(UM News Service) An anonymous alum of the University of Montana’s Department of History has gifted $200,000 to bolster its H. Duane Hampton Public History Program.

UM’s Public History Program, led by UM’s Department of History, provides students with opportunities to engage with the public through wide-ranging training in exhibit creation, archival management, oral history, digital history, policy analysis, historical interpretation, documentary films and beyond. Students who complete the program emerge prepared with the fundamental competencies needed to succeed in numerous career fields.

“Our public history offerings have taken our already world-class department to new heights. They’ve generated an amazing amount of student energy, interest and activity,” said Tobin Miller Shearer, chair of UM’s history department. “This gift allows us to continue building and sustaining that momentum.”

Students enrolled in the public history program can earn both an undergraduate and graduate-level certificate in public history. In their studies, students develop deep connections with their area of study – often documenting critical periods of Montana, national and global history.

"Our program gets students working on real-world history projects that engage the public and build community relations,” said Leif Erickson, director of UM’s Public History Program. “It's a win-win for everyone, and this additional support will extend the possibilities for those kinds of projects."

The anonymous gift doubles the value of the fund that supports the Public History Program, which will create new opportunities to support student projects.

"The Public History program at UM builds practical skills like oral history, ArcGIS mapping, archival research, interpretive writing and more to be used in the professional context – a job market that largely requires experience beyond a standard academic history education,” said Maddie Hagan, a UM History alumna and current graduate student at Columbia University. “The field of public history is a vital one, and UM's program is training young historians to think critically about community storytelling.

“The program inspired me to apply to Columbia University's historic preservation master's program,” Hagan said. “I am graduating this upcoming month and will be taking the skills I learned at UM to the field as an architectural historian for a cultural resources management firm.”

Funding from the donation also will help support research travel, professional development, student internships, lectures and events. Many student projects are archived at the Mike and Maureen Mansfield Library for preservation and future scholarship.

The gift was not the only major source of external support the history department received this semester. During the UM Foundation’s Day of Giving in March, individuals from across the country also contributed to support the Public History Progam.