UCSB Santa Barbara Department of History logo

Public History and Theory

woman in front of large banner "Se Busca A Pancho Villa"

Public History, Theory, and Methodology

About the Cluster

About the Cluster

This cluster brings together faculty members and graduate students who collaborate with diverse publics to expand knowledge about the past and highlight its relevance to our current historical moment. Members have created documentary films, podcasts, and environmental tour guides that combine scholarship and advocacy work. Others have co-created museum exhibitions, oral histories, and historical markers in collaboration with community groups, nonprofits, and local businesses. We also investigate the politics of memorialization and commemoration, bringing to light visions of the past that have been silenced and marginalized while exposing social injustices that conventional historical narratives have long ignored or omitted. Members have used crowd-sourcing and other collaborative tools to create Digital Historical Archives and Digital Exhibitions. Our focus is both local and global. We privilege local knowledge and local spaces, but use public history methods to illuminate how diverse publics have memorialized and mobilized the past in different times and places around the world.

This research cluster hosts a Public History Colloquium that convenes three or four times each quarter. We invite nationally prominent public historians to discuss their public history practices, methodologies, and projects. We periodically hold workshops to learn from our own faculty and graduate students who have developed expertise in museum pedagogy, podcasting, policy and environmental consulting work, and public-facing writing. We draw upon UC Santa Barbara’s close partnerships with the Channel Coast District of California State Parks, the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Santa Barbara Mission Archives Library to create graduate student internships and provide hands-on training. In recent years, many of our graduate students have created tour guides and more inclusive educational programming for the Relevancy and History Program, part of the California State Parks’ Re-examining our Past initiative.

Graduate students in this cluster also have the opportunity to help edit and produce The Public Historian, the flagship journal of the field, jointly published by UC Santa Barbara and the National Council on Public History.

Cluster Members

Members of the Public History Research Cluster


Randy Bergstrom (history and memory, parks, community history)

Sarah Case (history and memory, parks, community history, monuments and commemoration)

Veronica Castillo-Munoz (oral history, history and memory, binational museum exhibits and collaborations, monuments and commemorations)

Juan Cobo Betancourt (digital history, museums and exhibitions—design and curation, heritage preservation, public policy consulting work)

Jarett Henderson (digital history, community history, heritage preservation, public policy consulting, public-facing writing, podcasting)

Lisa Jacobson (oral history, history and memory)

John W.I. Lee (oral history, digital history, community history, museums and exhibitions, monuments and commemoration, history-inflected games)

John Majewski (museums and exhibitions—design and curation; history-inflected computer games)

Harold Marcuse (oral history, digital history, history and memory, museums and exhibitions, monuments and commemoration)

Stephan Miescher (oral history, documentary film)

Erika Rappaport (history and memory)

Paul Spickard (oral history, history and memory, parks, monuments and commemoration, public-facing writing)

Emeriti Professors:

James F. Brooks (memory, parks, nonprofits and historic site management)

Mary Hancock (museums, public space, memory)

Ann Plane (museums, memory, community history)

Graduate Students:

Kwabena Agyare Yeboah (oral history, public policy and consulting, documentary film)

Claudia Ankrah (oral history, community history, museums and exhibitions)

Carlyle Constantino (archives; museums/exhibition spaces; historical preservation)

Robyn Fishman (museums, oral history)

Casey Haughin-Scasny (museums and heritage sites)

Makoto Hunter (community history; history and memory; digital history)

Emma John (museums and exhibitions, monuments and commemoration, heritage preservation)

Kendall Lovely (museum curation and interpretation; public art as public history; decolonial and community-collaborative history)

Billy Marino (museum curatorship, memory, and preservation)

Nicky Rehnberg (parks, community history, history and memory)

Mika Thornburg (oral history, museums and exhibitions—design and curation, heritage tourism)

Moriah Ulinskas (archives, community archiving, audiovisual archives and preservation)

Current and Recent Projects

Current and Recent Projects of our Students and Faculty

California State Parks

Relevancy and History Project, overseen by Randy Bergstrom and Sarah Case. Current and recently graduated student participants include Mariel Aquino, Claudia Ankrah, Casey Haughin-Scasny, Emma John, Nora Kassner, Kendall Lovely, Billy Marino, Nicky Rehnberg and Anna Rudolph.

