school classroom dressed in historic clothing –
sometimes he’d even wear a wool uniform in June.
Now as a graduate of Northern State University’s
Public History program, Quade is the one who will
be bringing history to life for her students.
“Everybody likes to experience that history for
themselves, because that’s how they actually learn,”
said Quade, who plans to become a high school
For students like Quade, public history is alive and
thriving at NSU. Northern was the first university
in South Dakota
to start a public
said Dr. David
students from seven colleges and universities across
South Dakota and Iowa have taken public history
classes at NSU.
The program was approved as a certificate in
2010. Last year, NSU added a public history minor.
Courses are offered online and core courses include
HIST 240: Introduction to Public History, HIST
483: Museums and Archives, and HIST 481: Material
Culture Studies. NSU is one of only 11 institutions
in the country to teach material culture at the
undergraduate level, Grettler said.
Public history is history done for, and with, the
public. It includes everything from museums and
archives to the History Channel and designing
costumes for a historical movie. Traditionally, public
history has been described as “history done outside
of the classroom.” But Grettler said the aim is now
to bring the public – all audiences – back into the
classroom. That’s why the program goes so well with
Grettler pointed out that the number of museums
in the country has now passed the number of
Starbucks and McDonald’s restaurants. So NSU’s
public history program has the combined benefit
of being a growing field with a real demand for
workers, as well as an area of student interest. And
it has allowed Grettler to delve back into his own
history. He got his start as a public historian working
in museums, archives and archaeology.
“I forgot how much fun it is to talk about museums
and archives and archaeology,” he said.
Quade, a Wilmot native, is one of five students who
earned their public history certificate this May. She
graduated in May with a degree in history education
as well as a public history certificate. Her father,
Michael Quade, is a blacksmith who started re-
enacting at Fort Sisseton State Historic Park in the
1980s. Growing up, Quade loved getting dressed
up and being involved with it. She and her father
are very close because of their shared love of
“I’m the big history geek in the family,” she said.
While at NSU, Quade did an internship at Fort
Sisseton that turned into a job as an archivist. Her
duties included upkeep of artifacts, leading tours
and putting together exhibits such as the fort’s 150th
anniversary exhibit. Perhaps her biggest project was
helping with restoration of the massive Garrison
Flag – the last flag flown at the fort before it closed
June 3, 1889.
While Quade said she’ll miss the behind-the-
scenes work at the fort, now she can bring that
experience into the classroom. Now, she might be
the one dressing up to teach her students about
history. She has items such as wool coats and hoop
skirts, which students can try on and see how heavy
“Dancing in a hoop skirt is not as easy as it looks,”
G RADUA T E
Public history alive at NSU
Northern graduates experiencing history inside and outside of the classroom
NSU LIBRARY CREATING CULTURAL HERITAGE CENTER
“Everybody likes to
experience that history for
themselves, because that’s
how they actually learn.”
Northern is also creating public history
through a historical project taking shape on
campus: the Beulah Williams Library’s Germans
from Russia Cultural Heritage Center.
Grettler, NSU Library Director Robert Russell,
Interim Dean of Fine Arts Dr. William Wieland,
and area resident Gary Jerke and his wife, Jan,
are creating a regional history center that will
include artifacts and oral history. For more
information, call 605-626-7770.