PUBLIC HISTORY ---- Museums and Material Culture
studies graduates compete successfully in the national job market for employment in museums
and historic sites. They can be found in such institutions as the United States Holocaust
Memorial Museum, Monticello, the Atlanta History Center, the McKissick Museum, and sites
and regional offices of the National Park Service and the National Trust for Historic
The Program in Brief. Here is a brief summary of our requirements for both admission and
graduation. Admission decisions are made each spring. Applicants for graduate training are
expected to have completed either an undergraduate history major or 18 hours of undergraduate
courses in history beyond the survey level. Without this, you must show evidence of equivalent
competency (for example, by successful completion of one or more graduate courses in history at
another university). You must also meet the grade-point and GRE-score requirements of the
university's Graduate School. The Public History degree requires students to complete a
minimum of 36 credit hours, 21 in their field of choice. The remaining 15 hours consist of
courses in American history. These comprise each student's minor field. Comprehensive exams
in the major and minor field are required, and you must pass a reading and translation
examination in one foreign language. Students also complete theses, works of original research,
to receive their degrees.
Special Opportunities in Museum Studies. There are many special opportunities for museum
studies training here at the University of South Carolina. Students in the museums track
generally choose to complete the Certificate in Museum Management offered through the
"McKissick Museum" here on campus. We enjoy close cooperation with this program and have
structured our requirements so that its courses also apply toward our Master of Arts. The
Certificate in Museum Management curriculum provides training in professional museum
standards and practices; periodic special offerings introduce students to concentrated study in
such areas as museum education and exhibition development.
Many students also take advantage of our innovative field courses. The Charleston Preservation Field School is an intensive course in historic preservation and museum studies that is based in city of Charleston. An international perspective on museums, archives, and heritage conservation is offered by our Comparative Public History course in England. Students may also participate in the annual Summer Institute of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts at Old Salem, Inc., Winston-Salem, North Carolina. This course offers students the opportunity to study the material life of the southeastern United States prior to 1820.
We enjoy strong working relationships with our region's museum community, including
such local institutions as the South Carolina State Museum, the Columbia Museum of Art, the
university's McKissick Museum, and the Historic Columbia Foundation, which operates four
historic house museums. Students may also do internships or develop thesis projects through the
historic sites administered by the state's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, the
National Trust property Drayton Hall, the Charleston Museum, and others in the state and region.
Our students routinely attend the annual meetings of the South Carolina Federation of Museums
and the Southeastern Museums Conference, and we are able to partially support their attendance
at professional meetings through a designated travel endowment.
Material Culture Studies. Another strength of the museum studies concentration is its
emphasis on material culture studies. I offer both an introductory reading seminar and a special
topics course; special-interest tutorials are available by arrangement. The Department of
Anthropology offers seminars on African-American folklife and material culture and the
archaeology of African-American life, while the Department of Art has electives in American
architecture and decorative arts. Students in the museums track are encouraged to develop theses
with a material-culture emphasis. There is no shortage of interesting, original topics waiting to
be studied using the collections of the region's museums and the built environment, historic
landscapes, and cultural artifacts in the field. Our students are often involved in the McKissick's
ground-breaking exhibitions of Southern folk material culture. Participation in the Summer
Institute at MESDA also offers excellent hands-on training using one of the finest collections in
the United States.
Applying to the Graduate School of the University of South Carolina. Your
completed application, transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and Graduate Record
Examination General Test scores must be received at the Graduate School by 5 January. By this
date, you should also send your one-page Statement of Purpose and writing sample directly to the
Department of History.
While I cannot make promises, the Department of History recognizes that access to aid
often makes the difference in the decision whether or not to attend graduate school. Students who
are accepted by and choose to attend the Public History Program almost always receive financial
aid. This is usually either a teaching assistantship in the Department of History or a professional
assistantship in a local museum or other not-for-profit. Both of these assistantships also provide
significant reduction in graduate tuition. Many other part-time employment opportunities at
museums and libraries are also available.
Need More Information? If you have other questions, please contact Mary Alice Spoone, our
Graduate Secretary, at 803-777-4492 (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org) or me at 803-777-9786 (e-mail
email@example.com). Questions for the Graduate School can be directed to 803-777-4243.
Katherine C. Grier
Public History Program