As an historian, I am fascinated by the idea of “historical-mindedness”— where and how particular representations of the past are structured— as well as the interplay between objects, memory, and history. My scholarship on the relationship of early modern portraiture to ideas of historiographic veracity initially set me down this path, but my work has since broadened to investigate the material processes and discourses that shape institutions and urban spaces. I focus on public markets, museums, as well as the preservation of historic sites; these have become critical sites of social practices and thus agents of cultural formation in the global age. Because they also ask us to confront particular issues of access, social justice, and equity, my scholarship looks beyond the academy to find a place in communities of practice, public history, policy-making, and planning.
I am currently pursuing two projects. One examines "preservation battles" in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, one of the largest National Register Historic Districts in the U.S. Here I look at the evolving uses and emergent tensions between two policy tools for urban revitalization: the conservation of the historic built environment and the "greening" strategies used in service of the "natural" environment.
The second focuses on the so-called revival of the public market in late twentieth-century America and its role in the social imaginary—the constellation of symbols and values that shape social practice—as an alternative form of marketplace in the 21st century. An historic form of urban infrastructure much like public utilities, public markets were critical for food distribution to city residents. Thus they were institutions of the state, controlled by city authority as mechanisms of social as well as civic order. As important, their operations expressed the ideals of distributive justice and a "public economy" in which commerce, trade, and economics were created, shaped, and regulated by the polity via law. I am particularly interested in the translation of the market's historic meanings of public purpose, emphasizing food access and social equity, into contemporary contexts of privately-control food distribution, urban revitalization and “place-making.”
Recent publications include “From Civic Institution to Community Place: The Meaning of the Public Market in Modern America,” Agriculture and Human Values, 32(3), 505 – 21), co-authored with Nancy Kurland ; Lancaster Central Market: Assessments, Guidelines, and Recommendations for Preservation and Development, 2 vols., co-authored with Community Heritage Partners and Paden de la Fuente Architects . The former was a finalist for the Best Paper on the History of Corporate Social Responsibility by the Social Issues in Management Division of the Academy of Management. The latter was awarded the 2013 American Planning Association National Planning Excellence Award in Urban Design.
I have held fellowships at Princeton and Harvard Universities, as well as the University of London.
I teach introductory classes in art history (Learning to See: Histories of Art and Architecture in the Western Tradition); courses examining aspects of early modern society (The Material Renaissance: Art and the Economies of Culture in early modern Italy (1300-1527); At Home in the Renaissance); as well as classes exploring broad themes of belief and visual culture (Destroying Images). Advanced courses include the methods seminar in art history, focussing on the 17th c. painter Caravaggio; seminars in museum and curatorial practices (in conjunction with The Phillips Museum of Art); and advanced research and independent studies.
My Connections courses are taught in conjunction with The Phillips Museum of Art. They introduce first-year students to the contested places of museums in modern culture (What Are Museums For?), and the role of objects in meaning-making (Object Lessons).
PhD. History of Art, Princeton University (1991)
The Warburg Institute, University of London (1981 – 1983 ).
Oberlin College (1975-1977).
B.A., History of Art, cum laude, Occidental College (1974).