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Frequently Asked Questions


How do I apply to the Program in Material Culture & Public History?

It’s simple! Just fill out NIAHD’s Student Information Form and send it to We encourage you to meet with NIAHD’s Director or Assistant Director as well, to discuss your interests and aspirations regarding the Program in Material Culture & Public History.

What are the requirements to complete my Certificate in Material Culture & Public History?

In order to earn the NIAHD Certificate, 7 classes are required:

  • 1 course in Public History
  • 1 Field School (Architecture, Material Culture, Archaeology, or related)
  • 1 Internship
  • 4 related electives (can be in History or other relevant disciplines)
This worksheet can help you map out your path to completing the Program.  
What classes are offered by NIAHD?

NIAHD classes vary semester by semester, but you can almost always find the following:

  • Public History (HIST 409) in the Fall or Public History in the 21st Century (HIST 411) in the Spring
  • Field School in Material Culture (HIST 407) in the Spring or Archaeological Field Methods (offered by the Anthropology Department as ANTH 225) in the Summer
  • NIAHD Internship in Public History (HIST 408)

In addition to the above required courses, NIAHD offers a range of classes in History and Public History.  To see our recent listings, visit our Course Offerings page.   

What is a NIAHD Public History course like?

A NIAHD Public History course explores how history works in the community and the world. Getting out of the classroom, it investigates history’s relevance and use in the public sphere. This means studying various approaches to interpretation, exhibition, and public outreach by visiting historic sites and discussing their methods and practices. It means considering diverse public audiences, difficult questions, and unconventional ways of teaching history. It means thinking about how to make history meaningful, accessible, and engaging for a modern audience.

What is a NIAHD Field School like?

A NIAHD Field School is a hands-on experience which involves physical interaction with objects, buildings, landscapes, and cultures. You will study history by seeing, making, doing, and hearing. Reading and discussion support evidence that you discover, practice, and interpret on site. Most days class will meet out in “the field” – using Colonial Williamsburg, local museums, and historic sites as your laboratory.

Which of my William & Mary classes can count as electives towards the Certificate?

NIAHD is flexible in this regard, as the selection of your electives will depend upon your interests and focus. We recommend that you speak with NIAHD’s Director to determine that you have chosen 4 courses which will fulfill the Certificate requirements. 

Electives may be drawn from a variety of disciplines, including History; Art History; Anthropology; American Studies; Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies; Film and Media Studies; Africana Studies; English; and Government.

The goal is for your 4 elective courses to deepen your understanding and knowledge of public history, U. S. History, and democracy.  For further direction on how to choose your NIAHD electives, consider courses that expand your thinking about time and place, the public, and human culture. 

What sorts of Internships are available to me?

William & Mary is located in a region rich in history and NIAHD is fortunate to partner with world-class sites and museums to secure a wide variety of Internships for students in the field of Public History.

Colonial Williamsburg offers abundant opportunities in departments such as historic trades, archaeology, historical research, and collections.  Historic Jamestown, the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, the Williamsburg Bray School Lab, the Lemon Project, Fairfield Foundation, Swem Library, and the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Battlefield Park are some of the other institutions that have recently provided NIAHD students with hands-on experience.  For a more complete listing, visit our Internships page.

NIAHD’s Director will work closely with you to find an Internship that fits your academic interests and career goals. Internships can be completed over one semester, two semesters, or during the summer.

If I go abroad will I have time to complete the requirements for a Certificate? 

Yes!  In fact, many NIAHD students have spent two years studying abroad with the St. Andrew’s Joint Degree Programme and still met the requirements to earn their Certificate in Material Culture & Public History

What happens if I enroll in the NIAHD Certificate Program but do not complete the requirements by the time I graduate? 

A big green dragon will emerge from Blair Hall and… Actually, nothing. Though of course we hope all NIAHD students will successfully complete the requirements for the Certificate in Material Culture & Public History, if you don’t manage to finish the necessary courses, there will be no repercussions and no record on your transcript.

What sorts of professional careers are pursued by students who receive a Certificate in Material Culture & Public History? 

Students who earn the NIAHD Certificate often go on to work for heritage sites, museums, or the National Park Service, serving as curators, education leaders, archaeologists, researchers, and public historians.  Cultural institutions across Virginia and the country recognize and value the NIAHD Certificate as evidence of strong knowledge and deep understanding of the public humanities, and the NIAHD professional network is an active resource for William & Mary alumni.  A NIAHD Certificate also benefits individuals who pursue careers in business, law, and STEM fields by enhancing research, writing, and critical thinking skills.