Ask a Public Historian: Casey Gamble

Casey Gamble is the Museum Programs Coordinator at Vulcan Park and Museum in Birmingham, Alabama.

Panel discussion to complement new Alabama justice exhibit at Vulcan Park  and Museum scheduled for Feb. 26. Get tickets now. | Bham Now

How would you describe your job, do you consider yourself a “public historian?” 

My official title is “Museum Programs Manager” and right now that pretty much means doing all the history, education, and collections related things at my small history museum. And yes, I would say that makes me a “public historian” using the definition by NCPH. 

What was your general career path?  

It’s been a kind of long and windy road: I earned a B.S. in history with the intention of going straight to grad school and eventually earning a PhD. But, life changes plans sometimes, and I needed to find a job right out of college and wound up working in accounting for over 5 years before finishing up a master’s in secondary education with a focus on social studies. I taught in a classroom for a brief time, but quickly realized that environment was not for me, and I sought out alternatives. It just so happens that the museum where I had done a year long internship while in grad school was hiring a part time education coordinator, and I was able to transition to a full time position after that. 

What was your favorite project that you have worked on?

For the centennial of the passage of the 19th amendment we created a women’s suffrage exhibit for our small temporary gallery. I was able to help with the research, writing, and editing of that exhibit and I had so much fun working on it! At the opening reception, some of the women featured were able to attend, and although some of them had passed away, their families came and it was awesome to get to meet everyone and hear personal stories. 

What advice do you have for someone looking for their first public history job?

Get as much varied experience as you can. Us historians like to specialize, and that’s great, but not always practical. Try to get internships, volunteer work, or part time jobs (if feasible) in collections, research, education, and even front line positions like visitor services. Try to do as much as you can while still in school so that you have a solid resume when you graduate. I know it’s not fun, and believe me, I know it’s hard, and can seem almost impossible. But even if you can devote a few days a month to volunteering, that helps! Look into writing articles or blog posts for museums, present at a conference, attend training sessions. It all helps! Right now, there are virtual volunteer opportunities, too. Don’t wait!

2 Comments

  1. I’m glad you were able to speak to Casey! Her work incorporates multiple aspects of the public history field from tours to exhibits. She is great at navigating exhibits and adapting the information based on the age group and purpose of the field trip/tour group to give them the best experience possible. This, I quickly found after working with her for about two years, is a necessary skill for public historians in museum settings.

  2. I agree. ANd I think she points to a real dilemma within public history: we are told in much of the rest of our training as historians to go specific, to narrow in. But in public history, that’s not necessarily an asset. So thinking, as she does, about how you can apply the approaches that you take to your topic to a million other things is really crucial.

Leave a Reply