Institute Background


The Institute for Public History, formed at the beginning of 2004, is a new initiative of the School of Historical Studies. In its first two years of operation the Institute  successfully organised its own Annual Public Lecture series as well as three diverse public history events – The Hijab and Secularism: Responses to the French Law Banning Headscarves; Making Connections: New Directions in Family History and Great Eras of Europe: A Debate.

It has also co-convened a public conference, Seeking Asylum in Australia 1995-2005: Experiences and Policies as well as re-established contact with our alumni by organising and extending invitations to history walks and book launches. The Institute also produced and published its first commissioned history, Bringing Home the Bacon: A History of the Harris Family’s Castlemaine Bacon Company 1905 – 2005, in 2005, and in March 2006, its second publication, The Rotary Club of Prahran: Fifty years serving the community 1955-2005 came off the presses.

Foundation of the Institute

Provided by the Institute’s Foundation Director, Emeritus Professor Graeme Davison (in 2004)

What is public history?

More than 15 years ago, historians at Monash began to reach beyond the university to provide training and research opportunities for the growing numbers of historians working in museums, heritage, family history and elsewhere in the public realm. Our Master’s Program in Public History, the first in Australia , enabled young historians to undertake internships with a range of public employers and helped to strengthen public awareness of historical issues.

Present and former Monash historians who have contributed to Monash’s outstanding record of public history include Ann McGrath, Chris McConville, Tom Griffiths, Graeme Davison, Andrew Markus, Seamus O’Hanlon, Bain Attwood and Maria Nugent. More than 100 graduates of the program are now working in places as far apart as Port Hedland and Hobart, and in museums, heritage bodies, government departments and as freelance historians. Monash graduates played a leading role in the formation of the Victorian branch of the Professional Historians’ Association. Now the School of Historical Studies has taken a further step in establishing the Monash Institute for Public History.

Through the Institute it will offer lectures, symposia, conferences and field trips designed to stimulate public interest and discussion on historical issues. It will reach out to its graduates through book launches, lectures, study-tours and other events. It will undertake the research and writing of commissioned histories, research reports and consultancies. It will look to the new opportunities afforded by Monash’s international campuses in Asia , Europe and Africa to develop international as well as local research collaborations. With history more than ever in the headlines, the Institute for Public History seeks to ‘lead the way’ in offering expert advice and commentary on current issues.