Projects include:

  • Where We are From project:  A multi-year program that Relevancy and History initially researched, wrote, co-produced and co-presented in conjunction with the Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation and in consultation with Santa Barbara School District faculty, now fully adopted and regularly offered by the staff at El Presidio.
  • La Purisima Mission State Historic Park: Developing inclusive and community-informed tours and educational programming for La Purisima Mission.
  • Historical Cultural Environmental tours of Carpinteria State Park:  This project has researched, written, and piloted guide-led tours of Carpinteria State Park, centering its human-community environmental history affected by migrations, persistence, and uses of the place the Chumash named Mishopshnow.
  • The Santa Barbara Presidio chapel project: This light-and-sound projection installation features a recreated eighteenth-century marriage ceremony for El Presidio de Santa Bárbara State Historic Park. The project harnesses the endearing and historically interesting power of an eighteenth-century wedding to tell the story of how immigrants to Alta California built the idea of “home” in their new environment.

Crowd-Sourced History Projects

Online Biographical Dictionary of Women’s Suffrage, Erika Rappaport, California editor.

Digital History Archival Projects

Archivo Histórico de Rionegro, digitization of the historical archive of the city of Rionegro, Antioquia, Colombia, including materials pertaining to the intra-American slave trade. Curated by Juan Cobo Betancourt.

Archivo-Biblioteca-Catálogo, a digital archive, library, and metadata platform curated by Juan Cobo Betancourt. Metadata (catalogues, finding aids, archival descriptions) are created and maintained largely through community-based peer production projects in Colombia, Peru, and with UCSB students.

People-Works: The Labor of Transport. Edited by Kate McDonald

“The 1838 Markland Investigation: Sexual Freedom and Colonial Rule in British North America.” Curated by Jarett Henderson.

Digital Exhibitions

Red Coral Stories, a digital exhibition. Curated by Kendall Lovely.

“The 1837-1838 Rebellion: Consolidating Settler Colonialism in Canada.” Contribution of Jarett Henderson to digital exhibition “Remember, Resist, Redraw: A Radical History Poster Project,” Graphic History Collective.

Documentary Film

Ghana’s Electric Dreams (La-La Productions, 2019, 124′), a film by R. Lane Clark and Stephan F. Miescher. Directed and edited by R. Lane Clark, based on research by Stephan F. Miescher and R. Lane Clark, and produced by R. Lane Clark, Stephan F. Miescher, and France Winddance Twine.

Environmental History

Energy Justice on California’s Central Coast. Co-created by UCSB’s Re-Centering Energy Justice Collaborative (including Sarah Lerner, Nicky Rehnberg, Amaru Tejeda, Maria Zazzarino, Stephen Borunda, Jéssica Malinalli Coyotecatl Contreras, Sage Freeburg, Sage Gerson, and Anthony Greco). 

A Field Guide to Oil in Santa Barbara. Co-created in the fall 2018 quarter of the Mellon Sawyer Seminar on Energy Justice in Global Perspective by Brett Aho, Stephen Borunda, Ry Brennan, Sandy Carter, Sylvia Cifuentes, Jéssica Malinalli Coyotecatl Contreras Sage Gerson, Anthony Greco, Theodore LeQuesne, Sarah Lerner, Christopher McQuilkin, Mary Michael, Nicky Rehnberg, Ariana Salas-Castillo, and Mario Tumen.

Ellwood-Devereux: Walking through Local Land Use. Created by Nicky Rehnberg.

Monuments and Commemoration

Campaign to remove plaque honoring eugenicist and white supremacist Madison Grant from Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in California. Led by David G. McIntosh, Rena M. Heinrich, and Paul Spickard. For more information see “Reckoning with Our Past: California State Parks and the Dark Side of the Conservation Movement,” The Public Historian

John Welsey Gilbert Historical Marker, Augusta, GA. Co-created by John Lee.

