Elizabeth K. Barna
In a time when more American museums strive to acknowledge neglected histories of chattel slavery and indigenous genocide, what factors influence the ways they present these histories to the public? When many visitors expect nostalgic renditions of that past, how are we to educate for the future?
As a sociologist and public historian, I address these questions in my dissertation, tentatively entitled, “Andrew Jackson for the 21st Century: Hermitage between Slavery and the Trail of Tears in an Age of Right-Wing Populism." Based on nearly a year of participant-observation as a historic interpreter at Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, I identify factors influencing representations of slavery, genocide, and democracy at this presidential house museum and plantation site. My research sits at the intersection of Social Memory Studies; Organizations, Occupations, and Work; Culture; and Race and Racism, and has implications for museum education in an age of intense polarization.
I have presented on my work internationally and am currently writing a minibook under contract with Vanderbilt University Press, entitled Man of His Time? Teaching about Andrew Jackson in the Age of Trump.
I am a Mellon Graduate Fellow in Digital Humanities at Vanderbilt’s Center for Digital Humanities, where I am partnering with the Historic Franklin Masonic Hall to create an ArcGIS StoryMap highlighting Black and indigenous history in downtown Franklin. I am also a HASTAC Scholar in partnership with the Center for Digital Humanities and the Department of American Studies at Vanderbilt, where I am co-organizing a tour on local Native American history tentatively entitled, “Ecologies of Memory and Erasure.”
I am currently the Book Review Editor for Work and Occupations, and, like my dissertation, my Master’s thesis and undergraduate capstone were organizational ethnographies. I received my B.A. in Sociology and B.S. in Environmental Science from California Lutheran University in 2013, and my M.A. in Sociology from Vanderbilt University in 2016.