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Students Take History Beyond the Classroom

February 24, 2014

Laurie Morrissey
Communications and Marketing
(603) 641-7240

1910-1911 Saint Anselm College Men's Basketball Team photo on display in the Coffee ShopAt Saint Anselm College, labs are not just for science courses. They count for nearly half the grade in a course called "Applied History." By the end of the semester, the 13 students in the course (mostly history majors) will produce tangible products to be used by the campus community and local citizens.

According to Professor Beth Salerno, applied history (or public history, as it is also called) is about making history useful and relevant in the public sphere.

"It's history beyond the walls of the traditional classroom," she says. She notes that history is used by the public in ways that we may not realize, such as management plans for national parks and historic sites. A land use history can be used by courts to decide an issue of western water rights and an architectural survey may be needed for a town's historic preservation project.

Applied history has important uses in public policy, cultural heritage tourism, and economic development, Salerno says. Corporate archives, family histories, movies and TV documentaries, legal cases, and of course, museums, all rely on historical research.

People who may not remember their high school and college history classes fondly, she points out, "often are the same people who spend holidays and vacations seeking out history by choice: making pilgrimages to battlefields and memorials, visiting museums, or volunteering with historical societies in their towns."

Brittany DiCologero '14 and Samantha Huard '15 are creating a map, database, and website that document the graves in the Saint Anselm Abbey cemetery. Besides being useful for visitors, such projects provide important documentation in the event that sites are ever damaged or destroyed.

Tim Anderson '15 and Eric Boumil '14 are creating a record of the historical photos on the walls of the Coffee Shop and putting captions on as many as possible.

Students are researching Joseph Geisel (namesake of the campus library), creating a walking tour of Manchester memorials, and designing a museum education program for high school students, among other projects.

Besides adding to the college's historical resources, Salerno says, students build project management and other marketable skills by collaborating with professionals in the Manchester Historic Association and the New Hampshire Historical Society and with Saint Anselm's archivist, Keith Chevalier.

Guest speakers bring real-world experience, and include several Saint Anselm alumni who use history in their careers.