis, or the southern emphasis, that contributed most to your current position in the National Park Service?

NJ: Yeah I would say, I had went to UW [University of Wisconsin] for undergrad, and I had always been interested in African American history and 19th century history, I could do a lot of 19th century history at UW, and I am sure there are some courses I missed, but I was very excited to focus on coursework more on African American history when I was at USC with some top professors.

Also, working with Bob Weyeneth, a lot of his preservation courses focused on African American history, so I took his Historic Preservation practicum and looked at a reconstruction era agency of the South Carolina land commission, which had bought up a lot of land, it was a state commission, where a lot of people who had land could not do much, so they sold it to the state, the state then sold it to wholesalers, but really to anybody who needed land for a pretty good rate, and we looked at who was still around who had descended from one of these original purchasers and still had any land that had been purchased by the land commission more than 100 years ago.

I remember that course was really influential, and I learned the importance of oral history. I never took any oral history, but I actually liked going out and talking to the people in the area, studying the local community, doing interviews with the people, and you really get some hyper local history, and I really liked that, and I learned some valuable lessons from that. Trying to think of whatever course would have been really big, I know that one was very important for me. I just looked a lot at how I could combine work down in Charleston with the National Park Service, and kind of used my coursework to advance that.

I think Bob’s course stood out the most, oh and then Allison had given a material culture course when she first came on staff, and that really opened my eyes to the different lenses, and she gave us lenses to look at objects through museum object labels. We talked about these things that looked at the same object through two different lenses. Industrial history, social history, and talked about why like I remember (unintelligible) what was the social history of that? It was always different from looking at it from industrial history. Someone might say,” oh well this album came out, but is this really true? The album came out before they were remade in vinyl.” So you can look at it for its industrial significance as an industrial example of that period. So those two course I remember taking a lot of lessons from, being able to use in my career.

WM: What helped develop and influence your thesis?

NJ: I got to think back on this. My thesis was on the Jenkins Orphanage, which was an African American orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina started in 1891. It was privately funded, and it connected with one black church in Charleston, and it got a lot of support from other black churches in the area. It gained a pretty good reputation through its music program, it had some traveling bands that went out especially around 1920s, they got pretty well-known. So let’s see, I got started doing that, oh I took a course when Connie Schulz was still on the faculty. She did a photography course, history photography and I was looking for how I could use some, there was a lot of photography, historic photography in Charleston, great records. I was looking through all these books with historic photos in them, when I came across a photograph of the Jenkins Orphanage, I had never heard of it before, and I got interested in it.

I started to see how I could fit it into how I could study black education and history during the Jim Crow period, and so I wrote a paper in her course of photography about that and compared it to photographs of Tuskegee taken by a very famous photographer, Benjamin Johnston, so I got started that way and then I think working in Charleston, working at the Park Service, I did a lot of work there. I had been able to just continue studying Jenkins Orphanage influenced my thesis. The photography course was a really big part of that.

WM: With Connie?

NJ: Yeah with Connie, I had included a little analysis of the photographs in my thesis, but really it was more focused to that page. I used a little bit of it in my thesis.

WM: So you mention Connie, Bob, and Allison, were there other influential professors during your program.

NJ: The public history ones, and we did have the the connections at the McKissick Museum. I did have some good courses at McKissick Museum that stood out. I did exhibition development with Nathan Scalby and I can’t remember who else did it, but they both belonged to the Museum. Then I had collections management with Jill Coverman. I learned a lot in both of those courses, exhibition development I had done some exhibits at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, which is where I work now. I had done temporary exhibits for the last three years.

There are valuable lessons I learned in McKissick Museum’s exhibition development course is not to have so much text. I remember the group I was with, we had for ur exhibit, we had way too many texts panels. There were like 30-50 text panels (laughter). We were novices! (Laughter) So we covered our proposal and I can see Nathan and Jason’s jaws dropped like “whoa, pretty extreme text panels.” (Laughter) So I learned the importance of equally mixing text, objects, and images and exhibits to talk about.

WM: Did you ever consider dual degree in Library Science or Museum Certificate?

NJ: Museum Certificate for sure. Other programs I looked at before looking at USC looked more at Public Administration and I considered that. I wanted a very solid background in history. So I looked at doing more of the administrative things, the certificate would have helped with museum management. I had my coursework pretty well set out, and what I wanted to do with it. I think that would have added more time, I kind of wanted to get out after two years instead of sticking around. I had a permanent job waiting at the end of it. Two years, I got my degree and I was on my career. I think it worked out pretty well. The only thing is if I wanted to work in a non-profit or managing museum, I feel like I might look back and say, “hey maybe I should have gotten that certificate, buckled down for another semester.” So far it has worked out pretty well though.

