Historians as Researchers

Traditionally, professional historians, mainly confined to an academic setting, produced scholarly monographs and articles as results of research. However, the growth of the public history movement has meant that historians can and do publish their research in many other forms and forums--as texts for documentary films, brochures and exhibits at historic sites and museums, reports on historic buildings for federal agencies during the cultural resources management process, and documents to help businesses or government agencies understand their past when making decisions. Thus, there are many careers where the research skills of the historian can be gainfully used.

Museums and Historical Organizations

Research in museums includes authentication, verification, and description of items; more basic research that focuses on the meaning, significance and context of artifacts; and research (usually team-based) that is aimed at assembling an exhibition or educational program based on the museum's collections. Museum staff members involved in these activities usually possess specialized knowledge in a particular subject field, a general knowledge of historical methodology, a curiosity for artifacts, and a sense of public responsibility. Although larger institutions may require higher educational qualifications for staff members involved in research, a BA (with some additional training) may suffice, especially for entry level positions at the smaller museums.

Cultural Resources Management and Historic Preservation

Cultural resources management (CRM) and historic preservation can encompass a variety of different activities, all of which in some way are connected with the protection and management of the nation's cultural resources. Research is critical to this effort because it is impossible to manage resources, whether deteriorating log cabins or grand mansions, unless one understands the resource and its history.

Historians are critical in the process because they are the ones best able to use maps, illustrations, local government records, local histories, manuscript collections, city directories, oral histories, newspapers, and secondary sources to research the history of a particular building, object, structure, site, or district to determine its significance.

Think Tanks

Entry-level positions may be available sometimes in policy research organizations (colloquially referred to as think tanks) for history degree holders.