Smithsonian Hires Scholar to Document Brewing History

Project Will Explore Brewing History and Industry in America

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has appointed Theresa McCulla as historian to oversee its American Brewing History Initiative. McCulla, a social and cultural historian of food in the U.S. from the early 1800s to today, has focused on the role of food and drink in generating ideas about history, culture and identity in America, and her experience and expertise in research, writing and collecting oral histories is extensive. She will work out of the museum in Washington, D.C., conducting research and new collecting, with special emphasis on homebrewing and the craft brewing industry.

The three-year brewing initiative is part of the Smithsonian Food History program and was created in 2016 to collect, document and preserve the history of brewing, craft brewers and the beer industry and explore how brewing connects to larger themes in American history. The museum’s current collections reflect the early history of breweries established in cities in the late 1800s.

“Brewing history connects us to stories of tradition and innovation, agriculture and industry, and other broad strands of the American experience,” said Paula Johnson, food history curator at the museum. “Theresa will focus on brewing in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the history of consolidation and the tremendous rise in home and craft brewing since the 1970s.”

McCulla will receive a doctorate from Harvard University in American Studies in May 2017 and holds a culinary arts diploma from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts’ Professional Chefs Program. Between 2007 and 2010, McCulla directed the Food Literacy Project for Harvard University Dining Services and managed Harvard’s two local farmers markets.

As brewing historian, McCulla will design a research plan, using material and archival sources, conduct oral histories and publish for both scholarly and popular audiences. She will document technological, agriculture and business innovations in brewing, advertising history and the role of beer in consumer culture and community life, building on the existing collections and collaborating on public programming within the museum and outside partners.

The American Brewing History initiative is made possible through a donation from the Brewers Association of Boulder, Colo., the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers.

The project will feature two annual public programs, one at the museum during the Smithsonian Food History Weekend, which runs Oct. 26–28 this year, and the other in various brewing communities around the country. The museum will also participate in the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America presented by the Brewers Assiciation held in Washington, D.C., April 10–13.

For updates on the project and upcoming programs, visit http://s.si.edu/BrewHistory. For information about all of the Food History projects and to sign up for the newsletter, visit http://s.si.edu/FoodHistory.

The National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. It takes food history and many related topics to the nation through its exhibitions, ongoing research and collecting efforts, online offerings and dynamic public programs. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information about the museum, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.


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