WM: Would you say the Masters in Public History has played a significant role in your current position in the National Park Service?

NJ: Yes, I refer back to some of my coursework, my different papers and projects that I worked on. I do it primarily with my core, talk about it maybe too much. I often think back about my experience and lessons that I learned. The ones that I just told you about are the lessons that I think back a lot. They are very simple. Like don’t have a bunch of text in your text panels, or when you are designing an exhibit. They were lessons that I needed to learn. I obviously remember them now, its getting to be almost ten years later, nine years later, that’s a pretty good sign that the lessons I learned there, some of them simple as they may be, they have let me use them in my job. They were important lessons that I needed to learn in the courses.

WM: You mentioned earlier that the Public History program was housed within a more traditional history. Did you find that the applied skills have helped you most or more of the theoretical, methodological of the traditional history?

NJ: I usually think more about the theoretical, methodological aspects of what I learned in the program, but definitely some of the more practical too. I talked too much about Jill Coverman’s course in collections management. That is one that sticks out, but I worked in the South Carolina Confederate Relic Room, that was my assistantship while in the program. I started out doing some archives and finding aids for printed materials. That was around the same time that I started the Collections Management course. I didn’t know a lot about just documentation. Learning how to document a collection, the importance of that, keeping good paperwork, I didn’t know how to do all of that. I didn’t do too well in that course, but I came back and I really want to work in museums, I really want to work in collections, and I knew there was no curator down in Fort Sumter at the time either. I really want to learn how to do this.

My assistantship the following year worked in collections, worked with South Carolina Confederate Relic Room, I took what I learned from Jill’s, my embarrassment of what I didn’t know too well, and I was able to apply that with my work in the collections of the Relic Room, and I did that for a year, and when I got permanent in the Park Service, I was able to take on a collateral duty and share at Fort Sumter, and did that work for about three years before I moved on. The collateral duty, I was able to take everything I learned and really do large scale projects and get as much work done, the collections that I wanted to, but I was able to take what I learned and just here and there kind of chip way at the maximum amounts of work that needed to be done. I had the good background to do it.

WM: That is great to hear that it influenced actual skill sets. Were you currently working at Fort Sumter National Monument while at the Relic Room, and your coursework, or was that a summer gig?

NJ: Yes I was doing it all (laughter). When I said that Bob, when I first started the program, Bob had said,” You don’t want to do it all, I would recommend you do the assistantship for a year, and get instate tuition, so you are going to want to focus on the assistantship and the coursework.” But I didn’t want to let go of my job at Fort Sumter, I would work it on the weekends. They [Fort Sumter] put me on temporary status, part time status. I was given suggestions, but I was given too much input. But it all worked out in the end. Sometimes I wanted to die (laughter). They made it seem like I had to do one or the other, but it all worked out in the end. A big part of keeping the job was more personal because now my wife Sarah, she was living down in Charleston going to undergrad there too, so, I was trying to keep all of that together at the same time. Two years of grad school, keep the relationship going, and keep my job in the Park Service at the same time, and get my Masters.

WM: Did working in the National Park Service while at school, did that fundamentally change your experience within the program?

NJ: My job in the Park Service did impact the way that I saw things, the way that I learned things in the program. I don’t know too much, I guess at the time I never really thought about it too much, so I don’t know. I mean there were some of the things that did effect me, like sometimes I would show up on class on Mondays, if I had a Mondays morning class then I would be beat, because I had just woken up at four in the morning in Charleston to drive up to be in Columbia in six or whenever the thing started. Sometimes in that regard, I took a beating there, but I don’t think it made any sort of (laughter) like downfall in the program, or felt like I didn’t contribute in class.

It gave me perspective, like when I did the Public History courses, working in the Park Service as an interpreter, you kind of interpret the same story, and you want to do your own research to continue to build on that story from quite a different perspective. New ways of telling that story. I guess I never really brought that to the table in my coursework, more I designed my work in the course, especially traditional history courses. I said, “Ok, I never thought about this framework, or some arguments, these historiographical arguments, and how things have been influenced by over 100 years of these historians crafting these arguments (unintelligible).

