Public History Careers–how to do what you want.

Now a liaison for the United States with Croatia monitoring the maintenance of donated vehicles, Chris Borders started out with a History degree and a career in the National Guard. After graduating and guard duty, and miscellaneous jobs in the history field (mostly museums), Chris got a job at the Museum of Military History at Gowan Field.
Not everyone who gets a museum job gets as lucky as he did with his oral history assignment. He was to interview and catalog as much detail from as many members of the Guard that had seen combat, past and present. What he ended up creating was the largest collection of oral histories of the National Guard in the States, and received recognition from the Department of Defense for the work he had done on the project. Though the project had been assigned to him, it was not seen as work to him half the time. He got to meet the most interesting people and hear war stories that were probably only told to wives or grandchildren, or not even spoken of at all. That is one of the best parts of oral history, it’s like hearing a story from the greatest story-teller in the world; it has a time travel effect on the listener when the teller has been there and remembered so much.
Working in the history field and getting moved around to different history related jobs in Boise due to budget issues (go figure in the history department), it became clear that the position he had at the museum was not going to last forever, which is a current issue as well. The funding for museums jobs comes from the government, having a huge impact of the amount of people who can work at a museum, directly affecting the quality of the historians they employ. Typically, museum employees need a Bachelors Degree in the field, unless of course it’s a gift shop or admissions gig. To get a job at a specialized museum you not only need a degree but a great deal of experience in the field. Chris’ work with the National Guard definitely gave him the edge in getting the job that he did at the Museum of Military History. In order to be a curator of a museum, the position is most always held by a person with a PhD and a lot of experience in the department of history. There are, however, always internships that can give you the opportunity to edge your way into a museum job as well, though since everyone in this class is getting their Masters (other than myself), I would say you have a good chance anyway.
As long as I have known Chris he has been an optimistic, happy person. Annoyingly joyous at times, though when I was 10 I didn’t much care. Once I got my act together and started taking school more seriously, I began talking to Chris about history and the job field. His optimism made the bad news that getting a job doing what you really want to do in your field is rare seem like it was ok; I see that he was right now, as, at least for myself, any job in the field would make me happy at this point. He always talked to me about history, and it helped encourage me to pursue it as a career to have someone to talk about history with when I was just annoying my family with fun facts. So, even if the jobs are scarce and the research low-paying, you still get to do what you love.
Chris is currently working in Croatia after traveling the United States for his current job, which he also loves. Military and history—how many people get to work in the two fields they love the most in their life? I know I’m jealous. I probably won’t join the Guard, but it does make me think about Graduate school even more; but don’t tell my mom she thinks I spent too much money on school already. The idea of getting student loans and being in debt is sometimes overpowered by a desire to do what I really want to do, though it may not happen even then. The best advice, I am told, is to do what you can with what people give you, and keep looking for what your want; all the experience is good for you.

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Kate Hall

Born and raised in Boise, love it here. I love travel, history, Star Wars, Lost Boys, Highlander, and Super Nintendo. My favorite shirts say "My Other Ride Has A Flux Capacitor" and "Rock out with your Bach out." Basically, I would technically, I suppose, be classified as a 'nerd,' which I love. I currently intern at City Hall for the Department of Arts and History, mostly doing oral histories, but sometimes I get a cool research project. After I gradute I'll look for a job in History, find something to tide me over until then, and wait until education jobs are better in Idaho. =) Super excited about the chance to create a mobile application, been thinking I just loooove Leslie's classes (are you reading this?) =) Guess that's all! Perhaps more than you wanted, perhaps less. Perhaps I, myself, am caught betwixt the ideas of the two extremes and have decided to leave it as a cliffhanger of sorts.....

One thought on “Public History Careers–how to do what you want.”

  1. Hi Kate,

    Very interesting. I’ve been to the Military History Museum at Gowan Field, and two years ago two volunteers from the museum did a presentation to my U.S. History classes. The students really enjoyed it, and I’m not that familiar with weapons from WWII and the Vietnam War, so the students learned a lot. The museum did bring unloaded weapons to the campus for students to look at and learn about. Just be sure to check with administrators, and have the campus SRO inspect the weapons the day of the presentation. It went well and the students had a great time!

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