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The National Council on Public History defines 'public history' as

         "history that is applied to real-world issues."

At Purdue University Fort Wayne, we're asking how we can put history to work in our own community. 


In the fall semester of 2017, the History Department offered an Introduction to Public History course for the first time!  The success of the first course has ensured a second offering of the course for spring semester 2020.  

This course provides students with a hands-on introduction to the field of public history, or history for public (rather than academic) engagement.  The course encompasses three instruction modules emphasizing:  

  1. The central skill sets and concepts comprising the public historian’s working toolbox
  2. Public debates embroiling scholars and laymen alike in struggles over the right (and the right way) to represent a group’s memory and history (one of our books recounts the conflicts over how to properly commemorate the 1864 Sand Creek Native American massacre in Colorado)
  3. Hands-on archival and documentation work with the IPFW university archives.  The last module consists of a semester-long group project in which teams of students will collect documents and memorabilia from one student organization on campus, culminating in an exhibit at Helmke Library and a written history of each team’s chosen student organization.  After the semester, each group’s documentation, exhibits and written history will be housed permanently at the IPFW archives as part of the official history of student life on campus.  Address inquiries to Professor Wooley at  

Don't have room in your schedule for the Intro to Public History course?

Ask about adding the Public History-Option to one of your other History courses!

The PH- or Public History-Option is a new curricular innovation in the Department of History, designed to enhance History majors’ preparedness for post-graduate endeavors. A PH-Option, for the time being only offered in a select number of upper-level courses, is an opportunity for students with an academic or professional interest in Public History to incorporate this interest into their History major requirements. In consultation with their instructor, students will be able to learn new methodological tools (for example oral interview skills, archiving, museum curating and working with exhibitions, working with digital collections) and apply their research skills to a public history project, in certain cases while collaborating with a historical organization in the Fort Wayne community.

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In an effort to help students familiarize themselves with the ever growing digital presence in the collection, preservation, and sharing of history a website has been built featuring several public history projects and opportunities.  This site is encouraged and overseen by the Purdue Fort Wayne Department of History, but is mostly student driven.  To reach the site, click on the image above, or go to:  For further information regarding this site or the program, feel free to send an email to


Check out Helmke Library's digital archive mDON, the mastodon Digital Object Network. Browse through the collections to get an idea of just one community resource available. 


This April two of our students had the opportunity to attend Preserving Historic Places, Indiana's Statewide Preservation Conference. Click here to read Heather Dewey's account of the experience.