In that regard, what I learned in class, and how I approached interpretation in the Park Service, and vice-versa more in the Public History courses, and it was useful when I sat in my Public History courses and thought about more what we talked about in those courses, I was able to say, “ok, this is how it works in the agency that I work in, this is how my job emerged from this non-profit or state organization or state agency, this is where my work is different or similar for find some problems that we had or issues that we had in public history that was experienced throughout the entire field, or how the National Park Service fits in (unintelligible).

WM: Talking to a public history student coming in now, would you recommend working the internship and an additional, applied work, say a full time job on the weekend?

NJ: (Laughter) If they can handle it! Yeah, I would recommend (laughter). I don’t know. You got to be strong, and then you don’t want your end of program, to get to the end of the program to get your degree in the end, you have to have a plan. I wanted to be done in two years, you are losing sight of that if you’re messing up in your courses, if you’re not getting everything in your courses that you should because you are too tired in class or missing classes, if you’re saying, “I got to skip class, I got to cut something out.” You have to realize why you are in the program in the first place, which is to get your degree and learn everything you want to get out of it. If you’re not doing that, then cut it out (laughter). Don’t continue to work full time. Focus on your degree, or if you figure your career is more important, try to do both at the same time if that’s what you want to focus on, then stick with your career. It worked out for me to do both.

WM: Your assistantship at the Confederate Relic Room, was that significantly influential in your overall studies, coursework, and thesis?

NJ: Yeah, so this is where I learned, in Jill Coverman’s course, I learned a lot about catalogue accessioning, cataloguing, and assessing objects, seeing if they need to be conserved, and then talked a little bit about doing proposals for acquiring objects. Museum don’t often purchase objects, but we did have to write a proposal for an object that was up for auction or something like that. “Here’s why we should acquire; here’s why we should spend money acquiring it.” Anyway we learned all that in class, I didn’t do too well in that class, I didn’t feel too good about my grade at the end of it or about some of the work I had done, but I took all those lessons that I learned from it at the end and put it together in theses assistantships so that I was prepared in the assistantship, and actually worked in collections that I knew, cause I didn’t know anything about accessioning a whole collections, and then cataloguing the individual objects, and talking about their condition, doing condition reports. How to actually just describe the object, only essential information that you needed. I was working more on a theoretical sense, like “Oh we need to talk about the paper, why this object is significant for documentation,” I got that out of the course and I was able to apply it in the assistantship, I was able to access a lot of collections while I was there.

The Confederate Relic Room was constantly getting more collections, objects donated, so there was constant work to do. Just tables full of objects. I worked with the registrar who was also a graduate of the program. I was able to really get a lot of advice from here. Rachel is her name. It was a pretty small staff, I think almost all of them had come from the program, so I was able to, they knew where I was coming from, what courses I had, and were able to help with my experience, making it very valuable. Make sure that I saw what it was like, first-world, to process all those collections and really install exhibits. I was with different programs, I got to see, especially then, a World War I exhibit while I was there. I got to see it get installed, get it installed, and somehow it ended up being installed as I was leaving. I got to see a lot about the transition that you see in those spaces.

WM: How did you situate the field of public history within the larger academic field of history?

NJ: How did, like, mentally like how did I do that? And how do I think about it today? Let me make sure I understand the question. How do I situate public history in the larger field? What would be viewed as public historians? Yeah, so I kind of mentioned it a little bit, but just generally academic historians work in these larger frameworks, larger theoretical frameworks. They have to be very aware of historiography, what historians have argued in the past, and how their arguments may differ today, how their perspective may have shifted, and then explain why that is. I think quite a bit, as an interpreter, I think I do that quite a bit. (Technical Issue).

What I do as an interpreter at Frederick Douglass National Historic Sites, I gave tours of Frederick Douglass’ house, we get a lot of people who are interested, and who really know a lot about Frederick Douglass or are already interested in history, or are specifically interested in African American history. A lot of people come to the site, which is outside of downtown Washington, they have to make an effort to come here, or come to this site. A lot of people are coming there because they have this deep knowledge or interest, and so they bring that all with them. You get to get into some really philosophical conversations there about race, abut meaning, about Frederick Douglass and all the different aspects of his life.

I can disseminate some of what I learned in continuing to read academic works to stay connected to what is going on in the history field, and I am able to kind of talk about some of the shifts, when I talk history there if I find that somebody in the public’s interest, and I can talk to everybody. I can talk quite a bit about what the different, how I look at and how I still see myself as a historian and still how I can connect to the public, because that can be hard to do. People in public don’t always think like a historian, and the meaning, what does that matter, so I can bring light to it.

