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Kathleen Franz

Associate Professor
Department of History

  • Additional Positions at AU

    Director of Public History
  • Prof. Franz holds degrees in museum studies and American Civilization from Brown University. She specializes in 20th Century US cultural history with a focus on popular culture and the history of technology. She's also an active curator and public historian who regularly works with local and national cultural institutions.
  • Degrees

    PhD, American Civilization, Brown University
    MA, American Civilization and Museum Studies, Brown University
    BA, American Studies, The University of Texas, San Antonio

  • CAS - History
  • Battelle Tompkins - 141
  • Thursday 2:00pm - 5:00 pm

  • (202) 885-2386 (Office)
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Partnerships & Affiliations


  • Fall 2014

  • Spring 2015

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

Prof. Franz’s current areas of interest span popular culture, visual culture and public history.  Along with an anthology on American popular culture, she is also working on an article about the work of artist David Macaulay and the importance of drawing as a form of visual communication for historians of technology.  In addition, she is dedicating time to researching and discussing the role of public historians within the academy and as part of current discussions about the critical place of the humanities in public life.  In the past two years she has served on a joint task force created by the OAH, AHA, and the National Council on Public History (NCPH) for evaluating the work of public historians within the promotion and tenure process. She also serves as the AU representative to Imagining America and is the NCPH delegate to the American Council on Learned Societies, all of which give her a chance to engage in national conversations about connecting humanities scholarship to a wider, public audience.

Honors, Awards, and Fellowships

  • Teaching with Research Award, Center for Teaching, Research and Learning, American University, Spring 2010
  • Faculty Research Award, American University, Spring 2006-2007
  • Brooke Hindle Prize, Society for the History of Technology, Fall 2002
  • Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC., June-August, 1999, June-August 2000. Senior Fellowship.  

Curatorial Work

  •  National Building Museum, Washington, DC Guest Curator. January 2005-May 2008. “Macaulay: The Art of Drawing Architecture.” Exhibition explored David Macaulay’s architectural drawings as a form of visual archeology and ran from June 2007 to May 2008.
  • National Building Museum, Washington, DC Guest Curator. September 2000-October 2002."On Track: Transportation and the American City" a 7,000 square foot exhibit examining the social and spatial history of urban transportation.  

Selected Publications

  • Kathleen Franz and Susan Smulyan, eds., Major Problems in American Popular Culture. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin (forthcoming, March 2010).
  • Tinkering: Consumers Reinvent the Early Automobile. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.
  • “The Open Road: Automobility and Racial Uplift in the Inter-War Years,” in Bruce Sinclair, ed., Technology and the African-American Experience: Needs and Opportunities for Study. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2004.
  • “Producing Consumers,” review essay in American Quarterly 58 (December 2006), 1229-1239.
  • “The Museo Alameda,” Journal of American History 95 (June, 2008), 149-155.     

Professional Presentations

  • Turning Architecture on its Head: David Macaulay’s Architectural Satire,” Tacoma Museum of Art, March 2009.
  • “David Macaulay’s Sketchbooks: Drawing as Reverse Engineering,” Artefacts Conference, Smithsonian Institution, October 2008.
  • Roundtable on Digital History, American Historical Association, Annual Meeting, New York, New York, 2009.
  • “Spaces of Invention,” Discussant, Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, April 4, 2008.
  • “Drawing and the Mind’s Eye,” keynote address, AU School of Education and DC Public Schools conference on drawing as part of the public school curriculum, American University, Washington, DC, January 12, 2008.      

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