Postdoctoral fellow (ABD)
Advisor: Peter S. Onuf
Email: wam7h (at) virginia.edu
Fields & SpecialtiesCultural and Intellectual History; History of the Built Environment; Visual and Material Culture Studies
A.B. History, Harvard College, June 2005
M.A. History, University of Virginia, Aug. 2007
Ph.D. History, University of Virginia, Dec. 2012
I received my PhD from UVa in 2012 and am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. In the Fall of 2012, I taught HIUS 4501: History for a New Nation: Narrating the Past in the Early American Republic, 1776-1840 at the University of Virginia.
My dissertation, "Progress through Preservation: History on the American Landscape in an Age of Improvement, 1785-1860," reconsiders the meaning of what nineteenth-century Americans termed the “preservation of history” by studying their close attention to historic landscape features in a rapidly changing environment.
Most scholars claim that early Americans cared little for things like old buildings, ancient Indian earthworks, and aging trees as they improved and expanded their nation. I disagree; my research shows that men and women of varying ethnicities, social statuses, political allegiances, and geographic origins stewarded places that they viewed as evidence of America’s past. They did so by creating sites that juxtaposed characteristics that today we see as contradictory: old and new; improvement and decay; private and public. Early Americans engaged ideas and innovations that circulated throughout the North Atlantic world to create urban plans, historical society collections, daguerreotypes of old houses, travel guidebooks, and even improved buildings that – in their minds – preserved physical sites as documents of America’s history. In this view, I argue, Americans viewed preservation of history and improvement of the built environment as complementary pursuits in the early republic.
Later generations came to reject the notion that preservation and improvement could work in tandem to maintain markers of the past. Efforts to preserve historic places shifted as conceptions of domesticity, the functional division of public spaces, and ideas about the Union and its history changed. In the 1850s, I argue, Americans responded to these changes by claiming tacit public ownership of historic places as sacred spaces, insisting that they be set apart from the political dissent and market culture that demanded change in the modern world.
" 'Worthy of Being Thus Preserved': American Daguerreotype Views and the Preservation of History," in Documenting History, Charting Progress, Exploring the World: Nineteenth-Century Photographs of Architecture, ed. Micheline Nilsen (Ashgate: projected March 2013).
“Progress and Preservation: Representing History in Boston’s Landscape of Urban Reform, 1820-1860.” New England Quarterly 82:2 (June 2009).
“ ‘So Majestic a Monument of Antiquity’: Landscape, Knowledge, and Authority in the Early National West.” Buildings and Landscapes 16: 1 (Spring 2009).
Feb. 28, 2013: “Individuality, Imagination, and Interiors: American Biography and Historical Tales in the Making of Sacred Historical Space,” Society of Early Americanists’ Biennial Conference, Savannah, Ga.
Postdoctoral Fellowship, Smithsonian Institution
Dissertation Fellowship, Jefferson Scholars Foundation
Short-term Fellowship, Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies
Dissertation Fellowship, McNeil Center for Early American Studies
Research Fellowship, Winterthur Museum, Gardens, and Library
Giles W. and Elise G. Mead Foundation Fellowship, The Huntington Library
Jay and Deborah Last Fellowship, American Antiquarian Society
New England Regional Consortium Fellowship
Short-Term Research Fellowship, Massachusetts Historical Society
Phillips Library Research Fellowship, Peabody Essex Museum
Andrew W. Mellon Short-Term Research Fellowship, Virginia Historical Society
President's Fellowship, University of Virginia