For the last few years there have been an increasing number of debates, conferences, programs, and job ads about public history. Public historians have their own organization in the United States (National Council on Public History) and have now an International Federation for Public History. However, in comparison with other disciplines, few members of the public – including employers – actually know about. Defining public history is a challenging task.
Public history is the use of historical skills outside of the traditional academic realm of history. Public historians seek to reach large – and non-specialist – audiences through various media such as exhibits, historical sites, tours, audio-visual presentations, games, websites among others. Public historians use their training to meet the needs of the community-the public-whether that community is defined as a city, a neighborhood, a business, or a historical society. It is the audience that differentiates the public historian’s work. For instance, Cauvin’s Documentary Film project addresses large audiences. In doing so, the project is an attempt to translate historical research into an informative while entertaining product.
Public history is not only for large audiences, but it can also be the history made in collaboration with the public. Public historians encourage participatory process and share authority with members of the public. Check for instance Cauvin’s project to preserve Louisiana French-speaking Heritage in which members of the local community not only bring objects and stories, but participate in the historical understanding of the past.