“Confederate Markers in the Intermountain West,” Intermountainhistories.org. Curated by Makoto Hunter.

Museum Exhibitions

“Buscando a Pancho Villa” (Looking for Pancho Villa), National Museum of the Mexican Revolution, Mexico City, October 2023- March 2024. An examination of how U.S. newspapers covered Pancho Villa, 1910-1923. Co-Curated by Verónica Castillo-Muñoz, with assistance from Isabelle Tate-Arevalo, Arturo Moreno, and Thomas Paniagua.

“Ishi Glinsky: Upon a Jagged Maze,” Art, Design and Architecture Museum, UCSB. Co-curated by Gabriel Ritter (Art History) and Kendall Lovely.

“Jimmy’s Oriental Garden Exhibit,” Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation. Curated by Mika Thornburg.

Podcasts, Political Consulting, and Public-Facing Scholarship

Who Makes Cents?: A History of Capitalism Podcast.” Co-hosted by David Stein and Alex Beasley, 2014-2022; currently hosted by Jessica Ann Levy.

Jadaliyya, an ezine focused on the Arab world and the broader Middle East that combines local knowledge, scholarship, and advocacy. Co-edited by Sherene Seikaly.

Congressional Resolution Re: Federal Jobs Guarantee. Developed with aid of David Stein’s research.  

Public History and Cultural Criticism 

Enchanted Archives. Blog and walking tour examining the endless ways that the Disney parks draw on people, places, experiences, and ideas from the past. Sasha Coles, Founder and Chief Historian.

Public History Colloquium

Public History Colloquium Events, 2023-24 Academic Year

Meetings are generally Fridays as noon except as noted


Friday, May 10: Susan Burch, Middlebury College
12pm, by Zoom
Prof. Burch will speak about her latest book, which has recently received the National Women’s Studies Association Alison Piepmeier Book Prize, and the Disability History Association’s Outstanding Book of 2022, Committed: Native Families, Institutionalization, and Remembering (University of North Carolina Press, 2021) The book centers on peoples’ lived experiences inside and outside the Canton Asylum, a federal psychiatric institution created specifically to detain American Indians.
Friday, May 24,Okinawa Memories Initiative
12pm, by Zoom
Director Alan Christy and lead student interns will speak about the Okinawa Memories Initiative (OMI), a student-led public history and community-engaged research project that employs methodologies of experiential learning and community service to explore Okinawan life, society, and environment after the Battle of Okinawa. They will provide insights to the development of this ongoing public historical process, highlighting their current efforts to establish a multi-year food history project with collaborators in Okinawa and among the Okinawan diaspora in North America.


Monday, January 29: Eric Boyle,Public History in Federal Government Agencies.”A discussion of history programs within the federal government, strategies of how to successfully negotiate the hiring process, and the kinds of work that agency-based historians do. Eric Boyle (UCSB PhD, 2008), is Chief Historian, US Department of Energy 

Friday, February 9: Alison Rose Jefferson, “Reflections on Working as a Consulting Historian.” Alison Rose Jefferson will speak about her career as a public historian, some of her current/recent projects, and share thoughts on how they fit into a broader public history landscape of Greater Los Angeles and the field in general. All of her projects include the recognition and commemoration the African American experience. Alison Rose Jefferson (UCSB PhD, 2015) is a publicly engaged independent historian and heritage conservation consultant. Among her current projects, she is a guest curator on the “Black California Dreamin’: Claiming Space in America’s Leisure Frontier” exhibition which will be on display until late summer 2024 at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles.

Friday March 15, Andrea Serna, PhD candidate, UC Santa Barbara on curating the current exhibition “Fossil Free UC: The Student Fight to End Big Oil,” UCSB Library


October 6: Organizational meeting for graduate students who are enrolled; will include discussion of possible community internships and other opportunities.

October 13: New Directions and Strategies in Public History Practice and Training: An Open Discussion. All department members welcome to this open conversation about new trends in the field and methodologies in graduate training.

