Through programs, research, and collections the Smithsonian Food History project at the National Museum of American History invites communities near and far to come to the table. By learning more about American food history, today’s museum visitors will understand the role they play in shaping how and what America eats.
Food programs are based in the rich food history content at the museum and include a diverse menu of programs and demonstrations that bring visitors together for relevant discussions that start with history and expand to the present and future of American food. Activities include free daytime programs for visitors, regular After Hours events that mix historic topics with delicious food and drink, and the annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend. The National Museum of American History is committed to examining the impact of food, drink, and agriculture on American History.
Last year, the Smithsonian Institution announced that it was adding a unique branch to its Food History Project.
It was creating the American Brewing History Initiative, a three-year program at its National History of American History to collect, document, and preserve the history of brewing, 'craft' beer, and the beer industry, in order to
expand the Smithsonian’s understanding of the role beer has played—and continues to play—in American history.
To that end, the Smithsonian put out a request for CVs, looking for a qualified historian to receive a salary of $64,650 plus benefits.
The Smithsonian Food History project at the National Museum of American History, in Washington, DC, is seeking a professional historian / scholar to conduct archival and field research for a new initiative on American brewing history, with special emphasis on the craft industry. The position is located in the Division of Work and Industry and will be a three-year appointment.
The successful candidate will have proven experience in scholarly research, organizing and conducting oral history interviews, writing for both scholarly and general audiences, and knowledge of material culture and archival materials. The candidate will work with members of the curatorial staff on collections work and develop content for a wide variety of programs and applications, including digital formats. Candidates with an advanced degree in American business, brewing, food, cultural, or similar specialization within history are encouraged to apply. Must be able to travel, work independently as well as within a team environment, to meet deadlines, and to communicate effectively with co-workers and the public.
Yesterday, the National Museum of American History announced it had found its candidate: Harvard scholar Theresa McCulla.
- McCulla comes to the position with a background in social history and food; she holds a culinary arts diploma from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts’ Professional Chefs Program, directed the Food Literacy Project for Harvard University Dining Services, and managed Harvard’s two local farmers markets from 2007 to 2010. She will receive a doctorate in American Studies from Harvard University in May of this year. But this is McCulla’s first time studying beer exclusively.
- The Smithsonian has already used food as a very critical and successful entry point into talking with the public about much bigger questions relating to American history,” says McCulla. “We really feel quite strongly that beer is a very effective lens into much bigger questions about American history. If you look at the history of beer, you can understand stories related to immigration [emphasis mine] and industrialization and urbanization. You can look at advertising and the history of consumer culture and changing consumer taste. Brewing is integrated into all facets of American history.
- The next phase of McCulla’s work will involve traveling around the country to visit brewers, hop farmers and other beer-focused professionals to collect objects and documents that could be put into the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. McCulla will also spend time interviewing those professionals, putting their words and stories together into an oral history of American brewing. And, throughout the process, her work will be shared with the public—either through events held at the Smithsonian, or through blog posts and social media.
The [U.S.] Brewers Association —a nonprofit trade group representing "small and independent" American breweries— is financially supporting the Brewing History Initiative. By how much, or if entirely, is not clear. YFGF hopes that President Trump's hiring freeze will not torpedo this program or Ms. McCulla's hiring.
According to the Association, the project will also include two annual public programs, one at the National Museum of American History during the Smithsonian Food History Weekend, which runs 26-28 October this year, and the other in various brewing communities around the country, and will participate in the Association's Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America, to be held this year in Washington, D.C., 10-13 April.
Thank you to the Smithsonian for recognizing the unique role of beer in American history. Congratulations to Theresa McCulla on her appointment. It might be a bit of hyperbole, but might we consider her America's first 'official' historian of beer?
- Read more at Smithsonian Magazine.
- Read the official press release at the National Museum of American History.
- The official page of the American Brewing History Initiative: here.
- More on the Smithsonian Food History Weekend: here.
- More on the Smithsonian Food History Project: here.
- Follow Theresa McCulla on Twitter: @theresamccu.
- For more from YFGF: