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Program in Material Culture & Public History

The NIAHD certificate program in Material Culture and Public History serves undergraduate students interested in understanding museums, cultural heritage, historic artifacts, and the history of the built environment. Learn more about our courses, view program requirements, or enroll here.

Hands-on History

NIAHD’s approach offers students a chance not only to learn history but to “do” it through site-visits, place-based research, learning from historic trades and expert craftspeople, and cultivating capacity for observing and actively interpreting history in light of diverse publics’ interest in our shared past.

Material Culture

NIAHD students approach material culture studies with a big umbrella: our approach includes landscape history, architectural history, archaeology, and the study of “new” objects built with historic methods—as well as the conventional study of historic artifacts.

Public History

With Colonial Williamsburg and the historic campus as a laboratory, students in our certificate program can understand how a world-class museum works and learn from experts, and also observe the way the public’s understanding and use of history can complicate educational goals. Students in the program have opportunities to attempt museological skills first-hand. 

When in Williamsburg…

The local museum landscape is world-class. NIAHD positions students to take advantage of their time at William & Mary by learning from and with public archaeologists, curators, interpreters, and artisans, to deepen their understanding of the long and fascinating histories of this region, and to learn history on the ground.


NIAHD is a part of the History department; but you don’t have to be a History major to enroll in this certificate program! 

HIST 212-08 Students at Colonial Williamsburg
Students in Dr. Sarah McCartney's History 212 class "History of Garbage" visited the Custis Square Archaeology Project to learn about the work being done by the archaeology department at Colonial Williamsburg. As long as people have been making things, people have been throwing things away. "History of Garbage" is sponsored by NIAHD, and engages with the theme of “Sustainability” in both the past and present. Students examine, compare, and critique historical treatments of material waste and the presupposing of discarded materials on a local and global level with particular attention to the Americas and the Atlantic World.