About

I am Thelma and Jamie Guilbeau/BORSF Endowed Professor of History and Director of the Guilbeau Center for Public History at University of Louisiana at Lafayette, in the Department of History, Geography & Philosophy. I completed my PhD at UCLA in History, with a focus on history of science, technology and medicine in modern Europe. As an Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow at NYU’s Program in Museum Studies, I developed my interests in the overlapping relationships between art and science and science and the public.

My current research projects include:

Book projects:

Redefining Human: Photomontage in Twentieth Century German Art and Science: Twentieth century German artists’ engagement with new understandings of the human body as developed in the social sciences, technology and medicine. How did artists debate knowledge production regarding what it means to be human in the wake of the Great War and new measures in medicine and government to rehabilitate soldiers? How did they combine these developments in medicine with women’s suffrage, popular fears about miscegenation and homosexual emancipation and new imaging techniques? How did scientists and physicians perceive and appropriate the work of artists to reconsider definitions of the human body? The book will focus on photomontage to examine how images were used to instruct viewers in how to catalog information and use visual media to produce knowledge.

Disciplines of Collection: Museums, Race, and the Anthropological Sciences in Imperial Germany. This book examines how museum collections were used in debates about whether the new anthropological sciences were or should be sciences of race.  The founding director of the Dresden Museum for Zoology, Anthropology and Ethnography, A. B. Meyer (1840-1911), identified the widely practiced science of craniometry as defined by technologies of exoticization that actively erased the historical, cultural and social details that human remains carried with them. He developed new methods that emphasized intimate familiarity with variety within any one ethnic group, from skull shape to material ornamentation, as integral to the new disciplines of physical and cultural anthropology. Meyer proposed an historical, non-essentialist approach to understanding racial and cultural difference because of his commitment to extensive field research, Darwinian evolution, and experimentation with techniques of visual representation. This approach to the anthropological sciences pitted the Dresden scholars against the dominant ahistorical methods of the German Society of Anthropology, Ethnology and Pre-history. Internationally, this historical understanding of individual cultures attracted the attention of Filipino nationalists and numerous US research institutions.

Research Groups

Reclaiming Turtles All the Way Down (TAWD): Animal Cosmologies and Paths to Indigenous Sciences, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science Working Group, Germany 2020-2024. PIs: Lisa Onaga and Leah Lui-Chivizhe

Public History Projects

Extended Reality and Social Justice in History Museums investigates 1) how virtual reality, mixed reality and augmented reality have been employed in history exhibits aimed at social justice; and 2) in light of COVID-19, how successful virtual tours of analog social justice history exhibits are at achieving their goals.

Shared Histories: COVID-19 and the Movement for Black Lives in Southwest Louisiana: A digital archive of community contributions and oral histories, a series of student-curated digital exhibits, and a webinar series of continued conversations to address the twin pandemics facing our community.

Do No Harm: The Healing Touch of Louisiana Women in Medicine, Louisiana State Museum, Baton Rouge, 2021: A history of the barrier breakers that revolutionized the development of medicine, from the mothers of gynecology — the enslaved women who were involuntarily experimented upon by white male medical professionals — to Black MDs like Dr. Viola Coleman Johnson who fought against segregation to improve professional medical training opportunities for African Americans.

History of Knowledge Digital Database – A Collaboration with the History of Science Society and The Research Center for Arts, Society and Culture (CELAT) at Universite Laval for National History Day

Healing in the Bayou: A podcast series that looks at the history of medicine in Louisiana. Each episode includes interviews with community members to learn about different experiences with mainstream medicine or alternative healing practices, including midwives, traiteurs, and traditional Indigenous healers. Seasons two and three examine examines the shared histories of COVID19 and the movement for Black lives in Southwest Louisiana.

In general, I am interested in nineteenth and twentieth century social sciences; modern Europe cultural and intellectual history; German Empire – especially German-Asian studies; museum studies; history of collections and display; visual and material culture of science; transnational history; history of race and ethnicity.

I have advised theses on: land acknowledgment policy in mainstream U.S. museums; the ethics of decolonizing private museums; contested monuments; the representation of nature in science museums and urban parks;  school programs at living history museums; disability studies and contemporary museology; community art museums and social justice; African American historic sites in the public history landscape.

My advisees have won NYU’s GSAS Master’s Award for Academic Achievement in the Humanities, as well as awards for best thesis and distinguished thesis in museum studies.

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