william s. walker
Assistant Professor, History
Ph.D. Brandeis University, American History
B.A. Cornell University, American Studies & English
teaching at CGP
"I teach oral history, public history, American social and cultural history, and the history of museums. I am particularly interested in the ways museums can use historical narratives to engage contemporary social and cultural issues."
- A Living Exhibition: The Smithsonian and the Transformation of the Universal Museum (University of Massachusetts Press, 2013)
“Cooperstown,” (essay on history of tourism in Cooperstown, NY) in American Tourism: Constructing a National Tradition, edited by J. Mark Souther and Nicholas Dagen Bloom (Center for American Places, 2012)
“‘We don’t live like that anymore’: Native Peoples at the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife, 1970-1976,” American Indian Quarterly 35, No. 4 (Fall 2011)
“John C. Ewers and the Problem of Cultural History: Displaying American Indians at the Smithsonian in the Fifties,” Museum History Journal 1, No. 1 (January 2008)
A Living Exhibition examines the tangled history of cultural exhibition at the Smithsonian from its early years to the chartering of the National Museum of the American Indian in 1989. It tracks the transformation of the institution from its original ideal as a “universal museum” intended to present the totality of human experience to the variegated museum and research complex of today. I pay particular attention to the half century following World War II, when the Smithsonian significantly expanded. Focusing on its exhibitions of cultural history, cultural anthropology, and folk life, the book places the Smithsonian within the larger context of Cold War America and the social movements of the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. Organized chronologically, the book uses the lens of the Smithsonian’s changing exhibitions to show how institutional decisions become intertwined with broader public debates about pluralism, multiculturalism, and decolonization.
I am currently serving as co-editor of New York History, which has been published continuously since 1919 and is the only scholarly journal devoted entirely to the history of New York State.
I am also a contributing writer and co-editor of the “In the Academy” section of the National Council on Public History’s History@Work blog <publichistorycommons.org>.
- Paul Revere House
- Smithsonian Institution
- Tompkins County Museum
- Museum of Science, Boston
Sagamore Hill National Historic Site
Co-chair, program committee, Conference on New York State History
“Oral Histories of the Land: A Community Dialogue about our Natural Landscape,” New York Council for the Humanities
CGP Community Stories <cgpcommunitystories.org> – an ongoing local oral history project
I speak often on various topics related to oral histories of Central New York State.
grants and fellowships
- Mini-grant, New York Council for the Humanities
- The Spencer Program in Education Research, Graduate Research Grant
- Pre-doctoral fellowship, Smithsonian Institution
Crown Fellowship in American History, Brandeis University
- Research and Fieldwork
- Major Historical Issues for Museums (“Big Ideas”)
- American Cultures I
- American Cultures II
- Class, Race and Gender
- Topics in History