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Study information

Public History I

Module titlePublic History I
Module codeHIC1200
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Alyson Mercer ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Public History is a core element of level one history. The module will introduce you to the theory and practice of public history. We will analyse the power, politics and practicalities of (re)presenting history in the public sphere. From heritage sites and museums, to film, fiction and virtual reality; the course explores key concepts and contextualises them within national and international debates. The first semester will focus primarily on museums and heritage sites, and the second semester will broaden the discussion to other forms of public history. You will have the opportunity to analysis museum exhibits, conduct oral history interviews, critically analyse public history, and go on placement within a public history setting.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to provide you with a core theoretical understanding of the key issues in Public History. You will have the opportunity to put theory into practice in the assignments and optional placement, which will help you to critically review and engage with current debates in the field. You will acquire competency in a number of transferable skills, including experience in basic oral history interview methodology and critical analysis.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Understand main concepts and debates within public history
  • 2. Demonstrate competency in oral history methods
  • 3. Reflect critically upon the relationship between theory and practice

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Demonstrate competent use of archives, libraries and electronic databases to find information
  • 5. Critically evaluate the use of historical evidence
  • 6. Contextualise changing perspectives and approaches over time

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Work collaboratively on group exercises
  • 8. Work independently on assessments
  • 9. Develop oral presentation skills

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

Term One:

  • Public history origins, concepts and debates.
  • Analysing exhibits, producing and consuming public history. Visit.
  • Ethics, controversy, key challenges
  • Oral history, and interview methods

Term Two:

  • Heritage funding, audiences, communities
  • Natural heritage
  • Public history in film, fiction, digital media.. Visit.
  • Working with the public, placements and projects 

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching22Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching21Seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching61 fieldtrip, museum and heritage site
Scheduled learning and teaching32 x placement talks and 1 x meeting
Work experience 1 week40Optional self-organised work experience
Guided independent study212Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group Blog300 words1, 3-7Written
Contribute to seminar and forum discussions Contribute an idea (spoken or written) in forums and seminars1, 3-9Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Exhibition and oral history portfolio502000 words1-6, 8Written feedback
Essay or Placement portfolio502500 words1, 3-6, 8Oral and written feedback sheet

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Exhibition and oral history portfolioEssay (2000 words)1-6, 8Referral/Deferral period
Essay or Placement portfolioEssay (2500 words)1, 3-6, 8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Ashton, P. and H. Kean, (eds.) (2009) People and their Pasts. New York: Palgrave. 
  • Corsane, G. (ed.) (2005) Heritage, Museums and Galleries. An Introductory Reader.  New York: Routledge. 
  • Dicks, B. (2003) Culture on Display. The Production of Contemporary Visitability. Maidenhead: Open University Press. 
  • Groot, J. de. (2009) Consuming History. Historians and heritage in contemporary popular culture. London: Routledge. 
  • Hamilton, P. and L. Shopes, (eds.) (2008) Oral History and Public Memories. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 
  • Harrison, R. (ed.) (2010) Understanding the politics of heritage. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 
  • Karp, I. and S. D. Lavine (1991) E xhibiting cultures: the poetics and politics of museum display. London: Smithsonian Books 
  • Knell, S.J., S. MacLeod and S. Watson (eds.) (2007) Museum Revolutions. How museums change and are changed. London: Routledge. 
  • Lord B. and G. Dexter Lord (eds.) (2001) The Manual of Museum Exhibitions. Oxford: AltaMira Press. 
  • Macdonald, S. (ed.) (2006) A Companion to Museum Studies. Blackwell. 
  • Marstine, J. (ed.) (2011) The Routledge Companion to Museum Ethics. London: Routledge. 
  • Perks, R. and A. Thomson (2006) The Oral History Reader, 2nd ed. London: Routledge. 
  • Ravelli, L., (2006) Museum Texts: Communication Frameworks. Oxon: Routledge. 
  • Serrell, B. (1996) Labels: An Interpretive Approach. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press. 
  • Watson, S. (ed.) (2007) Museums and their communities. London: Routledge. 
  • Yow, V. (2005) Recording Oral History: A Guide for the Humanities and Social Sciences, 2nd ed. Altamira Press.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

  • Courtney Library
  • Bartlett Library
  • Cornwall Record Office
  • Tremough Archive

Key words search

History, heritage, museums

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date