OAH Distinguished Lecturer Profile

Kathleen Franz

Portrait of Kathleen Franz

Kathleen grew up in San Antonio, Texas and became interested in museums as an undergraduate at the University of Texas at San Antonio. When she went on to graduate school at Brown University she pursued both a degree in museum studies and a doctorate in American Studies intending to work as a curator and public historian in the history of technology. She has worked to have a hybrid career as both a curator and an academic historian, creating exhibitions as well as writing books and articles in her fields of specialization. She is currently Chair and Curator in the Division of Work & Industry at the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution and Distinguished Public Historian in Residence at American University, where she was until recently associate professor of History.

Featured Lecture

OAH Lectures

Talk aimed at faculty and graduate students that discusses the turn toward more public-facing careers in history and the humanities. Why this matters now and how historians can play a critical role in national conversations about everything from formal politics to culture. Also addresses rethinking both graduate education and systems of evaluation for historians working in the academy to value publically-engaged scholarship.
A critical overview of the process of creating one of the signature exhibitions for the Smithsonian's American Women's History Initiative. Discusses why the curatorial team chose girlhood as the primary interpretive frame and the unexpected consequences and imaginings that come from placing girls at the center of American women's history.
Lecture that examines the long history of business and industrial history at the Smithsonian and other museums and the current dilemmas of working ethically to collect and interpret business history in non-profit spaces. Touches on the ethics of public history and the tension between good historical interpretation and the pressures of funding in museums.