Public History

Students organize papers of Helene Hale collection
Students organize papers of Helene Hale collection

Public history is a growing and popular new field within the larger discipline of History. It offers an approach to history that promotes the collaborative study of the past, and generally takes place in settings beyond the traditional classroom – bridging the gap between academia and the various interests of the local community.

Public history practitioners include museum professionals, historical consultants, archivists, cultural resource managers, oral historians, film and media producers, and many more. There is a growing job market for public historians, especially in Hawaiʻi.

The public history program at UH Hilo includes course-work, huakaʻi (field trips), and applied-learning opportunities through internships and service opportunities.



History students on a Public History field trip as part of HIST 390
History students on a Public History field trip as part of HIST 390


UH Hilo students participate in public history internships both within the community and in our own public history lab.


There are currently two collections in the UH Hilo public history lab that students are working with.

Photo in Christensen photographic collection

The Christensen Photographic Collection – Students are organizing, digitizing, and preparing an on-line version of Honokaʻa photographer Paul Christensen’s images from the Hamakua coast. There are approximately 8,000 images ranging from the 1930s to 1970s, a large number of which focus on plantation life during those times.

The Helene Hale Collection – Students are organizing and digitizing the papers and collections of one of Hilo’s most notable civic leaders, Helene Hilyer Hale.