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Public History Requirements

The Capstone Track

Beginning with the Fall 2024 semester incoming class, all Public History students must complete a Capstone Track Portfolio, comprising

  • a Historiography paper, 
  • a Resumé for public history jobs, 
  • a Description of Public History Projects and Skills developed, 
  • a Statement of Practice (including how you plan to work with community partners), 
  • and the completion and defense of a collaborative Public History Project with a public history institution (including a prospectus, methodological write-up, and project itself). 

The purpose of the capstone track is to demonstrate:  a) knowledge of Public History including the best practices within the field, and b) application of this knowledge through a collaborative project with a public history institution or community partner that displays an ability to practice history in settings that require shared authority, reflexive educational practices, civic engagement, and political sensitivity.

The Capstone track trains students in both sets of skills required for a career in public history: historical methodology, including researching, writing, and interpretation of history, along with the practical skills and sensitivity to stakeholder interests necessary when dealing with the public.

To proceed to the Capstone track, students must first submit and successfully defend a Public History project proposal, due at the start of their third semester of full-time enrollment. This project proposal, known as the Prospectus, will outline the theme of the project, include details on community partnerships or institutional collaboration, provide a timeline for completion of the project, describe the type of project and methodological decisions behind this choice, and survey relevant literature that supports this. The Prospectus should be brief (approx. 5-7 pages, single-spaced) and follow the format structure provided by the Director of Public History. An oral defense of this Prospectus will be arranged by the student’s Capstone Chair and take place with the student’s Capstone committee no later than the end of the first full month of the student’s third semester.

Following the defense of the Prospectus, students will work with their community partners to develop their Public History Project during the third semester of the student’s coursework as part of the HIST 593 Capstone class, under the guidance of both their Capstone Chair and their community partners. They will also produce a 15-25 page methodological essay on the decisions made about the Project. Simultaneously with the Public History Project work, students will compile other aspects of the Capstone Portfolio, including a Historiography paper, Resumé for public history jobs, Description of Public History Projects and Skills developed (including those gained during the Capstone process), and Statement of Practice under the direction of their Capstone Chair or other Public History faculty throughout their coursework. By the end of this class (which can be repeated if necessary in their fourth semester), students will present and defend a completed Capstone Portfolio including their finalized Public History Project for review by their committee. This formal defense of the Capstone Portfolio will be scheduled by the student’s Capstone Chair and include a minimum of two weeks of review of all materials in the capstone portfolio. Upon their committee's approval at the Capstone defense, the student will submit their Capstone Portfolio to the Graduate School. All materials within must adhere to The Chicago Manual of Style and to the official guidelines of the Graduate School, which may be found here: A copy of the student’s Capstone Portfolio, including details on their Public History Project, will also be retained by the Department for its records.

Committees for Capstone Portfolios must be chaired by faculty whose work is in Public History, but committee members (2 total) can include faculty from other fields with Graduate Faculty status. At the discretion of the Chair and Director of Public History, a practitioner of Public History may be added as a fourth committee member.