The Messiah College history department offers a concentration in the field of public history. It is a growing concentration and some of our best majors flock to it in the hopes of working in a museum, a historical society, or some other job that brings history to a public audience.
But after reading Ralph Luker’s post at Cliopatria today, I was struck with just how much non-history related training it takes to land a top job in the field. Granted, not all public history students will land a prestigious gig at Colonial Williamsburg, but consider this recent job description for an “Associate Digital Content Specialist” at the Rockefeller Library at Williamsburg.
Advanced degree in architectural history, archaeology, American studies, or related field
Historical research in a museum or an academically related position
Ability to 1) work independently and as a member of a research team, and 2) complete work quickly and efficiently and to prioritize tasks across multiple projects to meet deadlines
Advanced knowledge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Virginia and American history
Experience with internet technologies, software and programming languages, which may include some or all of the following: ArcGIS; AutoCAD; 3D Studio Max; Maya; Revit
Familiarity with scanning and digital imaging techniques as well as computer imaging software (Adobe Photoshop)
Highly desired: Doctorate in architectural history, archaeology, American studies or related field; advanced historical research in a museum or an academically related position; proficiency in Microsoft Access database system, SQL server and/or The Museum System; familiarity with the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and advanced knowledge of one or more of the following software packages: AutoCAD, 3D Studio Max, Maya, Revit.
Wow! Does such a person exist? I would like to meet the person who knows all of this software and has a Ph.D in American Studies with an extensive knowledge of early American history and Virginia history. I could be wrong, but it sounds like this position was tailor-made for an inside candidate.
Whatever the case, I think Luker may be right when he suggests that this job listing is a “commentary on the state of our profession.”