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ALUMNI OF PUBLIC HISTORY
The alumni of Appalachian State Univeristy's Public History program have found placement in a number of professional positions around the public history field. The careers of a few of our graduates are highlighted below.
If you are an alumnae of our program, please email us and let us know what you have been doing!
- Catawba County Historical Association: http://catawbahistory.org/
- Blog: http://catawbahistory.blogspot.com/
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CatawbaCountyMuseum
- Twitter: @CatawbaHistory
AMY SPARROW POTTS
B.A. English, Berea College, Berea, Kentucky, 1996
M.A. Appalachian Studies, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, 2002
The Rural Heritage Development Initiative (RHDI) is a pilot program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation created to examine economic development opportunities through historic preservation in rural areas. I work in an eight county Central Kentucky region creating programming in heritage tourism, local business development, education and farmland preservation. Some of our projects include a Main Street like approach to revitalizing communities with populations of less than one thousand “Crossroad Communities”, creating a state-wide barn preservation program, advocating for farmland preservation and establishing a National Scenic Byway designation for the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Heritage Trail.
I really enjoy working with a diverse group of volunteers and enjoy working in the communities. I also like working in rural areas, because this is where I grew up and it has important meaning for me. The job is full of variety – so it’s never dull!
While pursing the M.A. in Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State, I interned with the Kentucky Heritage Council, State Historic Preservation Agency compiling a cultural resources inventory for Appalachian counties in Kentucky. Dr. Charles Watkins was my intern advisor, and helped me make connections between this work and Public History. It was through this internship, that I became interested in looking at how preserving historic resources in rural areas has a positive impact on community development. Through connections made in this internship, I worked with the Kentucky Main Street program directly after graduation and eventually took the position with RHDI.
I would definitely advise taking an internship in a field which you are interested. There is no substitute for the connections and lessons learned. Also, be creative! Public History is a part of so many jobs out there. I’ve been able to combine interest in Historic Preservation and public history.
B.A. History and Anthropology, Appalachian State University
M.A. Early American Culture, University of Delaware/Winterthur Program
I oversee all fundraising functions for the historical society, including annual giving, capital campaigns, grants, corporate, government, and individual giving. My primary task over the next two years will be to mount a multi-million dollar capital campaign.
Talking to people about the historical society and the history of their community. My training was in curatorial work, but I discovered quickly that I far prefer the “human” element of our work and I really enjoy being on the front lines promoting the institution to its supporters and community.
After graduating from ASU and working for ASULAS for a bit, I went to grad school at the University of Delaware through the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture. My two years there gave me great experience with museum administration and curatorial training, but it was my internship in development that really struck a chord. I took a position as grant writer at Winterthur immediately after graduation, and worked my way through the ranks for 6 years, most recently working as Director of Corporate and Foundations Relations at Winterthur, where I managed an annual goal of raising about $3 million for the museum and its functions from corporations and non-profit foundations. Last summer, I left Winterthur for the Lancaster County Historical Society. In part, my decision was based on a desire to return to a small, community-based museum, much like the ones I started with at ASU – The Appalachian Cultural Museum and the Newport Historical Society in RI, where I interned as a student.
I have always been interested in history and particularly wanted to be involved in an application of history that would positively impact the public and have an opportunity to create a sense of community. The historical society I work at now accomplishes that – it brings together a broad range of people who care about where they came from or what happened in their area before them. I love that my institution is attempting to convey big-picture lessons about national history through local stories, people, places, and events.
Learn to write grants. Everyone needs a fundraiser, and every position in a museum environment will find themselves responsible for raising money at some point, even if it isn’t their primary role. Also take advantage of every mentoring opportunity you can. I’ve been lucky to find terrific mentors throughout the last decade, and they’ve made all my experiences better, more productive, and so much more fun! From Chuck Watkins at ASU to my director at the historical society now, I’m still trying to learn what I can! Oh, and if you start off doing something and it’s not what makes you happy – change it up. None of us get into the field of public history for the money (let’s face it), so you might as well really enjoy what you do!!