Sheila A. Brennan

Sheila A. Brennan

Sheila A. Brennan

Associate Professor

U.S. History: Public history; digital history; US cultural (19th & 20th C); museums, material culture and memory; popular collecting practices and hobbies

Brennan is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History New Media, and Research Associate Professor in the Department of History and Art History. She completed her Ph.D. in U.S. history at Mason in 2010. She earned her BA from Bates College and MA from the University of Notre Dame in American Studies. Prior to coming to RRCHNM in 2005, she worked as the Director of Education and Public Programs at the U.S. Navy Museum in Washington, DC for seven years and was a research assistant at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History.

At RRCHNM, she works with partners from libraries, archives, and museums on collecting and exhibiting projects, and organizes and teaches digital humanities workshops. She has managed many digital projects, and co-directed the award-winning digital public history site, Histories of the National Mall. She is the Associate Director of Omeka, an open-source software project designed for cultural heritage institutions.

She has co-authored essays on teaching the history of technology, doing oral history in the digital age, and on the challenges of online collecting projects. Additionally, two of her essays appear in edited collections published by the Smithsonian Institution Press.  She has made several presentations on digital humanities and museums, online collecting, postal history, and topics in public history, as well as given many workshops on using digital tools.   

Her dissertation, "Stamping American Memory: Stamp Collecting in the U.S. 1880s-1930s," was awarded the 2010 Moroney Prize for Scholarship in Postal History. In 2012, she was awarded the University of Michigan Press-HASTAC Prize for Digital Humanities to create  a new web project, Stamping American Memory, an open peer-reviewed, open access digital book and publication with University of Michigan Press.  She blogs at: Lot 49.

Selected Publications

Stamping American Memory: Collectors, Citizens, Commemoratives, and the Post, University of Michigan Press, forthcoming, digital and print project.

A Case for Digital Collections,”Collections: A Journal for Museum and Archives Professionals 12, 4 (Fall 2016).

“Public, First,” in Debates in the Digital Humanities 2016, eds. Matthew K. Gold and Lauren Klein (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016),

 “Let the Grant Do the Talking,” Journal of Digital Humanities Vol. 1, No. 4 Fall 2012

“Debating Identity and Origins in Early 20th-Century American Commemoratives,” Select Papers of the William M. Blount Symposia 2009-2011, (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2012).

“Intentional Alts,” conversation with Jeremy Boggs in #alt-academy: Alternative Academic Careers for Humanities Scholars, Bethany Nowviskie, editor (MediaCommons, 2011),

“Oral History in the Digital Age,” Oxford Handbook of Oral History, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), with James Halabuk, Sharon Leon, Tom Scheinfeldt, and Kelly Schrum.

“‘Little Colored Bits of Paper’ Collected in the Progressive Era,” Select Papers of the William M. Blount Symposia, (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2010).

“Taking a Byte Out of the Archives: Making Technology Work for You,” Perspectives (January 2005) with Douglas Mudd, Kirklin Bateman, and Paula Petrik.

Encyclopedia of New England Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005), 3 entries.

“The Vindex Special: Learning about Technology Through Advertising,” Magazine of History, (Winter 1998) with Susan Smulyan and Carlita Kosty.

Recent Presentations

“Ephemerality in Public History,” panel organizer and presenter, National Council of Public History annual meeting, Monterey, CA (March 2014).

 “Digital Project Outreach Strategies,” invited workshop presenter, WebWise2014, Baltimore, MD (February 2014).

 “Virtual Reality and Historical Perspectives,” chair and commenter, American Historical Association annual meeting, Washington, DC (January 2014).

 “Re-Making the Museum Blog,” panelist, Museum Computer Network Conference, Montreal, QC, (November 2013).

“Histories of the National Mall: Uncovering the History you Never See with your Mobile on the National Mall,” panelist, Museum Computer Network Conference, Montreal, QC, (November 2013).

 “4 P’s of Digital Project Outreach,” invited presenter, National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities Project Directors’ Meeting, (October 2013 canceled).

 “Hurricane Katrina: Disaster Recovery and Documentation in Archival Collections,” panelist, Society of American Archivists’ Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA  (August 15, 2013). 

“Reaching a Broad Community with Online Collecting,” invited presentation, Lift Every Voice, IMLS National Forum, University of South Carolina College of Education and South Caroliniana Library, (May 16, 2013).

“Making a Public History Dissertation More Public,” panelist, Society for History in the Federal Government Conference, (April 2013).

“Getting to the Stuff: Digital Cultural Heritage Collections, Absence, and Memory,” invited lecture, Digital Dialogue, Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities, University of Maryland, (November 2012).

“History Museums are Not Art Museums–Discuss,” round table discussion lead and organizer, Museum Computer Network conference, (November 2011).

“Constructing and Circulating Historical Narratives on Stamps,” conference paper, National Council on Public History Conference,  Pensacola, FL, (April 2011).