For some, history is about what happened in the past. For others it also involves understanding how and why things change over time. The field of public history includes both of these perspectives. It is distinguished by its focus on a non-specialist audience. Public history is experienced by a broad and popular audience of interested parties who may be adults, students, families, or school children.
Public history may take many forms: museum exhibitions, television or radio documentaries, oral history collection projects, digital media presentations, historic preservation projects, etc. It may involve presenting public policy issues in historical perspective, or translating recent scholarly advances into popular terms. Public history starts from the presumption that every thing we see around us has a history. It aims to infuse public discourse with a historical perspective on how we got to where we are.
For a history of one particular public history agency see the following article by Howard Green: Forty Years of the New Jersey Historical Commission. (pdf)
Important Public History Sites include:
- National Council on Public History
- Public History Resource Center
- History News Network
- Oral History Association
- American Association for State and Local History