November 9, 4pm (note different day and time): Ed Linenthal, “The Predicament of Aftermath: The ‘Tough Stuff’ of Public History.” This will be a seminar on grappling with complex issues in public history based on Linenthal’s long career advising museums, memorials, and National Park Service sites.  Ed Linenthal is Professor Emeritus of History at Indiana University, Bloomington. He served as editor of the Journal of American History from 2005-16 and has written seven books on US history and memory.

Saturday, November 18th, 2-3:30pm (note different time), Dr. Lyra D. Monteiro and aAliy Muhammad, “Finding Ceremony for Ancestors Held in Museums Through a Reparationist, Descendant-Community Controlled Process.”  Focused on the University of Pennsylvania and the Penn Museum’s treatment of Black Philadelphians in their collections, the event will provide information on the major issues present in current museum practices surrounding these types of collections and efforts to reimagine processes of repatriation and reparation. This event is being held on a Saturday and virtually so that community members from Philadelphia can also attend. The discussion will provide an opportunity for attendees to gain further insight into broader conversations about the role of public institutions in the ethical treatment of ancestral remains. Dr. Lyra D. Monteiro and aAliy Muhammad are co-conveners of the project Finding Ceremony, about descendant-led approaches to repatriation of museums’ collections of ancestral remains.   ZOOM: https://ucsb.zoom.us/j/86977486230

December 8: Moriah Ulinskas, “Building Community Archiving Initiatives.” This presentation will discuss the Community Archiving Workshop–a national collective of archivists who work in partnership with community organizations to help preserve and maintain legacy grassroots collections. It will consider the challenges of preserving and maintaining intellectual control over grassroots archival collections, how we developed regional and national peer learning networks, and secured over $750k in funding to support our work. Moriah Ulinskas is an audiovisual archivist and PhD candidate in Public History at the University of California, Santa Barbara.



What Our Alumni Are Up To

Public History Careers of UC Santa Barbara Alumni

Our alumni work in a variety of public history and academic settings. Some manage their own businesses and operate as independent consultants. Others direct museums, historic sites, nonprofits, government agencies, and archives. Still more teach public history and direct public history initiatives in universities.

A representative sample of alumni includes:

Mariel Aquino (PhD 2020), Research Fellow, National Humanities Alliance

Marianne Babal (MA 1993), Senior Historian and Vice President, Wells Fargo & Co.

Shelley Bookspan (PhD 1982), Principal Consultant, History Associates, Inc.

Eric Boyle (PhD 2007), Chief Historian and Federal Preservation Officer, Department of Energy

Julia Brock (PhD 2012), Director, Public History and Assistant Professor, University of Alabama

Sasha Coles (PhD 2021), Assistant Teaching Professor of History and Public History Liason

Rebecca Conard (PhD 1984), Professor/Director of Public History (emerita), Middle Tennessee State University

Douglas Dodd (PhD 2000), Professor, Environmental and Public History, California State University Bakersfield

Susan Falck (PhD 2012), Director, Rancho Camulos Museum

Mira Foster (PhD 2012), Director of Education, Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University

Cheryl Jimenez Frei (PhD 2018), Assistant Professor of Public History and Latin American History, University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Victor Geraci (PhD 1997), Viticulture, Wine, and Gastronomic Historical Research and Consulting

Rose Hayden-Smith (PhD 2010), Chief Editor at Extension Foundation and Founding Editor of UC Food Observer

Alison Jefferson (PhD 2015), Historical Consultant focused on the Black past in the Los Angeles area

Betty Koed (PhD 1999), Historian of the US Senate, emerita

Christopher MacMahon (PhD 2021), Museum Director, Nevada State Railroad Museum

Anne Petersen (PhD 2008), Executive Director, Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

Paul Sandul (PhD 2009), Professor, History (focused on public history and urban history), Stephen F. Austin State University

Beverly Schwartzberg (PhD 2001), Library Programs Consultant, California State Library

Ty Smith (PhD 2014), Director, California State Railroad Museum and Old Sacramento State Historic Park

Jeffrey Stine (PhD 1984), Curator of Environmental History, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution