Peru, Nebraska – This spring, Peru State College students enrolled in the new public history certificate program had the opportunity to travel to Holdrege, Nebraska, to attend the Nebraska Museums Association Conference. 

Attendees included Sophie White – senior social science teaching major from Hamburg, Iowa; Sarah Davis-Kovarik – sophomore history major from Palmyra; Jolie Scott – senior history major from Jansen; Barbara Curley-Fail – post-baccalaureate history major from Falls City; and faculty member, associate professor of history, Dr. Kathi Nehls.

The conference included a half-day workshop on Visual Thinking Strategies where students learned how to develop strategies for engaging visitors to museums in visual exercises that promote interaction with and curiosity about collections. The half-day workshop provided time for fun improvisation activities and small group work. Students also had the opportunity to attend several concurrent sessions on a variety of public history topics, and the conference included dinner and lunch opportunities to network with and meet other museum professionals.

Curley-Fail commented, “I found the conference to be a great experience. I enjoyed meeting everyone and learning some new things. I am interested in the Public History Certificate because it was a way to learn new skills and gain experience doing something I had not considered yet found to be the career I have been looking for.”

Students enrolled in the public history certificate program complete 15 hours of public history coursework and internships in addition to their major requirements. Peru State College added this certificate program in 2020. The certificate program is designed to help prepare students for any job that includes responsibilities such as historical representation, public relations, curation, public policy, or urban planning.

White added, “My experience at the conference was an informative one. I am employed as an intern at a museum in Nebraska City. The conference helped to give me more ideas and ways to engage with guests that visit the museum, as well as outlining the importance of community engagement with local museums in towns.”

The travel expenses for the conference were paid for through the Phi Alpha Theta funds through the Peru State College Foundation.

Thanks to the conference, Scott has secured a new position. Scott noted, “The conference that I attended offered many opportunities for me. I was able to learn things about public history while interacting with people who already had careers in the field. I think that this conference was an amazing opportunity and students in the future looking to pursue public history should plan on attending. I was able to find out about an archivist position at the Gage County Historical Society and Museum. I will be starting this job on the 18th because I learned of it through the conference and was able to network.”

Peru State offers four majors in the social sciences area – history, history education 7-12, social science, and social science education 7-12. In addition, the College offers minors in history, political science, and social science.

Also in attendance at the conference was Steve Woerth, President of the Brownville Historical Society.