I began my career as a public historian and museum educator. In 2007 I interviewed local farmers and created a photo-history of dairy farming in Rensselaer County, New York. I also participated in a graduate internship at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake. At the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, I volunteered my time to help research and write a docent guide for a 2008 exhibit. Then, in 2008 and 2009 I was employed as Education Coordinator at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in Catskill, New York. At the Cole site, I helped to expand the volunteer docent and college internship programs. I worked on a revision of the site’s interpretive plan and guided tour. And I also helped plan two brand-new initiatives: a guided interpretive hiking program of the Hudson River School Art Trail, and new on-site school programming for K-12 students. (Heck, I even acted in the starring role of Thomas Cole in the site’s orientation film!)
After moving to New York City in 2009 I worked as an Urban Park Ranger with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation for one summer, and then in 2011 I began giving historic walking tours of Manhattan with Big Onion Walking Tours. By keeping one foot in public history—for example, by interpreting history in the streets—I not only gave myself time to get outdoors and get “out of my head,” but I was also helpfully reminded that history matters to a truly diverse constituency of people—not just academics—and thus it behooves us ivory tower folks to learn to communicate history in a clear way to the public.
I am deeply committed to ongoing engagement as a citizen, activist, and scholar. In college, I received the William Stringfellow Award for Justice and Peace (for anti-war organizing) and the Vincent Mulford Service-Learning Fellowship (for work with the homeless). I interned for the animal rights organization Farm Sanctuary in 2004 and with Capital District Community Gardens in Troy, New York in 2006. In 2003 I interned at Bethesda House, a homeless services provider in Schenectady, New York. Later, in 2005-2006, I returned to work as House Manager of the same agency’s ten-room long-term housing facility for homeless men and women. Additionally, in 2006 I wrote a book, The Car-Free Lifestyle Guide to the Capital Region: Living Joyfully, Responsibly, and Communally, addressing issues of public transportation, poverty, and access to resources in New York’s Capital Region. It sold over 200 copies, and I gave ten to fifteen public presentations and was interviewed twice on the local radio about the project.
While in New York City, I was inspired by, and became involved with, Occupy Wall Street. In the years following the fall 2011 uprising, I worked alongside and learned from a diverse group of social movement organizers, labor activists, anarchists, and radical educators, both within and outside of academia. From 2012 to 2015, I helped co-organize events with the Free University of NYC, and helped found an offshoot group, the Stony Brook May Day Coalition. I also worked with my union, CWA Local 1104 / Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU), to defend public higher education. Those years of indignation and uprising resulted in writing and public history projects, as well. These include my essay, “May Day and the Fight for a Free University,” a public history project, “Occupy Wall Street History Map,” as well as the deposition of my collected Occupy Wall Street papers, ephemera, and nearly nine hundred photographs in the Gregory Rosenthal Papers, 2011-2014, part of the New York State Modern Political Archive at the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives at the State University of New York at Albany.
Since moving to Roanoke, Virginia in August 2015, I have become deeply involved with LGBTQ+ activism, community organizing, and queer public history. In September 2015, I helped co-found the Southwest Virginia LGBTQ+ History Project, a community-based queer public history initiative. Our accomplishments to date include the creation of a new, permanent LGBTQ History Collection at the Virginia Room, Roanoke Public Library, as well as a digital archive. Students and community members have recorded oral histories with LGBTQ+ elders. We offer monthly walking tours of Downtown Roanoke and Old Southwest, Roanoke’s historic gayborbood. In 2016 we launched our first online exhibition, “Coming Out: Gay Liberation in Roanoke, Virginia, 1966-1980.” In 2018 we launched a follow-up exhibition, “Finding Each Other: Gay and Lesbian Community Organizing in Southwest Virginia, 1980-1985.” I also served on the Board of Directors of the Roanoke Diversity Center, the region’s only LGBTQ+ community center from 2015 to 2017.