Federal Ways and Means

Endorsed by the OAH Committee on National Park Service Collaboration and the Society for History in the Federal Government

Saturday, April 4, 2020, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: National Park Service; Professional Development


The federal government is the largest employer of historians in the United States, yet the work of government historians is not always visible or well understood. This roundtable will demystify the work of federal historians by providing information on both the day-to-day work of federal historians and the ways government historians conduct and publish their research. Roundtable participants include historians from the National Park Service, the Smithsonian, the State Department, and the Department of Defense, the agencies that hire the majority of federal historians. As part of the discussion, these historians will also provide insight into the federal hiring process.

Session Participants

Chair: Alexandra M. Lord, Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Alexandra M. Lord is the Chair of the Division of Medicine and Science at the National Museum of American History. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she was the Branch Chief for the National Historic Landmarks Program of the National Park Service and prior to that, she was a historian for the U.S. Public Service. Before becoming a public historian, she was a professor of the history of science and medicine at Montana State University and the State University of New York, New Paltz. She received her A.B. from Vassar College and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 2010, the British Medical Association awarded her book, Condom Nation: The US Government’s Sex Education Campaign from World War I to the Internet (Johns Hopkins University), its prize for the best popular book on medicine. She has published on British and American medical history in academic journals and since 2005, she has frequently written about the historical profession for The Chronicle of Higher Education. She has also spoken on the history of medicine in venues ranging from the History Channel to academic conferences, Ellis Island, and Planned Parenthood. She recently served as the President of the National Council on Public History, the nation’s largest public history organization. Her current projects include a 3,000 square foot exhibit entitled, In Sickness and In Health, (opening in 2020 at the National Museum of American History) as well as a book exploring pediatric medicine in Cold War America (Fallout Boys and Girls).

Panelist: Kristin L. Ahlberg, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian
Kristin L. Ahlberg is a historian in the Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State. Her areas of specialization include diplomatic history, presidential history, foreign assistance and agricultural policy, public history, human rights, and public diplomacy. A member of the Office since 2003, Ahlberg has edited or co-edited seven volumes in the Foreign Relations of the United States series covering the intellectual foundations of foreign policy, human rights and humanitarian affairs, public diplomacy, and arms control and non-proliferation. She earned a Ph.D. in diplomatic history in 2003 and a M.A. in history in 1999 both from the University of Nebraska. The University of Missouri Press published her book—Transplanting the Great Society: Lyndon Johnson and Food for Peace—in 2008; it won the George Pendleton Prize from the Society for History in the Federal Government in 2010. Ahlberg’s articles have been published in Diplomatic History and The Public Historian. Her book chapters appear in A Companion to Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter and A Companion to First Ladies, both published by Wiley-Blackwell. She has additional book chapters under contract with the University Press of Kansas and Oxford University Press. Ahlberg has published reviews in Presidential Studies Quarterly, The American Historical Review, The Public Historian, The Journal of Southern History, and Great Plains Quarterly.

Panelist: Kristina Giannotta, U.S. Department of Defense
Kristina M. Giannotta is currently serving as an executive analyst at the Naval History and Heritage Command. As an executive analyst, she assists in the execution of command-wide programs, facilitates the design of command policies, and supports long term strategic planning for the command. Prior to that, she served as the Histories Branch Head. As Branch Head, she ran the History programs for Navy, and led a team of trained historians who provide research and analysis to support Navy leadership. She earned her Ph.D. in Classical Studies from Johns Hopkins University in 2003, where she taught or assisted courses in Ancient History, Ancient Culture, Greek and Roman art and archaeology as well as Latin and Greek at Johns Hopkins University. While researching her dissertation, Dr. Giannotta was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship, the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst, and an NIH grant. She also received an MPhil from the University of Glasgow in Archaeology. From 2006-2008 Dr. Giannotta worked as a fellow for the Department of Energy, conducing historical research for the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC). She joined the Federal Service with the Navy in 2008, continuing her work at JPAC until 2013. From 2013 to 2014 she served as the Deputy Branch Head of the Histories Branch at NHHC, later transitioning to Histories Branch Head. An active member of the Society for History in the Federal Government, Dr. Giannotta served as President of the Society from 2016-2017.

Panelist: John Harold Sprinkle Jr., National Park Service
After a decade of experience as a private sector historic preservation consultant, John Sprinkle joined the National Park Service in 1998, serving at the National Historic Landmark program and the Federal Preservation Institute before his current assignment as the agency's Bureau Historian within the Park History Program. Dr. Sprinkle holds a Ph.D. in history from the College of William and Mary and is an Adjunct Associate Professor in the School of Architecture, Planning, and Planning at the University of Maryland. He is the author of Crafting Preservation Criteria: The National Register of Historic Places and American Historic Preservation (2014) and Saving Spaces: Historic Land Conservation in the United States (2018).