Comparative Public History
The United States and the United Kingdom Summer Field Course
Since 1990 the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina has offered an international summer program in comparative public history practice. The purpose of the course is two-fold: to give students an understanding of the international professional dimension of the museums and historic preservation fields and to provide an opportunity to see how the work of these fields is inter-related. The three-credit course gives students a chance to compare procedures and theory in these fields between the United States and Great Britain through a series of meetings with professionals in England as well as hands on work in a case study situation. The course has been based at an historic seventeenth-century Jacobean country house, Kiplin Hall. Kiplin Hall was originally built in 1625 by George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore and founder of the colony of Maryland. The Hall was extensively remodeled in the nineteenth century. Since 1971, it has been administered by a private charitable trust as an historic site. Kiplin Hall is located in North Yorkshire, halfway between York and Durham, near the county seat of Northallerton and the historic fortified medieval city of Richmond.
The course is offered every other summer and is taught by Dr. Allison Marsh. Faculty and students live in rehabilitated quarters that are part of the original brick outbuildings of Kiplin Hall. Over the years, student projects at Kiplin Hall include archival processing of family papers, a catalogue and needs assessment of the large library, an inventory of decorative arts in the Hall, and research into local North Yorkshire records to document aspects of the property's development. Today student projects focus on topics related to historic preservation, historic site interpretation, and museums. Some course activities take place in nearby York, where staff at the Yorkshire Museum, the York Minister Archives and Educational Departments, the York Archaeological Trust, and the York Castle Museum have provided behind-the-scenes tours and lectures. Other course sites have included Leeds and Middlesbrough, industrial midlands cities, where students learned about the inter-relatedness of city planning, preservation of factory buildings, museum and park development.
Students in the 2010 field school started a blog on their experiences in England. Follow along as future field school participants add their own comments: http://englandfieldschool.blogspot.com/