I'm a historian of the early United States who writes about places, objects, and what their histories mean for us today. My first book, Historic Real Estate, examines the history of historic preservation in the new nation, from debates over Indigenous earthworks after the War for Independence to the founding of house museums like George Washington's Mount Vernon in the years before the U.S. Civil War. It explains how early Americans debated the fate of historic sites like these to shape capitalist economies and society: what should - and should not - be for sale, how consumers should behave, and how labor should be valued.
I'm beginning a new book that examines the history of Charles Willson Peale's portrait gallery from its origins as a private collection in the 1780s to its transformation to property of the Philadelphia Museum Company beginning in 1821 to its sale at public auction in 1854. I tell this story to consider why residents of the early United States regularly turned to corporate ownership of objects of collective significance, and what effects incorporation had on the valuation of these “permanent collections.” While on sabbatical in 2022-23, I will be working on this project as a Townshend fellow at the Clements Library at the University of Michigan and an AAS-NEH fellow at the American Antiquarian Society.
Though I'm a history professor, you'll often find me doing history outside the classroom. I have partnered with graduate students and The Woodlands of Philadelphia to create a podcast series about the site's history and with Hidden City Philadelphia to publish articles about underrepresented urban histories. In 2022, I worked with students to curate a history exhibit featuring the art of Dox Thrash in the Villanova Art Gallery. I regularly join Nicholas Redding, President and CEO of Preservation Maryland, as co-host of the podcast series "The Professor and the Practitioner" on PreserveCast.
Whether you are a curious reader, prospective student, fellow historian, journalist on deadline, or kindred-spirited Philadelphian, I hope you'll take a look around and be in touch.