I get to make it exciting to people, I get to connect them to what they see right in front of them, how Frederick Douglass’ objects and furnishings were there during his time, and I get to bring meaning to it, and having that academic background and knowing why these objects would be significant in a very large sense, not just for Frederick Douglass, but lets say like, look at his evidence of his travels, and yes, Fredrick Douglass traveled to all these places such as Egypt, Niagara Falls, he went to Haiti and lived there, but to talk about the significance of that and be like, “Hold on, lets look at the larger framework, and think about how many African American figures at the time were able to travel and keep it.”

It is not a very many that had the ability, and that is significant, quite a bit, and to talk about how he had access to a lot of things that many African Americans did not have access to. He was a presidential appointee, he sat in a lot of committees, he was an advisor, in a largely white setting. To get to talk about that you get to look at it from the larger framework comes a lot from being able to do academic work, and I get to see the bigger picture sometimes and bring that to light. That was a bit of rambling, but I hope there was something!

WM: I know for me personally, as a Park Ranger as well, interpretation, this great coverall term for everything we do as public historians.

NJ: Yes!

WM: What deterred you away from going and finishing the PhD?

NJ: From a PhD? Nothing really, I still thought about it, the goal when I got into the program was just to get my Masters, and then to get back into the workforce, full time permanent. I had a job at the end of it, so that is what I went in with. I never really considered getting my PhD at the start. I had this very firm goal in mind when I started off, and as I was nearing the end I did think to myself like, “Oh, that was kind of fun, I liked it, maybe I should get my PhD.” I thought about it here and there, and I decided that ire really enjoyed working with the public, I know the PhD can work with the public, I work with PhDs who work with the National Park Service, but I think I got most of what I wanted out of my education, and I met my goal there, I still continue to have goals, I just decided to kind of diversify my academic background in a different area.

I just got into a graduate certificate starting last year at George Washington, and its in contexts of environmental policy. My work has been very focused on cultural, historical resources and the Park Service obviously takes care of more than just cultural resources, there are a lot of natural resources, a lot of environmental issues to be aware of, and even as an interpreter, I can move around, we often have to discuss like, climate change, and other things I don’t know too much about (laughter). I am getting those programs to learn more, to get more of an environmental education background.

WM: Absolutely, that I valuable, it really is. Do you believe if you work in a public or applied setting, do you need a PhD? 

NJ: Do you need a PhD? I don’t see it as being a, I think its just fine. I don’t think you need a PhD if you have to work with the public. If you have one, that’s great, what I find interesting is that I find in the Park Service, at least at my level, is that a lot of parks and a lot of people seem super fluent. Even a Masters is like, “oh I think I need to go and get that.” If you’re an interpreter, its not your job to know everything, its to know how to connect resources, connect audiences to resources, that’s your job. So, I sometimes feel that there is an idea in the Park Service that a PhD is too much in the first place. I disagree with that, you can have your PhD and know a lot, and still be really good at connecting your audience to the resource, and you are not overqualified for the position or anything like that. You just, come with a much more rigorous training, and learning in history.

WM: Do you like programs like USCs Public History can bring a lot of public agencies like the National Park Service? Transforming their mission? 

NJ: Yes! Absolutely, the professionalization of the field I think is very important. If you find, especially in interpreting, when you’re around different places, I like to visit a lot of historic sites and museums, you work with a long of people who don’t have training. Who don’t have an education in history or in natural resources even. They, I don’t want to sound bad, but there are people who at some places, they work up a script, they know these basic bits of information, and they can like do that for the enjoyment and education of the visitors for there, but there is not always a lot of depth to it, and not always a lot of strong ideas of how it fits into a larger framework, and you don’t always get into universal concepts in the National Park Service and in interpretation.

It is the larger ability of hearing universal concepts, sometimes I feel like there is not a lot of depth to the idea of the universal concepts, are they able to discuss it at length. It is just dropping those kind of code words into there, so Frederick Douglass is a symbol of freedom and equality, well how so? You need to be able to talk about that and talk about that in a historical context. Why he was important at the time and why he continues to be important. How our views on Frederick Douglass may have shifted over time? So I think the professionalization of the field is very important because we can have these discussions, be able to talk to more audiences, and there will be more meaning to our work the more professional we become.

WM: Absolutely, when you were here at South Carolina, 2007-2009, did you experience a tension between the Masters students and the PhD students? 

