This past semester, I interned at CSU’s Public Lands History Center and had the opportunity to learn more about environmental history and public history. As an intern, I wrote two blog posts for the PLHC’s website, one on the history of water management in Las Vegas and another on how popular literature about the outdoors impacts the way people think about public lands. I also organized a Brown Bag professionalization event with Dr. Guy McClellan, who works as the National Parks Service’s National Trails Historian, to help CSU history students learn more about working in public history and the expanding field of digital humanities. Dr. McClellan shared what he’s learned from his academic and professional experiences, including his experience working as a ranger in Yosemite National Park and bridging the gap between learning about public history in theory and putting it into practice at the NPS.
I’ve learned about the application of public history to telling diverse perspectives this semester, as I helped with the PLHC’s “Telling O’odham Stories” project. The oral histories capture the stories of Tohono and Hia C’ed O’odham tribal members. The project’s O’odham narrators are the descendants of the people who lived at Organ Pipe National Monument.
This internship has changed the way I view history and has allowed me to apply my knowledge from history classes here at CSU. History isn’t a static record that historians maintain, but rather a dynamic, evolving, and nuanced collection of stories that is continually uncovered by successive generations. Learning more about environmental history has emphasized the importance of the PLHC’s work to me, as it highlights how divergent pasts shape our collective present in unexpected and unique ways.
Through my internship with the PLHC, I’ve learned more about myself and my career options. My time at the PLHC has demonstrated the importance of highlighting underrepresented voices and perspectives, which I hope to build on by exploring graduate history programs and careers in public history. Thanks to the guidance of Dr. Orsi and my internship supervisor Ariel Schnee, I feel well-equipped to begin applying to jobs after graduation and putting my knowledge of history into practice.