Local Historian: what they do, how to become one, and where to study

Author: ProfGuide
Local Historian: what they do, how to become one, and where to study

Have you ever been captivated by stories of the past? Do you find yourself delving into the rich tapestry of your community's history? If so, then the profession of a local historian might be a perfect fit for you. Local historians play a vital role in preserving and sharing the heritage and stories of a particular region. In this article, we will explore the world of local historians, their specializations, responsibilities, career paths, and more. By the way, recently the ProfGuide career guidance center has developed a precise career orientation test, which will tell you which professions are suitable for you, provide a conclusion about your personality type and intelligence.



Just like any other profession, local historians have the opportunity to specialize in various areas. Some common specializations include:

  1. Architectural History: Focusing on the historical development and significance of buildings, structures, and urban landscapes within a specific locality.
  2. Genealogical Research: Tracing family histories and lineages, often involving extensive archival work and interviews with community members.
  3. Oral History: Collecting and preserving personal narratives and stories through interviews with local residents, providing valuable insights into the region's past.
  4. Social History: Examining the lives, culture, and social dynamics of past communities, shedding light on everyday experiences and societal changes.
  5. Industrial History: Investigating the development and impact of industries and their influence on local economies and communities.

Tasks and Responsibilities

Local historians engage in a wide range of tasks and responsibilities, including:

  1. Conducting Research: Local historians spend a significant amount of time researching and gathering information from various sources such as archives, libraries, and digital records.
  2. Preservation and Documentation: They work diligently to preserve historical documents, photographs, artifacts, and other significant materials that provide insights into the region's past.
  3. Curating Exhibits and Displays: Local historians often curate exhibitions and displays in museums, historical societies, or community centers to showcase the history and heritage of their region.
  4. Writing and Publishing: They write articles, books, and scholarly papers to document their research findings and share the history of the community with a wider audience.
  5. Community Engagement: Local historians actively engage with the community, organizing events, giving presentations, and leading guided tours to educate and raise awareness about local history.

Pros and Cons

Being a local historian has its own set of advantages and challenges. Let's take a look at some pros and cons.


  1. Immersion in History: As a local historian, you get to immerse yourself in the fascinating stories and events that have shaped your community, gaining a deep appreciation for its rich heritage.
  2. Making an Impact: By preserving and sharing local history, you contribute to the cultural identity of your community, fostering a sense of pride and belonging among its residents.


  1. Limited Funding: Local history projects often face financial constraints, making it challenging to access necessary resources and funding for research, preservation, and outreach efforts.
  2. Time-Intensive Work: Conducting thorough research, documenting historical materials, and curating exhibits demand a significant amount of time and effort, requiring patience and dedication.


The demand for local historians varies across different countries. Let's take a closer look at the demand in the USA, Canada, the UK, and Australia.

United States: In the United States, the demand for local historians is steady, especially in regions with rich historical backgrounds. Local governments, museums, historical societies, and educational institutions often seek professionals to preserve and share local history.

Canada: Similarly, Canada boasts a strong demand for local historians, particularly in provinces with vibrant historical communities. Local museums, archives, and heritage organizations actively hire individuals with expertise in local history.

United Kingdom: With its rich history and diverse localities, the United Kingdom offers ample opportunities for local historians. Local councils, heritage organizations, museums, and universities often employ local historians to research, document, and promote regional history.

Australia: In Australia, the demand for local historians is significant, particularly in areas with Indigenous cultural heritage and diverse local histories. Local government bodies, historical societies, and cultural institutions seek professionals to contribute to the preservation and understanding of the nation's unique past.

Salary Ranges

The salary ranges for local historians can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and the employing organization. Here is a glimpse of the salary ranges in the mentioned countries:

United States: Entry-level local historians can expect to earn around $35,000 to $45,000 per year. With more experience and expertise, salaries can range from $50,000 to $80,000 or more annually.

Canada: The salaries of local historians in Canada typically range from $40,000 to $60,000 per year. Those with extensive experience and higher positions may earn salaries surpassing $80,000 annually.

United Kingdom: Local historians in the United Kingdom earn an average salary of £25,000 to £35,000 per year. Experienced professionals or those in managerial roles can earn salaries of £40,000 or more annually.

Australia: In Australia, salaries for local historians vary. Entry-level positions can offer around AUD 45,000 to AUD 60,000 per year, while experienced professionals may earn between AUD 70,000 and AUD 90,000 annually.

Where Do Local Historians Work?

Local historians find employment in various settings, including:

  1. Museums and Historical Societies: Many local historians work in museums and historical societies, curating exhibits, conducting research, and organizing educational programs.
  2. Universities and Educational Institutions: Some local historians teach courses in history or work as researchers in academic institutions.
  3. Archives and Libraries: Local historians often collaborate with archives and libraries to access historical documents, manuscripts, and photographs for their research.
  4. Local Government: Local government bodies employ local historians to contribute to urban planning, historical preservation, and community engagement projects.
  5. Independent Consulting: Some local historians work as consultants, providing their expertise on specific historical projects or conducting research for private organizations.

The profession of a local historian is essential for preserving and promoting the heritage of a region. By uncovering stories from the past, local historians connect communities with their roots, fostering a sense of identity and appreciation for local history.

