Public humanities

A life-size copy of the "American Gothic" image of a farm couple, with cut-outs for people to pose and two men looking through the cut-outs.
The 2015 Farm Values project traveled to fairs and markets around north-central Massachusetts and invited people to think about the challenges of small-scale farming in this region over the past 200 years.

I’m both a scholar and a practitioner of public humanities, in a couple of different directions.

Much of my food- and farm-related work has had a significant public-facing component, especially the 2015 Farm Values: Civic Agriculture at the Crossroads project.

Public History and the Food System: Adding the Missing Ingredient, co-authored with Michelle Moon, is an extended argument for the importance of historic sites and historical knowledge about food and farming within attempts to rethink our contemporary industrial food system and all that it connects to. Here’s the core of the argument in a much shorter form.

In 2014 I edited a digital publication for the National Council on Public History, in partnership with The Public Historian journal, called Public History in a Changing ClimateThe collection brought together history-related work around the emerging field of environmental public humanities.

And I’ve also completed a number of ethnographic studies for the US National Park Service’s Ethnography Program, which (among other things) commissions scholarly work that’s designed to help park interpreters and managers better understand a particular group of park-associated people. The reports from these studies are available online as open-access PDFs; click on the links below to access them.

“Reenactors in the Parks: A Study of External Revolutionary War Reenactment Activity at National Parks” (NOTE: The end matter is not included in this file.)
Conducted for the 225th Anniversary of the American Revolution Committee (1999).
"Cultures in Flux: New Approaches to 'Traditional Association' at Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site"
For Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site (2007).
“In the Heart of Polish Salem: An Ethnohistorical Study of St. Joseph Hall and Its Neighborhood“ (and here's a supplementary digital exhibit that goes with the formal report).
With Jane Becker, for Salem Maritime National Historic Site (2009).
“Plant Yourself in My Neighborhood: An Ethnographic Landscape Study of Farming and Farmers in Columbia County, New York“
For Martin Van Buren National Historic Site (2012).
A Place of Quiet Adventure: An Ethnographic Study of the Peddocks Island Cottages
for Boston Harbor Islands National Park Area (2019).