Skip to content

Public History Projects

Teaching with 12 Years a Slave (2019): In Spring 2019, a team of Northeastern’s public history masters’ students created “Teaching with 12 Years a Slave,” a resource for educators interested in using film to teach the history and legacy of slavery. Based on the 2018 Massachusetts State Standards for High School US History, this toolkit provides teachers with ways to link the film 12 Years a Slave to topics in the history of slavery: the Fugitive Slave Laws, Slavery as an Economic Institution, Religious Justification of Slavery, and Acts of Resistance. Each topic provides historical background, relevant film clips, primary sources, and classroom/take-home activities. A final topic, Continuing the Conversation, brings the past to the present by incorporating the documentary 13th in teaching the legacy of slavery in the United States.

History Needs New Heros (2019): Public history student Megan Barney, working with Northeastern’s Digital Scholarship Group, produced History Needs New Heroes, a digital research project that offers a space where narratives about history’s forgotten heroes can be written. High school history classes throughout the United States often teach a reductive version of history. What would a high school classroom function like if students could learn about a different and more representative array of historical figures? History Needs New Heroes analyzes three recently published United States history textbooks to understand who gets mentioned and, more importantly, forgotten, then uses these findings to advocate for more inclusive high school history curricula.

DEV3D: 3D Modeling for Historic Sites (2019): In 2019, public history MA candidate Lauren Bergness Sell created DEV3D: 3D Modeling for Historic Sites. Using the 18th-century tombs beneath Boston’s King’s Chapel as a case study, DEV3D helps educators and historic site staff who lack tech expertise learn to create and incorporate 3D technology into their spaces. Assisted by DEV3D’s tools, video tutorials, and guides to open-source software, users can make and print their own 3D site models, and apply these models in a Virtual Reality environment, all without knowing a line of code.

From Grateful Friends (2019): From Grateful Friends, a site produced by public history students Katie and Megan Woods, explores Luxembourg’s public memories of World War II, focusing on the relationship between American soldiers and Luxembourgers. Central to this project is a digital map that focuses on the physical forms of this memory: memorials, markers, museums, and the Luxembourg-American cemetery and memorial. This project’s website also provides viewers several ways to engage with this history and memory through a historical timeline, a blog, and additional resources. From Grateful Friends provides an accessible digital map and platform on which these memories can be preserved and shared.


States of Incarceration (2016-18): Working with Marty Blatt and the Humanities Action Lab, students investigated the history of incarceration in Massachusetts, asking whether prisons were for punishment or rehabilitation. Students used this research to curate major portions of an exhibition on mass incarceration shown in spring 2018, and helped plan and host a related conference on the past, present and future of incarceration in the state. Jessica Muttit, a graduate of the program, served as the project manager.


Longfellow House / George Washington Headquarters National Historic Site (2017): In spring 2017, students in Victoria Cain’s “Historic Preservation” course explored the property’s role in the history of slavery, social reform, and historic preservation. Over the summer, public history students Caroline Klibanoff and Jessica Nelsen built on this work to update the site’s documentation for the National Register of Historic Places. Klibanoff and Nelsen are collaborating with Cain, local landscape architects, and the National Park Service to extend the site’s period of significance into the twentieth century and help site staff develop a basis for future interpretation.

Mt. Auburn Cemetery Digitization Days (2017): Kara Zelasko and Brittany Costello worked with Mt. Auburn Cemetery and the Northeast Document Conservation Center to recover family and social histories of communities in Watertown and Cambridge, the towns the cemetery serves. With funding from the NEH’s Common Heritage program, these students will collect, digitize, catalogue and eventually create physical and digital exhibits based on the artifacts and stories they’ll gather during two “digitization days” to be held at the cities’ libraries this fall.

Huntington Avenue Y Exhibit (2014): A collaborative effort of Northeastern’s University Archives and Special Collections and Program in Public History, this project began with Victoria Cain’s “Historical Exhibits & Museums” Spring 2014 course. Sixteen students combed through archival records and conducted oral histories to uncover the story of the YMCA of Greater Boston and its relationship to Northeastern. By the end of the semester, the class had produced a five-part exhibit. Cain and public history student Sarah Hudson curated a final version of the exhibit over the summer, condensing the exhibit labels, polishing the prose, and finalizing the design of the exhibit.

Confronting Guantánamo (2013-5): Victoria Cain and her public history students contributed research, interviews, images, and reflections to the Humanities Action Lab’s Guantánamo Public Memory Project, which chronicled the century-long history of the American naval base in Guantánamo Bay. In spring 2015, students brought the resulting exhibit to Northeastern and developed a six-week slate of programming to accompany its display, including events for Boston’s Haitian-American community, 826 Boston, and public health professionals.