What is Public History and Why Does it Matter

Public history is a bridge between the world of academia and the general public. In many ways public history is similar to academic history, in that both disciplines research, write and publish on historical topics. However, public history is different because it includes working with the public with non-traditional resources such as material culture and oral history, to identify, interpret and present their past in a way that is both meaningful and academically defensible.


As explained by Peter Seixas in “The Purpose of Teaching Canadian History”, history is important for the following reasons:
  • history helps to shed light on present realities;
  • history helps shape our sense of identity;
  • judging past actions can explain indebtedness of some groups to others based on past injustices;
  • history can serve as a benchmark for determining if our present realities are getting better or worse;
  • and an historical consciousness can help us to think critically about what stories about the past we should believe, and what stories about the past we should tell.


The past is an important part of our present and helps to shape our future. Throught the practice of public history our past becomes more accessible, more meaningful, and can be utilized to address a variety of contemporary issues.