Loyola University Chicago

Department of History

Oral Histories

Explore the Public History Program through oral histories! 

Context: Commentary on training in Loyola's Masters of Public History Program. 

Listen Here: Melanie O'Brien Clip - 40 PH

Transcript: "I think I, you know, I underscored the, that a lot of the biggest experiences for me really were outside of classes. I think that the work that I did for Dr. Karamanski was really foundational in a lot of ways and as well as the internship in the archives at Evanston Historical Society. Those are things that I think back to as being really key experiences that I had while I was at Loyola that I really enjoyed and I look back on fondly. Although I would say probably more lasting than anything else from my time at Loyola are the friendships that I have with my fellow classmates. I think there's nothing quite like the experience of graduate school, and especially a small program, like it was at the time I was there. You know, even over the last couple months, we've been having zoom calls, a bunch of us that were in graduate school together there at Loyola. So, you know, as important as my education was, I think those friendships that I made when I was in graduate school in Chicago are probably the most lasting impact of my time."

Context: What were some of your strongest memories of the program? What stuck with you the most from your two years in the Public History Program? 

Listen Here: Clip Ellen Bushong 02 - 40 PH

Transcript: "I think for me, the legacy of my time at Loyola—I mean, I got a career out of it, which I think is certainly worth mentioning. But I think more important than maybe the tangible thing is—you know, there was a really great sense of camaraderie among my cohort—and the relationships that you form while you're there. It's a really great time to, if you use it well, not only make really close friends—the people that I befriended and my time at Loyola, I'm still friends with to this day, and I don't anticipate losing them as friends anytime soon, fingers crossed. But you form really close relationships with your classmates, mostly because you see each other pretty much every day. A lot of the time you're in the same assistantship or you're studying together—but I was also a full-time student, that might be different. But I think, more than anything, that's what I got from the program. Also, if you're around and you're doing classes, it's a great time to build relationships with the faculty and staff, and they can really connect you to certain things. I know, since graduating I've sent—they’ve been keeping an active interest in what I've been up to. I think that's how I got connected for the oral history project. So that's great. It’s the fact that you can you can go back and never feel like you've been gone too long is something that I appreciate. So, I think the relationships mostly for sure. And then I guess another takeaway from my time at Loyola is—I appreciate in retrospect the diversity and the training of the public history program. You really get a really comprehensive look at most parts of public history work. And you're able to have some kind of end product in any of those fields. That could look like a national register nomination for the historic preservation class—oh my gosh, now that I think about a historic preservation was probably so important, because in my work, I'm constantly describing buildings all the time! So (laughs) that was a credit—of course that class has helped me immensely. And what I do now with digital history, that and creating a digital exhibit, knowing the ins and outs of what to do with digital storytelling has become really important with what my company does now in the pandemic. So just the overarching broadness of what you're able to achieve becomes important as a public historian. Just because you're able to draw back and remember those things, and you've gotten experience in a little bit of everything. So, you’re well rounded."


Context: How would you say the program helped you in your career?

Listen Here: Harry Klinkhamer Clip - 40 PH

Transcript: "I I have to say up it holds so true in my current position. The the Loyola history public history program I always saw it that it taught us to be a Jack of all trades. And so you have other programs were you know you would concentrate in museum exhibition or you would concentrate in culture resource management or you concentrated you know archives or something else of that nature in the way the program was designed I was there umm you know we had to dabble in everything. And I liked the fact that uh not only was I getting my you know my hands in archives and museums and historic preservation. Uh but also to the underlying foundation still for the program was we had to be good historians and we had to be able to do good history and so that was always the foundation I think for the program and it's something that umm I remind myself we regularly when I’m doing working on a project or with my job. That...You know am I doing good history in doing this? Am I being a good historian with the research that I'm doing that you know I'm not just kind of you know half-assing it or just kind of you know thumb you through a quick secondary source here and there? That I'm actually trying to dig out those primary sources and verify things. Um And so you know having that solid foundation of of being a good historian and researcher and having that experience of you know a a working knowledge of various aspects of public history um really prepared me for going in a multitude of directions early on in my career and then as I said earlier more specifically now with my current job because I deal with all of that now."

Context: Was there any particular experience at Loyola, maybe a class, maybe a project, maybe just one reading, that really hit you over the head and amazed you? That you feel has shaped you as a scholar or a professional?

Listen HereHope Shannon Clip - 40 PH

Transcript: "Yeah, I think a lot of people from my year or around it will probably say Trouillot. Silencing the Past. That was formative, I think. I was already familiar with the concept of sharing authority, shared authority, which itself has some problematic elements, but is, you know, central to a lot of public history work. I think probably Trouillot, because it, since Trouillot talks about history, the production of history as an act of power. Yeah, that was really. I remember, I mean there were lots of things I enjoyed reading, got a lot out of. But I think if I had to identify one that has really stuck with me it’s probably— I’m looking at all my books behind me. Probably Trouillot."

Context: What is the best thing you got out of the program?

Listen Here: Donna M. Neary Clip - 40 PH

Transcript: "So I think the critical, with the most—I say that with love—the critical, critical oversight of all of the faculty and professors in the History Department to push students to the place they could get to was—that was really eye-opening that somebody else wanted you to succeed and learn and grow and do and be. You know, usually—in my previous experience, you just kind of go to a classroom, you sit down, you do your work,
and you go. Even in undergrad, there were a couple of teachers—actually, there were a couple of teachers that were pretty focused and supportive. And it may be the nature of graduate school, but there was a job to be done to form these people into really thinking, critically thinking, fully functioning historians that the school could really, you know, sort of be proud of.

I think that foun—that, sort of, on top of that foundational competency, competencies and experiences were really the critical, critical takeaways from Loyola. And, let me say, content—yes, I learned content, but that was not—and that’s what I tell my students now. Now, I could say, 'Well you could look it up on Google.' I mean, it’s awfully handy to know that 1776 was the year the Declaration of Independence was signed, and it will not hurt you to know that in 1792 is when the state of Kentucky was formed. Way to go, but that’s not what history is about. That’s not what historical context and understanding is about. It’s about, can you take those divergent things, put them together, and make some meaning, again, for your audience, for the people that are in front of you, for, now, the students in my classroom or for people on a museum tour or in an exhibition, and on an online, digital some sort of existence. And I think that’s what my biggest takeaway is that you have—all of those parts—nothing is mutually exclusive. You’ve got to have that foundational competencies and skills. You have to understand how to look at a source and make some determinations about what you’re looking at, and you have to be able to come to conclusions and put that together in a way that has some kind of meaning. And then when you add—that’s historian, but then when you put the hat of public historian on there, it’s like for who, whom, and why, and does it have meaning and value to the audience that you’re presenting it to."

Historic Preservation Students Paddock Woods

Historic Preservation students consulting maps before survey of Paddock Woods, CCFPD, c.2001