So What CAN You Do With A History Major?

If I had a dime for every time I heard this…

Such a question usually comes from a parent of a prospective student or a student who wants to major in history but must convince his or her parents that they will be able to feed themselves after graduation.

While I can offer a lot of good answers to this question, it is not my intention to do this here. (We have a pretty good “Career Options” page on the Messiah College History Department website). Instead, I want to call your attention to what one of our students is doing with her major.

Leah Gibbons, a history major with a concentration in American history and public history, is featured in the Nov. 25, 2009 edition of the Carlisle Sentinel. The article chronicles her experience interning at the Cumberland County Historical Society in Carlisle where she is working on an audio-walking tour of this historic town. You can read the article here, but I will copy it below since many of these newspaper articles tend to disappear from the web rather quickly.

So what have you done or what are you planning to do with your history major? I want to hear from you!!

County Historical Society Works on Audio Walking Tour
By Joseph Cress, Sentinel Reporter, November 25, 2009

Linda Witmer hopes to make a recording star out of Carlisle history with a brand-new program under development.

Her staff at the Cumberland County Historical Society is working on a self-guided walking tour of local landmarks to be narrated by way of an iPod or some other portable media player.

“I hope it will add to the downtown attraction and bring visitors,” said Witmer, the executive director. If successful, the new tour could be implemented as early as March.

The basic concept is to offer media players for rent from the History on High store. Those taking the tour could proceed at their own pace, learning the past with present-day technology.

“Different people have done such tours all across the country,” Witmer said. “I just thought it would be something we could offer.” The players would be returned after the tour to History on High.

The Idea

Leah Gibbons is an intern from Messiah College working her fall semester at CCHS. A junior from Frederick, Md., she is a history major with course concentrations in American history and public history. Public history, she explains, is the study of how to make history more accessible to the general public through museums and historical societies.

Witmer approached Gibbons with the concept early in her internship. Excited by its potential, Gibbons took on the project by first identifying which landmarks to include on the tour and then developing a script based on research.

The tour would involve 12 stops, mostly on Hanover and High streets, along with the Square where they intersect, Gibbons said. Each stop on the tour would likely have its own audio track on the media player, giving the visitor the flexibility to play or skip over certain tracks. At the end of each track will be spoken directions on how to proceed to the next stop on the tour.

Looking ahead

Aside from the script, Gibbons is in the process of researching various types of media players with particular attention to cost, battery life, ease of use and audio quality. She is also gathering information on professional companies that can produce the narration for the self-guided tour. Before finishing up her internship in December, Gibbons plans to forward all this information to Witmer.

It would cost CCHS an estimated $5,000 to develop the tour narration and have eight to 10 media players available for visitors to rent, Witmer said. If successful, she added, CCHS could eventually expand the new program and develop self-guided tours for other parts of Cumberland County.

Witmer said the script includes short histories on the Square, the Old Jail, Carlisle Theatre, Dickinson College and the old Market House, where the modern courthouse currently stands.“

The tour will be professionally done,” Witmer said. “There will be music. We are excited about it.”

For Gibbons, a business minor at Messiah, the internship gave her insight into the operations of a local historical society while advancing its mission of making the past more accessible to the present.“

“Carlisle has a lot of history. I enjoyed learning about it,” Gibbons said. “It was exciting to be able to research something from the start and seeing all that work through to completion.”

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