Do you know what happened on this date in North Carolina history? Students who took Meredith’s History 300 class in fall 2014 just might. These public history students helped bring significant moments in the state’s history to a wide audience.
Students in Associate Professor of History Dan Fountain’s class were asked to research and write about historic occurrences for the “This Day in North Carolina History” blog, which is produced by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.
The project gave students an opportunity to do the kind of work done by public historians.
“Public historians must be able to research topics and then write for a general, public audience,” Fountain said. “Our mission is to teach history in public settings so writing about historical topics for a blog sponsored by the Department of Cultural Resources allows students to demonstrate that they can produce work that is expected of professionals.”
Fountain said students were able to practice a variety of skills as part of the project.
“Students had to conduct research into the subject matter and determine what were the most important and interesting features of the subject matter assigned,” Fountain said. “They had to learn how to write succinctly but with substance. They had 200 words to cover the topic entirely. Students also learned how to conduct and receive peer review. Each entry was reviewed by a team in the class and students received the editorial suggestions from their peers and instructor.”
The primary challenge for the student historians was learning to convey facts in an interesting but concise way.
“Trying to accurately portray an event or person in 200 words is very challenging,” said Callie Davis, ’15. It was difficult to decide what to include and what not to include in the blog post. You want to make sure you are engaging your audience and giving them the most complete story you can.”
Ashley Owens, ’17, said making history intriguing and meaningful was the most rewarding part of the project.
“We had to decide what were the most important points as well as what would be the most interesting to the public,” Owens said. “Stories of the past are important and should not be forgotten.”
The class worked with Ansley Herring Wegner, research historian for the Department of Cultural Resources, on the project.
“It was nice to see what the students came up with,” Wegner said. “Several of their entries were just excellent, and they were fun to read.”
The blog can be viewed at nchistorytoday.wordpress.com.