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Public Histories in Practice - HIS00144M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Victoria Hoyle
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

In this module students will explore the practical, theoretical and ethical challenges of ‘doing history’ in public settings, with and for non-specialist audiences. The past is produced and consumed all around us, from the latest Netflix show to TikTok, from Parliament to primary school classrooms, from museums to local memorials, from podcasts to family stories. This module equips students with the skills and knowledge to participate in this process, and to ask important questions like: What methods can be used to engage, entertain and educate in a wide range of contexts? How can we approach audiences of different ages and backgrounds? What issues need to be taken into account in presenting and interpreting the past? What is at stake when histories are shared or stories told? How can authority and power be shared in public history practice?

Each week of the module will be taught by guest lecturers, all of whom are experienced public history practitioners. Students will be set practical tasks and challenges to work on individually and in groups in preparation and during seminars. Practitioners may include: museum curators, archivists, heritage managers, education specialists, historical media consultants and historical engagement designers. Past tasks have involved designing an escape room, writing historical sketch comedy, planning a podcast, compiling a visitor guide, commenting on a script and curating an exhibition case. The module also involves class visits to public history places in York, including a museum, an archive, a country house and a popular historical attraction.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The aims of this module are to:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of a specialist historiographical literature;
  • Present findings in an analytical framework derived from a specialist field;
  • Solve a well-defined historiographical problem using insights drawn from secondary and, where appropriate, primary sources.
  • Set out written findings using a professional scholarly apparatus.

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing (RAW) weeks during which there are no seminars, and during which students research and write a formative essay, consulting with the module tutor. Students prepare for eight seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Museums, collections and exhibitions
  2. Archives and society
  3. Managing heritage places
  4. History in film and visual media
  5. Children, education and Horrible Histories
  6. Gaming the past: Digital histories
  7. Living History and reenactment
  8. Designing immersive experiences


Task Length % of module mark
Long Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students submit a 2,000-word formative essay in week 9.
A 4,000-word summative essay will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Long Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will typically receive written feedback on their formative essay within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative essay during their tutor’s student hours—especially during week 11, before, that is, they finalise their plans for the Summative Essay.

For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For reading during the module, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Sayer, Faye. Public History : A Practical Guide. (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.)
  • Lyon, Cherstin M., and Shrum, Rebecca K. Introduction to Public History : Interpreting the Past, Engaging Audiences. (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.)
  • Macdonald, Sharon. A Companion to Museum Studies. (Chicester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.