Here are some of the exciting careers of our Alumni!
Janneken Smucker pursued her doctorate in Am Civ because she wanted to ground her multidisciplinary passion for objects and stories within the disciplinary field of American History. Drawing on the University’s resources in material culture, folklore, history of technology, art history, and consumer culture, Janneken’s dissertation—currently undergoing revisions for publication with Johns Hopkins University Press—takes a wide angle view of the cultural processes that shaped these objects’ meaning and value in the second half of the twentieth century.
Janneken has drawn on her experience as a Public Engagement and Material Culture Fellow to share humanities content with diverse, public audiences through the use of new technologies, social media, and accessible language. As Content Specialist for Night Kitchen Interactive, a web and interactive design firm specializing in projects for cultural institutions, Janneken immerses herself in client’s content in order to fully understand what it means, through which media it is best conveyed, and how it should relate to content elsewhere on the site. She has facilitated the creation of social media content by Monticello’s staff, a key component of its award-winning website, and served as content manager for projects including redesigned websites for the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Smithsonian Institution Archives, and recently launched projects interpreting plantation slavery at Monticello.
During the 1980s, every graduate student at Delaware found some “thing” compelling, whether it was photographs, adding machines, Victorian furniture, or ceramics. My interest was the small houses that provided residential space for the working class in nineteenth- and early-twentieth century Chicago. Upon arrival at Delaware, I found that AmCiv students ignored disciplinary boundaries. We talked about history, geography, anthropology, engineering, painting, machine tools, poetry, and architecture. Influenced by Richard Bushman, everyone assumed that the production and consumption of artifacts had aesthetic and political consequences. To examine these consequences, I learned to photograph and to draw, to count and to sort, all in an effort to acquire the descriptive and analytical tools for interpreting the material culture of everyday life. These efforts led to the publication of a prize-winning book, From Cottage To Bungalow: Houses and the Working Class in Metropolitan Chicago, 1869 to 1929 (University of Chicago Press, 2001), which was reviewed by labor historians, geographers, urban planners, architectural historians, and preservationists. At present, I am an Associate Professor of History at Purdue University Calumet. My current research project is an architectural and social history of high schools that maintains the tradition of original interdisciplinary scholarship characteristic of the AmCiv program at Delaware.
I was an outlier when I arrived to the AmCiv program in the mid-1980s, coming from the museum world with interests in photography and visual culture. But I found myself asking the same kinds of questions as my fellow students about languages of description and the shifting meanings of objects. With the help of faculty across multiple disciplines, I examined the visual in American history, whether it be cinema, drawings, engravings, paintings, or photographs, and applied what I learned to question what it means to make photographs that can be mutually artful and activist in my dissertation “Paul Strand: Art for Society’s Sake” (1993).
Since getting my doctorate, I have been employed at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, where I am now Senior Curator of Photographs. My publications include, Eliot Porter: The Color of Wildness (2001), Regarding the Land, Robert Glenn Ketchum and the Legacy of Eliot Porter (2006), and Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke (2007), and Reframing the New Topographics, co-edited with Greg Foster-Rice (2010). I currently am completing an exhibition and book analyzing the absorption of color into American fine art photography.
Stay tuned for more from our Alumni and be sure to check out the list of Recent Dissertations.