Michael Brown Headshot

Michael Brown

Assistant Professor
Department of History
College of Liberal Arts

585-475-2438
Office Location

Michael Brown

Assistant Professor
Department of History
College of Liberal Arts

Education

BS, Cornell University; M.Sc., London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom); Ph.D., University of Rochester

Bio

Research interests: American intellectual and cultural history, public history, Rochester history

Bio:
Michael Brown studies the interactions among ideas and publics in the shaping of twentieth-century American political culture. He writes, in particular, about the uncertain place of intellectuals in the United States after 1945. His current book project, “Experts, Eggheads, and Elites: Debating the Role of Intellectuals in American Political Culture, 1952-2008,” addresses the origins and uses of claims about American anti-intellectualism and the figure of the public intellectual. This work has been supported by fellowships and grants from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, the New York Public Library, and the Wisconsin State Historical Society.

As a public historian and a faculty affiliate of the Museum Studies Program at RIT, Michael co-curates “Exhibitions across the Curriculum” (e.g. Resistance, Rebellion, and Renewal in Rochester: Narratives of Progress and Poverty in 2015). Along with Rajesh Barnabas, Michael made the film Indigent Burials under Highland Park in 2014 for 43°N 77°W: A Rochester Quarterly.

Practicing public history and studying public intellectuals, Michael looks at how these two forms of scholarly intervention in and for publics may illuminate one another. He presented “Conceptualizing Public Intellectuals from the Vantage Point of Public History” at the 2016 Public Intellectuals Conference in Somerville, MA, and he has published in a variety of venues, including Dissent, Philosophy Now, and Reviews in American History. Michael has also been a columnist for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle newspaper.

Michael teaches courses on public history, American history, and local history. His students’ work has been published in the Democrat and Chronicle’s “Retrofitting Rochester” column, and he has advised several senior theses in the Museum Studies Program.

Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in government from Cornell University; a master’s in philosophy, politics, and social value from the London School of Economics; and a doctorate in history from the University of Rochester, where he was a Dean’s Fellow, a Dean’s Dissertation Fellow, and the recipient of a Commendation for Outstanding Dissertation Award.

585-475-2438

Currently Teaching

HIST-221
3 Credits
Public history is using the research-based methods and techniques of historians to conduct historical work in the public sphere. If you've gone to a museum, conducted an oral history, researched your old house, or learned from an interpreter at a park or historic site, you've seen public history in action. This course will introduce students to the wide variety of careers in public history, and will examine the challenges and opportunities that come with doing history in, with, and for the public.
HIST-325
3 Credits
Many more people learn history from museums than from textbooks. What is it that is so special about encountering the real thing in a museum? Why are Dorothy's Ruby Slippers the most visited artifact in the National Museum of American History? Do history museums themselves have an important history? Join us as we investigate the connections between our history, our museums, and the material artifacts that tell historical stories.
MUSE-221
3 Credits
Public history is using the research-based methods and techniques of historians to conduct historical work in the public sphere. If you've gone to a museum, conducted an oral history, researched your old house, or learned from an interpreter at a park or historic site, you've seen public history in action. This course will introduce students to the wide variety of careers in public history, and will examine the challenges and opportunities that come with doing history in, with, and for the public.
HIST-125
3 Credits
In late 1994, the B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, the airplane that dropped the first atomic bomb detonated in combat on Hiroshima, Japan, arrived at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. The museum’s staff faced important questions: Would they celebrate the Enola Gay as the weapon that ended the Pacific War? Would they exhibit it as a technological artifact that marked the dawn of nuclear warfare? Would they remind museum visitors that its potent cargo ended the lives of tens of thousands of people? These were difficult professional questions for public historians; they were deeply ethical questions too. Much of the past that public historians interpret is the source of great debate in the present. Since the way history is remembered shapes public policy, community identity, and collective understanding, the ethical stakes for public history are high. This course will examine notable controversies in American public history and develop students’ critical perspectives on them. Students will generate answers to the questions: What are the ethics of doing public history? What happens when public historians remember, but the community wants to forget? When stakeholders (e.g., historic site, community, historians, sponsors) collide, whose stories and whose interests prevail? Who decides? How are those decisions made? Who is allowed to tell history? To whom or to what are public historians responsible?
HIST-102
3 Credits
This introductory-level course will examine the social, cultural, political, technological and/or economic development of modern America as it is revealed through a particular historical topic or theme. The theme or topic of the course is chosen by the instructor, announced in the subtitle, and developed in the syllabus.

Latest News

  • March 29, 2019

    Back of student in foreground as professor speaks in background.

    RIT’s Michael Brown has a passion for his students, and teaching history

    Michael Brown, an assistant professor in Rochester Institute of Technology’s Department of History, is the 2018-19 recipient of the Richard and Virginia Eisenhart Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, recognizing exceptional performance in the classroom and a commitment to student learning. He will be recognized with a dinner on April 16 and participate as a member of the platform party for the university’s academic convocation on May 10.

Select Scholarship

Book Chapter
Brown, Michael J. "Commemoration and Contestation: Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama." Nasty Women and Bad Hombres: Gender and Race in the 2016 US Presidential Election. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2018. 121-134. Print.
Journal Paper
Brown, Michael, Rebecca A. R. Edwards, and Tina Olsin Lent. "Kate Gleason: Introducing a Twentieth-Century Businesswoman to Twenty-First Century Students." Seneca Falls Dialogues Journal 2. Fall (2017): 1-23. Web.
Published Review
Brown, Michael. Rev. of Separate but Equal? Individual and Community since the Enlightenment, by Richard Herr. Journal of Interdisciplinary History 2017: 397-398. Print.
Brown, Michael. Rev. of DIY Detroit: Making Do in a City without Services, by Kimberley Kinder. Consumption Markets & Culture 2017: 585-587. Web.
Invited Article/Publication
Brown, Michael. "Politics of Style, Politics as Style." Reviews in American History. (2016). Print.