Performing focused historical research, disseminating information about the past, and consulting with other organizations, my work tells a full and relevant story of those who have gone before, in order to provide perspective on the present.
Passion. Purpose. Skill.
These are the principles by which I run my business. Passion is easy. I love what I do. I find the past endlessly fascinating and consistently relevant. And I believe that the experiences of those who have gone before us can inform the work of the future. That’s where the purpose comes in. I strive to create connections, foster understanding, and retain the unique character of individual places, and history is my vehicle for accomplishing these goals.
As for skill, don’t let all the idealism fool you; I’ve been doing this for quite awhile. In fact, it’s my twenty-five years of work in this field that has built my passion and my purpose.
I began my career working in archives and libraries, and earned my Master’s of Library Science (MLS) with a concentration in special collections from Indiana University in 1998. That’s a fancy way of saying that, in addition to spending a good part of my days doing research in historical collections and libraries, I’ve actually been trained in the organization of information. This gives me a lot of perspective when assessing the value of potential sources, synthesizing loads of information into something useful, tracking down hard-to-find material, and making sense of a disorganized box of papers from somebody’s attic.
Through archives, which focus primarily on historical documents, I discovered a range of other ways to uncover the past. Buildings, landscapes, artifacts, personal memories–each offers its own perspective on previous eras. I became a Renaissance person, learning the skills of deciphering each medium in order to explore the past from many angles. Within the historical profession, knowledge of how to use these various types of materials, combined with an interest in sharing them with a wide audience, is known as “public history.” I had found my niche.
My travels through the world of public history have given me professional experience in archives, oral history, historical interpretation, museums and historic sites, historic preservation, publishing, teaching and administration. I’ve also done my share of community development and board work on the side. In particular, for ten years, I served as the public history manager of the Organization of American Historians (OAH). The OAH is the world’s leading professional organization for historians of the United States. As their public history manager, I served as the organization’s liaison with historians working in a wide variety of positions, in museums, historic sites, archives, historical societies, and historic preservation. I also directed a collaborative program with the National Park Service, designed to bring the latest historical scholarship to bear on the stories being told at the nation’s most cherished historic sites. Under my direction, this program quadrupled in size, and I had the privilege to work with hundreds of the nation’s finest historians. Along the way, I also gained an exceptional amount of experience in project management, relevance, and the opportunities of using place–and specific tangible resources–to connect to the past.
The work I do resides at the intersection of relevance and scholarship. Toward that end, I have buttressed my real world work experience with intellectual training. I hold a PhD in United States history (2005, Indiana University) with an emphasis on the history of women, gender, and sexuality. In addition to this specialization, my own scholarly work has focused on LGBTQ history, the twentieth century, and the rise of consumer culture. I am also a graduate of the History Leadership Institute, formerly the Seminar on Historical Administration, (2008) and have completed specialized training in historical project management (2010), oral history (2013), and the National Historic Landmark nomination process (2013).