The Summersell Center for Southern History’s Public History Initiative partners students with on-campus and local organizations, such as the Gorgas House, W.H. Hoole Special Collections Library, and local churches and clubs, to conduct research and create projects that communicate their history to the public. Projects include a variety of end-products, such as curating an oral history exhibit, helping lay the groundwork for a Tuscaloosa civil rights trail, writing scripts for museum and campus tours, designing informational pamphlets, and maintaining websites detailing the progress of each of the projects.
Professor John Giggie, Director of the Summersell Center, is very excited about the internships. He hopes to help students see how to “link history in the classroom with history in the community.” He also believes in the importance of giving history students a creative research outlet. Dr. Giggie says that though the research paper remains vital to the historian’s craft, professors should also offer students “opportunities to create different kinds of historical experiences apart from the research paper.” These projects are as analytical and research-driven as the traditional paper, he says, but by working in mediums that are more accessible to the public, these students are able to share what they have learned with people on campus and in the community.
Each of the internships highlight aspects of southern history, though Dr. Giggie says the project “doesn’t preclude any kind of ambition or any interest.” He encourages students who are interested in other areas of history or in career paths outside of history to consider pursuing an internship, as the skills the interns learn are needed across all fields of endeavor. The interns will be working to integrate traditional historical skills with technology, social media, and digital humanities. “The ability to articulate your experience,” Dr. Giggie says, “and the ability to see how history develops [are] skills that are in need in the business world.”