For my interview, I chose to speak with Stephanie Milne. I met Milne in 2009 after she moved to Boise to attend Boise State University. Milne is a graduate of the Masters of Applied Historical Research program at Boise State and she continues to work as a historian for Stevens Historical Research Associates in Boise. Milne is a prime example of how hard work and creativity can open up opportunities for budding historians. In addition to her current work Stephanie will be presenting research in November on the history of Nursing programs in Boise.
Below are Stephanie’s responses to the assignments questions:
What path did you take to get to your current position?
A native Washingtonian I graduated with a BA in History from Eastern Washington University. I had a public history internship at EWU working for the Cheney Normal School Foundation. Essentially I was able dig into the history behind a 100-year-old one-room schoolhouse that was moved to EWU’s campus. It seems so small now, but it was that internship that really sparked my love of public history. I moved to Boise in 2009 and graduated with my Master in Applied Historical Research from Boise State University in May of 2012. Part of my program was a collaborative internship between the Boise City Department of Arts and History and Boise Parks and Recreation. Looking back two factors during my graduate work were extremely beneficial to me once I graduated.
I was fortunate enough to get small contracts for several semesters while working toward my master’s degree.
This experience really helped in getting bigger contracts (not huge by any means!) later. I had experience creating invoices, selling my capabilities, and most importantly being assertive. As is typical with the MAHR program I completed a project and analytical paper instead of a traditional thesis. I would argue one of my biggest assets when I began applying for jobs in the field was that I completed a project instead of a thesis. It takes some explaining to employers (so practice!) but you can sell it as “project management.” Some of the best advice I can give is to use “work place” language when describing your history work. Don’t be afraid to say you have experience budgeting—You have to budget time constantly in graduate school—How much time are you going to spend on reading a book? Writing a paper? Researching? Organizing?
What kinds of projects do you work on?
After I graduated I became a history consultant/contractor. By July 2012 I had three contracts
1. Boise City Department of Arts and History
I managed several different projects including writing historic interpretative signs for a walking tour, reviewing and editing a book, and transcribing oral history interviews.
2. Boise City Department of Public Works
I was hired as Project Manager for the Boise 150 Infrastructure Project. Participating organizations include Bureau of Reclamation, United Water, Idaho Power and Boise City Public Works. The project seeks to celebrate the development of Boise’s infrastructure, specifically utilities and includes a photo gallery, blog, and brochure.
3. Stevens Historical Research Associates (SHRA)
SHRA specializes in environmental litigation support. Areas of specialties include: Water rights and irrigation history, mining history, CERCLA/Superfund, Clean Water Act, Roads/Rights-of-Way, Forest History, and Tribal Claims. In 2012 SHRA hired an Architectural Historian and has expanded its services to include Cultural Resource Management and Historic Preservation.
After 4 months as a contractor, SHRA hired me in October (2012) as an employee. Right now I work approximately 30 hours a week while I finish my remaining contracts. That same month I was able to travel to Washington DC and research in National Archives I ( just off the National Mall) and National Archives II (located in College Park, Maryland) for a week for one of SHRA’s projects.
With what kind of people (demographics, occupations, etc.) do you typically work?
3. City/County/State Employees
5. People who work in “history” jobs
6. County Clerks
• As far as demographics, I would say I deal with an equal amount of men and women. However, I am usually the youngest person, especially when working on litigation projects.
Do you have autonomy to pick your own projects, or are projects generally assigned to you by others in your organization or elsewhere?
• As a public historian, you usually take any project(s) that come your way. Specifically in regard to SHRA projects, if you are not the principal of the company (like Dr. Jennifer Stevens) you pretty much work on any case given to you. The caveat comes when you are given autonomy to bring in projects to the firm. I’ve been fortunate to be able to bring in an oral history project to the firm, which is a nice change up from litigation.
What are the current issues in your field?
• I can’t really think of any real “issues.” I guess my gut reaction would be to stay relevant. As historians (at lease for me) sometimes its easy to get wrapped up in research and writing. Staying current with social media and new trends is really important, especially when selling yourself to clients.
What skills are expected of applicants for an entry-level position?
• Research—Specifically archival research
• Attention to detail
• Entrepreneurial capability
• Database Skills (navigability)
• New ideas regarding platforms for projects (digital, print, social media)
What is the current starting salary for entry-level positions in your field?
• Part time = $20,000-$30,000
• Full time = $40,000-$42,000
How is your position funded? Is this typical for positions in your field or organization?
• Obviously the majority of my work comes from litigation, so companies-people-organizations-states-counties-cities-etc…suing one another, that’s how my position (at SHRA) is funded.
• My other contracts are funded from municipal funds. I consider myself extremely lucky that I was able to work for Arts & History while in graduate school, so I’ve made connections for the past two years. I am also lucky that Boise is celebrating its 150th year and history is “hot” right now.