Hello everyone! My name is Emily Rheault (pronounced Row) and I am a first-year Public History MA student. I grew up in the Shenandoah Valley near Harrisonburg, Virginia, which fostered my love for mountains and hiking, as well as my dislike of Civil War history (I am hoping to overcome this, but there are only so many Confederate flags you can see without it happening).

A coworker once told me that five favorite things are the perfect number of favorite things to understand the core of a person, so here are my (current) five favorite things in no particular order*:

  1. Harry Potter (exclusively Books 1-7)
  2. The Great Outdoors
  3. Reading
  4. Red Wine
  5. Feminism

*Note: The first three never change—the final two fluctuate.

I’ve loved history as long as I can remember—Liberty’s Kids was my favorite show as a child and American Girl Dolls took all of my parent’s money. After seeing National Treasure at the age of ten, I realized that history was a legitimate career choice and I quickly decided it was the path for me. I took a brief detour off this path during my first two years of undergrad when I dabbled in economics and public policy in search of a more practical career path, but I quickly found my way back to history.

I am pursuing public history because I love learning and I want to inspire and encourage that love in others through museums and education. Growing up visiting museums and historical sites with my family, I was exposed the joy of learning about and delving into a historical period or culture through primary sources and place. This joy I found interacting with primary sources at museums was rarely found in my history classes from Kindergarten to high school, and I hope to use the skills I gain in this program to build materials to help teachers bring that joy into their classrooms.

I’ve recently become interested in using public history as an avenue to discuss major social, political, and economic issues facing the world today. I want to use history to engage the public in difficult questions or to challenge societal norms. I hope work in history will spark people to think deeply about how and why society functions the way it does. Similarly, I want to use history to help people understand the US political system and embolden them to get involved. I find politics and government fascinating, but policy and how people talk about policy is often confusing and requires a lot of prior knowledge. I aim to use public history to help explain and untangle the political system and the legacies of policies and movements that impact society today.

Through this class, I hope to expand my knowledge and capabilities in the realm of digital history. At the moment, I have little background in digital history, and so I shy away from using or even considering digital history tools in my work. I hope to change that mindset in this class. I’m also interested in exploring the ethics of digital history and how to use digital history in a productive way, rather than in an aim to add technology to a project or exhibit.

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