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her father,

a reenactor,


artifacts into

her high

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

history teacher.

For students like Quade, public history is alive and

thriving at NSU. Northern was the first university

in South Dakota

to start a public

history program,

said Dr. David

Grettler, professor

of history.

Since 2010,

approximately 110

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

education degrees.

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

they are.

“Dancing in a hoop skirt is not as easy as it looks,”

she said.


Public history alive at NSU

Northern graduates experiencing history inside and outside of the classroom




Wilmot, S.D.

“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.