NJ: Not that I am aware of, but now I feel like I should have been paying attention for tension. I didn’t think so, I had a good time with everybody (laughter). It was a lot of fun, I guess I did feel, yeah I definitely felt a very strong kinship, like a very strong feeling of team with Public History students that just, we were our own group. I didn’t every feel like there was a tension between us and the other students, any sort of disdain or anything like that. Sometimes you’ll hear about that, like there is this academic versus public history, I didn’t really feel it because I felt like we had a lot of overlap and we did a lot of the same coursework. Though there were students who were getting their masters in history or their PhD in history, we worked a lot together. I felt a way stronger group connection with Public History students, but, yeah no tension really, I feel that in my sense, that’s my opinion. I know probably a lot of people would definitely say like, “um, there is tension there.” (Laughter)

WM: I am actually really glad to hear that. Was there an aspect of USCs Public History program that you wish could have been different, maybe more emphasis on an internship or a more emphasis on a certain class? 

NJ: No, I guess not so much. When I came in, I didn’t have the strongest idea too about exactly what, I had an idea that I wanted to get my degree and to keep my job with the Park Service, and then get a permanent job in the Park Service. Those were strong goals of mine. I didn’t have the strongest idea going in because we had to select colonial America or, I wanted to do American history, so was I going to do colonial history or history from 1876 towards the end of reconstruction. Or did I want to do it the other way, the 1789 up until modern day. I said okay, “I’ll do colonial history until 1876.” That was it, I started up, and bam I was in it. Little did I know that I would write my thesis about the Jenkins Orphanage, which started…(Technical Issue) Background there…Did you get all that, there looks like there was some sort of disconnection. 

WM: I think I lost you there, would you repeat that last bit. 

NJ: Well I came in and selected these early years of American history and was like, okay that is why I was interested in. I started to write my thesis about the Jenkins Orphanage that started in 1891 until modern day. It would have been probably better t have taken the later years of American history and focused my academic work in that area. I didn’t know it at the time.

WM: Did you tailor your coursework to your broader interest in history or specifically to your career goals in the Park Service.

NJ: It is a very interest oriented (laughter). I focus on what I like, “Oh! That catches my eye.” And go with that. I was just talking about an example earlier when I was in undergrad at UW, I focused my coursework on what interested me. I was interested in the Revolutionary War, Civil War, American West, and I focused on that, I got into an economic history course that was highly recommended. Starting to get feedback… (Technical Issue). The course with Jeremy, he is a top historian and I sat in his course like, “oh man, this is over my head.” (laughter). I got out and knew that was the wrong course. That is an example that I go with what interests me and its what I’ve always done and its worked out well.

WM: Excellent, you are in a permanent position now!

NJ: It worked out!

WM: What is your vision for the future of South Carolina’s Public History Program.

NJ: I am not too good with theses (laughter), creative questions, innovation and stuff like that. I just like to see all the work that USC used to do, I know that I have kind of kept up a little bit with historic preservation and I was very excited to see all their work. Slavery on USC’s campus, and that they continue to talk about that. Looks like Bob recently did something where I think it was for, it was for the Slave Dwelling’s conference. It looks like Joe McGill who does the Slaves Dwelling projects, they came out and Bob and other students possibly talked about the slavery on USCs campus. Talked about that work, so I like to see how the work that students do isn’t just like for the professor to look at, review, and say good work, that’s it. Its actually used and the public can learn from it.

These different projects take on their own life, and they don’t just die at the end of the semester, they are carried forward and they continue to benefit the program, the, school, and the public at large. I like to see that, I want to see that continue, I think that very important, so work that students do actually is important and beneficial, not just to themselves, but that they are making important contributions to the field. I think USC does a really good job with that, and should keep that up (laughter). I like that the program is so connected to the National Council on Public History and that relationship is very important too, and I think I’m better at seeing what strengths are, and what I like about the program, and how those could actually continue. Those are two things that I really think should continue, the relationship with NCPH [National Council on Public History], and the projects that really matter and have a life of their own.

WM: Putting the public in public history!

NJ: Yes! That’s right! There we go (laughter).

WM: That is absolutely great. I want to thank you Nathan for participating in our oral history project. Your contributions are valuable. Thank you.

NJ: Thank you very much, it was a pleasure talking to you Will, nice to meet you!

WM: Absolutely, it was a pleasure meeting you.

NJ: Alright, I will see you out in the field!

WM: Yes, see you in the field (laughter).

End of Interview