Yes, we have it. An MA in Public History at Unespar

Author: Michel Kobelinski, Associate Professor at the State University of Paraná, Brazil

A group of committed History professors from the State University of Paraná (Unespar) recently approved the first master’s degree in Public History in Brazil. Capes authorized this course shortly after the International Federation of Public History conference, co-organized by the Brazilian Network of Public History and held in Brazil (2018).

For the Course Coordinator, Fábio André Hahn, “the installation of the MA in Teaching History (Profhistoria, in 2016) created the support to the proposal for an MA in History, with a concentration in PH, in 2017.” We are aware that, despite this recent achievement, many challenges still lie ahead in the development of this course in 2019. The economic and political problems of the last decades have been detrimental to the organization and planning of postgraduate studies in Brazil. This has been particularly evident in the institutions managed by the state governments, as is the case Unespar. At Unespar, new postgraduate courses lack physical infrastructure, technical support, libraries, and teachers. In addition, we must advance discussions about public history and participation in both network research and international partnerships, as well as consolidating two lines of research and action – knowledge and languages, and memory and spaces in education. Any help to achieve these goals will be appreciated.  

The MA goals are broad. We aim to train professionals to work in universities or private institutions, providing technical and scientific advice to research institutes, public archives, museums, documentation centers, the mass media, publishers, associations, foundations, and corporations. On the other hand, we intend to contribute to the technological and social development of towns in the interior of the State of Paraná, as well as meeting their necessities and handling their problems. These towns have notable educational flaws, socioeconomic inequality and both social and cultural diversities.

In the national context, I agree with Anita Luchesi’s opinion expressed on the IFPH blog (Public History: Brazil Goes International!), because recent Brazilian policy instigates us to debate Public History. We have at least two problems if we consider the education and performance of history teachers: the teacher status index and Brazil’s results in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). How does the public perceive the cultural, political and social roles played by teachers in Brazil and how does this affect the educational system? The answers to these questions, raised by the Varkey Foundation, are troubling. Brazil has one of the worst educational systems in the world, despite high investment in this area during the last decades. Teachers have low salaries, work hard and are not respected by students. Increasing investment in education could lead to a better situation. In 2015, Brazilian students performed poorly in Science, Reading, and Mathematics (the graphs below were provided by the Varkey Foundation, 2018). To give an idea of the public controversies, the news article Brazil falls to last place in the teacher status index (8/11/2018), published on the G1 Globo website, led to 359 comments and hundreds of engagements (agree/disagree). The causes of these problems, as pointed out by Internet users, are: education policy, gender ideology, Marxist indoctrination, political corruption, infrastructure, work conditions, violence, drugs, relapsed parents, teacher unions and automatic student approval. 

Challenges aside, I am very happy with this MA and I cannot wait to work with a subject that interests me a lot: Museum Studies. Currently, I have a partnership with the city administration of Campo Mourão, and together we organize educational activities at the Municipal Museum (MDMP). My MA students (Profhistoria) and I are organizing a website for this museum, in addition to conducting an opinion survey. The research aims to study the relationships between the teaching of history and visits to museum exhibits. Here are some questions we want to answer: How do teachers plan to visit the museum? How does this museum interact with your audience?

To begin running this MA in Public History, we need your help. To this end, Ricardo Mello and I invite you to participate in the Public History Dossier. The  peer-reviewed Nupem journal is  inviting authors to submit articles for its 2nd edition (May-August 2019). We accept articles in English or Portuguese. If you would like to contribute and help us, please email mkobelinski@gmail.com.

We look forward to your suggestions and support.


Michel Kobelinski is currently an Associate Professor at the State University of Paraná, Brazil. His research focuses on history and culture, with particular regard to history and sensitivities, urban heritage and places of memory.


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