Loyola University Chicago

Department of History

Public History Program

Public history uses the past to serve a variety of contemporary needs. It entails the application of the skills and methods of history to the study, management, preservation and interpretation of historical records and artifacts. A public historian is a professional who can put his or her knowledge and skills to use in our society in such diverse activities as museum, historical society or archival work; neighborhood or community history projects; historic preservation and cultural resource management programs; and local, state or federal research projects. Working with architects, librarians, business people, government policy analysts, exhibit designers or history enthusiasts, public historians contribute to our knowledge and understanding of the past.

Public historians possess the desire and ability to understand and explain past human behavior in a variety of different contexts. The three public history program options at Loyola rest upon a combination of solid historical training and skill development in applied history research.  Loyola's curriculum serves to (1) introduce students to the skills necessary to successfully undertake applied research; (2) provide students with in-depth knowledge in a traditional field of history both to increase their knowledge about the past and acquire a sophisticated understanding of the historical process; (3) acquaint students with the different career options available in public history; (4) offer students practical experience in public history; and (5) expose students to the professional and ethical dimensions of public history.

  • 479 Public History Media
  • 480 Public History: Method and Theory
  • 481 Management of Historical Resources
  • 482 Archives and Records Management
  • 483 Oral History: Method and Practice
  • 487 Management of History Museums
  • 581 Practicum in Public History
  • 582 Public History Internship
  • For more information, visit our graduate courses page.

The Master's in Public History program is a 33-hour program in which students must complete 15 hours of public history courses: 479, 480, 481, 482, and 487.  Because practical experience in an area of public history activity is an important component of public history training, all students must also complete an internship (HIST 582). Internships are tailored to fit the needs of individual students as well as those of the host agency or organization. Additional depth in an area of public history can be secured through a public history practicum (HIST 581).

In addition to their public history courses, students must take HIST 400 and three courses in a minor field. The minor field may be United States History, Medieval History, and Modern European History. At least one, preferably two, of the courses in this field should be 400-level courses. These courses provide background in current historical research on particular subjects. Original research projects are pursued in 500-level research seminar courses.

Public history students will take one 500-level research seminar in their minor field.  In this seminar, students are expected to produce a research paper, approximately 25-35 pages in length, based largely on primary sources.  History 599: Masters Essay may be substituted for a 500-level research seminar with the approval of the Public History Program Director.  The essay will be a research paper, approximately 25-35 pages in length, based largely on primary sources.  The essay topic may focus within the major or minor field.  (History 599 is structured as a directed study course, and students will need a history faculty member to supervise the Masters Essay.)

The distribution of hours for the master’s degree is as follows:

History 400

3 hours

One 500-level

Research seminar

3 hours


3 hours

Public history courses

15 hours

Minor field courses

9 hours


33 hours

Toward the end of their graduate program, public history students must pass a two-hour oral examination in the field of public history. There is no examination in the minor field, but students must maintain at least a B average (3.0) in the three minor field courses. There is no research tool requirement.

The portfolio, which represents the capstone of the program, documents the achievements of master’s students and thereby identifies their strengths, weaknesses and abilities as professional historians.  Students begin compiling their portfolio during the first semester in the program.  The portfolio may include the following items: 1. one broadly-defined historiographical essay written in HIST 400 in the first year of the M.A. program; 2. one research essay based on primary sources and 25-35 pages in length, written with the goal of publication, completed in a 500-level research seminar; 3. one oral history interview transcript; 4. one National Register for Historic Places nomination (authored or co-authored); 5. one internship report; 6. one project related to museums and/or community history prepared in conjunction with course work; 7. a current resume or curriculum vita (c.v.).  The portfolio will be evaluated by the student’s faculty advisor annually.  Successful completion of the portfolio is required for admission to and/or continuation in the Ph.D. program.

The joining of two applied degree programs, public history and library science, provides interested students with the opportunity to combine historical training with a more focused educational background in archives and library science. Students receive two separate degrees: an M.A. in public history from Loyola University Chicago and an M.A. in Library and Information Science from Dominican University in River Forest, Ill. The joint program allows students to complete work on the two degrees in a shorter time than if each degree were pursued separately. In addition, it provides a more focused and structured education in archives than either degree program does individually.

The Loyola Department of History and the Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) of Dominican University cooperate to offer a joint program leading to the two degrees: Master of Arts in Public History and Master of Arts in Library and Information Science.

A total of 54 semester hours is required for the two degrees. A minimum of 30 semester hours must be taken in the GSLIS, and a minimum of 24 semester hours must be taken in the Loyola history department, including 12 of those semester hours in specified public history courses. All requirements in the joint program must be completed within seven years.

Students in the dual-degree program must apply to each program separately and must be accepted as classified students by both programs. Application for admission to the dual degree may be made at any time while students are enrolled in either program. No advance assurance can be given that admission to both programs will be granted.

A detailed description of the curriculum is available from the public history program director.

The Graduate School of Library and Information Science can be reached at (708) 524-6845 or GSLIS@email.dom.edu.

