New Center for Public History and Archeology Formed at Colorado State University

Colorado State University’s College of Liberal Arts has crossed disciplinary boundaries with the creation of the new Center for Public History and Archaeology, a collaboration that will assist in research efforts as well as supply students with essential professional partnership skills.

The center brings together the departments of History and Anthropology as researchers in both fields often conduct research for the same audiences that are both within and beyond the academic world. Faculty members will work on public history and public archaeology projects funded by external sources from the center. The center will be led by Ruth Alexander, professor of history; Mark Fiege, associate professor of history; and Jason La Belle, assistant professor of archaeology and director of Colorado State’s Laboratory of Public Archaeology.

Public history researchers often focus their work in preparing museum exhibits through conserving artifacts, archiving documents and historic sites, collecting oral histories and preparing historical reports for public land agencies and other federal government agencies. Public archaeology includes excavating sites on public land, producing archaeological reports for government agencies and conserving and interpreting artifacts. Despite different disciplinary homes and methodologies, these two fields both produce critical knowledge about past human cultures and material remains.

Students involved with the center will learn skills essential to working with a collaboration of public and private entities on archaeological and historical projects, Fiege said.

One example of the center’s work in facilitating research is in the Lindenmeier Valley, an important archeological site north of Fort Collins that has yielded evidence of more than 13,000 years of continuous human occupation. Researchers and students will continue to explore different aspects of the site, stabilize artifacts and compile historical timelines and perspectives. Alexander also would like to examine the history of Asian American internment camps used during World War II.

"Historians can bring context and background for a variety of projects and initiatives," Alexander said.

Colorado State is the only public institution in the state that has a graduate program in public history as mandated by the Colorado Commission on Higher Education. The center will continue to advance the university’s mission of research, education and outreach. The combination of public history and archaeology through research will be unique to Colorado State, as no other land-grand university combines the two disciplines in this manner.

The creation of the center is funded by a $63,000 grant from the College of Liberal Arts Academic Enrichment Program.