OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Katherine Ott

Portrait of Katherine Ott
Image Credit: Beth Komisarek

Katherine Ott is a curator and historian in the Division of Medicine and Science at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. She works on the history of medicine and the body, disability and bodily difference, and LGBTQ history, among other topics. She has curated exhibitions on the history of disability, HIV and AIDS, polio, acupuncture, and medical devices for altering the human body. Her most recent web exhibition is "EveryBody: An Artifact History of Disability in America". The author of Fevered Lives: Tuberculosis in American Culture since 1870 (1996), she coedited Artificial Parts, Practical Lives: Modern Histories of Prosthetics (2002) and The Scrapbook in American Life (2006), and is currently finishing a monograph about some of the major issues involved in interpreting historical objects. She also teaches graduate courses in material culture at George Washington University.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

This lecture explores the unique relationship of objects in defining disability and shaping the experiences of people with disabilities, from the mid-19th century to the present.
In the spirit of responsive public history, this presentation is a conversation built around provocative, prompting observations and statements on the nature of museum work and designed for lots of give-and-take interaction.
This lecture highlights the sensory, embodied experience of those in the past by exploring how scientific knowledge became domesticated; drawing upon developing understanding of the skin in dermatology, make-up, cleanliness, and other spheres.