Building on Loyola's already strong Master's in Public History program, this 60-hour degree program provides the opportunity for students to compete for positions calling for a doctorate, such as teaching public history at the university level, curating or administrating at governmental institutions such as the Smithsonian Institution or the National Park Service, or serving as a principal in a consulting firm. In essence, this program is similar to the standard American history Ph.D. program but requires a double major in American history and public history instead of a major field in American history and two minor fields. Students will leave Loyola with a firm grounding in American history as well as in the skills and theory of public history and its practice. Loyola is one of the few universities to offer a public history degree at the doctoral level and hopes to continue to attract strong non-traditional students already working in the public history profession as well as students interested in history at the doctoral level.

Students who have not taken HIST 400 or an equivalent course at the master’s level must do so in the Ph.D. program. They must also successfully complete at least one 500-level research seminar in their American history field. They must take History 598 in which they develop their dissertation proposal under the supervision of their major field advisor.

In consultation with their major adviser, students develop a doctoral field in American history focused on a specialized area of concentration through coursework and research. Such a definition might be, for example, 20th-century American cultural history.

Students are required to complete 21 hours from among the formal offerings in their selected field.

Students build their doctoral field in Public History from the six basic applied courses in public history (479, 480, 481, 482, 487, and 582) and one additional course selected from one of the following:  483: Oral History, 492: U.S. Local History or 581: Practicum in Public History.

The remaining hours in the joint doctoral program are to be devoted to dissertation research. Normally, three hours are fulfilled through 598, the Dissertation Proposal Seminar, and the remaining hours from Directed Study and Dissertation Research.

History 400

3 hours

American History field

(includes one 500-level research seminar)

21 hours

Public History field

21 hours

Dissertation Proposal/Seminar

3 hours

Directed research and readings and electives

12 hours


60 hours

Students enter the Joint Program in one of two ways:  (1) admission to the accelerated Ph.D. track or (2) admission to the Joint Program after receiving the M.A. degree.

(1) Accelerated Joint American history/Public history program (60 hours)

Admission to this program is highly selective and limited to a few outstanding undergraduates. Students will be chosen on the basis of the regular criteria for the accelerated track by the public history program director and three faculty members who are involved in reviewing application materials.

(2) Joint American History/Public History Doctoral Program (33 hours)

Students enter this program with a M.A. with a Public History concentration or with a concentration in American History. Students who must complete History 400 will have a 36-hour requirement.

A reading knowledge of one foreign language and a special skill required by the student's doctoral research. HIST 479, Public History Media, and HIST 483, Oral History, may fulfill the special skills requirement. When taken for the research tool requirement, HIST 479 and HIST 483 can not be counted toward the major field in public history. With the approval of the Graduate Program Director or the Public History Program Director, students may also demonstrate mastery in statistics, computer science, GIS and paleography.  Courses taken in these subject areas at Loyola or another academic institution may be used to demonstrate mastery of a special skill.  However, these courses require prior approval by the Graduate Program Director or the Public History Program Director.  Paleography may be taken at the Chicago Inter-University Consortium for Advanced Studies in Renaissance and Early Modern History at the Newberry Library.

Near the end of their graduate program, students must pass a take-home written examination and a two-hour oral examination in their American history field.  For the written examination, the student will produce three 10-15 page historiographical essays based on a reading list developed in conjunction with a three-member committee of history faculty of their choosing.  The committee should be established no later than the beginning of the semester in which the student intends to take the examination.  Students will have two weeks to complete the exam, which will be evaluated by the committee.  The two-hour oral exam in American history will occur within two weeks of completing the written exam.  Students must also pass a two-hour oral examination in their public history field.

The portfolio documents the achievements of doctoral student and thereby identifies their strengths, weaknesses and abilities as professional historians.  Students begin compiling their portfolio during the first semester in the program.  The following items constitute a minimum for the Ph.D. portfolio: 1. one broadly-defined historiographical essay (possibly but not exclusively) written in HIST 400 in the first year of the program; 2. one research essay based on primary sources and 25-35 pages in length, written with the goal of publication, completed in one of the two required 500-level research seminars; 3. one short book review (500-700 words, similar to book reviews in the American Historical Review); 4. one long book review (1,500-3,000 words, similar to book reviews in Reviews in American History); 5. an internship report; 6. three historiographical essays written as part of the comprehensive examination; 7. a current resume or curriculum vita (c.v.).  The portfolio will be evaluated by the student’s faculty advisor annually.  Successful completion of the portfolio is required for admission to Ph.D. candidacy.

Students will develop a "dissertation field" within their American history field. They will present a dissertation topic and proposal to their major advisor (History 598 Dissertation Proposal Seminar) for review and approval. Students formalize their proposed committee with the submission of the Dissertation Committee Recommendation form to the Graduate School. Following the successful completion of doctoral examinations and the portfolio requirement, students will make a public presentation of their dissertation proposal to a dissertation committee, which will include the dissertation director and at least two other faculty members acquainted with the research areas of the dissertation. In discussing the proposal, students and members of the committee should work out problems and address questions the committee members may have. Upon successfully completing the dissertation proposal review, students submit a formal dissertation outline to the graduate school. Following its approval by the Graduate School and the successful completion of all other degree requirements, students are admitted to Ph.D. candidacy.

The Ph.D. dissertation must be completed, approved by the designated committee members, and successfully defended orally at a public defense.