I’m David McKenzie, a versatile public historian who uses creative historical storytelling in varied media to engage learners of all ages in critically reexamining the past and present to change the future. I work to build bridges between people in the past and people today, and work to bridge different fields like academic and public history. I constantly learn and experiment with different storytelling platforms, both personal and impersonal. I use these different platforms to engage a broad range of constituents in understanding the complexities of their world.

This website serves as my blog, containing mostly course-related and dissertation-related material, as well as an evolving portfolio of my work.

Public History Work

I currently work as Head of Exhibitions at the Folger Shakespeare Library, where I’ve taken part in implementing the institution’s first long-term core exhibition. I’m working with colleagues on building an exhibitions program for the Folger’s new galleries, including artifact rotations in the core exhibition and a series of temporary exhibitions.

I led the exhibition component of Folger’s Searching for Shakespeare partnership with DC Public Library.

I occasionally write for Folger’s blogs, and presented on the Booth family for Folger’s book club.

Previously I worked as Associate Director for History in the Education Department at Ford’s Theatre, where I was responsible for the Ford’s Theatre Society’s on-site and online historical and educational content, including the exhibitions in the Center for Education and Leadership. I led a distance learning program on reactions to Lincoln’s assassination and co-led a distance learning program on the history of Ford’s Theatre since 1865. I worked on prototyping ideas to engage on-site visitors, particularly students.

I was the project manager for the award-winning Remembering Lincoln Digital Collection, which brings together primary source responses to the Lincoln assassination from around the United States and the world. I also was project manager for  Ford’s Theatre’s presence on Google Cultural Institute, which brings users to Ford’s virtually and connects them with thematic stories and individual artifacts. I guided content development of the “Lincoln’s Assassination” and “For Teachers” sections on the Ford’s Theatre website, and was responsible for maintaining, augmenting, and updating content in those sections.

Additionally, I wrote frequently for the institutional blog, co-directed a summer teacher workshop in 2015, and served on the team that formulated the institution’s digital strategy.

Academic Work

After ten years as a part-time student, in July 2021 I finished a Ph.D. in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University. I passed my qualifying exams in my major field, United States history (with distinction), and my minor fields, Latin America & the World (with distinction) and digital history.

I particularly focus on North America in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

My dissertation examined how migrants from the United States into the interior of Mexico between 1821 and 1853 laid the groundwork for future U.S. informal empire in that country and, eventually, across Latin America. You can learn more through this presentation I gave for the Museum of South Texas History in 2022. I wrote about an episode from my dissertation for Contingent Magazine (part 1, part 2) in 2022.

I began a website to accompany my dissertation. I also have built a database of U.S. citizen claims against Mexico and have blogged on various pieces that came together into my dissertation.

I’m currently contemplating turning my dissertation into a narrative nonfiction book, an article or articles, and a website.

Career Trajectory

I’ve spent my career to-date at the intersection of academic, digital, and public history.

I began with three stints as a history interpreter at the Alamo, in my hometown of San Antonio, Texas, and spent 10 months as a Peace Corps volunteer in San Lorenzo, a village of 500 outside of Sensuntepeque, El Salvador. I moved to Washington to attend the graduate program in Museum Studies at The George Washington University. While working on my M.A., I tutored students at an education center, interned at the Library of Congress Moving Image Section and Supreme Court Office of the Curator, and processed archival collections at Gelman Library’s Special Collections.

I worked as an exhibition content developer at The Design Minds, Inc., and in a broad-ranging interpretive position at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington before joining the staff at Ford’s Theatre Society in October 2013. There I served as Digital Projects Manager (October 2013-September 2015), Associate Director for Digital Resources (September 2015-September 2016), Associate Director for Interpretive Resources (September 2016-August 2021), and Associate Director for History (August 2021-June 2022). I joined the Folger Shakespeare Library as Head of Exhibitions in June 2022.

All views expressed on this site, my social media presence, and any of my other websites are my own, expressed on my own time and dime, and do not reflect those of my employer or any other group with which I am affiliated.

2 Thoughts to “About David”

  1. Clinton Kennedy

    Hi David,
    I just bought a slide scanner and plan to scan my PC El Salvador slides in the near future. When I have them in a digital format, I will send a set to you.
    (You may remember Betty better than you do me. She lives outside of Chicago and can be found by searching for Betty Rogers Casties.)

  2. Hi David,
    I have read several of your blogs and essays and enjoyed them. I also shared with my students in Mexico.
    I just completed two-year study on Lincoln and Mexico. It will be published in late May on Kindle and in the fall in paperback. I wonder if you would be interested in reading an advanced copy and writing a blurb or review. Michael

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