Important Qualities of a Successful Local Historian

To thrive as a local historian, certain qualities and skills are crucial. Some important qualities include:

  1. Passion for History: A genuine interest and passion for history, particularly the history of the local community, is vital for the dedication required in this profession.
  2. Research Skills: Strong research skills, including the ability to navigate archives, analyze primary sources, and synthesize information, are essential for uncovering and interpreting historical data.
  3. Communication Skills: Effective communication skills, both written and oral, are necessary for presenting research findings, curating exhibits, and engaging with diverse audiences.
  4. Attention to Detail: Local historians must pay meticulous attention to detail to accurately analyze historical sources, document information, and maintain the integrity of their research.
  5. Adaptability: Flexibility and adaptability are crucial in navigating the challenges of accessing historical materials, working with different communities, and adapting to changing research methodologies and technologies.

Not everyone may be suitable for the profession of a local historian. Individuals who prefer fast-paced, result-driven environments or have minimal interest in history may find it less fulfilling. However, for those with a genuine passion for uncovering the past and preserving local heritage, the profession of a local historian can be incredibly rewarding.

Step-by-Step Career Path

If you aspire to become a local historian, here is a step-by-step guide to help you embark on this fulfilling career:

  1. Obtain a Relevant Education: Pursue a bachelor's degree in history, anthropology, archaeology, or a related field. This educational foundation will provide you with essential knowledge and research skills.
  2. Gain Experience through Internships: Seek out internships or volunteer opportunities at local museums, archives, or historical societies. This hands-on experience will allow you to develop practical skills and make valuable connections in the field.
  3. Specialize and Focus: Determine your area of interest within local history and consider pursuing advanced studies or additional certifications in specialized fields such as architectural history, oral history, or genealogy.
  4. Conduct Independent Research: Take the initiative to conduct your own research projects, focusing on the history of your local community. This will help you build a portfolio of work and demonstrate your dedication to the field.
  5. Network and Collaborate: Engage with other local historians, attend conferences, and join professional organizations related to history and heritage. Networking can lead to valuable collaborations and opportunities for growth.
  6. Publish and Present: Share your research findings through articles, conference presentations, or local community events. This will enhance your visibility as a local historian and establish your expertise in the field.
  7. Pursue Higher Education (Optional): Consider pursuing a master's or doctoral degree in history or a related field if you wish to delve deeper into academic research or teaching roles.
  8. Continual Learning and Professional Development: Stay updated on current research methodologies, technological advancements, and best practices in the field of local history. Attend workshops, seminars, and training programs to enhance your skills.

How to Become a Local Historian

In the United States, the journey to becoming a local historian typically involves the following steps:

  1. Obtain a Bachelor's Degree: Earn a bachelor's degree in history, anthropology, archaeology, or a related field. This typically takes four years of full-time study.
  2. Gain Experience: Seek internships, volunteer opportunities, or part-time positions at local museums, historical societies, or archives to gain practical experience in the field.
  3. Pursue Advanced Education (Optional): Consider pursuing a master's or doctoral degree in history or a specialized area of local history for more advanced research and career opportunities. This can take an additional two to six years, depending on the program and level of study.
  4. Conduct Independent Research: Engage in independent research projects focused on local history, building your expertise and portfolio of work.
  5. Network and Collaborate: Connect with other local historians, join professional organizations, and attend conferences to expand your network and learn from experienced professionals in the field.
  6. Publish and Present: Share your research findings through articles, presentations, or books to contribute to the body of knowledge in local history.
  7. Continual Professional Development: Stay updated on the latest research, technological advancements, and methodologies through ongoing professional development opportunities.

Please note that these steps serve as a general guideline, and specific requirements may vary depending on the region and organization.

Where to Become a Local Historian

If you are considering becoming a local historian, here are five examples of institutions and universities in each country where you can pursue studies or find resources and opportunities:

United States:

  1. American Association for State and Local History (AASLH)
  2. National Council on Public History (NCPH)
  3. Library of Congress - Local History and Genealogy Section
  4. National Park Service - Cultural Resources
  5. University of California, Berkeley - Department of History


  1. Canadian Historical Association (CHA)
  2. Archives Association of Ontario (AAO)
  3. University of Toronto - Department of History
  4. Royal BC Museum - Research and Collections
  5. University of Alberta - Department of History and Classics

United Kingdom:

  1. The British Association for Local History (BALH)
  2. The National Archives - Local History
  3. University of Oxford - Department of Continuing Education
  4. University of Glasgow - School of Humanities
  5. Royal Historical Society (RHS)


  1. History Council of New South Wales
  2. State Library of New South Wales - Family History
  3. University of Melbourne - School of Historical and Philosophical Studies
  4. National Library of Australia - Trove
  5. University of Queensland - School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry

Can You Enter the Profession with a Different Degree?

While a degree in history or a related field is commonly preferred for a career as a local historian, it is possible to enter the profession with a different degree. Some individuals may pursue a different undergraduate degree but then specialize in local history through further education, internships, and independent research.

For example, someone with a degree in architecture may develop a specialization in architectural history and become a local historian focusing on the built heritage of a region. Likewise, individuals with degrees in anthropology, archaeology, sociology, or even education can leverage their knowledge and skills to contribute to the field of local history.

However, it's important to note that having a background in history or a related discipline can provide a strong foundation and a deeper understanding of historical research methodologies, critical analysis, and historical context. Supplementing a different degree with additional coursework or training in history can be beneficial to enhance the necessary skills and knowledge required for the profession of a local historian.

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