A Primer to Katie McCarthy

Hi all! My name is Katherine McCarthy, not to be confused with Katherine McCauley. To make things simple, and because I always have, I go by Katie. I’m a first year Public History MA student, with an interest in museum education. I’m especially drawn to interactivity and inclusivity in the programs we design and the history we tell. Academically, I’m most drawn to the early 20th century and especially women’s history.

My science-focused family is all a bit confused as to how I got to this point, but I like to blame learning to read based with the American Girl Doll book series as well as the Dear America and The Royal Diaries historical fiction series. Even as a kid I loved reading about the lives of girls from other countries and other time periods.

Looking back, it was pretty obvious I was going to end up as a public historian. My mom still complains about how the quick drive-through she had planned in Gettysburg when we were visiting family one year turned into an hours long adventure as I insisted on stopping at each and every marker and reading what they said. Growing up, my favorite summer camps were always at the Mystic Seaport Museum, and when I was 13 I (successfully) petitioned for a set of camps for teens, a program that has now doubled in size, and ten years later (!!!) is still going strong. The foundation of my resume was built at the Mystic Seaport – after aging out of their summer camps, I volunteered and worked there for five years before my family moved away from the area. Despite this pretty conclusive evidence, it wasn’t until my sophomore year of undergrad (at Northeastern University in Boston), that I realized that sometimes people made a living sharing stories of the past, and that unlike those I had read as a child, these were true.  

By the end of undergrad, I had decided that, while I had experience working in museums, I wanted more knowledge about how the public history world actually worked. What made it tick? What were the theories and methodologies and arguments that pushed it forward, and maybe sometimes held it back? What were the techniques that I could learn that would make me competitive in the job market? It wasn’t hard to choose AU with its location in DC, surrounded by hundreds of museums and all the stories they held in turn.  

With my interest in interactivity in an increasingly technological and digital methods heavy world, I’m excited for this class. Even the small, slightly underfunded museums I worked for in Boston had technological interactives: touchscreen maps and lessons based in mock gameshows. I’m not exactly what one might consider “tech-savvy,” so I’m excited to learn the ins-and-outs of concepts and tools I don’t even know about yet. I am especially interested in the weeks we discuss digital exhibitions, as well as the week we discuss videogames. As someone who is constantly trying to convince children that yes, history can be more than dusty dates and boring dead men, tools such as these might make the difference.

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