Hi everyone! I’m Katie Peter, a second year in the Public History MA program at AU. I am originally from Buffalo, New York, which means I am contractually obligated to remind you that this is the year the Bills are going to win the Superbowl (if we say it every year, one year we’ll have to be right). Growing up in my beloved, snowy, rust-belt city, I fell in love with local history at a young age. By fourth grade, I was already building dioramas of the McKinley assassination to tell my class my favorite thing about New York State. I was also reading every biography and historical fiction book I could get my hands on. Thus began my journey as a weird history kid (pictured below, excited to crush my sisters in trivia).
As I got older, I thought I wanted to be a journalist because I loved telling true stories. Just like Kit Kittredge the American Girl, I established school papers in both middle school and high school. Then I got a little older and a little more jaded, and decided I wanted to be a lawyer. I graduated high school and entered college with every intention of going to law school. I was an American Studies and Political Science major at SUNY Geneseo with my sights set on the LSATs.
Then I remembered I was a weird history kid. The Geneseo history department opened my eyes and showed me it was still possible to spend my life telling people my favorite stories. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in History and American Studies (I kept a political science minor) and got to read and write about a wide variety of topics, from urban planning, to women’s suffrage, to TV dads. In my senior year I completed a year-long project about the popular memory of blizzards in Buffalo. I conducted over thirty oral history interviews, and combed through decades of print and tv news to understand how people felt about the snow. Not only was it fun, but it was so rewarding to bring attention to the rich history of my own community. It inspired me to pursue a Master’s degree in public history because I wanted to share history with people.
At American University, I feel like I have come full circle. If only my younger self could see me now. For one, I met all of the other weird history kids who have now all congregated in Washington, DC. I have gotten to learn and experience so many cool things that I can hopefully bring into a career in the museum world. I also work as a public history fellow for the White House Historical Association, where I get to research and write about presidential history, just like I did as a fourth grader. My current research interests include (but are not limited to) first ladies and pop culture. My hope is that this course will help me to tell even more stories, make them more accessible, and share history with people.