The Public Humanitarium seeks to strengthen and clarify pathways from undergraduate humanities education in the Five Colleges to professional careers in the public and applied humanities.

Across the campuses of Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, efforts to help students take their studies in Liberal Arts programs into a wide range of workplaces are thriving. This website—part of a larger, two-year project funded by Five Colleges, Inc. and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation —seeks to create a whole that is greater than the sum of those parts, helping students, faculty and staff at these individual campuses better tap robust, shared resources. In these pages, students will find information about courses, certificate programs, internships and career development opportunities, while faculty and staff will find materials to help them better understand, and guide students toward, the world of public humanities.

What are the Public Humanities?

The term “Public Humanities” encompasses the wide variety of ways and places that professionals trained in academic disciplines 1) explore how people understand the human experience, 2) share their understanding of that experience—typically philosophy, theater, literature, religion, art, history, music and languages—and 3) engage broad audience in conversations about the human experience.

People who work in the public humanities are often based in museums, historic sites, arts organizations, libraries and archives, policy institutes, non-profit organizations, or federal and state agencies; or they might be independent consultants, activists, filmmakers or writers. They might also work at schools and universities, in what has been termed “alternative academic” positions (alt-ac), leading centers and institutes, steering community outreach efforts, and doing other work that connects academic study with public life. What all these professionals have in common is a commitment to supporting reflection, contemplation and the life of the mind in every area of community and public life.

Five College Alumni in the Public Humanities

Many students in the Five Colleges have gone on to build successful careers in the public humanities. Finding a job title or institution that interests you can help you plan your career path.

See what Five College alumni are doing.

How can I have a career in the Public Humanities?

Most careers in the public humanities involve some sort of graduate training. But you can begin to explore and prepare while you are an undergraduate. Take courses that expose you to real-world practitioners, and pay attention to the professionals you encounter in your studies (the librarians and archivists who help with your thesis, for instance, or the museum professionals who you meet in field trips), and ask them questions about their own paths toward their careers. Consider an internship or apprenticeship to learn what you like—and don’t like—in the workplace. Explore the professional associations that support people who work in the Public Humanities to get a sense of what those people talk about. Finally, see our Career Development Resources page for links to local career development offices, advice, and job boards.

Start exploring and preparing now!

About the Public Humanitarium

This project was generously supported by the Five Colleges, Inc./Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Bridging Initiative in the Public and Applied Humanities.

The Public Humanitarium was created in 2016 by Cheryl Harned, Chelsea Miller and Marla Miller. Harned is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst/Five College Graduate Program in History and served as the Graduate Fellow for the Five Colleges, Inc./Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Bridging Initiative in the Public and Applied Humanities. C. Miller is a recent Master of Arts recipient from the University of Massachusetts Amherst/Five College Graduate Program in History and served as the 2015-16 Communications Assistant for the program.  Professor M. Miller is the director of the University of Massachusetts Amherst History Department’s Public History Program and lead PI on the Five Colleges, Inc./Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Bridging Initiative in the Public and Applied Humanities. Photographs by Cheryl Harned. 

Many thanks both for their assistance with the creation of this website – and the larger initiative of which this is but a part – are due to the expert staff in the Five Colleges, Inc., including Nate Therien, Sarah Lince, Taliesin Nyala, Kevin Kennedy and Toby Hall; faculty and staff at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, including Marla Miller, Jessica Johnson, and David Glassberg; the Faculty Fellows who participated in the Five Colleges, Inc./Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Bridging Initiative 2015-16 Faculty Seminar facilitated by Hampshire College’s Karen Kohler; as well as the many speakers, guests and mentors who generously supported our Public and Internal Speaker Series, the Applied Humanities Learning Lab, and most especially, those that helped steer this Initiative from inception into the future. 

For more information, contact Cheryl  Harned