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College of Arts & Sciences
Department of History


Historic Preservation

There are a number of unique opportunities for preservation training at the University of South Carolina.

Curricular Opportunities. Students in the preservation concentration of the Public History Program are able to take advantage of the curricular breadth of a major research university.  Within the Department of History are courses on the theory and practice of historic preservation, historic site interpretation, and material culture, as well as seminars in American, African-American, southern, and environmental history. Outside the history department preservation students may take courses in architectural history, historical archaeology, Geographic Information Systems, and cultural landscapes, to name a few.  Some preservation students choose to complete the “Certificate in Historical Archaeology & Cultural Resources Management” offered through the Department of Anthropology or the “Certificate in Museum Management” offered through the university's McKissick Museum. Because participating in professional meetings is an important component of graduate training, students are encouraged to attend local and national conferences, and the Public History Program and the history department help support attendance through a designated travel endowment.

Field Courses. Preservation students may choose to take one or both of our innovative field courses. The Charleston Field School is an intensive course in the theory and practice of historic preservation in the United States that is based in the historic city of Charleston. Charleston provides an intriguing laboratory for exploring issues such as African-American heritage conservation, preservation without gentrification, and the linkages between historic preservation and environmental conservation. An international perspective is offered by our Comparative Public History course in England. This multi-week course introduces students to practicing professionals and heritage issues at museums and historic sites in London and the North of England.

The Local Preservation Community. The Public History Program enjoys strong working relationships with our region's diverse and dynamic preservation community. Agencies based in Columbia include the South Carolina State Historic Preservation Office; the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism; the preservation office of the City of Columbia; the Columbia Development Corporation; and Historic Columbia Foundation, which operates six historic house museums. Two hours away in Charleston are the eastern field services office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Trust's museum property, Drayton Hall, as well as nationally recognized local organizations such as the Historic Charleston Foundation and the Preservation Society of Charleston. Close by in North Carolina are the Biltmore House and Estate in Asheville and Old Salem in Winston-Salem. In addition, there are a number of units of the national park system in the Carolinas and Georgia. Institutions and sites like these provide numerous opportunities for student internships, and many of these agencies have also provided assistantship support for preservation students in recent years.

Preservation Research Projects. The built environments and historic landscapes of the southeastern United States offer a wide and exciting range of subjects for historical research, internship projects, and thesis topics. In recent years, preservation students have worked on projects related to the material legacy of the civil rights movement and the Cold War, the preservation of women's history and African-American heritage, histories of urban planning, park and landscape histories, industrial architecture, and the history of the region's many well-established preservation organizations.

My Background and Research.  Before joining the faculty at the University of South Carolina, I taught at the University of Hawaii and in the Pacific Northwest and worked as an historical and environmental consultant.  I received my Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.  I have served on boards of directors for state-wide and local non-profit heritage organizations, including the Washington State Trust for Historic Preservation, the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation, and Historic Columbia Foundation.  I was a founding member of the South Carolina African-American Heritage Council.  As a practicing public historian I have undertaken a diverse range of projects: landscape histories of Honolulu's historic urban parks, community studies in Washington State, evaluation of Cold War sites in South Carolina, a history of historic preservation in Charleston, an analysis of efforts to commemorate the modern civil rights movement throughout the United States, and reflections on the current vogue for the present to apologize for past injustices.  My work explores some of the central issues facing heritage organizations and historic sites today: the challenges of interpreting chapters of the recent past that are controversial and of doing public history in communities with historical secrets.  I am the author of Historic Preservation for a Living City: Historic Charleston Foundation 1947-1997 (2000) and Kapi'olani Park: A History (2002).  I am active in the National Council on Public History, where I will serve from 2012-2014 as president.  A recent contribution to Public History News is the essay "The Risks of Professionalizing Local History: The Campaign to Suppress My Book."  I am currently at work on a study of the architecture of racial segregation.

Placements.  Within the preservation and museums fields, our alumni are employed at such institutions as the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, state and municipal historic preservation offices, state parks departments, Monticello, the United States Holocaust Museum, Old Salem, Inc., and local non-profit heritage organizations across the country.  For a full list of where our alumni work, click here.

If you have other questions, take a look at the “Ask the Director!” link.  

Robert R. Weyeneth 

Professor of History
Director, Public History Program
Faculty Supervisor, Concentration in Historic Preservation